Count the People Who Count

A trio of exile groups mounts a new challenge to monopoly control of local Spanish-language radio

Heftel's 71-year-old founder and head is Cecil Heftel, a Democratic U.S. congressman from Hawaii from 1976 to 1986. The corporation owns fifteen Spanish-language radio stations in Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas/Fort Worth, among other markets, as well as Cadena Radio Centro, a Mexico City-based worldwide radio network that broadcasts via satellite. HBC is unambiguous and unapologetic about the company's intention to control the nation's major Spanish-language radio markets. "Our goal with both [pairs of] stations is to make money," says Luis Diaz-Albertini.

Advocates of moderate political views have always complained that they not only are prevented from airing their views on WAQI and WQBA but are routinely threatened and defamed on the air without being informed of the attacks or being given the opportunity to respond -- a violation of FCC rules. In September of last year, after HBC had purchased WQBA-AM and the then-WQBA-FM, Cambio Cubano, PECA, and Contrapunto agreed to abandon their petition to have the FCC deny the company's additional acquisitions. Instead they negotiated an extensive agreement that called for, among other things, the creation of a "Diversity Council" to ensure that future HBC programming in Miami represented alternative views. The accord also banned the on-air use of inflammatory words such as comunista, baboso, rata, agente castrista, and traidor.

Despite being signed by HBC's attorney, the agreement was never implemented, according to Ira Kurzban, the Miami attorney for Cambio Cubano and the other two groups. They filed a civil lawsuit in Dade Circuit Court in November 1994, seeking an order for HBC's compliance. (HBC has submitted a motion asking Chief Judge Leonard Rivkind to dismiss the suit.)

Though he has narrowed the grounds of his argument for legal purposes, attorney David Honig, who has served as general counsel for the Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP for several years, clearly has deeper qualms about Cecil Heftel's domination of the Spanish-language airwaves. He asks , "Do you want anyone to be a Citizen Kane in a city that's really just coming into the Nineteenth Century as far as political ethics are concerned?

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