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Two Republican senators and a congressman expressed their concern about the “highly partisan” attempts to pressure the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to authorize the sale of a Grupo Prisa radio station in Miami to a company owned by Spanish Carlos Vasallo.
In a letter addressed to Acting FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz Balart asked her to evaluate in a “fair manner” and according to the agency’s rules the request to authorize the transaction.
ATV Holdings, Inc, linked to Vasallo, a Spanish businessman based in the country, signed in April an agreement with the also Spanish Grupo Prisa for the purchase of Radio Caracol AM 1260 (WSUA) and the FM translator W232DX for an undisclosed amount.
The deal is subject to the approval of the FCC, which is the agency that grants broadcast licenses and has not yet ruled on the case.
Congressional Democrats have tried to block the sale of the station arguing that the businessman is “too conservative” and according to them this may not be in the public good: “The radio waves are the people’s radio waves, and the FCC has to scrutinize every sale to make sure it is a public good, and it may very well be possible that this is not a public good,” said Democratic Congressman Darren Soto.
“Preventing the assignment of the radio station licenses based on its anticipated programming would set a dangerous precedent, and likely would violate the First Amendment’s protections of free expression and a free, independent media,” the Republican congressmen note.
Scott, Rubio and Diaz Balart called on Rosenworcel, when studying the case, to “reject any politicization of the FCC.”
“We are concerned by these attempts to impose on the FCC’s independence and politicize its decisions by encouraging content-based censorship,” the parliamentarians stress in the letter.
Furthermore, they indicate that if the reasons of those who expect the buyer to “have an anti-Castro, anti-communist and anti-socialist point of view” are heeded, the conservatives could call for “censorship” if they consider that there is “excessive liberal content.”
As the FCC’s Broadcasting and Audience manual states, broadcasters, not the FCC or any other government agency, are responsible for selecting the material they broadcast, they remind.
The First Amendment and the Communications Act expressly prohibit the Commission from censoring broadcast material.
Vasallo, president and CEO of America CV Network, parent company of America TeVé of Miami, told Efe after signing the contract to buy the station that the objective of this operation was to consolidate the communication project around the television channel, with more supports and media.
He said that the fact that the signal of Caracol Radio 1260 can be heard “clearly” in Cuba at certain times of the day, thanks to its great power, also counted.
Reaching Cubans on the island is a way to promote freedoms in that country, says Vasallo, who is studying the possibility of having América TeVé reach Cuba as well.
Vasallo owns six television stations in the United States.