A coalition of 45 Latino organizations announced Thursday that they will encourage a viewer boycott of ABC because of what they called the network's failure to follow through on a promise for a Latino-themed show this season and to include positive, realistic portrayals of Latinos on its prime-time programs.
Leaders for the groups, which included the American G.I. Forum, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the National Council of La Raza, and Nosotros, a Los Angeles-based group of Latino actors, said that all four networks were guilty of racism and were "almost equally culpable in their poor treatment and negative portrayal of the Latino community."
The coalition said they were targeting ABC because the network had repeatedly promised to include significant numbers of Latinos in prime-time programming and had not honored that commitment.
Esther Renteria, outgoing president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said network executive Robert Iger, now Capital Cities/ABC president, promised her and others in a meeting 18 months ago that a Latino-themed series would be on ABC by the fall of 1994. Iger also promised that significant numbers of Latinos would be included in supporting roles that were not gender-or race-specific, she said.
To date, no Latino-themed series have appeared on ABC, the coalition said, charging that the only Latinos in prominent roles on ABC programs are Jimmy Smits of "NYPD Blue," Theresa Saldana of "The Commish" and Wilson Cruz of "My So-Called Life."
The group leaders added that NBC, Fox and CBS were being put on notice that similar viewer actions would be recommended against them if they did not place more Latinos in shows and in policy-making positions.
ABC officials said they were unaware that a specific commitment for the scheduling of a Latino-themed series had been made, but a representative added:
"We agree that there should be more Latino representation in network programming, and ABC has several projects in development that would include Latino actors and themes. We're very hopeful that one or more of these projects will come to fruition in the upcoming season."
However, the coalition leaders said it was already too late.
"We are speaking for Latino people from all walks of life who are fed up with the way we have been treated in the media," said Mary Hernandez, president of the Hispanic National Bar Assn. Voter approval of Proposition 187--the get-tough initiative against illegal immigration--indicates a backlash against Latinos, Hernandez said.
"Public opinion is affected by the media, and it is unacceptable that our faces and issues are not being portrayed in the media," she said.
The coalition, which held a two-day National Latino Summit at the Biltmore Hotel, said leaders would soon be mobilizing to urge Latinos not to watch ABC or buy products advertised on ABC, to write letters to the station and to stage "embarrassing demonstrations" at the network's facilities and its local affiliates.
Although no date was given for the actions, leaders said the mobilization would begin very quickly.
Alex Nogales, chairman of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said: "We are willing to use our economic clout of $190 billion in spending power per year to ensure that we meet our goal of achieving equality in the media."