Two weeks ago, Carlos Vasallo, a Spanish businessman residing in Miami, signed a contract to acquire the South Florida radio station Caracol Radio 1260, owned by Grupo Prisa.
The exact cost of the deal has not yet been disclosed, and the purchase must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States, however, the transaction is already generating strong reactions in the Miami political sphere, among them, a Democratic move to prohibit the sale.
Blocking the sale
Several representatives of the Democratic Party, who are part of the Hispanic Caucus, are pressuring the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to approve the deal between businessman Vasallo and Grupo Prisa for Radio Caracol Miami.
Grupo Prisa is a major Spanish multimedia media corporation that encompasses several progressive journalistic brands such as Spain’s El País or the HuffPost, a Spanish online edition of the American newspaper The Huffington Post.
According to a report in the Miami Herald, Democrats are concerned about the “underrepresentation” in Miami’s Spanish-language radio stations, especially after the firing last month of Raul Martinez, a “former Hialeah mayor and powerful liberal voice in South Florida radio” who left Radio Caracol Miami.
One of the politicians within the Hispanic Caucus is Darren Soto (D-FL 9th District), who sits on the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee. Soto told the Herald that he was “concerned” about “misinformation” in the Spanish-language media. He further explained that the FCC should not approve the sale of Radio Caracol Miami in the name of the “public good.”
“Radio waves are the people’s waves, and the FCC needs to scrutinize each sale to make sure it is in the public good, and it could be quite possible that this is not in the public good,” he said, the Herald reports. “We saw similar stations perpetuate the big lie that President Trump won the election, which isn’t true, and we saw the dangerous results of that. I was there in the Capitol when the insurrection took place and we saw [the lie] perpetuated in Spanish-language media mostly unchecked.”
Another representative involved in lobbying the FCC is Ruben Gallego (D-AZ 7th District), who is the first Colombian-American elected to Congress and is the chairman of the political action committee BOLDPAC, the political arm of the Hispanic Caucus.
In an interview with Newsweek, Gallegos said that, for many Hispanics in Florida, Caracol is their only source of information. Many Hispanics, in fact, Gallegos insists, “are not going to other media and seeing other sources like CNN, so they end up isolated in terms of the information they receive.”
“They [Hispanics] only go to the trusted source so when that source gets corrupted, you essentially have a population getting one point of view,” he said.
El American contacted Gallego for comment on his controversial statements and the Hispanic Caucus’ actions against the sale of the station; however, after waiting several days and, although the representative initially expressed willingness, there was no response from his press office.
Strong response from the FCC
Despite Democratic pressure for the FCC not to approve the sale of Radio Caracol Miami, one of the commission’s members has already responded publicly to Democratic members of Congress claiming that the Hispanic Caucus is dangerously crossing First Amendment boundaries based on partisan views.
“This attempt by Democrats in Congress to pressure the FCC into blocking the sale of a Spanish-language radio station based on the political viewpoints that it would broadcast to South Florida’s Hispanic community crosses a line drawn by the First Amendment,” said the FCC’s pertaining commissioner, noted attorney Brendan Carr.
“The FCC has no business doing the Democrats’ bidding or using our regulatory process to censor political opinions that Democrats do not like. Worse, Democrats appear to be treating the FCC as a mere arm of the DNC – expressly pressuring the agency to take actions that they believe will increase their electoral odds in Florida in 2022,” he added.
Carr is a member of the Republican Party and was appointed to the FCC in 2017 by former President Donald Trump.
The commissioner added that the actions of the Democratic Party’s Hispanic Caucus are “a deeply troubling transgression of free speech and the FCC’s status as an independent agency.”
Democrats in the firing line
Several media outlets echoed the Democratic pressure on the FCC to prevent the sale of Radio Caracol Miami.
The Daily Wire, for example, said that after Republican success in increasing “their share of the Hispanic vote in 2020, Democrats in Congress are clamoring to use government muscle to keep Latinos from listening to conservative ideas.”
One of the testimonies collected by the Wire was that of Jorge Bonilla, director of Media Research Center (MRC) Latino, who sharply criticized the Democrats’ attempt at pressure and, moreover, argued with irony that this is not the right way to gain sympathy among Florida Hispanics: “What better way to show Florida Hispanics that Democrats are nothing like the regimes they fled than to summon the full power of the federal government against a private opposition media outlet? Hugo Chavez would be proud.”
Among the reasons why Florida began to swing towards the Republican Party is the strong conservative Hispanic presence among Cuban, Venezuelan, Colombian and other Latin American migrants. Also, the rejection of socialist policies by most of these Hispanics, who ended up living in the United States because they fled socialism.
Although Democrats are concerned about their “underrepresentation” on Florida radio stations, they are not very alone in the traditional Hispanic media.
Speaking to El American, Jorge Bonilla explained that the Hispanic media are progressive and are much closer to the Democratic Party because of its immigration policies that allow them to survive economically. The traditional Hispanic media in the United States are Univision, Telemundo and CNN en Español.
Giancarlo Sopo, a media strategist and member of the National Review Institute, also strongly questioned the Democratic congressional effort.
“This may be one of the most important – albeit under-reported – stories of the past week. In a clear power grab, congressional Democrats are urging the FCC to block the sale of a Hispanic radio station in Florida because they suspect the new owners are conservative. This is insane,” Sopo said on his Twitter account.
“Yes, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is actively fighting to kill diversity of opinion in Miami. That’s exactly right. They believe Latinos should only be allowed to hear leftist views.,” Sopo added.
Likewise, Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar rejected the Democrats’ attempt to prevent the takeover. “The First Amendment is sacred and it is clear how the Democrats are terrified of the increasing number of Hispanics who reject their socialist extremism!” said Salazar.
As a counterpart, Rep. Gallego, of BOLDPAC and a prime mover in the attempt to stop the sale, claimed that one of the reasons Latinos voted Republican was because they were “fooled” by the “sophisticated Spanish-language disinformation campaigns” perpetrated, he said, by conservative media.
“It disturbs me that this type of disinformation was applied in the last election by conservative Colombian politicians trying to influence.”
Who is Carlos Vasallo?
Carlos Vasallo is a Spanish businessman, president and CEO of America CV Network, parent company of Miami’s America TeVé channel, with conservative positions, or at least that is how liberal democrat politicians denounce it. The idea of acquiring Caracol Radio Miami is to boost the station’s growth with the objective of building a major communication project with more media and support.
Another of the conservative businessman’s ideas is to improve the station’s service so that it can be heard with greater clarity and that the power of its waves is such that the signal even reaches Cuba clearly at certain times of the day. In this way, Radio Caracol Miami would be helping to combat the abuses against freedom of the press on the island. Likewise, the businessman is also exploring the possibility of América TeVé reaching Cuba.
Vasallo, who owns six television stations in the United States, expects that in about 30 days the FCC will have authorized the contract signed with Grupo Latino de Radio. The station is currently the second most listened radio station in Miami and at some time it was the first.