The intended merger between US broadcasters Univision and Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. is causing heated debate ahead of a regulatory ruling on the deal.

Unveiled in June [WAMN: 13-Jun-02], the $2.3 billion (€2.1bn; £1.4bn) merger would unite America’s Spanish-language market leaders, Univision (TV) and HBC (radio).

Critics claim the resulting hybrid would unfairly dominate the Spanish-language sector. But the two firms’ executives argue they need to consolidate to challengen their English-language counterparts’ dominance over ad dollars.

Initially the deal received little attention, but over the last month it has sparked an increasingly acrimonious political row. The two sides have already taken out newspaper ads decrying their opponents and enlisted leading politicians to back their cause.

Supporting the deal are New Mexico’s Democrat governor Bill Richardson (the only Hispanic state governor) and Henry Cisneros, a one-time Univision president and former housing and urban development secretary. In opposition are Democratic senators Tom Daschle, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy, plus House Democratic Caucus chairman Bob Menendez.

Although the Justice Department has already given the deal the green light, the Federal Communications Commission has yet to rule. It could unveil its decision before the end of August, with analysts betting that the merger will be approved.

Data sourced from: Arizona Republic (USA); additional content by WARC staff