“Washington Update” is one of the great panel discussions scheduled for the Hispanic Radio Conference coming up March 25-26 in Miami. The panel will be moderated by Francisco “Frank” Montero who specializes in telecommunications, broadcasting, media, and technology for the Arlington, VA-based law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth. He is well known as an advocate for Hispanic and Spanish-language media in the U.S. and Latin America. He shared some of his thoughts with Radio Ink.
Radio Ink: How do ownership rules play out for Hispanic ownership of properties?
Montero: Last year’s U.S. Federal court decision, which temporarily reversed the FCC’s efforts to deregulate television and newspaper ownership, has had an impact on the FCC’s objective of deregulating radio ownership. For now, it appears that efforts to lift the local radio ownership rules, as well as relaxing the separate AM vs FM sub-caps, are on hold. This could have an impact on Hispanic ownership.
There is speculation that lifting sub-caps could lead to AM stations being placed on the market. AM has traditionally been a gateway radio service for Hispanic broadcasters. AMs, coupled with FM translators, have become a new, important way for Hispanic broadcasters to expand in the radio market.
Radio Ink: Outside of the election, what are the areas we should be watching in the coming year?
Montero: The current marijuana bill making its way through Congress could be a game-changer for broadcasters. If marijuana were to become decriminalized the way hemp and CBD has been, it will open up to broadcasters a huge ad revenue source that’s currently off limits.
Other important issues will be the ongoing FCC license renewal cycle which is winding its way across the country. It’s putting pressure on stations to get their public files and other FCC obligations in order.
Also, we will likely see big changes at the FCC in the coming year, regardless of who wins the election, including possibly a new FCC chairman who will likely put his/her own imprint on the industry. There has never been an Hispanic FCC chairman. Perhaps this could be the year.
Radio Ink: Is the immigration debate still high on the list of concerns for Hispanic radio consumers?
Montero: Immigration will always be a critical issue for the U.S. Hispanic radio audience. Hispanic radio plays a critical role in keeping the Spanish-speaking population informed, and that will continue to be an important role, especially going into the elections. We already see how Hispanic radio is playing a critical role in getting out the Hispanic vote for the 2020 election.
Radio Ink: Do you think Hispanic broadcasters have a voice that is being heard in Washington?
Montero: Certainly I think that important gatherings like the Radio Ink Hispanic Radio Conference play a major role in giving Hispanic broadcasters a voice in Washington. Having dignitaries like the CEOs of influential industry organizations like the National Association of Broadcasters, as well as the Florida Association of Broadcasters in attendance is important. In years past, FCC commissioners have attended as well, and this year the Senior Media Advisor to the FCC Chairman will be in there.
It is frustrating that there has never been an Hispanic FCC Chairman, and it has been over a decade since there has even been an Hispanic FCC commissioner. But I do believe that organizations such as the NAB and the FAB, and other state broadcaster associations have made important efforts to give Hispanic broadcasters a voice on their boards and in their organizations, and to provide them a voice in Washington, DC, and in the various state capitols.
Don’t miss the rest of what Frank Montero has to say exclusively at the Hispanic Radio Conference. He will be joined by David Honig, President Emeritus and Senior Advisor to the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council; C. Patrick Roberts, President/CEO, Florida Association of Broadcasters; and Alexander Sanjenis, Media Advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.