The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on December 14, 1980 · 318
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 318

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 14, 1980
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CALENDAR SPECIAL REPORT MEDIA BATTLE FOR EAR OF THE LATINO Continued from Page 5 a significant departure from past practices. By easing access to broadcasting, more specialized audiences can be reached. The move was hailed as a first step in developing black and inner-city television. Anselmo also pioneered another approach to the Spanish-language market. Last year he created two additional entertainment divisions of SIN Galavi-sion, the only Spanish -language pay TV in the United States, and Magna Verde Productions, which specializes in closed circuit sports. ' Again, California is a priority target. Gala vision premiered in Pomona and In-glewood Sept. 1. Offering approximately 70 hours per week of first-run movies, novelets and live sports coverage, Galavi-sion may become available in more than 12 California communities, including East Los Angeles, within the next few months. Soon more than 40,000 homes in Long Beach and Signal Hill also will be able to subscribe. Behind the scenes, an intense battle is building for the ear of the Latino, who is now being taken more seriously by marketers who are struggling to reach the virtually neglected consumer. And Spanish-language media have a great stake in the scramble to "sell Hispanic." "The Latino population is younger and has larger families," says Danny Vil-laneuva, vice president and general manager of KMEX. "It is a tremendous market. The whole idea for advertisers is BILINGUAL CABLE TV DUE IN EAST L.A. Cable TV is coming to East Los Angeles next year with the promise of adding another dimension to Latino viewing choices. Unlike KMEX and the other commer- cial TV stations seeking to serve the La-- tino audience, Buena Vista Cable TV plans to produce its local programming primarily in English, with the remainder u5 being bilingual productions. w Moctesuma Esparza, president of the . fledgling cable company, says the reason for the choice is simple: community need. Q "There already is a fair amount of pro- gramming in Spanish," he says. "I 15 wouldn't say it's adequate and I wouldn't say there shouldn't be more, but there is a certain need being filled at the moment. What I believe is completely lacking is 5 English programming for the Englishes dominant Hispanic in Southern Califor-2 nia or the nation, for that matter." 5- That audience, Esparza believes, is much larger than the one interested in Spanish-language programming. While the news media often focus on the immigration of Mexicans, Cubans and oth- ers to the U.S., the fact is that there are O millions of Latinos who've been raised 2; here. Esparza, 31, points to himself. He to position themselves before this wave so that they can ride it in." As the only full-time Spanish-language service in the United States, SIN has made great strides in attracting advertising. According to Anselmo, virtually every blue-chip company in North America, including some of the nation's largest Proctor & Gamble, Colgate Pal-molive, American Home Products, McDonald's and Johnson & Johnson advertise on SIN. John Mohr, the general manager of KBSC Channel 52, also anticipates rapid growth for his station, in part because of the newly recognized Latino market: "A number of the major (advertising) agencies are all opening up Spanish-media arms," he said. "The amount of dollars that are being sunk into the Spanish market are growing so rapidly that they're opening Spanish divisions just to handle that. "Our timing to break into Spanish-language media couldn't be better," Mohr continues. "Seventy-five percent of our business will be local. It goes back to that approach, the national approach, the local approach, the local retailer. And it should be profitable. We're not doing this as a public service. We're doing it for two reasons: to generate business and to open up the vehicle of television. Those people (local retailers) have all been pushed off was born and grew up in Boyle Heights, attended Lincoln High School and graduated from UCLA (with a masters degree in fine arts). "The median age of Hispanics in this country is 19VS years; we're a young population," he says."We've been socialized and educated primarily in the United States and our dominant language is English, But we are also a cohesive, identifiable minority group because of the traditions of our Spanish language and culture and our skin color and those elements are not being reflected in the media, especially the programming on television. I think cable television can begin to fill that void." Buena Vista Cable TV won the 30,000-home cable franchise for the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors In 1977, and Esparza says he expects construction of the 54 -channel system to begin within the next several months. Buena Vista also is one of two companies bidding for the adjoining Boyle Heights franchise in the city of Los Angeles, which has 22,000 homes. (The other company is South Central CATV Associates, a joint venture between Universal Cable and Six Star-Niclson Cablevision. ) Esparza captured the East Los Angeles franchise and another in the city of Col-ton (in San Bernardino County) on his own but for the Boyle Heights bid has joined in a 5050 partnership with the larger, more experienced Colony Communications of Providence, R.I., a subsi- 34. (Television) is a little different than newspapers. (The Times) just keeps printing pages. When we sell out, about all we can do is raise rates. It is the reality of success. I think we'll do pretty well with the business Channel 34 can't handle. "But the more money we make, the more we'll invest. We are committed to really trying to be local." Thus, Los Angeles Latinos, previously captives of KMEX, long the only local Spanish -language station, suddenly are being courted by others. "We're young," says Mohr, "and we've made some mistakes, but we're deter mined to do a good job and we're learn-ing. Mohr believes KBSC has a special role to play in the community besides bringing the new dimension of choice to viewers: "I've watched Channel 34 and although I think they do a good job, there's a lot of things lacking: humanism, locals. And I felt there really was no local involvement. We are trying to open up on a local basis. We want to cover local events." Certainly, Mohr has hit upon one of the community criticisms of KMEX the lack of local input and participation. "Very few Chicanos are employed by Channel 34," affirms Dionicio Morales, executive director of the Mexican Ameri- diary of the Providence Journal Co. Negotiations are under way to extend that relationship to Buena Vista's other operations, too. A TV and film producer who has worked on such TV series as "Villa Al-legre," "Sesame Street" and "Vegetable Soup," Esparza speaks of wanting to provide cultural and entertainment programs featuring Latino performers and public affairs programs on issues of importance to Latinos. He envisions both a local channel, for programs of specifically local interest, and a regional channel whose programming would be syndicated to other cable companies throughout Southern California and the Southwest. Falcon Communications, which holds franchises in much of the San Gabriel Valley, already has agreed in principle to carry such a service for its Latino subscribers. To help finance the local production, Esparza says Buena Vista intends to set aside $1 per subscriber per month. The company also has pledged 2 of its gross revenues to a foundation it has established with the National Council of La Raza for promoting the use of public access channels by outside groups and individuals. "We may have some Spanish-language programming on access," Esparza says. "If someone comes in and wants to do that, we're going to offer our help and encouragement. But the programs we produce ourselves will be in English primarily." L.M. can Opportunity Foundation. "And certainly none in on-camera spots. Local talent is passed over by KMEX which hires mostly Mexicans from Mexico to host the few live shows it does. Everything else is prepackaged from other areas." But Morales believes that this is only one aspect of the problem. "The greatest lack in our community," he said, "is that there is no voice that discusses our problems, tells us what is happening in our lives." Villanueva doesn't believe such criticisms are fair: "KMEX is very visible in the community. There is a void with the Spanish people. We don't have a Los Angeles Times; we don't have a public-service radio; we don't have a Newsweek or a Time magazine. We don't have all these media influences that our Anglo colleague has." Villanueva, a former pro -football kicker with Los Angeles and Dallas, looks around his office with satisfaction. "The first priority was to survive," he says, "the second was to go to color, which we did in 1970; the third was to update our equipment. Now we are ready to move on to locally produced programs. Villanueva believes that KMEX will become a "cross between a public service and a commercial station." He points to the present schedule that includes two hours daily of public service programming, three hours of news including "Calendario," a roster of community affairs, and "Contacto," a news magazine. "We are headed toward our own production to provide a window to our own talent." This fall, KMEX participated in the third network song festival aimed at encouraging young songwriters to enter their own compositions in local, national and international competition. Winners at each level went on to the next. The final winner was selected in Argentina last month. Next spring's plans are for the Festival Ranchera, a talent contest for singers. "Spanish television has gone through a survival stage," Villanueva said, "and now we are in a stage where we have to do 'Phase One,' which is news and public service. We're (SIN) going to open a Washington bureau in the next 12 months and we will be doing a 'Face The Nation' type program from Washington that deals with Hispanic affairs or at least gives the Hispanic perspective (on) a situation. We do computerized election-night coverage in Spanish, which is a cross between coverage and explaining the system. Our 'Destino '80' is unprecedented." "Destino '80," a SIN series of documentaries, explained the U.S. election system to viewers. Beginning with census reporting and voter registration, the programs detailed the importance of each level of citizen participation. When network viewers from Arizona, Oregon, Texas and other places complained about the Immigration and Naturalization Service, KMEX protested to government agencies. "We got very involved with the Justice Department, with the Immigration department and the White House to stop these raids," Villanueva said. "Community outreach has been the backbone of KMEX," he claims, citing the annual Christmas telethons for which KMEX donates production costs and fund raisers like those held to raise medi- We're young, and we've made some mistakes, but we're determined to do a good job and we're learning.) -kbscsjohn mohr

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