[Marxism] Internal national minorities

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Fri Mar 10 09:19:07 MST 2006

Joaquin Bustelo would be in a much better position to comment, but this
seems to be another example of how generational change in immigrant
communities weakens the attachment to the traditional national culture,
especially its language, and fosters integration into the broader community
so that internal national minorities are "both inside and outside" advanced
capitalist society - with all of the potential contradictions this implies
for their political consciousness and behaviour.

*    *    *

March 10, 2006
Changing U.S. Audience Poses Test for a Giant of Spanish TV

LOS ANGELES, March 9 - Rosa Guevara, a Mexican-American dental hygienist,
grew up with the Univision network's Spanish-language soap operas, which she
still watches. But Mrs. Guevara, 59, now watches alone.

On any given night, her husband is glued to a western on cable while her
25-year-old daughter who used to watch the soaps with her, may tune in to
"George Lopez" on ABC or syndicated reruns of "Friends."

"She doesn't like telenovelas anymore," said Mrs. Guevara, who lives in Pico
Rivera, an overwhelmingly Latino city in Los Angeles County.

Households like the Guevaras' reflect an evolution in what was once the
unquestioned loyalty of the vast Latino audience in the United States, where
Univision is the giant of Spanish-language television.

Catering to the country's growing Latino population - 40 million and
counting - Univision now challenges ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, especially in big
coastal cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami, occasionally beating
them in the ratings with its sexy, soapy prime-time shows.

But as would-be buyers prepare bids for Univision Communications, a
consortium including Grupo Televisa of Mexico, which supplies many of the
network's shows, emerged Thursday as a potential bidder. [Page C1.]

Any new owner would have to wrestle with the shifting dynamics of the
company's audience. More Latinos are American-born and English-speaking, and
their tastes in television are changing more quickly than Univision's shows.

That poses challenges not only for Univision but for other Spanish- and
English-language networks. For the first time, networks on each side of the
language divide could significantly expand their audiences by pursuing the
same demographic group: second- and third-generation Latinos who are
bilingual or speak mostly English and are as likely to watch "Fear Factor"
on NBC as "El Gordo y la Flaca" ("The Scoop and the Skinny") on Univision,
and who are largely underserved in either language.

"This audience wants to be validated," said Jeff Valdez, founder of SiTV, a
two-year-old English-language cable network that caters to young Latinos and
multicultural urban youth. "They want to see themselves on screen. They want
to hear their stories."

The guidebook on how to appeal to this acculturated yet ethnically proud
audience is still a work in progress.

SiTV strives for hipness with programs like "Urban Jungle," a reality show
in which 12 young suburbanites move to South Central Los Angeles, and "The
Rub," a talk show about sex and relationships. MegaTV, a new
Spanish-language television station that was started in Miami this month by
the Spanish Broadcasting System radio chain, is offering such fare as an
interactive debate show and the television version of a prank-filled morning
radio show.

Telemundo, the perennial No. 2 Spanish-language network to Univision that is
owned by NBC Universal, is, meanwhile, getting significant bumps in
prime-time ratings from new telenovelas and other one-hour dramas with
contemporary themes, sometimes set in the United States.

So far, Univision, whose officials declined to be interviewed, has captured
Latino audiences of all ages both by keeping English out of its programs and
commercials and by sticking to a prime-time lineup anchored in telenovelas
from Mexico. There has been little reason to change - of the 100
most-watched Spanish-language shows in the United States, Nielsen Media
Research figures show, 90 are on Univision.

But the ground is shifting under this powerhouse. Births are outpacing
immigration as the main source of Latino growth, and these American-born
Latinos - already 60 percent of all Latinos - are less likely to primarily
speak Spanish and are better educated, higher earners and more prone to
marry outside their ethnic group than the immigrant generations that
preceded them. As television viewers, a recent study found, they prefer
programming in English, though at least half also watch Spanish programs.

Rosa Ruiz, 25, an office assistant at the University of Southern California,
said she did not watch any Spanish-language television. Born in San
Francisco to Mexican parents, Ms. Ruiz said she grew up watching telenovelas
with her mother and Nickelodeon on her own; she now gravitates to reality
shows like "The Real World" on MTV and "Project Runway" on Bravo.

"English is what I usually speak and what I'm interested in watching," she

In this climate, the sale of Univision (along with Galavision, its cable
network, and Telefutura, Univision's other broadcast network) is welcome
news to those in Hispanic marketing and television circles who hope a new
owner is more open to investing in original made-in-America productions, and
even to flirting with English.

"Imagine if this big giant allowed for some sort of hybrid programming,"
said David R. Morse, president and chief executive of New American
Dimensions, which conducted the study of younger Latino viewers.

"I think of them as a horse-and-buggy company," he said of Univision. "In
1910, 1920, people are going to want to drive automobiles, and you should be
getting into the automobile business."

Media analysts expect Univision to continue performing well for years to
come, because there is plenty of room to grow in viewership because of new
immigration and in revenue because advertisers have yet to catch up to
Univision's audience.

In a conference call with analysts last week, Univision officials said that
the network attracted its largest audiences yet last year in the highly
desired markets of viewers 18 to 49 years old and those aged 18 to 34, with
gains of 17 percent and 23 percent, respectively, from 2004.

"There's still a lot of market demand for what they're currently
delivering," said David C. Joyce, an analyst with Miller Tabak.

There is also considerable worry about too much tinkering. Latino
organizations like the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American
Legal Defense and Educational Fund have said they will monitor any sale of
the network, citing the role it plays for immigrants as a bridge between

John Trasviña, senior vice president for law and policy at the legal defense
fund, credited Univision with helping viewers stay informed about their home
countries while covering their local issues, particularly through newscasts.

"It's something the other networks don't have to do," he said. "Obviously,
that's not a legal obligation, but there's a public role and

Univision tested bilingual programming a few years ago on Galavision, but
abandoned the effort, citing low ratings. Lucia Ballas-Traynor, Galavision's
general manager at the time, said that the experiment was controversial with
Spanish traditionalists at the company and also a hard sell to advertisers.

"They'd say, Aren't we already reaching them through MTV and UPN?" Ms.
Ballas-Traynor, now general manager of MTV Espanol said, referring to

That does not seem to be a question anymore.

"One of the questions we get asked by our clients more frequently that we
didn't get asked five years ago is, How do we reach the bilingual Hispanic?"
said Roberto Ruiz, managing director at La Agencia de Orcí & Asociados, a
leading Hispanic marketing agency based in Los Angeles. "We all understand
that the market has nuances."

Suddenly, options seem to be coming from all directions. On the
English-language side, the major networks have announced plans to remake
telenovelas in English. Fox's new broadcast network, My Network TV, will
have a two-hour prime-time block of such soaps this fall, aimed at those
aged 18 to 49, with a special eye toward Latinos.

"It's a segment of the marketplace that can't be ignored," said Bob Cook,
president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television, the Fox unit
providing content for the new network. "They're extremely loyal and they're
large consumers of media."

Spanish broadcasters are counting on the strong identification Latinos have
with their Hispanic heritage. Telemundo's president, Don Browne, said that
Spanish-language television could keep up with English-speaking Latinos
because "it's about culture as much or more as language." But his network
has also been playing it safe for the last four years with mun2, a bilingual
cable network for young Latinos.

Cynthia Hudson-Fernandez, executive vice president and chief creative
officer of Spanish Broadcasting System, said the company's new Miami
television station is pursuing Latinos 18 to 49 no matter where they were
born or what hyphenated national group they belong to.

"These are a new generation of people who have a very broad perspective,"
she said. "They don't have to prove that they're one thing or another to be
comfortable as Americans. If it's quality programming, they don't care if
it's English or Spanish."

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