A few weeks ago, a new media startup made headlines for two reasons.
The first was the fact that the Latino Media Network, founded by Stephanie Valencia and Jess Morales Rocketto, had raised $80 million in seed capital. As Sarah Fischer from Axios saidit is “one of the largest fundraising rounds for a Latina-owned and operated startup in the United States”
The second has to do with what the company did with most of that money.
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On June 3, the Latino Media Network announced that it had reached an agreement to buy 18 radio stations in 10 US cities from TelevisaUnivision. The acquisition, which is pending regulatory approval, would give the startup an immediate following in markets like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston and McAllen, Texas (puro 956 cuh!).
“They basically give us access to a third of the Hispanic population of this country,” Valencia told Axios.
The deal, worth $60 million, also includes Radio Mambí, a Spanish-language radio station in Miami.
This is where things get interesting. You see, Radio Mambi is not just any radio station.
“You are perhaps talking about the most symbolic communication platform for the Cuban community in exile in its history,” said Alejandro Alvarado, associate professor and director of the Spanish-language journalism master’s program at the International University. from Florida.
Founded in the mid 80’s by self-taught millionaire Amancio Víctor Suárez, Radio Mambí has been an important pillar of the Cuban community in exile for decades. A staunchly anti-Fidel Castro and anti-Communist team from the start, the popular radio station has long been the home of Armando Pérez Roura, who would start his show with read a list of people executed by the regime that day. The reach of Radio Mambi was such that its signal would have been stranded in Cuba to prevent its spread from reaching the island.
Radio Mambí has historically leaned conservative. In recent years, the station has not only been pro-Trump, but has also become a hotbed of disinformation in Spanish. According to a 2021 reportRadio Mambí aired three of the four shows that were “the most egregious” in pushing unfounded conspiracy theories in the region, spreading lies on topics ranging from Trump’s Big Lie to the so-called “grand replacement theoryto blame COVID-19 on “Chinese Communists”.
It should come as no surprise, then, that when the deal between TelevisaUnivision and Latino Media Network became public, more than a few feathers have been ruffled. This is because Valencia and Morales Rocketto previously worked for the Democratic Party. To complicate matters further, the fact that some of the money raised by the Latino Media Network came from Lakestar Finance, an investment firm linked to George Soros, a name that has been a dog whistle for the far right.
“We cannot let our young people not be informed firsthand of the evils of communism”, Lieutenant Governor of Florida Jeanette Núñez said at a recent event to protest the sale. “It is important for young people to know this because today we are witnessing a very dangerous movement.”
“That’s what socialism, communism does. They want to shut people up,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)who signed a bill in 2017 that allow residents to request a book ban when he was governor of the state.
But despite all the accusations against socialism and communism, the real culprit seems to be capitalism.
You don’t need Albert Martínez, former chief meteorologist of “Despierta América”, to know which way the wind is blowing.
In February 2021, Univision has acquired Spanish ad-based streamer Vix and bundled it with its own prospective streamer, PrendeTV. (In 2019, Vix itself acquired Pongalo, yet another streaming service).
In April 2021Univision merged with Mexican television giant Televisa to become the largest Spanish-language media company in the world.
“The merger facilitates an efficient transition to streaming by combining content, production facilities, substantial operational cost savings and distribution points held in the world’s two largest Spanish-speaking markets,” media consultant Julio Rumbaut told my colleague. Meg James.
In May, TelevisaUnivision agreed to acquire Spanish streamer Pantaya of Hemisphere Media Group for an undisclosed sum of money and two radio stations in Puerto Rico.
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And although TelevisaUnivision is shrinking its radio portfolio, the company said in a statement to The Times that the 39 radio stations it was not selling would still give it “the largest Spanish-language radio footprint in the country in terms of audience.” “.
“Audio and music will continue to be a strategic priority through investments in core radio assets and Uforia, TelevisaUnivision’s audio brand which includes audio streaming, podcasts and live concert series,” the report said. communicated.
Radio Mambí may have deep historical and cultural ties to the Cuban exile community, but with TelevisaUnivision, the station was considered “non-essential”. His sale was not personal. It’s just business.
But for those who oppose the sale of Radio Mambi, courage!
If it was the free market that led Televisa Univision to sell to the Latino Media Network – the former said it met a dozen potential buyers, including curator Salem Media Group — then these same forces could ensure that the spirit of Radio Mambí is preserved.
In a June 10 op-ed for the Miami Herald, Valencia and Morales Rocketto addressed the backlash, saying they “have no intention of changing the spirit or character of what made it popular and profitable.” Their “goal will always be to run a successful business.”
And on radio, you can’t run a successful business if you don’t have advertisers. As Alvarado points out, Miami’s economic base leans to the right.
“If they see a left turn,” he says, “they will take their money out of those stations.”
There are several potential outcomes for Radio Mambí once the sale is approved.
The new owners could let Radio Mambí continue to serve the right wing of the Cuban-American community and maintain the status quo. They could also impose policies that restrict some of the more outlandish statements of popular conservative presenters, forcing an exodus of talent to other stations, using the opportunity to reinvent the station into a more progressive outlet.
A third option would be to turn the station into local, conservative ownership for a profit that would ensure the outlet retains its traditional ties to the Cuban community in exile.
Either way, it seems the speech restriction may not be the driving force behind this purchase, but rather the most American factor – the end result.
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