AP source: Disney plans Latino news channel

By Laura Wides-Munoz
Associated Press

MIAMI — Univision and Disney are in talks to create a 24-hour news channel for Latinos in English, two sources close to the negotiations said Monday.

Both sources declined to go on the record because they were not authorized to speak.

The goal would be to begin broadcasting before the November presidential election.

That would give the network plenty of time to provide political coverage to Hispanics, who are considered a significant swing voting bloc in states like Florida, New Mexico and Colorado.

Univision is the nation’s largest Spanish-language media company, and it has long prided itself on its Spanish-language content.

In recent years, officials have acknowledged that in order to maintain and expand viewership, they need to provide content to second- and third-generation Latinos who speak English as their first language.

The move comes in response to the 2010 census, which showed U.S. born Latinos were the fastest growing segment of the nation’s Hispanic population.

They made up nearly 60 percent of the growth in the nation’s Latino population.

The proposed deal also reflects the growing efforts of mainstream media companies to target Latinos.

Last year, Fox News added its Fox News Latino website and Huffington Post now has an online Huffpost LatinoVoices site. Meanwhile, NBC Universal has been ramping up the partnership between its NBC News division and its Spanish language network, Telemundo.

Jorge Plasencia, vice chair of the National Council of La Raza and CEO of the Hispanic marketing firm Republica, which includes Univision among its clients, said he believes that a news channel in English would fulfill a niche.

“There’s nearly 50 million Latinos in the U.S., they do want to know what’s going on in Mexico, Puerto Rico and all over Latin America.”

“The major networks don’t cover that news,” he said.

“It’s hard for those networks to go into those issues in depth because they’re trying reach all of America,” he said.

Univision and other Spanish-language networks have provided significant coverage of Latin America for their viewers.

Plasencia believes second- and third-generation Latinos are still interested in that coverage, but they want it in English.

“That’s why I think this and Huffpost LatinoVoices exist, because there’s an appetite,” he said.

For Latinos who live in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Miami that have large Hispanic populations, local broadcasts often have Latino anchors and cover stories that are particularly relevant to the Hispanic community.

But the national broadcasts are lagging in that type of coverage, he said.

“At the same time, this network will take our issues and make them mainstream because many other people besides Latinos may be watching,” he said.