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Bill Seeks Tougher Merger Scrutiny

August 02, 2003|Jube Shiver Jr. | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Two Senate Democrats introduced legislation Friday that would require federal regulators to conduct more extensive reviews of media mergers that would affect linguistic minorities in the United States, such as those who speak Spanish or an Asian language.

The proposed legislation, called the National Minority Media Opportunities Act, comes as the Federal Communications Commission appears poised to approve the planned $2.3-billion acquisition of Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. of Dallas by Univision Communications of Los Angeles.

Legal experts and investment analysts said the measure faced an uphill battle in the Republican-dominated Congress, notwithstanding bipartisan concern about media consolidation.

"I don't believe this bill would be passed by the Senate and then approved by the House and signed by the president. It's a long shot," said Mark R. Fratrik, a vice president at BIA Financial, a Chantilly, Va., broadcast industry research firm.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), would require the FCC to conduct public hearings on media mergers involving broadcast stations that serve linguistic minorities.

It also would require the agency to deliver a report to Congress on the ownership status of stations serving speakers of Spanish and other minority languages in the United States.

Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he planned to introduce a similar bill next month in the House.

Clinton, Kennedy, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and other prominent Democrats have expressed concern that Univision Chief Executive A. Jerrold Perenchio, a major fundraiser for President Bush, might use his media properties to wield influence with Latino voters.

One House staff member said Friday that Menendez's version of the bill could be applied retroactively to the merger of Univision and Hispanic, a deal that is expected to be approved by the FCC in the next few weeks.

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