By Tim Padgett
Univision is selling many of its Spanish-language radio stations — including Miami’s ultraconservative Radio Mambí — to a group led by Democrats.
Creating a beachhead in a broadcast market often dominated by conservative or right-wing programming, a new and Latino-owned, bipartisan but Democrat-led media group will announce Friday it’s purchasing 18 major Spanish-language radio stations owned by the TelevisaUnivision network — including Miami’s Radio Mambí.
WLRN has learned that the Latino Media Network, or LMN — headed by Stephanie Valencia, a Latino outreach director for former President Barack Obama, and Democratic activist Jess Morales Rocketto — has signed a “definitive agreement” to buy the stations for $60 million. The media startup has launched after raising an initial $80 million.
A Univision spokesperson confirmed the sale.
The AM and FM stations are located in 10 of the country’s largest Latino markets, including Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Houston and Las Vegas.
LMN says it has secured financing from “leading Latino investors” as well as Lakestar Finance, an investment group associated with businessman-philanthropist George Soros.
Other prominent LMN investors and advisers include Hollywood actress Eva Longoria, former Florida Republican Party chair Al Cárdenas, former Miami-Dade College President Eduardo Padrón and radio entrepreneur Tom Castro.
“Latinos are constantly trying to navigate the ocean of information,” Valencia told WLRN, arguing that the station purchases aren’t politically motivated. “In some cases that is disinformation, in some cases that is very one-sided communication.
“In the Latino community radio still plays such an important part, and in places like Florida it obviously plays a critically important part…From some of the research we’ve seen, upwards of 70% of Latinos are getting their news and information about politics and elections from places like YouTube” that are often less than reliable.
Either way, Valencia argues Latinos “are looking for trusted voices.”
The question now, given LMN’s Democratic ties, is what sort of voice will replace the programming at stations like the ultraconservative Radio Mambí (WAQI 710 AM). It’s long been an institution in Miami’s Cuban exile community. But, like many Spanish-language stations here, it’s also been criticized for pushing right-wing and sometimes racist disinformation .
Democrats have long chafed at much of that agenda, particularly in 2020 when talk show hosts at stations like Mambí labeled then-presidential candidate Joe Biden a “socialista” who would turn the U.S. into a left-wing dictatorship like Venezuela’s.
Valencia said that will change, but insisted Mambí will not adopt a left-wing bent under LMN.
“There are elements of Radio Mambí that are really important to preserve,” Valencia said. “It has been an important part of the community and experience in Miami.
“But we do believe in…balanced journalism.”
Until now, Democrats and Latino liberals and moderates had focused their efforts and resources on monitoring Spanish-language radio outlets instead of trying to own stations themselves.
“As Latinos drive population growth in the United States…[and] with minority media on the decline, now is the time to be investing in more resources to create content for Latinos by Latinos,” Valencia said in a statement earlier Friday.
The sales must still meet Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval before LMN can fully operate the stations. That process could last well into 2023.