Nets unite on Pope coverage

With at least five cardinals from Latin America in the running for the highest seat in the Catholic Church, U.S. Hispanic nets Univision and Telemundo as well as smaller local nets planned blanket coverage of Pope John Paul II’s funeral today.

Market leader Univision sent co-lead news anchor Maria Elena Salinas to report live from the city starting at 4 a.m. EST.

Fernando del Rincon, anchor of news program “Primer Impacto,” was set to report from Rome while Latina self-help guru and field correspondent Maria Antonieta Collins reported out of Miami.

Univision planned to include commentary from a priest and religious experts who explained the protocol for the event.

Telemundo’s national nightly news anchor Pedro Sevcec anchored from Rome, where he has been for the last week. Telemundo also plans to anchor from Rome to cover the papal conclave and the new pope.

“Most of our audience has never been through a papal change,” said Joe Peyronnin, EVP, Telemundo News, noting that the events are arguably of greater importance to U.S. Hispanics, most of who are of the Catholic faith. “This is a local story for our audience since they are predominantly Catholic. We’re not doing this for ratings, we’re serving our audience,” Peyronnin added.

He noted that Telemundo has had a record number of Internet messages and phone calls in support of the coverage.

For the papal conclave, he said Telemundo will have reporters standing by to get local reaction in key Latin American countries, especially in the event the cardinal who is elected comes from the region

Meanwhile, Spanish-lingo broadcasters Bela Broadcasting, Caballero Television and WDLP have joined forces, creating the Independent Spanish Network (ISN) that broadcast the papal burial ceremonies on their stations in a bid to keep their auds away from Univision and Telemundo.

The live special broadcast this morning went out to the three’s combined 26 indie U.S. Spanish-language stations, located in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona.

The stations reach 55% of U.S. Hispanic homes.

ISN stations plan to work together again in the future for special broadcast events.

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