August 1, 2008

Closing of Historic Arizona Radio Station Signals Larger Crisis of Latino Media

By Roberto Lovato

This story from the Arizona Republic tells the sad, but increasingly not-so-uncommon story of the impending closure of radio station KNUV-AM (1190), better known as “La Buena Onda,” a historic and important source of information for Spanish-speaking migrants in the very contentious Phoenix area.

According to Ricardo Torres, a former media executive interviewed by the Republic, the reason that the station closed on July 31st has to do with the fact that “The industries that rely on immigrants are hurting: construction, agriculture and hospitality,” he said adding “And what is happening is the immigrant community is shrinking due to bad economic times and the current hostile atmosphere created by (Maricopa County) Sheriff Joe Arpaio and laws passed by the Legislature.”

Because Spanish language media represents the largest immigrant media in the country, the fatal combination of economic decline, institutional racism (ie: How is Arpaio allowed to represent the law?) and media economics should be viewed as precursors of similarly devastating dynamics impacting other media in other migrant communities.The fate of La Buena Onda provides an object lesson in the politics of media, Latinos and democracy. With small, independent community based media suffering the same fate as the Phoenix station, the Spanish -and English-speaking Latino community will depend primarily on conglomerated media for most of its information about the world. This slightly older story from Washington Post makes the same point.

If information does, in fact, constitute the life blood of democracy, it appears that we are witnessing another devastation of democracia.

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