WASHINGTON - The government approved Univision Communications Inc.'s $3.1 billion purchase of Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. on Monday, allowing the nation's largest Spanish-language media conglomerate to grow bigger yet.
The Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to accept the deal with the two FCC Democrats contending the merger would hurt competition and limit news and entertainment choices for Spanish-speaking Americans.
The three Republicans said in a joint statement that the deal "will give Hispanic media a better opportunity to compete against big media companies, capturing more advertising revenue to allow it to expand unique language and cultural offerings to its audiences."
But Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said the "FCC is turning a deaf ear to millions of Spanish-speaking Americans."
"By allowing this transaction to go forward with no protections for consumers, the FCC denies Spanish speakers their right to receive a diversity of perspectives over the nation's airwaves," Adelstein said.
Univision already owns the Univision and TeleFutura TV networks, the Galavision cable network and 50 television stations nationwide. With the merger, Univision would have the top Spanish-language broadcast TV network, cable channel, record label, Internet site and radio network, as well as the largest group of television and radio stations.
Under the plan, Los Angeles-based Univision would acquire HBC's 68 radio stations but would be required to sell two of them - one each in Houston and Albuquerque.
The FCC decision had been expected for weeks. Two weeks ago, the FCC planned to announce a decision but postponed it at the last minute as commissioners reworked their statements about the deal.
The final decision supported Univision's position that the Spanish-language media do not make up a market separate from English-language media. The company had argued that it has a relatively small presence in broadcasting overall and it competes with English and Spanish-language networks for advertisers and viewers who often are bilingual.
Univision rival Telemundo and its parent company, NBC, had complained the deal would harm competition and limit viewpoints. They said half the rapidly growing Hispanic population looks to Spanish-language media as the primary source of news and entertainment and relies heavily on television and radio.
The Justice Department in February approved the merger after Univision agreed to reduce its 27 percent ownership of Entravision Communications Corp. to less than 10 percent over the next six years.
Entravision is the largest owner of Univision TV affiliates and owns 55 radio stations, many of them in the same markets served by Dallas-based HBC.
HBC's stations are concentrated in California, Texas and Florida, with others in Arizona, Nevada, Illinois and New York. They offer programming that includes international top 40, Latino mix, Tejano and sports talk.
Univision has said that under the deal, local radio stations would retain control over their programming.