New billboards advertising a Spanish-language newscast on KRCA-TV Channel 62 were intended as an attention-grabber for its core audience, but instead have struck a nerve with activists seeking to curb illegal immigration.
The billboards show two cable newscasters sitting in front of the downtown skyline, with “Los Angeles, CA” printed above. The “CA” is crossed out, and “Mexico” is stamped alongside in bright red letters. Underneath are the Spanish words, “Tu ciudad. Tu equipo.” -- Your city. Your team.
“This is almost a poster-board for illegal immigration,” said Peter Amundson, a volunteer with the California Republican Assembly. “This is America. We’re a land of immigrants -- legal immigrants. This is not Mexico. This is the United States.”
Amundson, who first saw one of the billboards last week near Irwindale, said that crossing out California and replacing it with Mexico was “a slap in the face to Californians and a pretty blatant one.”
Members of Americans for Legal Immigration, a political action committee that targets illegal immigration, called the ads offensive. The group posted a photo of a billboard on its website, prompting angry comments.
“I think it’s irresponsible corporate citizenship to be promoting that type of message,” said Daryl Jurbala, communications director for the group. “I don’t think it’s responsible for anyone to encourage or reward or try to make illegal immigrants feel welcome.”
The station’s owners said the billboards were not intended to provoke controversy but were simply a way to reach out to the region’s Spanish-language viewers and tell them there was a place where they could get news and information relevant to their lives.
“All we are saying is, ‘It’s your city, your town, your team,’ ” said Andrew Mars, vice president for sales for Liberman Broadcasting. “We are a team that’s educating and informing the Spanish-language marketplace.”
Executive Vice President Lenard Liberman said Noticias 62 was a popular news program in Los Angeles and noted that people of Mexican descent made up a large portion of the city.
“We tell the story behind L.A.., and we tell the story behind Mexico,” he said. “If they find that offensive, I’m sorry. But you just have to drive around L.A. to know that this is a Hispanic city.”
Burbank-based Liberman Broadcasting owns 16 Spanish-language radio stations and four television stations around the nation. The company leased the billboard space from Clear Channel Communications, which began putting up the ads last week. There are roughly 75 posters with the same message going up around the region, said Tony Alwin, a senior vice president for Clear Channel.
On Tuesday, Clear Channel and Channel 62 received several complaints and inquiries about the advertisements, officials said.
Clear Channel can decide not to post an ad if it is perceived as derogatory, said Tony Alwin, a senior vice president.
Stuart Fischoff, who teaches media psychology at Cal State L.A., said the billboard was like “sticking a finger in your eye” to immigration reformers. “The joke here is, ‘We’re taking back California,’ ” Fischoff said. “Underneath the joke is part of the truth.”