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Univision lobbies pols on Hispanic merger

FCC may approve deal; Congress tough on plans

MIAMI — Univision Communications execs were again on Capitol Hill Wednesday, trying to assuage politicos’ concerns over its pending acquisition of Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.

The Federal Communications Commission must approve the $2.2 billion deal. But some members of Congress are scrutizing the plan to create a Spanish-lingo multimedia conglom, with heavy hitters like Democratic senators Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy reportedly asking FCC commish Michael Powell to hold off on his okay.

“The political situation is not expected to derail the deal,” said Univision spokeswoman Stephanie Pillersdorf of Citigate Sard Verbinnen. “We expect the deal to be approved on its merits, as it stands.”

The combo of the country’s largest Spanish-lingo media group — with two broadcast nets, a feevee, Internet division, record label, plus a 50% stake in a pay TV programming joint venture — with the largest Spanish-lingo radio company was announced last year. Neither has print interests.

Shareholders okayed the plan on Feb 28. The Justice Dept. gave it the greenlight on March 26, contigent upon Univision divesting some of its stations.

Still, the normally press-phobic Univision went on the defensive last week in response to “scurrilous advertisements.” It took out ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, Spanish-lingo papers La Opinion and La Prensa and D.C. publication Roll Call to state its case and to show support from former exec Henry Cisneros.

On Wednesday, it published a third ad, a letter of support penned by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to his fellow Democrats Daschle and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, networks prexy and chief operating officer Ray Rodriguez has been making house calls in D.C., arguing that the merger will be good for Hispanic media — and questioning whether a double standard is being applied given that other major media comgloms have multimedia holdings.

(Susan Crabtree in Washington contributed to this report).

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