Let dot-coms in, Univision

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The univision tv network, despite its hold on a huge share of the Spanish-language TV audience in the U.S., is perhaps the only major ad medium in the country with zero dot-com advertising. While that's how Univision wants it (for now), it's a risky policy that invites attacks by outsiders on the traditional freedom of media companies to choose the ads they will and won't accept. We urge Univision to reconsider.

It's important to protect the principle that individual media companies have ultimate authority over ad acceptance policies -- under their own criteria for taste, accuracy and suitability. They are not "common carriers" obligated to accept all business that comes along. In some cases, that has meant entire ad categories are banned from a particular media outlet -- as distilled spirits ads are rejected today by the managers of most TV and radio stations. While this can frustrate advertisers, none has seriously challenged media authority to do this.

Univision's stand on dot-com ads, however, has nothing to do with serving the interests of its audience, and everything to do with serving its own business interests. Univision is sorting out plans for its own entry into the Internet business, and has decided not to provide an advertising platform today to Web sites it could end up competing with tomorrow.

Even here, we do not suggest any media company be required to accept ads from competitors, or potential competitors. But Univision's exercise of this freedom is complicated by its clout as a critical gateway to the Spanish-speaking market. Media buyers estimate Univision controls up to a 90% share of the U.S. Spanish-language network TV audience. For any Hispanic Web site seeking to establish itself, this closed-door policy is a major stumbling block.

Univision is free to exploit its business opportunities on the Web, harnessing its powerful TV network brand to build and promote a strong Web play. If it wants to lock out those dot-com advertisers that it believes could directly compete with its Web interests, so be it. But the idea of a TV network with a Microsoft-level market share turning away all dot-com sponsors is neither fair nor smart. The aggressive posture damages its image in the Hispanic advertising marketplace it tries to lead.

With power comes responsibility. Univision should open the network to dot-com ads.