BETTER OR WORSE?
By Veronica Villafane
It's all a matter of perspective: the NBC purchase of Telemundo
wondering if the merger will mean more diversity in both networks.
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,
lifted the restrictions on duopolies - people losing their
jobs, giving the
company a larger profit margin. It's inevitable. News has
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
stations. How will it work? If there are layoffs, how will
Back in October of 2001, when the deal was announced by Joe
Telemundo Network president and NBC chairman Bob Wright, the
both networks would profit from their alliance. Months later,
enthusiasm remains strong. Although the FCC has not yet given
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
This coalition of Latino organizations, which includes the
of La Raza (NCLR), the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC)
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 merger between NBC and Telemundo is not in the
best interest of Latinos
and does not serve the public interest, " argued former
Torres, chair of the Council in a press release. NCLR president
Yzaguirre sided with him: "The NBC-Telemundo merger means
programming aimed at Latino audiences is in the hands of non-Latinos,
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
Telemundo management in place because we think they've done
a great job." He
also points out that the merger will give Telemundo employees
and opportunities for career growth within the company, including
possibility to cross over to NBC local stations, NBC network
NCLR Vice president Lisa Navarrete says "those opportunities
outlined anywhere. We know that when mergers happen, the junior
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
now at NBC and we don't think it shows good things for the
"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
In addition, he points out that both networks will be "covering
perhaps were never thought of" by sharing editorial content
He says the Latino viewership of both networks will benefit.
NBC officials have met with members of the coalition to discuss
concerns and to provide them with more information on the
"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
pertinent to NBC. We have concerns with how every other network
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
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.
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
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