In the latest instance of the FCC opening the doors to more foreign ownership of U.S. broadcast stations, the agency has greenlighted an American subsidiary of Mexican conglomerate Grupo Multimedios Estrellas de Oro to purchase four stations in South Texas from MBM Radio.
The unit, Leading Media Group, is controlled by two Mexican nationals: Francisco Antonio González Sanchez, who holds 83% stake of the company, and Nora Patricia Albuerne de Gonzalez, who holds the remaining 17% stake.
In April they reached an agreement to pay $6 million to buy “Super Tejano 102.1” KBUC and “710 Talk Radio” KURV in the McAllen-Brownsville, TX market and regional Mexican “La Ley 100.5” KBDR and rhythmic CHR “Hot 106.1” KNEX in the Laredo, TX market.
Because the FCC currently caps foreign ownership at 25%, the proposed purchase required a waiver for Grupo Multimedios to secure 100% ownership of the four stations. On Friday the FCC granted the group’s petition to hold all of the voting and equity interest in the four stations. “We find that it will serve the public interest to grant the Petition, subject to the conditions specified below,” Albert Shudliner, Audio Division Chief of the Media Bureau said in a Declaratory Ruling and Memorandum Opinion and Order released Oct. 11.
Granting the petition, the FCC says, will increase the likelihood of continued service to the stations’ communities by allowing their licenses to be transferred to a company owned by people “who are ready, willing, and able to operate the stations based on their extensive broadcasting experience,” Shudliner writes. Grupo Multimedios Estrellas de Oro owns radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and billboard businesses in Mexico, Central America, and Spain. The green light will also facilitate foreign investment in the U.S. radio market and could even encourage reciprocal investment by U.S. companies in foreign markets, Shudliner adds.
The Order notes that the FCC consulted with the relevant Executive Branch agencies, which had no objection to granting the request based on national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, or trade policy issues. The petition was also unopposed by the public, who were given an opportunity to weigh-in about the proposal during a filing period set up by the Commission.
The FCC’s has been slowly opening the U.S. radio market to foreign owners. Last year it granted Mexican-controlled SMG-MX permission to buy stations in the Phoenix and Bakersfield, CA markets.
In 2016 the Commission approved a move to streamline the process and standardize the review procedure for deals that proposed going past the 25% foreign ownership benchmark—saying it would be open to as much as 100% control by a foreign entity. But the Commission also said it would review each deal on a case-by-case basis.