From Albuquerque to Hollywood – 2006 Writers’ Program
Walkout Screening: A Tribute to Latino Students Who Chose to Make A Difference
Top Four Networks Get Graded on Latino Representation
Latinos Finally Get Counted: New Radio and TV Ratings System
Lack of Diversity at Public Broadcast System (PBS)
More on the Nielsen Sag
Petition to Deny – Comcast Update
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Media Policy Watch
Twenty years. It has been 20 years since Los Angeles Latino leadership got together at MALDEF’s offices and decided “ya basta”, that’s enough. That’s enough of not seeing Latino reporters and anchors on local television newscasts, even though we are 43% of the population; that’s enough of the only coverage of our community being about gang bangers and illegal immigration; that’s enough of not seeing brown faces on national programs; “ya basta” of opportunities not being open to Latinos in all media locally or nationally.
There were 20 Latinos at that meeting and we were deep in leadership and activism. We also recognized something very fundamental; how we were perceived is how we were being treated and media, particularly television, depicted us negatively. Joe Sanchez was there, Burt Corona, Esther Renteria, Armando Duron, Jose Luis Sedano, and many others whose names I apologize for not remembering.
The group immediately set about an action agenda. We filed petitions to deny broadcast licenses at the Federal Communications Commission, organized noisy protests at local stations, and boycotted those entities that treated us with scorn and bigotry. New York activists joined us and together we initiated a whole series of national actions to announce loud and clear that Latinos were no longer willing to accept the status quo.
We had to be tough, vocal and demanding. Executives at all media outlets were insensitive to our needs and gave us every reason imaginable why Latinos weren’t being hired and why 90% of all Latino coverage was negative. The years passed and progress was slow but we stayed on the Executives; arguing, cajoling and sometimes even threatening.
Frankly we were tiring and I was beginning to think that the changes that needed to come about were not going to happen in my lifetime. Then in 1999, Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times wrote a story that changed our world forever. He noted that of the 26 new shows debuting in the fall, not a single one had a person of color in a regular role. It was a call to action and advocacy, civil rights organizations from across the nation coalesced to bring about change.
With our partners in the Native American, Asian Pacific American and African American communities we signed Memorandums of Understanding with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. The initiatives in the memorandums are to integrate television’s workforce both in front and in back of camera, to open procurement opportunities, and participate in governance.
Another bombshell hit the nation, the 2000 census showed that Latinos were now 13% of the U.S. population, the largest minority group in the nation. This gave us even more momentum. We have now formed a total of sixteen NHMC chapters throughout the nation, challenged the accuracy of the Nielsen television ratings, slowed Spanish language radio pornography, taken on the cable companies for refusing to carry our English language Latino networks, continued to monitor and demand change at the television networks and even acquired a leadership seat at the Media and Democracy Coalition table in Washington D.C. to bring into law initiatives that will protect a diverse voice in the media, allow for minority ownership, and diversification of employment, programming, procurement and governance in the media industry.
Today is a different day, our opponents of the past are now our friends and allies and the role of NHMC has changed dramatically. We’ve partnered with the networks and are helping diversify their workforce by introducing them to talent and other Latino entities and professionals so they can reap the benefits of selling their product to our community, which is now consuming at the rate of 700 billion dollars a year. It is good to be listened to and it is good to be needed, however, there is still a lot of work to be done
Diversification is not happening at the film and cable companies. These entities continue to marginalize us, as do many advertisers of goods and services. Talent agencies are still not doing enough to open positions for Latinos and you have all read that Latino journalists at newspapers and magazines across the nation – and even at National Public Radio (NPR) – have decreased rather than increased.
Like I said, we have a lot of work in front of us. But that is tomorrow, today let us celebrate the successes of the last 20 years and rejoice in our accomplishments. Tomorrow we have to get back to work.
From Albuquerque to Hollywood – 2006 Writers’ Program
For the fourth year in a row, the National Latino Media Council is holding its Latino Writers Program in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The program is administered by NHMC and sponsored by NBC, ABC and Southwest Airlines. Ten writers will be selected to participate and for a four-week period will be housed outside of their regular environment with fellow writers and put to work writing the best television script they can produce.
The program aims to bring diversity to the Television world by preparing writers to work in Hollywood. The Workshop has enjoyed considerable success since its inception in 2003. Success stories include Victor De Jesús who worked as a staff writer on the NBC primetime drama Third Watch and María Escobedo who has earned a one-year assignment at ABC, among others. “The program is intense,” states alumni Victor de Jess “they whip us into shape”. After the four-week period the writers’ scripts are read by Network executives with the expectation that some of the writers will be hired.
“I am pleased that our sponsors ABC, NBC and Southwest Airlines have decided to fund this program once again. The program is important because it is the writers who tell the stories Americans watch on television across the nation,” says Alex Nogales, President/CEO of NHMC. “Not only have ABC and NBC contributed funds to the program, they have committed to working with the program’s alumni and to placing a couple of them on their programs this year.”
Applications to participate in the program are being accepted now. The deadline to submit a script is Friday, March 3rd. Writing samples post marked after March 3rd will not be accepted. The application consists of submitting a script that will be evaluated and will the basis of the participants’ selection. This program is not for beginners. The program will take place in Albuquerque, New Mexico from April 1st to April 29, 2006. Applicants will be flown to Albuquerque on April 1st and expected to remain there until the end of the program. Each participant will complete a script by the end of the four-week session, which will then be read by network executives. Those writers whose scripts show promise will be interviewed by the network executives with the idea of placing them on a show. Two of our writers from previous sessions have already been placed.
A stipend of $200 per week will be given to each participant. Flight, housing, and meals will be provided. Scripts will be evaluated and program participants announced on March 17th.
The program will commence on April 1st. Writing samples must be in English and Television scripts are preferred. Please note that writing teams are ineligible. Send scripts to:
National Latino Media Council
1201 W. 5th St., Suite T-205
Los Angeles, CA 90017
For more information call: (213) 534-3026
Walkout Screening: A Tribute to Latino Students Who Chose to Make a Difference
In January, HBO hosted a screening of Moctesuma Esparza’s most recent film Walkout at their Santa Monica facility. The screening was preceded by an intimate reception attended by NHMC and National Latino Media Council Board members and other Latino Leaders.
Set against the backdrop of the 60’s civil rights movement, Walkout is the stirring true story of a group of Chicano students who staged several dramatic walkouts in their East Los Angeles high schools to protest academic prejudice and dire school conditions. Encouraged by popular young teacher Sal Castro (Michael Peña), student Paula Crisóstomo (Alexa Vega) and her friends battled against parents, teachers, bureaucrats, the police and public opinion to make a change.
Directed by Edward James Olmos from a screenplay by Marcus DeLeón, Ernie Contreras and Timothy J. Sexton from a story by Victor Villaseñor, the film is executive produced by Moctesuma Esparza and Robert Katz, and produced by Lisa Bruce.
The film will debut on HBO on SATURDAY, MARCH 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. PT, Walkout stars Alexa Vega (the “Spy Kids” trilogy) and Michael Peña (“Crash”). Other cast members include Efrén Ramírez, Bodie Olmos, Verónica Díaz, Tonantzin Esparza, Yancey Arias and Laura Harring. Other HBO playdates: March 18 (4:00 a.m.), 21 (1:00 p.m, 9:00 p.m.), 26 (11:00 a.m., 11:00 p.m.) and 29 (2:00 p.m, 10:00 p.m.).
Shot in various Los Angeles locations, Walkout is based on the true-life experiences of executive producer Moctesuma Esparza. Twenty years in the making, this project has been a labor of love for Esparza, who played an active role in the student youth movement. He describes this time as “a moment in which people took back their own power and there was a lot of emotion and joy. It was profoundly affecting to all of us back then, because the people that we had to break free from were our teachers, counselors and parents. These are the people that you ordinarily believe are there for you and inspire you. They didn’t mean to harm us, but they were fulfilling the societal mission to keep us in a psychological prison that prevented us from reaching our potential.”
Growing up in East Los Angeles as one of the few Chicanos who would attend college, Esparza forged a friendship with high school student Paula Crisóstomo and a young Hispanic teacher, Sal Castro, who would change their lives, their community and, ultimately, Latino history. Esparza went on to become a leader in the famous Chicano Student Walkouts of 1968, for which he and 12 others were arrested, jailed and later acquitted.
The production of Walkout is truly a family affair, as the Esparza character is portrayed by Bodie Olmos, the son of director Edward James Olmos, while Moctesuma Esparza’s daughter, Tonantzin Esparza, portrays Vickie Castro, a college student who inspires Paula and her friends to make a difference. The real Paula Crisóstomo’s daughter, Marisol Crisóstomo, also lends support playing Mita Cuarón, one of the Roosevelt students. Brown Beret activist Carlos Montes is portrayed by Fidel Gómez, the son of real-life 1968 Garfield High School walkout student Evelina Fernández.
The large protest scenes are depicted with hundreds of extras from the Latino community- many of whom were actual walkout participants in 1968. Esparza says the protest chanting inspired a unique sense of freedom. “Chanting ‘Chicano power’ was liberating,” he recalls. “It came from recapturing our own sense of human potential and the ability to do anything we wanted. It was really about freeing ourselves of the limitations that we had accepted and internalized. It gave us the possibility of achieving anything we wanted.”
Director Olmos describes this historical period as an “education in America,” saying, “The key issue for the 1968 walkouts was that there was a real lack of cultural history being taught in the East LA schools. Basically, 70 to 90 percent of the children who lived in East LA and were going to school at the time were of Mexican-American descent, and knew very little about themselves. Even today, in the year 2006, they still know very little about themselves.”
Olmos hopes this film will be a lesson to today’s youth. “I think this film will help inspire kids, because I think they’re going to learn from the experience that these students were trying to understand: How to make kids realize that their self respect, self-esteem and self worth is the single most important aspect of living. It’s what makes you and gives you the ability to say to yourself, ‘I want to move forward to be the best you can be.’ That’s the single most important thing that can be given to a youthful person.”
The 1968 high school walkouts are widely considered the birth of the urban Chicano civil rights movement, spawning a generation of activists who have gone on to make their mark in Los Angeles politics and beyond. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa participated in the walkouts as a high school student in East LA. When the production was filming downtown in front of the City Hall, Mayor Villaraigosa made a surprise appearance, speaking to the many extras and crew about his experience in the walkouts and the importance of their participation in the film.
Top Four Networks Get Graded On Latino Representation
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In December, the National Latino Media Council (NLMC) released its Sixth Annual Report Card grading the top four television networks ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX on their performance in promoting diversity at their networks. The report includes grades for each network for Latino actors in regular and recurring roles. It also graded performance for directors, writers, producers, entertainment executives, program development, procurement, and overall network commitment to diversity.
“ABC has done an excellent job of bringing Latino regulars to their primetime shows, helped of course by the many regulars on The George Lopez Show and Freddie,” said Esteban Torres, Chair of the NLMC. “These are quality roles and ABC is running these programs in Spanish on SAP.” In English,they are also having some of the characters speaking Spanish, a realistic reflection of the way we communicate. Kudos to Steve McPhearson and his Executives for presenting us in an organic, three dimensional fashion.”
“NBC has an incredible number of Latino Directors doing a huge number of episodes,” stated Jerry Velasco, President of Nosotros, one of the thirteen advocacy, civil rights organizations under the NLMC umbrella. “CBS has also come on strong. It has the highest number of recurring Latino Actors working on their shows, the second highest number of Latino Directors, along with the second highest number of episodes directed by these talented individuals.”
“FOX has posted big dollar amounts on the procurement side by hiring more Latino vendors and increasing the number of dollars going to these companies,” said Alex Nogales, President/CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “When you consider they started in last place, this is outstanding news.” FOX acting numbers in both regular and recurring categories are down, but Peter Liguori, President of Entertainment, is making development deals with prominent Latino Producers, which should bring their numbers up again.
“With the Latino population at 14% and a purchasing power of 700 billion dollars a year, it’s understandable the networks have increased their efforts to be inclusive and understanding of the Latino community,” Torres pointed out. “We thank all four networks for their continued commitment to the diversity initiatives, but expect better numbers in the next reporting period. Remember, this is not our first, but our sixth annual report. The overall grades for all four networks are encouraging, but performance still lags behind in proportion to our population. In other words, we still have a long way to go.”
For more information on the report cards go to:http://www.nhmc.org/Report%20Cards%2005/NetworkDiversityReportCards.htm
Latinos Finally Get Counted: New Radio and TV Ratings System Emerges
Founded in 1949, Arbitron is considered the audience measurement pioneer. It began measuring television and radio and now concentrates only on radio ratings all over the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico. Last month, Arbitron Executives flew from New York to Los Angeles to present to the NHMC and National Latino Media Council Board the results of a Houston Portable People Meter (PPM) field test. The new technology can be used in radio and television. The consensus after the presentation was that this new technology was far superior than anything else that is currently available in the market and that it offers transparency in the methodology – an invaluable tool for media advocates who have been asking for this for years.
The advantages of the PPMs include more stable, reliable and timely data, more frequent reporting, measured compliance and the participation of technically trained households. In addition, we are pleased to see that Arbitron made the distinction between Latino Spanish-speaking and Latino English-speaking participants- a key characteristic that makes our community unique. We will keep you informed on Arbitron’s progress in introducing this new technology to the market in radio and television.
Lack of Diversity at Public Broadcast System (PBS)
The National Latino Media Council (NLMC) is concerned with the lack of diversity at PBS. NLMC has sent letters asking for the Latino employment numbers from the PBS strand producers. We have now received numbers from four strand Producers from around the country, however New York has not been responsive. Alex Nogales visited with the Boston primetime Producers and Executives in January, who were extremely cooperative and worked with Alex in figuring out how to best address the issue. NLMC Members will be meeting with representatives from New York to find out why the New York strand Producers do not want to release Latino employment figures. Stay tuned.
More on the Nielsen Saga
One of our most important fights for the past couple of years has been the undercounting of people of color in television ratings. The sad truth is that the decisions of what programs get on the air and, most importantly, which ones stay on the air has nothing to do with the quality of the program but rather the advertisers’ willingness to invest in a show. In other words, it’s all about advertising dollars. We have seen critically acclaimed series cancelled due to lack of viewership or target viewership. Conventional wisdom in the television industry is that the 18-49 age group is the “money” demographic. According to AIM Tell-A-Vision, U.S.- born Latinos’ median age is 18; non -U.S. born Latinos’ (Spanish TV’s audience) median age is 35. These numbers illustrate that the majority of the Latinos fall in the “money” demographics. If this were the case, you would think that advertisers would be throwing away money at shows that might attract Latino viewers. Why isn’t this happening? We can come up with only one answer: the Nielsen ratings. The power that Nielsen has over the television ratings is enormous and with this power comes responsibility. Responsibility to be able to verify to an independent watchdog that the methodology being used is accurate. The only way to get to this point is for Nielsen to be accredited by the Media Ratings Council (MRC) – a congressional body already in existence.
Currently there is a Senate bill (S. 1372) and a companion House bill (H.R. 3298) in Congress that, if passed, would require Nielsen to be accredited by MRC. Both are short, simple and clear bills which should have been embraced by Congress but were not. We’ve recently seen the power of the lobbyist in this country to influence legislation, and we see it here again with Nielsen. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Nielsen started spending large amounts of money to lobby Congress in 2004 (when NHMC started this fight). That first year, they spent $1.6 million. In 2005 it is estimated that Nielsen spent over $8 million in lobbying efforts to defeat these bills!
The good news is that even if the bills haven’t moved further along, we have seen positive results from our efforts and this proposed legislation. Nielsen is scared to death of these bills, so they are finally discussing the possibility of agreeing to a voluntary code of conduct – something they have been rejecting for years. In December of last year, Nielsen started including shows aired by Univision Communications Inc. in its national ratings – a much overdue improvement in measuring the nation’s growing Latino audience. Additionally, according to an article in the L.A. Times, in the last 18 months Nielsen spent more than $10 million to modify its equipment so they could work with more sophisticated electronics and recruit new members who own DVR’s to the panel. Nielsen estimates that about 7% of the 110 million homes in the U.S. with televisions are equipped with DVRs. That percentage is expected to rise to about a quarter of all homes with televisions within two years. At least Nielsen is spending as much money in equipment as they are in lobbying efforts! When dealing with this issue, we are dealing with a well-funded, conceited monopoly; however, we have the public interest in mind. NHMC is on the right side of this issue and will continue our fight for justice in television ratings.
One last note on Nielsen, according to MediaPost a recently launched company, Maggio Media Research headed by Florida Real Estate Tycoon Frank Maggio has targeted Nielsen Media Research for possible purchase. As far as we are concerned this is good news. We are tired of going nowhere with the current Nielsen leadership it’s time to rock the boat and let some of the stagnate leadership fall to the wayside and make room for progressive thinkers into the ranks of the company.
We ask our readers to join us in this important fight and to contact your Senator and Congress Representative in support of S. 1372 and H.R. 3298. Demand that you be counted. This issue might sound frivolous to some, but it is not. It is as important to be counted accurately for any research that brings money to our community as it is to be counted in a census. We are loosing millions of dollars in advertising dollars – not to mention loosing potential television shows where Latinos are depicted in a three dimensional way, as we truly are – maids, gardeners, doctors, lawyers and any profession we choose to follow. Our children need role models who they can watch on television. They must be given the opportunity to work behind and in front of the camera, playing leading roles or writing scripts that tell our true American experience.
For more information on joining this cause please contact us at email@example.com
Petition to Deny – Comcast Update
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission approved the $17.6 billion sale of Adelphia Communications Corp. to Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc. without conditions. The cable deal now requires approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.) As you might recall NHMC, along with its national media allies, filed a Petition to Deny the Transfer of Adelphia to Comcast/Time Warner. At this point we know that the FCC will approve the transaction but we want the FCC to impose conditions on the sale.
In that respect, NHMC recently joined the Competition and Diversity Coalition on the Adelphia Transaction (CADCAT.) CADCAT was created to protect consumer interests by promoting a fair, open, and competitive video marketplace. The Coalition includes The America Channel, Center for Creative Voices in Media, DIRECTV, EchoStar, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), Media Access Project, and RCN. We are asking that the FCC establish conditions in Comcast’s and Time Warner’s proposed acquisition of Adelphia Cable in order to achieve this result.
Comcast and Time Warner intend to split Adelphia’s subscribers evenly, while swapping back and forth some of their current subscribers. This will create concentrated regional “clusters,” with one of the two companies as the single dominant cable operator, posing a clear risk to competition. In light of this threat, the Coalition urges that if the proposed merger is approved, the FCC should establish conditions that counter the anti-competitive effects. Such conditions should include enforceable guarantees to ensure that Comcast and Time Warner cannot discriminate against their competitors in distribution or content.
“This proposed merger will create a monopoly level consolidation. As we all know, a monopoly is fundamentally wrong for American consumers. When competitors are denied access to critical content it means viewers either lose access to programming or are forced to pay higher prices. Both outcomes should be unacceptable,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Media Access Project.
“As a regional sports network, we have witnessed first-hand Comcast’s single-minded desire to lock up local programming. Rather than compete for the rights to broadcast certain games, Comcast refused to air Nationals games to millions of fans throughout the region,” said Russell Smouse, MASN. “The members of CADCAT are united in our efforts to protect competition and preserve the right to root for our home team without giving up the right to subscribe to the video service provider of our choice.”
Jonathan Rintels of the Center for Creative Voices in Media added: “Without significant conditions attached, the proposed purchase of Adelphia by Comcast and Time Warner Cable will solidify their gatekeeper power over television, preventing not just their own subscribers, but all Americans from accessing independent and diverse voices and viewpoints. It will make a mockery of Congress’s goal of a ‘level playing field’ in cable that will not unfairly impede the flow of video programming to consumers.”
“The cable companies cannot be allowed to act as gatekeepers. Consumers should be able to bring the autonomous voice that independent networks provide, not just the homogeneous voice coming from the networks owned by the media conglomerates,” said Alex Nogales. “Our biggest concern at NHMC is that our two Latino English-Language Networks Sítv and LA-TV are currently not been given access to wide-distribution areas by cable companies. Without wide-distribution, these independent networks will not be able to stay in business. We cannot allow either one of these Latino English-language Networks to fail. Both of these networks do an enormous amount of Latino themed programming and employ hundreds of Hispanics both in front and back of camera- many of them in top managerial, decision-making positions. At the same time both these networks allow for expression of our Latino community, of our culture, our history, our point of view, dreams and aspirations”.
CADCAT will be working in high gear in the next months to make sure that when the FCC approves the Adelphia transaction it does so with conditions. The status quo is not working in protecting the independent voice that is so much needed in our society.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Media Policy Watch
Below is a list of important legislation that we are monitoring. Please become engaged with these issues! They are too important to allow others to decide for us what is right for our community. Usually these bills are supported or opposed by media conglomerates. The only way we can achieve our purpose is with your support. Elected officials do pay attention to their constituents. They have to or they know they will be out of a job next time they are up for re-election. Stand up and join the fight for our community, contact your Representatives and let them know where you stand on these issues.
The Issue: A la carte
A la carte is being promoted by some media advocates as a way to reduce consumer costs and be able to restrict family-friendly channels from coming into the home. However, a number of studies, including a 2004 Federal Communications Commission report, show that a la carte will have a negative impact on programming diversity in this country. If a la carte is implemented without any provisions for protecting diversity, the two Latino networks currently on the air, Sítv and LA-TV, will simply disappear because they do not yet command the viewership that more established networks have. The Latino community cannot afford to have this happen. It has taken too long for Latinos to own and/or operate English language networks whose target audience is the English-speaking Latino youth. Sítv and LA-TV reflect our culture, traditions and point of view, instilling price and a grounded sense of identity and belonging to our youth. They also employ hundreds upon hundreds of Latinos both in front and back of the camera, giving them the experience necessary to favorably compete for any network jobs when, and if, those opportunities are offered.
We oppose a la carte because we don’t think it will lower the cost for consumers and it will have a negative impact on the independent networks that can’t compete with the networks owned by the media conglomerates.
Suggested Action Plan: Once proposed legislation is drafted we will need you to actively participate.
The Issue: Digital TV (DTV) Transition
Beware if you have an analog television after February 17, 2009! Congress has recently set a deadline of February 18, 2009 for the DTV transition to take place. DTV is a new technology that uses the airwaves more efficiently, improves picture quality, and provides advanced sound quality. After the 2009 deadline, if you have an analog television you will need to be either connected to cable, satellite service or have a converter box to continue receiving broadcast digital signals. “People without cable or satellite should realize that having an analog TV set means they’ll have to buy a box in three years to convert digital signals to analog,” said Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union. That could nudge many shoppers to buy digital TVs.
Congress passed the bill that set the DTV transition date. In addition to setting this deadline, the bill sets aside $1.5 billion for a converter-box subsidy program. Households will be able to request up to two $40 coupons to help pay for the converter- boxes, which are expected to cost $50 to $60. We understand these coupons will be distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis. Affected customers will need to act quickly once the coupons become available and before the $1.5 billion fund is depleted. NHMC, along with Consumers Union and other Latino groups, urged Congress to increase the subsidy program, but they did not. The money to pay for the converter boxes will come from an auction of analog airwaves, which TV stations will return once they start broadcasting in digital only. The auction is expected to raise at least $10 billion from the sale of spectrum to wireless companies -money needed to reduce the country’s current deficit. Another chunk of the airwaves will be given to public-safety agencies to improve radio communications systems that are often overcrowded and incompatible with neighboring responders.
The truth is, before policymakers sell more airwaves to the media conglomerates, Congress should set aside a portion of the airwaves for the public to use in community wireless Internet projects that offer consumers more options and lower prices. Doing so would help communities provide their citizens with high-speed Internet to improve educational opportunities, stimulate local economic growth, help small businesses succeed, and create new competition to help keep consumer costs down (read more in this issue under Community Internet). Congress also needs to set aside a portion of the reclaimed spectrum to promote diversity in ownership. This can be done by ensuring that new entrants, specifically minorities and women, are allowed to participate in this auction by support of a program, such as the Telecom Development Fund. This program would provide the necessary access to capital needed for minorities and women to purchase set-aside spectrum. Diversity in ownership, we have found, represents diversity in programming and ideas and it is therefore crucial that Latino representation be part and parcel of spectrum ownership.
Suggested Action Plan: 1) If you are purchasing a television, be sure your TV has a digital tuner. Although analog TVs will still function, they will be limited after the DTV transition. 2) If you have an analog TV , keep an eye out for the announcements for federal coupons for converter-boxes. 3) Members of the Senate Commerce Committee need to hear from you. Too much spectrum is currently owned by a handful of media conglomerates. You can get a list of the members of the Senate Commerce Committee with the following link http://commerce.senate.gov/about/membership.htm
Whether you are from a state on the list or not, please call and tell the Senators that you want to see spectrum made available to build community wireless internet projects before any spectrum auction takes place and that spectrums need to be set aside for diversity in ownership. For more information, click on the following Consumers Union’s link https://secure2.convio.net/cu/site/Advocacy?JServSessionIdr012=4imujjzeq1.app5a&cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=543 may also be helpful.
The Issue: Network Neutrality
A new issue that has become very important is the one of “Network Neutrality” , which would prevent Internet service providers from restricting their customers’ Web access or preferring some Web sites over others. Currently, the Internet is wide open. You can access any page you want at the same speed without dealing with any “favorites” that your provider might push on you by providing them faster speed. But if we don’t fight for network neutrality we might find ourselves accessing a much different Internet where the gatekeeper is now your own provider. What we want to prevent is for Internet providers to work similar to what we see in cable, where your provider picks and chooses what networks they will distribute and makes you pay additional for some “special” channels. On the Internet, companies such as Google and Yahoo might have to pay your Internet provider for you to have access to their information. If big media companies are allowed to limit the fastest services to those who can pay their toll, upstart Web services, consumers, bloggers and new media makers alike, would all be cut off from the digital revolution. This is not a good idea and completely changes the concept of the Internet. Let’s not give this power to Internet Providers. Let’s tell Congress to write a law that protects “Network Neutrality” and disallows playing favorites on the Internet. Go to FreePress’ link to learn more about Net Neutrality http://www.freepress.net/netfreedom/Suggested Action Plan: Once proposed legislation is drafted we will need you to actively participate.
The Issue: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules on media ownership
Each and every American family will be affected by the decisions the FCC is about to make on media ownership. When FCC’s former Chairman Michael Powell tried to craft media ownership rules in 2003, the public was shut out and denied a chance to be heard. These rules were to drastically increase media concentration, and yet, they were kept secret until the very last moment.
More than 2 million Americans spanning the political and ideological spectrum contacted the Commission to protest not only the substance of the new rules, but also the Commission’s highly exclusionary rulemaking process. This dismissal of public concerns was one of the reasons a federal appeals court threw out the media ownership rules the agency approved. The mistakes of the past cannot be repeated. Please go to Common Cause’s link to sign-on to the petition that will allow the public to be part of this important process. http://www.commoncause.org/site/apps/ka/ct/contactus.asp?c=dtIOI7PLKoG&b=992861&en=6dLGLKNkGfJDLGPlGbLCIFMmGdLOJRPjGaLMJWPxHmJTJ4I
The Issue:Community Internet
We believe that each community should be able to provide affordable and high-speed Community Internet to its citizenry. This is one way that we can reduce the wide gap that exists in the digital divide and that particularly affects the Latino community. Thanks to increasingly affordable technologies, Community Internet is becoming a reality throughout the U.S. According to TechnologyReview.com, Philadelphia is the first major urban area to initiate a city government-led wireless program. The service is expected to be available later this year. San Francisco and New Haven, CT are two of the latest major U.S. urban areas to take another step toward providing Wi-Fi (“wireless fidelity”) connections. In fact, approximately 300 U.S. cities and municipalities are now in various stages of wireless rollouts. However, phone and cable companies want to make it illegal for communities to be able to launch such initiatives.
U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), a former telephone company executive whose wife still works for the same company, has introduced H.R. 2726 titled “Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005.” A very misleading title to a bill that would let cable and telecom companies shut down municipal and community efforts to offer broadband services. This bill would take away the right of cities and towns across the country to provide citizens with universal, low-cost Internet access if a private company offers service nearby. If a private service provider were overcharging residents, the bill would prevent local governments from offering a low-cost alternative. Giant cable and telephone companies don’t want any competition, which might actually force them to offer lower prices, higher speeds and service to rural and urban areas. Let’s not let this bill move forward. This is a bad bill that is not good for communities that are working to close the digital divide. Contact your Congressional Representative and ask him/her to oppose this bill.
On the other side of the spectrum is a bi-partisan effort lead by Sen. McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ). The Community Broadband Act of 2005, S. 1294, would specifically permit municipalities to offer low-cost broadband service. If this bill passes, it would overturn all state legislation prohibiting municipal broadband systems. Support Community Internet. Contact your senators to co-sponsor the McCain-Lautenberg bill; it is in our community’s interest.
For more information on these bills please go to the Free Press’ link at www.freepress.net/communityinternet/=USSuggested Action Plan: Contact your Congressional Representative and ask him/her to OPPOSE H.R. 2726.Call your Senator and ask him/her to SUPPORT S. 1294. Also let others know about this important issue. Our communities need Community Internet because telephone and cable prices are too high and the media moguls need competition from local communities to bring their prices down. High-speed Internet should not only be accessible to high-income residents. As all people have the right to water and electricity, so do they have the right to fast-connectivity. This is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Without it, people are at a disadvantaged by not being able to quickly access information that oftentimes is a vital resource for education, job search and health. Community Internet is an alternative solution to the very serious issue of the digital divide between the haves and have-nots.
The Issue: Lessons about Katrina… the need for Low Power FM (LPFM)
As New Orleans was being evacuated, thousands of evacuees were streaming out into the countryside where churches and communities had set up shelters to take care of them. Unfortunately, many of these shelters lacked telecommunications service. Responding to this need, a low power FM station, Katrina Aftermath Media Project – KAMP 95.3 FM was set up at the parking lot of the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. This 6-watt radio station served the people and families living at the Astrodome and adjacent buildings. Tom Hanlon, a volunteer with a property owners’ association in Baton Rouge that has been waiting 5 years for their Low Power FM radio license to come through said this about the exodus from New Orleans to Baton Rouge: “A lack of accurate information, coupled with the time spent tracking down false rumors, did more to delay the mobilization of Baton Rouge than any hurricane. We need more LPFM stations in our cities to help with these crises in the future.”
This hopefully illustrates to our readers, the importance of LPFM – especially in an emergency situation. LPFM affords one of the most promising opportunities to increase the diversity of local voices. LPFM radio has already allowed local community groups to provide independent news, public affairs, and entertainment to over 600 communities across the country. Churches and ministries, schools and community organizations, use these 100-watt stations for everything from spreading the Gospel to covering PTA meetings. Many communities, however, have been kept off the air by a law restricting LPFM stations to very rural areas. The law was passed after big broadcasters claimed that these 100-watt stations would interfere with their full-power radio stations in larger towns and cities. But now, a Congressionally mandated $2.2 million study conducted by the MITRE Corporation has definitely proven that there is room for LPFM on the spectrum without causing airwaves interference.
It will now take congressional action to expand licensing opportunities for Low Power FM stations. Prometheus Radio Project is a non-profit organization leading the LPFM fight and NHMC has joined this fight. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has introduced a Senate bill, S. 312, to implement the recommendations of the FCC report regarding low-power FM service and a House bill H.R. 3731. Rep. Slaughter’s (D-N.Y.) bill “The Enhance and Protect Community Radio Act of 2005” would repeal the law that kept low-power stations off the air in larger communities, thereby allowing local groups to build thousands more LPFM stations across the country. The bill also describes reasonable guidelines the government can undertake to make sure that the people’s airwaves are reserved as much as possible for local community radio now, as we transition to a primarily digital future.
To learn more about Low Power FM radio, visit http://www.prometheusradio.org/freeairwaves.shtmlSuggested Action Plan: To activate these important bills we need thousands of low power radio supporters to call their congresspeople to tell them to support this legislation so critical to the future of low power, community radio. Contact your State Senator(s) and Congressional Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor S. 312 and H.R. 3731 respectively and support Low Power FM radio.
The Issue: Telecommunications Rewrite
The Telecom Rewrite is the biggest media issue currently being considered. Just as the Telecom Rewrite of 1996 impacted our lives as it relates to information and communication, the new Rewrite will impact important media issues such as how and whether millions of Americans will be able to access information and video services at reasonable prices over high-speed Internet connections. This Rewrite will have great impact on consumers for many years to come.
We urge Congress to ensure that public, not industry needs, are made paramount in any legislation adopted. Telecommunications legislation has been negotiated behind closed-doors for too long, with key industry heavyweights and major media conglomerates spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying in Washington. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 largely reflected the industry’s priorities and did not respond to the needs of the public. After the 1996 act was passed, cable rates surged 50 percent, local phone rates went up 20 percent, and scores of media companies merged, denying consumers choice and competition, and depriving our democracy of diverse viewpoints. These mistakes cannot be repeated.
We challenge Congress to make telecommunications policy based on a number of core values:
Equality of opportunity in the information age so that no one – regardless of race, location, income level or ethnicity – is denied access to the best information technology;
The independence of local governments to use wireless technology to serve their residents, particularly those with low incomes or in rural areas;
A guarantee that no company that owns a media distribution “pipeline” has the power to dictate the content that is transmitted over that same pipeline;
Locally owned, independent media outlets should provide a diversity of viewpoints;
Preservation of valuable airwaves are a public resource for public use.
First legislation related to the Telecom Rewrite:Deregulation of Both Phone and Cable Markets
In the Senate, Nevada Republican John Ensign offered the first substantial legislation on this issue. “The Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act”, S. 1504, a bill which would substantially deregulate both the Bells and the cable industry. As soon as this bill was introduced, many of the top media reform advocates came out against it. The National League of Cities issued this statement: “This bill takes away most controls and protections that local governments need to monitor and ensure that the communications industry is responsible and responsive to our citizens”. Consumers Union states “Consumers better hold on to their wallets if this bill becomes law. They can look forward to soaring cable and phone bills and even fewer choices for broadband, as dominant cable and phone companies tighten their stranglehold on the limited competition in these markets. Despite platitudes toward consumer choice and protection, this bill does the exact opposite.” Needless to say, NHMC opposes this bill and strongly urges you to state your opinion to your Senator. This bill is not good for consumers.
Second proposed legislation on the Telecom Rewrite: The House Energy and Commerce Committee Draft Legislation
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a draft legislation revising the 1996 Telecommunications Act. We were please to see so much of what we consider positive language. This is a bi-partisan effort led by the key Congressional members that have already outreached to media advocates to include them in the negotiating table. This legislation is only a draft and we will keep you informed as the bill is finalized and introduced in the House.
Suggested Action Plan: Once the bill is introduced we will need you to actively participate and voice your issues and concerns. Meanwhile, NHMC together with our national media allies will do our part to work with Congressional staff in finalizing a bill that serves the public at large.
Calendar of Events
Latino Writers’ Program
Deadline to submit script is March 9
For more information read “From Albuquerque to Hollywood – 2006 Writers’ Program” in this issue.
2006 NCLR Capital Awards
March 7, National Building Museum, Washington, DC This is an annual gala event that brings together more than 800 elected and appointed officials, Hispanic leaders, community activists, executives from Fortune 500 companies, philanthropic leaders, and scholars to honor members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for their outstanding support of public policies that are vital to Hispanic Americans. In addition to the Capital Award, the Public Service Award honors others outside of Washington who courageously and tirelessly advocate on behalf of the Latino community.
NCLR National Issue Briefing and Advocacy Day 2006March 8 –9, Washington DC This is an opportunity for you to work with other Latino community organizations in holding your elected officials accountable for and responsive to the needs of the Hispanic community, and of all Americans. Visit http://www.nclr.org/section/events/advocacy_day/
Presented by HBO, Variety and the National Latino Media Council. For the past 6 years, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) has gathered the field of Latino/a Film, Television, Documentary and New Media makers: producers, directors, writers, performers, creative crew, funders, distributors, representatives, students, educators and activists for a critical look at Latinos in front of and behind the camera, plus those in executive suites and decision-making positions. Our National Conference provides an opportunity to consider the state of the field during a dynamic weekend of professional seminars, hands-on workshops, provocative keynote addresses, screenings of member work, networking events and celebrations of our latest accomplishments. Visit www.nalip.orgEntertainment & Media Career Expo “Celebrating Diversity” April 11, Los Angeles Convention Center. Sponsored by Shomex and Variety, the event is designed to connect major companies in the entertainment and media industry with professionals from a wide range of communities and fields who are either looking to break into the industry or taking their careers to the next level in the industry.
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The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a 35-year-old non-profit organization that builds bridges, creates opportunities, resources, and connects Latinx talent with the entertainment industry.