Monday, June 13, 2022

Miami Radio: Sale of Mambi Radio Puts Political Narratives At Stake

Phone lines lit up last week when Radio Mambí’s current owner, the Spanish-language mammoth corporation TelevisaUnivision, announced it would hand over the reins to Latino Media Network as part of a $60-million deal that includes 18 stations in majority Hispanic markets, reports The Miami Herald.

In Miami, the sale includes WAQI Mambí and WQBA-AM. 

Following months of increasingly polarized debate over the veracity of content in Miami’s Spanish-language media, the deal threw Mambí into an emotional firestorm tinged with references to communist Cuba, claims of censorship and threats of boycotts and strikes. 

Critics have noted that an investment firm tied to Democratic mega-donor George Soros is helping to finance the deal and called the new ownership group “Radio Granma” in an allusion to Cuba’s state-run media. 

Last week callers flooded Mambí programs with messages of solidarity. The opposition to the sale has grown so widespread that Cuban exiles, along with Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nuñez, have promised boycotts and denounced the sale as the silencing of Cubans in exile that would prevent access to news about human rights violations in Cuba. 

Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have sent letters to the federal government opposing the sale. And Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign released a Spanish-language website and ad backed by a $6,500 buy on Mambí attacking Soros’ investment and calling it a “propaganda takeover.” 

The deal between TelevisaUnivision and Latino Media Network includes stations in 10 U.S. cities. But the reaction was most intense among conservative Latinos in Florida, where the sale is the latest escalation in an ongoing battle that has unraveled since 2020 over control of content on the Spanish-language airwaves. 

Democrats argue that Spanish-language disinformation is rampant, largely unregulated and needs to be challenged, while Republicans say their opinions are being censored and conservative hosts scapegoated by a party that is bleeding support among Hispanic voters. 

“If there’s something that bothers this group of progressives,” Ninoska Pérez, a conservative commentator on Mambí, said while reacting to the sale on the air last week, ”it’s the Cuban exile.” It’s unclear what, if any, changes the new leadership will bring to WAQI and the 17 other stations that could soon be in its portfolio. 

The Federal Communications Commission still has to evaluate each station independently before approving a sale, and it’s a process that the buyers expect will take at least a year. LMN founders Stephanie Valencia and Jess Morales Rocketto say the sale was motivated by a desire to keep the station in the hands of Latino owners. 

The group has said there won’t be any personnel changes in the near future, but a spokesperson for LMN told the Herald it is difficult to predict the circumstances of the market once the sale is finalized. 

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