Spanish-language TV journalists paid less

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Jul 22 17:03:47 UTC 2008

Spanish-language TV journalists paid
21 07 2008  Timely news story relevant to the status of Latinos in Kern
County local media.

Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer <jgarofoli at>

Monday, July 14, 2008
   *(07-13) 17:20 PDT *— As their contract negotiations intensified this
week, the newsroom employees at San Francisco's leading Spanish-language
news station - KDTV Channel 14 - should have been in a strong bargaining
position. Not only is the newsroom full of coveted bilingual journalists,
but for the past two ratings periods KDTV has beaten most of its Bay Area
English-language competitors in various ratings contests.

But when it comes to Spanish-language television news, high ratings don't
translate into high salaries. Many KDTV reporters and producers, like their
counterparts at Spanish-language stations across the country, earn roughly
one-fourth less in base pay than their competitors at English-language
stations, even if the 6 p.m. newscast they're producing is attracting more
viewers in the coveted 25-54 demographic than every Bay Area station except

Their plight is echoed across the country. While the foreign-born Hispanic
population in the United States grew 25 percent between 2000 and 2006 to
17.6 million, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, analysts say the
advertising world has been slow to adapt to the demographic changes in
Spanish-language media - and the effects have trickled down through the
media food chain.

So while the Spanish-language news audience may be growing, many advertisers
don't perceive Hispanics to be the "right audience," according to bilingual
television advertising expert Roxane Garzon.

"There's still a perception in the marketing world that most of the
Spanish-speaking audience is poor and uneducated," said Garzon, who is
broadcast media director for Casanova Pendrill, which buys time on
Spanish-language TV for corporate clients such as Kohl's, L'Oreal and
General Mills. While Spanish-speaking households may have lower incomes, she
said they tend to be brand loyal, regardless of price.

Still, advertising rates for Spanish-language programming are one-third to
one-half of what they are for English-language programming, she said.

While major market TV journalists aren't holding up will-report-for-food
signs, base pay for many Spanish-language TV journalists (about $70,000) can
be around one-fourth less than their English-language counterparts in town.
Photographers and news writers at KDTV are paid roughly a third less at top
union scale than some of their English-language counterparts in the Bay
Area, according to figures supplied by union officials familiar with the

In general, salaries vary wildly among top TV reporters, many of whom have
contracts that run into the low six figures. But there is little doubt about
the pay differential at the base salary scale level, according to analysts
and union officials.

Others see another cultural perception behind the pay difference that has
little to do with the price of advertising detergent or toothpaste.

"Why are brown people who speak two languages paid less?" said Carrie
Biggs-Adams, a union organizer for the National Association of Broadcast
Employees and Technicians. She has helped negotiate contracts at
Spanish-language stations across the country. "In any other profession,
there is a premium placed on being bilingual. But for some reason, not

"It demonstrates a larger problem across the culture of Latino people
earning less," said Mari Castaneda, associate professor of communication at
University of Massachusetts-Amherst and an expert on Latino media.

Said a spokesperson for Univision, the Spanish-language network that
produces local newscasts in 14 cities: "It is Univision's policy not to
comment during labor negotiations."

The newsroom staff at KDTV and their colleagues around the country are at
the end of a media/advertising money trail that analysts say hasn't
recognized the full consumer power of the Spanish-speaking market. And for
some of the journalists at Spanish-language stations, there aren't a lot of
other career options in their chosen field.

Because of increased media consolidation over the years and shrinking
budgets, news organizations have been shutting foreign bureaus and cutting
back on overseas coverage. Since Univision dominates the Spanish-language TV
news market, there is a limited number of domestic employers.

"The way a top anchor at an English-language station gets more money is to
threaten to go to the station across the street," said Doug Darfield,
Nielsen Media Research director of multicultural measurement. "But that
possibility doesn't exist for the most part in the Spanish-language market."

"And if you have an accent, you can't work at an English station," said one
former employee of a Univision station in California. She asked not to be
identified for fear of being blacklisted by other stations.

Jessica Aguirre, an anchor at KNTV in the Bay Area, worked at a Univision
station in Miami before moving to the CBS station in the same market. But
her crossover is still uncommon.

"I think it is possible to make the transition - I did it myself," the
U.S.-born Aguirre said. "But I do think it is much easier for Latino
journalists who were raised in the U.S. and for whom English is their first
language, or as in my case, a person who is completely bilingual."

Many Spanish-speaking journalists are torn between their desire to serve
their audience and a dissatisfaction with their pay and benefits, said
Federico Subervi, who heads Texas State University's Center for the Study of
Latino Media and Markets.

In a 2004 survey for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists,
Subervi found that 78 percent of Hispanic journalists said they were
motivated to be in the business by their desire to inform and educate the
Latino community. But 42 percent said they were unsatisfied or very
unsatisfied with their salary.

However, many Spanish-language journalists won't have a lot of leverage with
their pay needs until advertisers better understand the market. Univision
only accepts Spanish-language advertising, and analysts said many companies
don't want to devote additional money to create Spanish-language ad

Slowly, advertisers are starting to change. Advertising spending in
Spanish-language media increased 3 percent over the previous year to $5.78
billion in 2007, according to a Nielsen Monitor-Plus study released this

The question remains how much of that will trickle down to the employees of
local news stations.

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