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Telemuno moves to block KAZA’s license renewal

Petition accuses TV Azteca of violating securities laws

NBC’s Telemundo has urged the Federal Communications Commission to deny a license renewal request for KAZA-TV, accusing the California station’s Mexican corporate owners of having massively defrauded investors and physically harassing and intimidating Telemundo operations south of the border.

According to a petition filed late Thursday afternoon at the FCC, principals of TV Azteca, which “exercises a cognizable degree of influence and control” over KAZA, have “flagrantly violated U.S. securities laws to enrich themselves by more than $200 million at the expense of TV Azteca’s U.S. and Mexican shareholders.”

“In Mexico, TV Azteca has used strong-armed tactics — including armed raids — against legitimate U.S. business operations in Mexico to prevent them from competing lawfully against TV Azteca in its home country,” petition continued.

Telemundo alleged that one armed raid was launched against one program while it was producing a segment with 14-year-old girls and their mothers.

Claiming that TV Azteca and its principals “lack the character qualifications to hold an interest in a U.S. broadcast licensee,” NBC Telemundo urged the FCC to deny KAZA’s renewal request because its owners’ actions are incompatible with the agency’s public interest requirements for licensees.

TV Azteca said NBC was trying to bully its much smaller rival.    “We don’t think these complaints have any legal merit,” Luis Echarte, chairman of Azteca America, said in a statement. “This is a PR ploy designed to hurt the image of TV Azteca and its subsidiaries due to our growth in the U.S. Hispanic market.”

An Azteca spokesman said TV Azteca does not own the station KAZA TV, but leases it through a complex financial arrangement with Pappas — a fact the spokesman said further undermined  the strength of NBC’s filing.

Echarte said the FCC filing was “clearly retaliation” against TV Azteca over the so-called armed raid. TV Azteca claims Telemundo was violating Mexican law by contracting former TV Azteca talent that was still under contract. The Mexican web obtained a court injunction to block production of the show “Quinceanera,” hosted by Alan Tacher in Mexico.

Telemundo fires back that TV Azteca is using its political influence over local courts to thwart Telemundo’s expansion in Mexico, where the U.S. company is ramping up production and seeking a broadcast license. Mexico’s market it dominated by Televisa and its smaller rival TV Azteca.

Telemundo hired host Alan Tacher earlier this year, months after he left TV Azteca, where he had hosted the hit signing competish “La Academia.”

TV Azteca’s statement didn’t directly respond to the allegations of defrauding investors in the NBC filing.    TV Azteca topper Ricardo Salinas Pliego and another exec reached a settlement in September with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over fraud charges, where Salinas agreed to pay a fine of $7.5 million.

The SEC charged Salinas and another exec had secretly pocketed more than $200 million from a 2003 debt deal and gypped minority investors.