Sign The Guestbook
View The Guestbook
Archived Guestbook
Submit An Article
Staff List
Privacy Policy



From the Field

By Veronica Villafane

It's all a matter of perspective: the NBC purchase of Telemundo has some
wondering if the merger will mean more diversity in both networks. Will we
be seeing more Latinos covering the news?

In an ever-changing media world, in which fewer companies own more broadcast
stations and mergers mean massive layoffs as part of the cost-cutting
consolidation process, many employees tremble when they hear their company is
about to be bought out ñ especially if the station is in the same market.
We've seen it happen over and over again in the past two years, after FCC
lifted the restrictions on duopolies - people losing their jobs, giving the
company a larger profit margin. It's inevitable. News has become a

But here's an interesting case. One that has no precedent - a top
English-language network forking out almost $2 billion dollars to own the
second largest Hispanic network in the U.S. This means there will be many
duopolies across the country ñ with NBC owning English and Spanish-language
stations. How will it work? If there are layoffs, how will they be

Back in October of 2001, when the deal was announced by Joe McNamara,
Telemundo Network president and NBC chairman Bob Wright, the executives said
both networks would profit from their alliance. Months later, that
enthusiasm remains strong. Although the FCC has not yet given the final
approval, there is an "integration team" in place, taking a close look at how
the Spanish-language network operates.

"We're going to create the best Spanish-language news," says RamÛn Escobar,
Vice President of Live News Programming for MSNBC. "There will be more
resources for Telemundo to produce news."

The excitement was not initially shared by the National Latino Media Council.
This coalition of Latino organizations, which includes the National Council
of La Raza (NCLR), the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and the
League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) among others, filed a petition with
the FCC opposing the merger, asking the commission to deny the approval of
the purchase.

"The merger between NBC and Telemundo is not in the best interest of Latinos
and does not serve the public interest, " argued former congressman Esteban
Torres, chair of the Council in a press release. NCLR president Raul
Yzaguirre sided with him: "The NBC-Telemundo merger means that the
programming aimed at Latino audiences is in the hands of non-Latinos, and we
cannot dismiss the importance of Latino ownership."

But Escobar insists that should not be an issue. "There's a real focus on
making sure there is senior Latino management. We're leaving the current
Telemundo management in place because we think they've done a great job." He
also points out that the merger will give Telemundo employees more choices
and opportunities for career growth within the company, including the
possibility to cross over to NBC local stations, NBC network or MSNBC.

NCLR Vice president Lisa Navarrete says "those opportunities were never
outlined anywhere. We know that when mergers happen, the junior partner loses
out. We want more specifics or an outline of these wonderful benefits to be
in written form. Our skepticism is based on what we see is happening right
now at NBC and we don't think it shows good things for the Latino community."

"We have really been pushing on the Latino front. In terms of diversity on
the air, things have gotten a lot better at NBC," says Escobar, who argues
commitment to diversity is firm, listing several names of Latino talent on
NBC air, like Jim Avila, Soledad O'Brien, Rick Sanchez and Natalie Morales,
among others.

In addition, he points out that both networks will be "covering stories that
perhaps were never thought of" by sharing editorial content and experience.
He says the Latino viewership of both networks will benefit.

NBC officials have met with members of the coalition to discuss their
concerns and to provide them with more information on the merger.

"We're not just singling them out," says Navarrete. "This is a widespread
concern. The issues that we're raising with NBC are not issues just solely
pertinent to NBC. We have concerns with how every other network is dealing
with our community. We are concerned Spanish-language media not owned by
These are issues much broader than NBC and Telemundo. The fact that NBC
bought Telemundo gives us the opportunity to weigh in formally on this issue.
" She admits they're also looking at Univision and in that case will take
the appropriate action when the time comes: "You need to have a platform,
you just can't oppose people."

What would put the coalition at ease? "We would like to see a written plan
from NBC and Telemundo addressing the issues we raised in the petition:
employment, programming and procurement. " Navarrete says the NCLR wants
more guarantees for the Latino community.

Escobar admits there will be changes when they take over. He wouldn't
specify. "In terms of an operational planÖ we're not there yet. " Will
there be lay-offs? Possibly. "The idea of Latinos being laid off? The
issue is we want to leverage their skills and power, not get rid of it."
This is not about how many heads we're going to cut off. People are going to
be judged on their merit. GE (General Electric is the parent company of NBC)
and NBC have always been about merit. We want to do things right."

About the Author
Verónica Villafañe is an Emmy award-winning television writer and reporter, with more than 12 years of research and reporting experience. She is a journalism graduate from the University of the Saviour, in Argentina. She can be reached by e-mail