Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Por Un Amor

I was just hanging out last night watching “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” tapping my feet to Hurricane Party, when I started thinking about this article I read in the online National Journal’s Technology Daily. The article talked about how minorities were split over the issue of video franchising. Seems the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the country, the League of United Latin American Citizens or LULAC, is weighing in on the side of the Bell Boys up on Capitol Hill.

LULAC’s mission is to “advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population of the United States.” They have an impressive and wide ranging platform of positions on issues important to the Hispanic community. So I was a bit confused as to why they would support the destruction of local control over franchising given that it would wipe out PEG, never mind the Bell Boys refusal to avoid redlining on the roll out.

Then I saw the quote by Hilda Solis (D-CA), whose campaign for state assembly I worked on when we both lived in La Puente California, and she noted that Verizon had rolled out a 26-channel Spanish language package in Keller Texas.

“There has been discussions about why the cable industry hasn’t picked up on that,” said Solis.

Fair enough.

So I looked up Verizon’s Spanish language package, their “En Espanol” tier, and saw it included channels such as Canal Sur, Discovery en Espanol, TV E International, MTV Espanol, CNN en Espanol and Toon Disney en Espanol, among other listings.

That got me thinking that the cable industry really is the rat pack of dolts I have always assumed they were, why weren’t they paying attention to this large and important market?

So I looked up Comcast’s Spanish language package rolled out last spring in Irving and Richardson Texas. They did have a Spanish language tier that included a 23-channel Spanish language package. It included channels such as Canal Sur, Discovery en Espanol, TV E International, MTV Espanol, CNN en Espanol and Toon Disney en Espanol, among other listings.

Being completely confused I read down the article. Oooops! There it was. Verizon gives $35,000 a year annually to LULAC. Probably for their annual convention because there is a sponsorship package called “Judicial” that is exactly $35,000. And not to be outdone, SBC Communications recently donated $1 million for a LULAC project called “Empower Hispanic America With Technology Project Centers.”

Hey, for a million bucks I could plug my nose at stinky legislation.

Shame that what’s being lost in this discussion is the complete destruction of local Spanish language programming found thriving on Public access. The kind of Spanish language programming that doesn’t just reheat English language programming but digs down deep into what’s going on in Hispanic lives, real lives in real neighborhoods and real communities. The kind of Spanish language programming that gives a voice to the Hispanic community and doesn’t just see them as consumers and target markets.

This support for the national video franchising legislation has pitted LULAC against the NAACP and the National Conference of Black Mayors who understand that obliterating local franchising will impact minority communities adversely, not just because of the redlining or the loss of PEG, but from the loss of revenue to local communities those franchise fees provide. Less revenue, fewer programs to assist challenged communities…the money has to be made up somewhere, might as well take it out of pockets that are nearly empty anyway.

I don’t know if there is any way to change LULAC’s mind on this one. Too bad cable didn’t step up to the plate with a million, but at least they should squash Verizon’s pr that they are offering something unique to the Spanish language viewers. And I don’t say that because I just love the cable guys, I don’t. I say that because I would hate to lose localism because one side or another was a better liar.


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