By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
When the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences decided to recognize leaders of Spanish-language TV with honorary trustee awards, it called upon Raul Mateu, senior VP and head of the Latin American Division of the William Morris Agency, to form a committee to choose the recipients. Mr. Mateu responded by assembling eight people with media connections, a group he called “respected and beyond reproach.”
“None of these people, to the best of my knowledge, is even a member of the National TV Academy,” Mr. Mateu said. “But each one brings a knowledge of different dayparts, different areas. They all know the Spanish media well.”
Mr. Mateu was himself a member of the committee, along with Gilbert Davila, VP of multicultural marketing for The Walt Disney Co.; Jacqueline Hernandez-Fallous, publisher of People en Espa%F1;ol; Lisa Quiroz, VP of corporate responsibility for Time Warner; Noelia Rodriguez, VP of corporate communications for Univision; Manolo Vidal, president and CEO of Vidal Partnership; Daniel Villanueva, managing partner for Bastion Capital Corp.; and Antoinette Zel, executive VP of strategic planning for Telemundo Networks Group.
Their resumes are laden with previous posts that add to their qualifications. Ms. Zel, for example, was formerly president of MTV Networks Latin America. Ms. Rodriguez was press secretary to first lady Laura Bush. Mr. Vidal was one of the founders of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.
“I was very happy to be asked,” said Mr. Davila. “It seemed to me a wonderful sign of the times that the people who give Emmys would want to honor the work of those in Spanish TV.”
The group met once in New York, then had subsequent meetings via conference calls. Each member came to the first meeting with a list of Spanish-language TV leaders he or she thought should be honored. Not surprisingly, committee members said, many of the same people were on each list.
“We were asked to come to that meeting with suggestions, and we each took that task quite seriously,” Ms. Hernandez-Fallous said. “We spent time discussing each of the nominees, and we had bios and other support materials for each. In the end, the criteria were simple-people whose work and contributions made them the leaders in Spanish TV. The choices were absolutely unanimous.
“None of the names should be a surprise in any way. These are the names of the people who made Spanish TV,” she said. “When you mention Spanish TV, you think of ‘Sábado Gigante,’ and we have Don Francisco [the stage name of Mario Kreutzberger, host of the long-running hit show]. When you think of Spanish TV, how can you not include Jorge Ramos, who is the newscaster in the language and an incredible news professional at that? The quality of his work is unimpeachable.”
Several committee members said they sensed the awards would mean recognition for more than just the achievements of the luminaries they chose. Additionally, they would be a salute to the evolution of Spanish-language TV produced in the United States and its increasing popularity, in addition to its creative and technological excellence.
“There were a lot of great feelings in that room,” Mr. Mateu said. “We knew we had to satisfy a lot of different people and we knew the awards would speak to an entire community as well as to the larger TV industry. We had the sense that what we were doing was sending a message about the growth of Spanish TV.”
“We at People en Español just commissioned what we call ‘The Hot Study,'” Ms. Hernandez-Fallous said. “Our research shows us not just that Spanish-language TV is growing in this country, but that Spanish programming is bicultural in popularity. There are telenovelas that are the top programs with women 18 to 34 in some markets. The culture, the music-it’s all becoming part of the country’s culture.”
Spanish-language TV is also multicultural within the Spanish-speaking community itself. As a whole, the programming reflects the varied backgrounds of Spanish speakers within the U.S.
Taken together, these viewers form an audience that tops 40 million and is on the rise. People en Español has 4.2 million readers and a circulation of 450,000, growing at a rate of about 6 percent per year, Ms. Hernandez-Fallous said.
“This is a wonderful time for Spanish TV and for talent who begin in Spanish-language TV, music and other areas,” she said. “The [awards] the National TV Academy is giving don’t just reinforce this; they put a face on it. But these are faces the audience already knows well.”