Hispanic Caucus Members Pressure FCC to Scrutinize Miami Radio Station Sale

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) mobilized Wednesday to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to further scrutinize and reject the sale of the well-known Miami radio station Caracol 1260 AM to America CV, which owns the América TeVé network.

The congressmen's decision comes on the heels of a Newsweek report that detailed how America CV immediately fired the station's top-rated host, Raul Martinez, a Democrat and former mayor of Hialeah. The swift termination was viewed as a political decision, and led Florida Democrats to sound the alarm of a conservative media takeover on the Spanish-language airwaves.

Florida Representative Darren Soto told Newsweek that "enough is enough."

"The FCC should scrutinize this sale," he said. "The immediate silencing of progressive voices on South Florida radio is contrary to the public good and importance of varying viewpoints. This could further make South Florida vulnerable to the sophisticated Spanish-language misinformation campaigns perpetrated during the 2020 election. The 'Big Lie' about the 2020 elections, which was amplified on similar stations, has damaged this country severely already."

Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who serves of chairman of BOLDPAC, the CHC's political arm, said that he asked the CHC to join him "in opposing this sale" after reading the Newsweek report.

"Not just as BOLDPAC, but as chairman of the intel and special operations subcommittee," Gallego said, "it disturbs me that this type of misinformation was applied last cycle and applied by conservative Colombian politicians trying to influence our election."

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus told Newsweek it received Gallego's message and is in the process of determining its next steps.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said it would be "wise" for the FCC to look at the acquisition more deeply because of the "increase in disinformation on Spanish-language radio and other media," an issue that became central in the final weeks of the 2020 election and its aftermath, as Democrats realized the extent of the damage that charges of socialism had done up and down the Democratic ticket.

For Gallego, who is the first Colombian-American elected to Congress, the issue is a personal one. He explained what it means to see a radio station that has been a "trusted, impartial source" among Colombians and Latinos in Miami be taken over "by a radical agenda."

"What happens is the independence starts eroding away," he told Newsweek. "For a lot of these communities this is the only source they watch, a lot of them aren't crossing over and watching other media like CNN, so they end up being siloed in terms of the information they get. They only go to the trusted source so when that source gets corrupted, you essentially have a population getting one point of view."

Martinez, the host who was terminated by America CV, told Newsweek the company was not supposed to make changes to Radio Caracol until the FCC weighs in on the sale.

"Last Monday they had a show signing papers on the sale, but they now need to go through the FCC process," he said. "When you go through the FCC process you don't make any changes."

But on his network América TeVé last week, CEO Carlos Vasallo shared a somewhat different view.

Announcing the hosts replacing Martinez, he said he should have waited a "prudent" amount of time for the FCC to approve the sale before making editorial changes, but explained the decision by arguing ownership of "the antenna doesn't have to do with programming and programming doesn't depend on that permission."

Former South Florida congressman Joe Garcia told Newsweek the sale involves the use of public airwaves, and there should be standards because it represents a "huge amount of power to give one operator in the market."

"I'm deeply troubled by this acquisition because it has nothing to do with commercial viability," he said. "What it has to do with is a political agenda and that is wrong. And if it isn't, then why did the Democrat with the highest ratings get fired? How does that make sense for a viably commercial operation?"

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) (2nd L) speaks as Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) (R) and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund President and General Counsel Thomas Saenz (L) listen during a news conference in front of the Supreme Court December 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images