The American Thinker believes Univision's citizenship drive is the result of "behind the scenes maneuvers by the Democrats' biggest sugar daddy of all." Said 'sugar daddy' would be Haim Saban, a minority investor in Univision.
The crux of author Ed Lasky's argument is the following:
"Saban is a major donor of the Democratic Party and a devoted supporter of Hillary Clinton for President. Once he assumed control of Univision, the network embarked on an unprecedented effort to register Hispanics as American citizens with a goal of increasing their voting power-which could prove the deciding factor in the 2008 Presidential election. Hispanics are trending Democratic. How will the network cover the 2008 campaigns? Which candidates will the network focus on? Assuming that many of the viewers of the network may only understand Spanish, will their viewing of Univision give them only one source of news and opinion regarding the candidates in 2008? Will the Saban-Clinton team be willing to wield Univision's power to help her in the drive to the Presidency?"
The four questions really amount to one - Will Univision be employed as an instrument of the Democratic Party?
Curiously, it is the flip question asked by some liberals during the long reign of Univision's former board chairman, CEO and controlling shareholder A. Jerrold ("Jerry") Perenchio who is a major donor to the Republican Party and affiliated causes such as the Swift Boat Veterans Campaign.
Did Perenchio's command of the company result in coverage tilted in favor of the Bush Administration? I saw no evidence of that over the course of many years. And, in fact, it was under Perenchio's ownership that the nationally syndicated Univision Radio disc jockey, Eddie 'Piolín' Sotelo, vociferously called for Hispanic immigrants to march in the street. Not exactly the mainstream Republican party line.
Will Saban respect the editorial independence of Univision's network news operation in the same way that Perenchio did? Yes and for several reasons. First off, Saban will not have the power to control Univision the way Perenchio did. Perenchio was chairman of a board of directors stacked with individuals loyal to him. He was CEO of a company where the most senior executives were all handpicked by him. Most importantly, he was the majority shareholder. Perenchio ran Univision without much regard to even important minority investors and programming partners Televisa and Venevision. Saban's ownership stake is smaller than each of the other private equity firms that now own Univision. (By the way, the deal came together thanks in some measure to the active work of private equity adviser and former Bush administration FCC Commissioner Michael Powell.) Granted, Saban will have a significant role as evidenced by a recent SEC filing that spells out his interactions with new CEO Joe Uva. But, Saban simply cannot call the shots at Univision in the same fashion that Perenchio did for many years.
The other noteworthy fact is that Univision has been doing voter registration campaigns and the like for some thirty years. The KMEX campaign is only the latest in a string of similar efforts going back decades including some fifteen years under Perenchio's tutelage. It is simply not "an unprecedented effort" as described by Mr. Lasky. In fairness to him, I see where you might easily reach that conclusion reading the otherwise excellent WSJ article.
I can also see where together the WSJ article and Fortune's interesting profile of Haim Saban might give conservatives the "heebie-jeebies" (That's Andrew Sullivan's phrase. You can read his take here.) But, really, given how Univision managed to maintain its editorial independence during the long absolutist reign of major Republican donor Jerry Perenchio I believe it is a safe bet to think the same will be true under the partial ownership of major Democratic donor Haim Saban. And I base my belief on close observations made over the years as a reporter covering the network for various trade publications.
And as for the latest citizenship drive I think it can only be positive if more legal residents become U.S. citizens.