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With just days until the midterm elections, the battle for political support of Latino voters is playing out in a multimillion-dollar battle for control of Spanish-language airwaves.
Partly in response to what they allege is a barrage of misinformation and misinformation on Spanish-language talk radio, a media company led by two former Democratic allies to control 18 radio stations across the country. There has been a push, including a head of conservative talk. Radio in Miami, the station known as Radio Mambi.
The Latino media network bought Mambi and 17 other Spanish-language radio stations from Televisa Univision in June. The company is run by two former Democratic political advisers, Stephanie Valencia and Jess Morales Rocketto, who worked on the political campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Valencia also served as an official in the Obama White House.
Latino media networks will not be able to make any changes to broadcast stations until the FCC gives final regulatory approval on the sale, which is expected later this year. Latino Media Networks declined to speak with CBS News about the purchase, but provided a statement that “all perspectives would be welcome and encouraged.”
The purchase has stirred up.
“They want to use those 18 radio stations and start promoting socialism for Hispanics,” said Republican Representative Maria Salazar, who represents Miami and is a regular guest on Radio Mambi. Salazar said the station is considered “one of the bastions of free speech” and one of “conservative values”.
The sale of Radio Mambi has faced opposition from Salazar and two Republican senators from Florida, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. The three signed a letter to the FCC to try and stop the deal, along with other Republican members of Congress, claiming it would “silence conservative voices.”
Those who endorse the purchase say it’s all about sharing reliable information.
“There is a lack of reliable news and information sources in the Latino community across the board, whether in English or Spanish,” said Jessica Gonzalez, attorney and co-CEO of the media advocacy organization Free Press.
The heated ownership battle over the talk radio hub comes at a time when both political parties are stepping up efforts to garner support from Latino voters. And experts tell CBS News that part of the effort to woo those voters has been to bombard them with propaganda.
Florida International University (FIU) political science professor Eduardo Gamara told members of Congress earlier this year, “There has been a lot of misinformation and disinformation about the way Spanish speakers in South Florida have voted in past elections. has had a direct impact.” ,
According to Equus Research, more than 50% of Latinos interviewed by him for a report on misinformation had seen false narrative in both English and Spanish that claimed the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Equis Research is a digital research organization focused on the reach and engagement of Latino voters.
CBS News has reviewed previous segments broadcast on Radio Mambi that contain false claims by the station’s hosts claiming that Antifa and Black Lives Matter members were behind it.and that Winning the 2020 election was exaggerated by Democrats.
Gamra told CBS News that even Democrats are spreading misinformation.
“There is propaganda on both sides,” Gamra said.
role of social media
Gamara said that talk radio has played a central role in spreading lies in the Spanish-speaking community. According to the latest data from Nielsen, 97% of all Latinos in the US listen to radio on a monthly basis, as measured by any other ethnic group. But other platforms have also fueled the spread of misinformation aimed at capturing Spanish-speaking voter support.
“Social media has become a very important medium to attract voters, to woo voters,” Gamra said.
Latino officials and advocates have urged social media platforms to curb the spread of misinformation. Gonzalez is one of those pressuring companies to act. He co-founded Change the Terms, a coalition of civil rights, policy and consumer organizations targeting the spread of hate and propaganda on social platforms.
“They all have made some vague promises that they’re going to do better with the Spanish-speaking post. But we haven’t seen any concrete data,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve heard promises like this before and unfortunately we’ll believe it when we see it.”
A study by the University of Texas at Austin Center for Media Engagement found that encrypted private messaging platform WhatsApp also acted as a source of propaganda. A third of all the participants surveyed by the university said they had read on WhatsApp that there had been voter fraud in the 2020 election and that COVID was made as a weapon.
The report said that most of the misinformation shared with the participants was coming from strangers.
WhatsApp’s parent company Meta told CBS News that although they believe “private messaging on WhatsApp should be monitored, we have taken important steps to address misinformation, facts to run a tip line in Spanish”. By partnering with investigators, and empowering people with the tools to access accurate information.”
other social media platforms like TwitterTikTok and YouTube told CBS News that they have implemented strict guidelines to address claims of misinformation.
Salazar, a Florida congresswoman, told CBS News that she considers concerns about Spanish-language misinformation to be highly exaggerated.
“People have many sources of information where they can compare,” Salazar said.
Latino Media Networks paid $60 million for radio stations in Los Angeles, New York, Texas, Florida, Chicago and Las Vegas, among other locations. Luxtar Finance, an investment group affiliated with businessman and philanthropist George Soros, is a major investor. Soros, a well-known progressive donor, has attracted the attention of Republican politicians who are fighting for a takeover.
“We know what Soros thinks of conservatives and what he thinks of Republicans,” Salazar said. “I don’t believe for a minute that Soros wants to be [im]Partial, non-partisan.”
The Congressmen claimed, “The people he hired as his front men would do what he tells them.”
While resistance from conservatives mounts, Gonzalez says it’s all a narrative meant to scare people.
“I think people like to pretend that George Soros is the boogeyman and frankly, a lot of that is anti-Semitic. Not saying all that, but we’re seeing a lot of anti-Semitic narratives, said Gonzalez, Free Press co-CEO.
In its statement sent to CBS News, the Latino media network said the company “believes”[s] Freedom of expression and a free press that values verifiable facts and balance.”