Baltimore: Spanish Language Programming for MPT Drawing Fla(c)k

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun May 27 13:02:49 UTC 2007

Baltimore Sun: Spanish Language Programming for MPT Drawing Fla(c)k

Baltimore Sun, May 26,

A new Maryland Public Television <> station to be
launched this summer that will offer programming entirely in Spanish is
drawing criticism from some who question why the organization, which
receives public money, is catering to an individual ethnic group.


"If we're going to do an ethnic station, why not an African-American
station? Why not children's programming?" asked Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a
Baltimore County Republican who is among the most vocal critics of the new
station. "I am going to look more deeply into their process of decision

MPT officials said that adding the station - one of three digital channels
that MPT will launch as part of its transition to a digital lineup - will
cost no additional money and that the same equipment used for other MPT
programming can be used to broadcast V-me. The programs will be fed via
satellite from New York, and no local programming will be produced.

McDonough said if the network moves to add local content in the future, he
worries the O'Malley administration will try to influence it.

"He has supported in-state tuition for illegal aliens, he is a proponent of
illegal immigration," McDonough said. "I don't want taxpayer money going to
a news program that says tuition for illegals is good and Delegate McDonough
is bad."

McDonough has been banging the anti-immigrant drum for years. The idea is
that because some Spanish-speaking illegal immigrant's child might watch
Spanish Sesame Street, the whole state is in jeopardy. Forget about the rest
of us who want Spanish language programming for other reasons.

According to MPT, the programming is free and involves no new capital
expenditures, and takes no space away from predominantly English
programming, though for McDonough to confirm that through documentation from
MPT is entirely fair. My son watches Spanish-language programming and has
learned a lot of Spanish that way, just as he has learned American Sign
Language. I wish that MPT had additional stations for additional languages;
this is a rich state and German or Russian or Arabic programming would be a
great idea if it could help kids learn and retain more languages. Kids in
other countries grow up multi-lingually; most Swiss, Germans, Dutch,
Israelis, Canadians, etc., grow up proficient in at least two languages,
often three or four. I remain grateful to my high school for my German
studies to this day; probably 40% of the income I have earned in the last 24
months has been directly dependent on that skill and I just wish I learned
it and maybe two other languages when I was 5, not 14. A big part of why
out-sourcing to India is a challenge to white-collar Americans, including
attorneys, is that India is a multi-lingual country where educated adults
speak English, Hindi and usually a regional Indian language.

Similar issues were presented in the discussion of an Arabic/English public
Brooklyn, as covered by Lindsay Beyerstein. You would think in a
dangerous world that the policy of the government would be to increase, not
constrain, multi-lingual education.

Programming does not become oriented towards an "individual ethnic group"
because it's in Spanish. Spanish speakers from a multitude of "ethnic
groups" exist; I think Patrick McDonough is partially of Irish ancestry so
he should be aware that just as speaking English doesn't make you English,
speaking Spanish does not make you of any particular predominantly
Spanish-speaking ethnic group.

Spanish differs significantly from country to country. Spanish in Puerto
Rico has a decidedly different tone, speed and to some extent vocabulary
that than spoken in Mexico or in Spain. This is a serious issue for
producers of Spanish language programming. English in Baltimore and
Newcastle and Cape Town and Bangalore don't sound even roughly the same,
either. It's not "one ethnic group." But I don't think that the problem for
McDonough is that some Spanish speakers and students will start picking up a
Dominican accent vs. a Mexican one or Castillian one, through catering to an
individual ethnic group through choice of actors.

I agree, though, that the state should not be funding hypothetical attacks
upon the Governor's political opponents and critics. Attacking right-wing
xenophobes who are interfering with educational programming decisions that
benefit my children is a blogger's job, not the government's job.

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