FCC Approves Univision Sale to SearchLight

Univision logo
(Image credit: Univision)

The FCC's Media Bureau has approved the Univision Holdings sale of majority ownership interest in the Spanish-language media company and its broadcast properties (65 TV stations and 58 radio stations) to investment firms Searchlight Capital Partners, LP, and ForgeLight LLC.

The bureau's approval is conditioned on the sale of three Puerto Rico television stations -- WLII-DT and two satellite stations, WSUR-DT and WOLE-DT -- to comply with FCC local ownership rules.

Also Read: FCC Allows Univision to Boost Foreign Ownership

The FCC will allow Univision to continue to operate WFTY-TV in Smithtown, N.Y., as a satellite of WFUT-TV, Newark, N.J., pursuant to an exception from multiple ownership rules that could otherwise prevent the combo.

The FCC is also granting Univision's petition for a declaratory ruling that the resulting company be allowed to exceed the 25% cap on foreign ownership, conditioned on compliance with the Justice Department's letter regarding national security and law enforcement issues.

"We find that it would not be in the public interest to prohibit the aggregate foreign equity and voting interest in Univision to exceed 25% and to increase the interest up to and including 100% voting and equity," the FCC said.

Grupo Televisa, through Multimedia Telecom, will retain its 36% stake in Univision, with SearchLight and ForgeLight buying the other 64% from investor groups Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group. Via a subscription agreement, Liberty Global also winds up with an 11.6% stake.

While Univision has some license renewals pending, the FCC said there were no outstanding qualification issues that would stand in the way of approving the deal.

In 2013, the FCC lifted its ban on foreign ownership above 25%. Such ownership can now be as much as 100%, so long as it is found, as reviewed on a case-by-case basis, to be in the public interest. The FCC concluded that was the case with Univision.

"We find that that the record presents no substantial and material question of fact as to whether the transaction serves the public interest," the bureau said, adding: "We next find that approval of the proposed transfer of control would be in the public interest and grant the Applications -- including the request for a continuing
satellite exception -- conditioned upon divestiture of overlap stations in Puerto Rico."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.