The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on December 14, 1980 · 319
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 319

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 14, 1980
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CALENDAR SPECIAL REPORT cal expenses for a community member or to fund community agencies. "As other Spanish stations appearand I think that's great because we need help hopefully they'll do the same services. While they may leave us at 7 p.m. or something to go to English, I hope that while they are in Spanish they will reinvest in the community and that they will do some public service. As of now, they don't even have a news hour." Mohr can sympathize with Villanue-va's priorities. Today, KBSC is grappling with the first: survival. According to Mohr, that means developing viewer loyalty, after enticing them from KMEX. Local news will take some time to develop. Right now, they are doing voice-over slides which Mohr admits is not highly satisfactory. While the screen displays the logo or a map, for instance, an off-camera moderator reports the news. However, the station has arranged for the daily airing of "Siete Dias" (Seven Days) a newscast from Mexico City. Mohr says he looks forward to opening KBSC to local participation perhaps next year and is considering future programs aimed at the undocumented immigrant, plus discussing such issues as alcoholism, drug abuse, birth control and health education, once the station has become more estalished. riter-producer Moctesuma Es-parza is president of Buena Vista Cable TV. It hopes to go on the air during the spring of 1981. (Lee Margulies article, Page 6.) He also laments the lack of an outlet for local talent, but he says he believes that the Spanish -language stations have overlooked a significant Southwestern audiencethe acculturated Latino. Espar-za, who won an Emmy award in 1974 for his program "Celebration," formed the first Chicano film company to be nominated for an Oscar. Much of his work focuses on the Latino experience. He believes his company will answer several urgent local needs. "Buena Vista will offer programming not available English-language programming aimed at the Latino." It will build its own studios, employ Latinos, use local talent. Employment is another sore spot. According to Mohr, KBSC employs 12 L.A.-resident Latinos in engineering and management; 12 of his total work force are native to the Southwest. Sandra Gibson, KMEX station manager, confirms that 79 of station employees listed on the most recent in-house report are Latino, but this figure includes Cubans, Mexicans and other Hispanics. Native residents or Chicanos are not separately categorized. Teresa Medina, a spokesperson for KMEX, explained that a language barrier limits opportunities for Chicanos since many do not speak perfect Spanish: "They might not be able to hold their own in the rapid give-and-take of a talk show." Mohr, who doesn't speak Spanish, said that KBSC employs only those who speak "pure Spanish" grammatically flawless Spanish for on-camera work. Carmen Zapata, a well-known Mexican-American actress and founder of the local Bilingual Foundation of the Arts it produces Latino plays both in English and in Spanish on alternate nights doesn't believe local TV productions can be ruled out because of language-skills limitations: "All actors must memorize scripts and reproduce exactly the language as written. This requirement overcomes any language flaws the actor might have. Spanish -language productions are a natural showcase for good actors who speak Spanish, and these actors have the added advantage of culturally compatible body language. Many Latino actors can deliver sterling performances in both languages. There is no end of talent for local productions." The language issue has been disputed for some years and often is cited as yet another reason why bilingual education is so important. Without it, fluency in Spanish is lost as English is superimposed on the original tongue. Unless they develop language skills in school, children who begin elementary school as native speakers graduate from high school with limited Spanish-language proficiency. Then as adults they are unable to compete in bilingual arenas such as Spanish -language media. The importance of culturally compatible presentations is only beginning to be recognized by media entrepreneurs in this country. Mexico probably is ahead in sensitivity. Consider the introduction of "Plaza Sesamo," a Spanish -language version of "Sesame Street," to Mexican audiences in 1973. Months before the show was produced, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists analyzed the proposed content of the show, along with existing English -language segments, to prevent cultural offense or abrasion. Dr. Rogelio Diaz-Guerrero, who holds the chair of psychology at Mexico City's Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and is a well-known author on bilingual, bicultural issues, headed the project, along with Dr. Raul Bianchi, a noted psychologist. They studied children at all class levels before determining that the target audience should be those at the bottom of the social ladder. As TV stations continue dueling, such issues as cultural sensitivity may become vital here. Competition will toughen the professionalism of media offerings. The dearth of local coverage in both electronic and print media is likely to disappear, and locally produced shows may become commonplace. Cal State Dominguez Hills and USC recently began offering courses on Spanish-language journalism and marketing. Latinos who recognize that their careers can be enhanced if they perfect their bilingual capabilities are insisting on enriched educational experiences. Spanish-language media rise today on the crest of an expanding Latino population, increasingly proud of its heritage and determined to preserve it. Media and marketing experts seem to be some of the Latinos' strongest allies in this goal. As one marketing executive noted recently at a Spanish -language media conference, "You can reach Latinos in English, but you can persuade them in their own language." Monday Calendar: Humberto Luna, the Mad Hatter of station KTNQ; his Lunatics, and the growing cacophony of Spanish-language radio. An overview by James Brown. w Spanish -language productions are a natural showcase for good actors who speak Spanish. -ACTRESS CARMEN ZAPATA CBS PLANNING BILINGUAL TV SERIES BY LEE MARGULIES A 1 he U.S. Hispanic population I will soon surpass blacks as the JL leading minority in the country. So from a commercial standpoint, I'd be a fool not to pick up on that." Kim LeMasters, vice president of comedy development at CBS, was explaining why he's taken the amazing step of ordering a pilot script for a potential series based on public television's "Que Pasa.USA?" His action qualifies as extraordinary on two counts: first for the simple fact that the proposed series would focus on Latinos specificially, three generations of a Cuban-American family living in Miami and second because it would retain the bilingual flavor of the original scries. The dialogue on "Que Pasa, USA?" alternates about 50-50 between English and Spanish, and while that ratio is being shifted in the pilot to about 75-25 In favor of English, LeMasters says the Spanish will stand by Itself, without subtitles or other translation. "In comedy development you're al ways looking for things that test the perimeters," LeMasters explains, "and this is the sort of project that does that." The perimeters of network entertainment programming have rarely encompassed Latinos. While blacks have had prominence on network television for the past five years or so, only a few Latino-oriented series have made it to the air among them "Popi," about a Puerto Ri-can widower and his two sons, and "Viva Valdez," about a Mexican-American family living in East Los Angeles. Both had brief runs on CBS and ABC, respectivelyin 1976. "We're relegated to a very forgettable slot in the industry," observes Carmen Zapata, the actress who co-starred in "Viva Valdez." Producers and network programming executives "just are not aware of our community, or don't choose to depict it," she says. "I don't think it's malicious; I think they just forget us and ignore us. We are in the background of their lives and that's how we are depictedin the background." Whether "Welcome in America," as the CBS project is tentatively titled, can change that situation remains to be seen, inasmuch as there is no guarantee that CBS will give a green light for production. One of the many hurdles it will have to clear, says Bernard Lechowick, who is writing the pilot with Lynn Latham for producers Allan Manings and Henry Winkler at Paramount Television, is the preconceptions many people will have about what a bilingual program is. He speaks from experience. Lechowick has been with "Que Pasa, USA?" from its earliest days back in 1976, writing, producing and directing the show at public television station WPBT in Miami. (The final batch of new episodes will air in the spring. The series is currently in reruns. ) (It is because the series originated in Miami that it uses a Cuban -American family instead of, say, the Mexican -American family that might have been featured had it been made in Los Angeles. CBS chose to stay with the original concept.) "When I used to take the show around to public television stations trying to get the managers to put it on," Lechowick recalls, "I found I could sell it much better if I didn't tell them it was bilingual. Then they watched it for what it was and enjoyed it. You don't need to know Spanish to follow it." Lechowick thinks the broadcast of "Shogun" earlier this year may help him make his case. "I have a feeling people did not think of 'Shogun' as a bilingual program," he explains. "It was an adventure and a love story and, my goodness, a lot of it happened to be in Japanese. If we can overcome that Initial reluctance ( to the concept ), I think we can be just as successful." "Que Pasa, USA?" proved that to LeMasters. "The one thing that convinced me this project had viability," the CBS executive says, "was the research that showed the series had almost as large an audience of non-Spanish -speaking viewers as it did people who spoke only Spanish or were bilingual. The form of the show is very familiar a family comedy and the Spanish gives it a unique twist." Lechowick says that if the network insisted, he'd be willing to drop the Spanish from the show's concept if that was the C difference between getting on the air or not. He's much more interested in seeing the Latino experience portrayed. - "I think it would be neat," he says, "if S network programming tended to reflect more of the cultural variety that is out 2 there in the country. We (in the United w States) are an interesting group of peo- pie." Lechowick readily acknowledges, 5 though, that Cuban-American exper- s iences are not necessarily similar to those of other Latinos. But that is not the point. "This is a funny show that happens to be about a family that happens to be Hispa- nic," he says emphatically. "It it not the Hispanic show any more than 'The Jef- 7. fersons' speaks for or reflects all black J people in this country or anymore, for o that matter, than 'Three's Company' or 'All In the Family' reflect all non-minority Americans." Calendar Movies, Page 47 S

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