Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Jan 4, 2005 15:31 ET

Puerto Rican Media/Community Group Urges FCC to Yank License of Univision Station in San Juan
Cites 'Cultural Insensitivity,' Failure to Serve the Community

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing "cultural insensitivity" and failure to live up to required local broadcast standards, an alliance of Puerto Rican media unions and community groups is urging the Federal Communications Commission to deny license renewal to the island's largest television station, WLII in San Juan, which is operated by U.S. media conglomerate Univision.
The Alliance of Puerto Rican Artists and Support Groups, whose acronym in Spanish is APAGA, charged that Univision has all but dropped local production of telenovelas and game shows in favor of canned programming from Mexico and Venezuela, the source of most of Univision's production. Puerto Rican programming has dropped from about 50 programs a week down to only three since Univision took over in 2002 under a local marketing agreement with station owner Raycom Media.
Besides causing substantial job loss locally, the station's shift to foreign news and entertainment programming has had an insulting and damaging impact on Puerto Rico's culture and language, APAGA stated.
Puerto Rican actors have lost their jobs because Univision considers their accents "too Puerto Rican," clashing with the "internationalized" accents of the network's programming that chiefly is directed at people who speak "Chicano or Mexican Spanish," APAGA stated.
Even the station's local newscasters have been pressured to alter their accents, which "degrades the culture and linguistic value of Puerto Rico," according to APAGA.
Insensitivity to local usage has even, unwittingly, introduced obscenity to the station's broadcasts, APAGA noted. A commonly used Spanish word "bicho" means insect or bug in Mexico and much of the U.S. -- but in Puerto Rico it is slang for the male sex organ. "Children in Puerto Rico are taught not to use the word," but "then they hear it on local television," the petition states.
The lack of a local community focus at WLII, and its repeater station, WSUR in Ponce, has even been potentially life-threatening, the group charged. With its news coverage directed from Univision studios in Miami, the station reported on the hurricanes bedeviling Florida but gave the islanders no advance warning of the approach of Hurricane Jeanne, which hit Puerto Rico dead-center on September 15, according to the petition.
More evidence of Univision's tin ear for the local community was its coverage of the shocking defeat of the U.S. Olympic basketball team by the Puerto Rican team last August. While islanders were taking great pride in their team's upset victory, WLII sportscasters based in Miami were bemoaning the event as a loss for the U.S.
"This failure to cover our news from our perspective does not serve our community or localism in broadcasting," said Angel Baez, executive secretary of Newspaper Guild Local 33225, which represents technicians and news department employees at WLII and is affiliated with APAGA. Baez cited the examples of the hurricane and Olympic coverage in one of three statements by individuals appended to the petition.
The petition calls on the FCC to hold license renewal hearings in Puerto Rico, noting that, "The cultural and linguistic implications of the situation are best understood in Puerto Rico." Citing the facts presented in its own petition, APAGA urged commissioners not to renew licenses for WLII and sister station WSUR.
The APAGA petition to the FCC is available at the web site of The Newspaper Guild, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America representing 40,000 media workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Go to http://www.newsguild.org/.

Source: Communication Workers of America



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