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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Demanding more From Spanish Radio -- And Other Stuff

27

July

Should Spanish-language radio be held to the same content standards as the English stuff?

That's the question raised by my piece Wednesday about La Nueva, Tampa's first Spanish-language radio station, and it's conflict with a listener over anti-gay statements.

Birgit Van Hout, executive director of Community Tampa Bay, says she heard a caller express hatred for gays, followed by the host saying "let's exterminate them all" and the sound of a machine gun going off. Station officials say she misheard: the bit, in which people call in to express their hatred for someone or something that is then put against el paredon (the wall facing a firing squad), featured a guy calling in to diss a friend.

But they also admit using the word maricon in broadcasts -- the equivalent of the three-letter f-word to describe gay people -- and other Hispanic listeners have told me the hyper-macho dialogue, willingness to diss other Hispanic groups and general crudity keeps them from listening to the morning show.

The station's program director first offered to send me an audio clip of the exchange, but his corporate masters nixed the idea in their ultimate wisdom (I'm always intrigued by the ways in which corporate executives make news stories much worse by shutting down dialogue). I got the feeling that, because their show isn't nearly as raunchy as programs in Miami and New York, the folks at La Nueva are having trouble understanding what all the fuss is about.

FCC-wise, Spanish stations get content-based fines mostly for the pranks they play. An Orlando station got fined for announcing a call-in contest with a $1,000 prize and then giving out the phone number of its competitor. And a Miami station bluffed its way through Cuban officials to get Fidel Castro on the phone, by pretending to represent Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (it's illegal to broadcast someone without their knowledge, even a ruthless Latin American dictator).

But proponents say that's just the culture of Latin America coming out over the radio -- macho, highly sexual and in-your-face crude. What do you think?

Fox News and TV Critics: A Dysfunctional Relationship

I like Glenn Garvin, the Miami Herald's award-winning TV critic -- even though he took a job I turned down many years ago. But just as I lean left in my critical analyses -- and have admitted so many times in print -- Glenn is a conservative dude who doesn't hide his love for Fox News and suspicion of his colleagues' liberal leanings.

So it was no surprise to me that he would write a tartly appreciative piece on Fox News chief Roger Ailes' appearance at the TV Critics Press tour in California a few days ago, led by the observation that 2/3rds of the 150 critics there walked out on his presentation.

Frankly, I found that surprising. Even if they don't like Fox News so much, critics there are generally starved for real news, and Ailes makes that happen every time he opens his mouth. I've taken on Fox News and its approach as much as anyone, and I would have been there with bells on. My suspicions were confimed by a note from Oregonian critic Peter Ames Carlin, who said Garvin was mistaken and many critics attended the session.

Regardless, the spat reminded me of Fox News' odd relationship with the press, often occasioned by its bare-knuckle public relations style. I still remember the first press tour presentation by Fox I attended, in which Bill O'Reilly  cowed a roomful of critics with a liberal bias shtick that hadn't yet become shopworn. Back then, Fox's style was to alternate carrot and stick like an abusive spouse -- calling critics at regional papers like me whenever we mentioned Fox (they noticed us!) but never hesitating to give us a hard time if we criticized them or -- and this really snarks them off -- complimented CNN.

Most TV outlets' public relations people accept that pro critics will write some stories they don't like, and maintain the relationship anyway. Not Fox. For them, every story counts, and the worst sins are to ignore them or compliment a competitor.

That's why it was especially funny to see Ailes complaining about rival Keith Olbermann throwing a Nazi salute while wearing an O'Reilly mask. As AP noted, Fox News flacks hardly mince words when speaking about their competition -- though they often wish them well. To wit.

On Olbermann: "We hope he enjoys his paranoid view from the bottom of the ratings ladder" and "A train wreck waiting to happen."

On CNN founder Ted Turner: "Ted is understandably bitter, having lost his ratings, his network and now his mind."

On Goerge Clooney: "It's obvious he needs publicity, considering his recent string of failures."

True enough, I've been on the receiving end of many a harangue by the Fox News pr people, and I'll admit my last conversation with one of them ended with a slammed-down telephone. But I think their gloves-off style has begun to finally wear on some critics, who refuse to be intimidated or insulted while trying to do their jobs.

I'm sure they'll be calling soon to wish me well writing for the occupants of God's waiting room.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]

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