Posted on September 7, 2012

The Time Has Come for an English Language Latino Network

Tim Padgett, Time, September 5, 2012

Stealing Tuesday night’s show at the Democratic National Convention along with First Lady Michelle Obama was Julián Castro — the first Latino ever to deliver a convention keynote address. Yet while the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio represents perhaps the most coveted bloc of swing voters in this presidential election, there’s one thing about the Stanford- and Harvard-educated Castro that might seem counterintuitive to non-Latinos: He doesn’t speak Spanish. He knows enough of it to recall his Mexican-born grandmother, as he did in his speech, telling him, “Que Dios los bendiga.” (May God bless you.) But he admits that your average white kid studying Spanish in high school probably speaks the language as well as he does.

{snip} A recent Pew Hispanic Center study found almost two-thirds of Latinos (or Hispanics) living in the U.S. are either bilingual or English-dominant. A majority (51%) of Latinos born in the U.S. are now English-dominant. That doesn’t mean all those Spanish-language ads Craig Romney is narrating for his dad’s presidential campaign are a waste of time. But it does suggest that the U.S.’s largest and fastest-growing minority group, despite its still strong connection to its Latin American roots, has become much more linguistically and culturally assimilated, a la Julián Castro, than mainstream America had anticipated. “For Hispanics,” notes Isaac Lee, president of news for Univision, the U.S.’s largest Spanish-language television network, “birth rates are now higher than immigration rates.”

That’s the kind of demographic shift that media executives as well as politicians ignore at their peril — which is why Lee and his boss, Univision President Cesar Conde, got together with ABC News President Ben Sherwood last year to brainstorm a new, English-language cable TV network targeted at Latinos. The still unnamed venture, announced in May, will debut online next month (Univision has already begun a social media outreach via English-language Tumblr and Twitter sites) and plans to hit the airwaves next summer with both news and lifestyle programming. It could mark one of the biggest developments in Latino-oriented media since networks like Telemundo, CNN en Español and the Miami-based Univision (now the U.S.’s fourth largest network overall) began broadcasting in the late 1900s. That’s especially true given the distribution muscle of the Disney corporation, which owns ABC.


The Black Entertainment Television (BET) network has thrived on much the same premise vis-à-vis African-Americans. It’s more than welcome, if not overdue, that major media like ABC and Univision have seen the light regarding Latinos, says Colombian-American journalist Viviana Hurtado, who authors the popular Wise Latina Club blog and is a regular columnist for Fox News Latino, an online version of what Univision and ABC are bringing to cable. {snip}