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Changes coming to Univision's influential AM radio stations in Miami

Univision, the Spanish-language broadcast network, plans to revamp the lineups of its two Miami AM radio stations, which have long provided a platform for local politicians to discuss current issues and air campaign ads.

WQBA-AM (1140) will become part of a new, national AM radio network, Univision America, scheduled to launch on the Fourth of July. The new network will feature more national and international news and link stations in nine of Univision's major markets, including Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.

As a result, WQBA and its sister station, WAQI-AM (710), known as Radio Mambí, will undergo a lineup change that is still in the works, said Claudia Puig, a senior Univision vice president and the stations' general manager.

"We're gong to take the 'best of' and put it in Mambí," she said.

Both stations will continue to have local content, Puig added. And Mambí, the longtime platform for hardline Cuban exiles, "is still going to have a strong, Cuban-American voice," she said. Mambí will keep its partnership with the Miami Marlins and WQBA with the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Heat.

For weeks, rumors have swirled in the tight-knit world of Miami Spanish-language radio about the future of the two stations and of WQBA in particular, which has branded itself as the go-to station for daily current-events talk shows and taken a less Cuba-centric approach than Mambí. There have also been questions about whether a potential lineup change would leave popular radio hosts and their staffs out of work.

Puig said the stations will have "centralized" operations -- they already share office and studio space in Little Havana. She did not delve into details about the future of radio hosts but pushed back on the suggestion that the changes could result in layoffs.

"I would not say that we're going to be smaller -- absolutely not," she said. "We're going to continue with a lot of our staff here."

Univision declined to provide information on how many people are employed by the two Miami AM stations.

Puig said the changes -- which will not affect the network's two FM music stations -- are not being driven by the local AM stations or their ratings, but by Univision's national strategy to grow Hispanics' voice in the country. "We have a commitment to continue to empower the Hispanic community," she said.

Mambí remains the most popular AM radio station in the local market. The station placed No. 14 among all local stations in April, according to Arbitron. (The numbers fluctuate widely from month to month.) WQBA placed 24th, outranked among AM stations only by the English-language WIOD-AM (610) and the Spanish-language WSUA-AM (1260), known as Radio Caracol, which caters to Colombians.

By switching WQBA to the national Univision America network, Puig said, Mambí and WQBA will be getting a long-overdue touch-up and distinct identities.

"I think we're creating a much stronger brand," she said. "We haven't updated them in a long time."

The nine markets that will take part in the Univision America network are Chicago, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, El Paso, San Antonio, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Read the press release announcing the launch of the network below.

Univision Radio, the leading radio company serving Hispanics in the U.S., today announced the launch of its new AM radio network, Univision America. The network, which will include radio stations in nine markets across the country, will feature local, national and international news, weather and traffic updates, as well as shows focused on the issues that matter most to Hispanics, including current events, health and family, finances, education, sports, and entertainment. 

“As the leading Spanish-language radio network in the country, Univision Radio has served Hispanic audiences by bringing them best-in-class programming,” said Jose Valle, president of Univision Radio. “Univision America reinforces our commitment to continue empowering the Hispanic community by offering listeners unparalleled access to local, national and international news and information.” 

Univision America will be available in Miami, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, El Paso, San Antonio, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, featuring a combination of news segments, local programming and insightful commentary delivered by some of Univision Radio’s most revered personalities and new talent. Univision Radio’s portfolio currently includes 69 owned and operated stations in 16 markets, including all top 10 markets reaching more than 16 million listeners a week.