Washington, D.C. Members of the National Latino Media Council, a coalition of Latino civil rights and media organizations, today petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deny approval of the pending NBC-Telemundo merger. Members of the Council include the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Puerto Rican Coalition (NPRC), the Mexican American Grocers Association (MAGA), NOSOTROS, and the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP).
"We came together as a council two years ago to help increase the number of Latinos on network television and to ensure that the Latino community truly has a voice in the media. After examining NBC and Telemundo's application, we see no evidence of this merger helping this happen. We have come to the conclusion that the merger between NBC and Telemundo is not in the best interest of Latinos and does not serve the public interest," stated former Congressman Esteban Torres, Chair of the Council.
Among the concerns the groups cites were the detrimental effects media consolidation has had on diversity, program content and minority ownership. In addition, the groups cired the track record of NBC and its parent company, General Electric (GE), vis a vis the Latino community.
"We have seen the consequences of media consolidations - just nine companies own most of the media outlets in the United States. By its very nature, media consolidation means that companies are seeking the greatest market share at the lowest cost. This has had devastating effects on Latinos. Rampant cost-cutting has resulted in layoffs, hiring freezes, and cuts in critically important, but less lucrative, program areas such as news and public affairs. This, it means fewer existing opportunities in the industry and reduced services to Latino audiences and customers," noted Juan Figue-roa, PRLDEF President, the counsel in the filing.
The groups also noted that media consolidation has resulted in less minority ownership, which is currently half the number it was five years ago. Hispanics own less than 1% of television stations in the United States.
"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," noted Raul Yzaguirre, NCLR President. "Moreover, similar to other networks, NBC has had a dismal track record of employing Latinos both onscreen and behind the cameras, a situation that has seen only a slight improvement in the last two years.
According the Screen Actors Guild, the number of Latinos on television has dropped from 3% to 2%. As for GE, this otherwise high-profile company, is virtually invisible in the Latino community. A recent study by the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility found, for example, that GE has no Latinos in its executive officer ranks."
The petition asks the FCC not to approve the merger due to the lack of information NBC and Telemundo provided in their application with regard to future plans for ensuring diversity in programming, content, employment, and other issues of concern to the Latino community.
"At the very least, the Commission should ask NBC to provide additional information addressing these concerns. NBC needs to assure the FCC and the American public that this merger is in the public interest, and frankly, we believe it has failed to do so," concluded Torres.