The Central Coast may lose its only Spanish-speaking television news program later this month because of financial losses, and advocates spoke out Monday, urging the parent company of the show to take action.
The broadcast, Noticias Univision Costa Central, has focused on local stories and reporting for the past eight years but is scheduled to be off the air by Dec. 30, according to its owner company, Entravision Communications Corporation.
The show has been losing money for three years despite high ratings, and Entravision announced Dec. 7 that it would be taken off the air. But proponents of the show say that move would leave more than 200,000 community members in California’s Central Coast uninformed and at constant risk during a state of emergency.
A group of community leaders supportive of the show held a news conference Monday morning, urging Entravision to preserve the broadcast.
Silvia Uribe, co-chair for the Latino Democratic Caucus, which sponsored the news conference, was the first to speak. She said the community is grateful for the past eight years the show has been on the air, and that it has established a trust and credibility among viewers.
Nearly one-half of households in Santa Barbara are Hispanic, according to census figures, and Uribe said there could be a dangerous disconnect between Spanish speakers and the rest of the community during an emergency.
When the decision to cancel the program came out, Uribe said the community rallied and has been looking for solutions. The group started letter writing and phone campaigning to express their concerns to the company.
But the company has not responded to the outcry. Noozhawk’s call to the station’s manager, Gabe Quiroz, for comment Monday was not returned, but he sent a statement by email saying that KPMR-DT Channel 21, which hosts the local news program, remains dedicated to serving its audience. He also confirmed the Dec. 30 end date for the show.
“However, KPMR will continue to provide our viewers with news and information that is important to them — including news and information related to local emergencies and other events — through the broadcast of Univision’s nationally-syndicated evening news, public service announcements, community calendars, information provided on the station’s Web site and other local initiatives,” Quiroz said in the statement.
Other than that statement, advocates said they’ve received only silence from the company, and that even a proposal from a private investor with an offer to infuse capital into the show hasn’t garnered an answer.
David Cruz, CEO of Ventura-based BriteFlash Media, said his company creates original content for television networks and is interested in the show. He said his company has channels in Ventura County and Los Angeles, and “we felt it a very natural growth opportunity” to support Noticias.
“There are communities in California that fear the formation of ‘Colonias,’ people who do not assimilate, people who do not become part of the mainstream fabric of the cities where they live and work,” he said. “To prevent that, we must have information on a timely basis, that’s relevant and accurate, and we as a company hope we can reach out to Entravision.”
Ten days ago, Cruz said he reached out to the company with two options. He offered to take on the financial liability for the newscast immediately or have a second offer to bring in an injection of capital, perhaps through an advertiser, that would bridge the newscast into 2012 until it could become self-sustaining.
Cruz told Noozhawk that he had offered $150,000 to the company to see it into the beginning of the new year, but he said that with that offer comes the admonition not to waste time. He said he’s available as a facilitator, “and if the company is interested, we’re ready to go.”
Santa Barbara City Councilwoman-elect Cathy Murillo also spoke Monday, saying she learned while campaigning that “people are connected to their government and their politics through local media.”
Luis Villegas, president of the Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said his parents watch the program every day.
“They just reflect the many, many Latinos in our tri-county area that do watch the news,” he said.
Villegas added that the Chamber of Commerce would be interested in partnering with the broadcast to help businesses reach the Latino market through advertising.
Even Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley issued a statement Monday, urging Entravision to continue to serve the county.
“It has disseminated very important information relating to the public safety,” she said. “It is crucial for the Latino community to continue to receive this information in a timely manner.”