Hispanics and the Media
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JIM LEHRER: Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the 2000 Census shows a sharp increase in Americans who call themselves Hispanic. Media correspondent Terence Smith looks at their impact on the media culture.
RICKY MARTIN: (singing) Here we go alle, alle, alle.
TERENCE SMITH: It was an all-American moment: A pre-inaugural bash at the Lincoln Memorial, and the star attraction, Ricky Martin. His Latin rhythms appeal to both Hispanics and an increasingly diverse young America far more open to cultural differences than their parents’ generation.
RICKY MARTIN: Whoa!
TERENCE SMITH: The crossover success of the Puerto Rican singer is a manifestation of a dramatic change that is underway in the American cultural marketplace, a change that has huge implications for American media. (Cheers and applause)
JULEYKA LANTIGUA: I think that mainstream America, besides pop icon references, really has a hard time understanding how it is that this group emerged in the United States.
TERENCE SMITH: Juleyka Lantigua, 25, is managing editor of Urban Latino Magazine in New York. The bi-monthly is targeted to young, English speaking Hispanics, who have not let go of their cultural roots.
JULEYKA LANTIGUA: We live in English, but we enjoy our lives in Spanish. I come to work every day and I speak in English to my fellow Latinos, but I think when we each go home, we speak to our parents and to our, you know, extended families in Spanish. There’s that duality, you know, of my nine-to-five, and then my five and beyond.
TERENCE SMITH: Here in the sprawling melting pot that is Los Angeles County, something significant is happening. Hispanics are approaching a full 50 percent of the population. Nationwide, 13 percent; with a high birthrate, continued immigration and a median age of only 26, they are more than ever an important market for television networks and advertisers.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: (speaking Spanish) Buenos tardes amigos. Los catorce quarenta a la radio caliente.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: (speaking Spanish) Con mas musica aqui, en planeta KTXZ.
TERENCE SMITH: Advertisers have historically reached out to U.S. Hispanics on Spanish language radio and TV, spending more than $1 billion last year on Spanish- language television alone.
COMMERCIAL: (speaking Spanish) Para todo lo demas, esta MasterCard.
TERENCE SMITH: Two contrary trends are at work here: While audiences for the big four networks have shrunk, Spanish- language television has seen double-digit growth in advertising. Revenue projections are so strong that powerhouse Univision and its smaller competitor, Telemundo, will be joined by a third Spanish language television network this year. Nonetheless, the mainstream English-language networks have been slow to reach out to the nation’s youngest and fastest- growing minority, 75 percent of whom are comfortable in English. One exception is ABC’s “World News Tonight,” which now broadcasts an alternative Spanish language track.
SPOKESMAN: Esta noche en “A Closer Look.”
TERENCE SMITH: CBS and NBC are considering doing the same. Another exception: Children’s programming on cable.
TV SHOW: Wait a minute, where are we going? Those look like gates.
TERENCE SMITH: The Disney Channel, Fox Kids.
TV SHOW: A look at those masks is like a reflection of the soul.
TV SHOW: This is the holy trio of Latina superstars.
TERENCE SMITH: Nickelodeon.
HERB SCANNELL: Nickelodeon has gained a lot of its strength by doing what other people aren’t doing.
TERENCE SMITH: Herb Scannell is president of Nickelodeon, the number one rated children’s cable network. The channel now has three shows with Hispanic characters.
HERB SCANNELL: We want to reach as many kids as possible. Shows like “Dora the Explorer,” “The Brothers Garcia,” makes the population, you know, the tent that we have here a bigger tent. Our game’s really simple: We want all kids in.
TV PRODUCER: Take two.
JEFF VALDEZ: Three out of the four of the scenes are in the kitchen.
TERENCE SMITH: Colorado-born Jeff Valdez, who produces Nickelodeon’s “The Brothers Garcia,” has been frustrated by cultural stereotyping and what he sees as his industry’s total lack of understanding of U.S. Hispanics.
JEFF VALDEZ: The media, the industry, always go, “Oh, well, you’re Latino. You do things differently.” No, I don’t ride a Latino car, I don’t use Latino pencils, I don’t have a Latino shirt on. You know, I’m an American like anybody else.
TERENCE SMITH: “The Brothers Garcia” is about a middle class Hispanic family.
TV SHOW: Ramon.
TV SHOW: Not today, Mi hijo.
TERENCE SMITH: But the show and its humor are designed to have universal appeal.
TV SHOW: Who’s the astronaut?
TV SHOW: Mom, he was part of the U.S. Space program -
TV SHOW: — until a cosmonaut accidentally punctured his space suit.
TV SHOW: And now he’s kinda goofy. That’s why they call him the astro-nut. Get it?
TERENCE SMITH: Early demographic breakdowns of the show indicated that only 5 percent more of the viewers are Latino than he audiences of other programming.
TERENCE SMITH: What does that tell you?
JEFF VALDEZ: It tells me that the U.S. audience is smarter than I think Hollywood is giving them credit for. It tells me that race isn’t as significant to people as it is to studio and network executives.
TERENCE SMITH: The youth market– tomorrow’s consumers– may be ahead if the curve.
JEFF VALDEZ: So are kids driving it? Well, yeah, because Nick’s very in touch with their audience. Are adults not open to this? I think they are. I mean, it’s the executives in the industry that is not open to us — the people who control the purse strings.
TERENCE SMITH: Some suggest that for young Anglo viewers, casts of color may seem more real than the shows currently on television.
GIRL SINGING: I have dreams of me being a star.
FEDERICO SUBERVI: It’s the norm. To see kids of other backgrounds on TV, on these cable, hey, that’s the way it is down the street, that’s the way it is at my school. So these kids are open to that.
TERENCE SMITH: Federico Subervi is an associate professor of radio, television and film, at the University of Texas. He says decision makers have largely ignored the strong Latino influence in some of the nation’s biggest markets: California, Florida, Texas and New York.
FEDERICO SUBERVI: They are not familiar with this information, either the population or the cultural characteristics. Most of the Latinos they ever met were the maids, the gardeners, the mechanics maybe. So for them, Latinos are these underclass, that they have no reason to pay attention to.
RADIO PERSONALITY: Austin’s numero uno Tejano hit station.
TERENCE SMITH: There have been major breakthroughs by Hispanics in the youth oriented recording industry. This year’s Grammy’s had seven awards in the Latin category alone.
CHRISTINA AGUILERA: (singing) Now baby don’t be shy.
TERENCE SMITH: Christina Aguilera records in English and Spanish.
CHRISTINA AGUILERA: (singing) Solamente tu.
TERENCE SMITH: Jennifer Lopez has crossed over between music and films. But critics say these pop icons are just one more Latin stereotype. Juleyka Lantigua.
JULEYKA LANTIGUA: We cease to be complete entities. We become microphones. We become people who shake their bon-bons. We become people who are known around the country for their well-shaped derrieres. This is not who I want to be.
TERENCE SMITH: But, others argue, anything that exposes mainstream America to Latin culture is a plus.
FEDERICO SUBERVI: The dance clubs in this city of Austin have Anglos and Latinos and Asians and African Americans all dancing to the rhythms of Salsa and Merengue and the Cumbia and enjoying it. That’s not bad.
TERENCE SMITH: Subervi says the Latin influences in the U.S. are here to stay. U.S. Hispanics are not assimilating as previous waves of immigrants have. Instead, they cling to family ties and traditional values.
FEDERICO SUBERVI: One of the reasons is simple. The border is closer here. And the cultural heritage that comes with it– the music, the cuisine, those radio and TV stations, the newspapers– are right at their fingertips.
JULEYKA LANTIGUA: I think that we definitely want to assimilate I just think that we’re not willing to give up everything the way that, you know, other immigrants had. There isn’t a desperation, because there are so many of us already here.
TV PRODUCER: Okay let’s do the single.
TERENCE SMITH: Jeff Valdez says the big four TV networks will inevitably catch on. Hispanic buying power has been estimated at upwards of $450 billion.
JEFF VALDEZ: Currently, you’re talking about an audience that is spending $500 billion a year, growing to a trillion by 2010. Eventually, the board members will say, “gang, there’s a trillion dollars sitting over here that you’re missing.”
TERENCE SMITH: Nickelodeon’s Herb Scannell.
JERB SCANNELL: I think you’ve got to believe that diversity is good for business. And if you believe that, then you start to make choices in that way. You know, you stop coming up with all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it.
TERENCE SMITH: If so, the profit motive may produce the diversity that so far, at least, has been lacking in mainstream media.
TV PRODUCER: Cut, print.