Challenges Facing the ABC/Univision Hispanic Programming Venture

In Melissa Pitts’ recent Huffington Post article “Here Are Five Ways to Turn Off Latinos,” regarding the recently announced partnership between ABC News and Univision to create a news channel targeting Hispanics, the author outlines her thoughts on what would make for a successful English language television channel for Latinos. I believe her opinions are valuable because of the powerful position that ABC/Univision finds itself in after creating this joint venture. She makes valid points about the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the United States, and that many of us happen to be bilingual. This is a huge opportunity for the networks, and an even greater opportunity for Hispanics to become more involved with the United States because they will greatly impact its development over the next couple of decades, and beyond.

ABC/Univision is on a mission: “To offer culturally relevant news, information and lifestyle programming to the large and thriving Latino audience in the United States.” This is an ambitious undertaking, and, just like Ms. Pitts, I hope it is done in a responsible manner.

I agree with all of her main concerns, and will address my favorites. First and foremost, this new channel must avoid stereotypes. The sad reality is that we are not “beyond” stereotypes and discrimination, but this channel is being founded to build a bridge to a fast growing demographic and the easiest way to stop people from utilizing the bridge is to offend them before they even start. Also, many Hispanic Americans have experienced the same changes to the “traditional” family, just like other Americans. For example, in some Hispanic households the mother is the main, or only, source of income. Furthermore, due to migration, a number of Hispanic families do not mirror the “traditional” family.

Speaking of stereotypes, the fact that many Hispanics care about a wide variety of policies and legislation, not just immigration, often is overlooked. The Pew Hispanic Center and other organizations routinely release poll results that show that immigration often is less important to Hispanics than the economy, jobs, housing, or education. While I am on the topic of policy, let us make a quick jump to politics. I wholeheartedly agree with Melissa Pitt’s desire for “balanced political coverage.” Hispanic does not equal Democrat; there are conservative Hispanics and each side of the aisle deserves equal coverage so that eligible voters can make up their own minds.

Finally, we Hispanics/Latinos are not a homogenous group. I have explained many times before that the “Hispanic vote” is not a monolithic entity and Hispanics are an especially diverse group. We come from North America (yes, Mexico is in North America), Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. Therefore, I will be very disappointed if the international news section focuses solely on Cuba, Mexico, or Puerto Rico. Personally, I would also like to see coverage of human rights and freedom of the press in many Latin American countries. There are lots of brave men and women who are fighting for democracy, equality, freedom of the press, and justice throughout the region and they deserve more recognition than they currently get.

Melissa Pitts is correct, this “is a watershed moment for Latinos,” but it is also one for the networks developing this channel. I, for one, am very excited to see what this product will look like. However, I hope ABC/Univision heeds the concerns of its potential viewers while developing the channel. This is a great opportunity and could be a very powerful media tool. Just remember: with great power, comes great responsibility.

– Max Rava

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