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Bill Seeks to Block Sale of 5 Latino TV Stations

July 23, 1986|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | Times Staff Writer

Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) said Tuesday that he intends to introduce a bill today to block the sale of KMEX-TV and four other major Spanish-language television stations to Hallmark Cards and First Capital Corp. of Chicago.

The proposed sale, announced Monday, would transfer the nation's largest group of Spanish-language television stations to non-Latino owners. Hallmark and First Capital said they intend to continue the stations' Spanish-language format.

The $301.5-million transaction also includes five low-power television stations.

The transfer of the stations' licenses must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Early this year an FCC administrative law judge recommended that the stations be stripped of their licenses because they are controlled by foreign interests, but the FCC then reached a preliminary settlement with owner Spanish International Communications Corp. when it agreed to sell the stations.

Martinez said his proposed legislation would force the FCC to implement its "minority distress sale policy." Under that policy, a licensee who is about to go through a revocation hearing--which could lead to the loss of the license--can elect to sell the television license to a minority group at 75% of its fair market value rather than go through the hearing. The proposed bill states that its purpose is to authorize the FCC to permit the transfer of the stations' licenses "only as such transfer or assignment is to a qualified minority entity," Martinez said.

"I really feel this (sale) is an affront to the Hispanic community," said Martinez, who is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

A spokesman for the FCC could not be reached late in the day.

But Ronald L. Fein, a lawyer selected by SICC shareholders to oversee the sale, said he understands that while the licensee can elect to sell under the minority distress sale policy, the FCC cannot force a license sale or tell a licensee what buyer to pick. SICC did not choose the distress sale option, and the settlement agreement with the FCC calls for a full-value sale, he said.

"As a member of the public, Mr. Martinez can (formally) make his views known on the transfer of the licenses but not on the settlement agreement," which is not subject to public comment, Fein said. The settlement agreement still must be approved by the FCC.

SICC owns KMEX-TV in Los Angeles, KFTV-TV in Fresno, WLTV-TV in Miami, WXTV-TV in Paterson, N.J., and KWEX-TV in San Antonio. It also owns low-power stations in Bakersfield, Denver, Philadelphia, Hartford, Conn., and Austin, Tex.

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