National Latino Media Council Vows ‘Militant’ Action Toward Big Four Networks, Sets Diversity Pact With CBS

National Latino Media Council Vows 'Militant'
Courtesy of CBS

The National Latino Media Council is vowing to unleash a year of militant action in its quest to increase the representation of Latinos across the Big Four broadcast networks.

CBS Corp. has pledged to boost employment of Latino actors and creatives following an Aug. 17 meeting in Los Angeles. The gathering at CBS’ West Coast headquarters in Studio City included chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS’ newly appointed entertainment president Kelly Kahl; Thomas Saenz, chair of the NLMC; and Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Nogales’ org is the most active of the 10 groups that comprise the NLMC.

The NLMC targeted CBS first among its broadcast peers because of what it viewed as the Eye’s poor track record in employing Latino actors, writers, directors, and producers. The group did a 10-year analysis of CBS’ statistics regarding Latinos and determined that the network’s track record was worse in the 2016-17 season than it was a decade ago. The group also discovered that CBS’ numbers weren’t that much worse than ABC, NBC, or Fox — a harsh reality that has spurred NLMC to take a more aggressive stance in demanding measurable diversity commitments from TV networks, film studios and talent agencies.

“All of us are part of a bigger multi-ethnic coalition, and we have decided that this is the year we’re going to have to get very, very militant,” Nogales told Variety.

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It took nearly three months to arrange the CBS meeting, in part because Nogales and Saenz insisted that Moonves be a participant. The NLMC had assembled a 30-person strike force that was prepared to mount demonstrations outside CBS facilities, as well as a pressure campaign with CBS’ advertisers and social media efforts to embarrass the network.

But as the veteran advocates sat down with the CBS team, they were “disarmed,” as Nogales put it. CBS presented them with stats showing that the number of Latino actors and writers on the network’s shows for the 2017-18 season have doubled compared to last season.

The Eye executives agreed to order additional scripts from Latino creators and agreed to give more episodic directing assignments to Latino helmers. The commitment includes a higher volume of episodic directing assignments spread among a wider pool of directors. And Kahl agreed to hear 10 additional program pitches from Latino writers and/or producers.

“We were very impressed with what they’ve done in just the past three months,” Nogales said. “It just shows that when people really want to do something, they do it. They stop with the BS and they do it. As we were walking out, Thomas and I looked at each other and said ‘If we’d known it was going to be that easy, we’d have asked for twice as much.'”

The groups are putting major emphasis on commitments to hire writers and directors because they are the source of stories that in many cases will organically lead to opportunities for actors of color. “Writers are paramount because they are the future showrunners,” Nogales said.

Fox is the next focus of the NLMC effort. Efforts to schedule a meeting are in progress, Nogales said. He said the toughest nut to crack has been the talent agencies, undoubtedly, because they are not as vulnerable to public pressure as a high-profile TV network.

“Now is the time for all networks and other media outlets to address this longstanding issue of significant Latino under-representation, for the outlets’ own future prosperity as much as anything. CBS has now taken strides to address this issue and others should follow the CBS example,” Saenz said.

Nogales has been down this road before. He was a leader of the landmark 1999 effort that led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding on diversity by each of the Big Four networks with a multi-ethnic coalition that included the NAACP and the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition. But nearly 20 years later, the statistics indicate that representation is still lacking, particularly for Latinos.

Nogales chalks it up to “laziness” and a tendency to stick with a relatively small pool of well-tested creative talent. That mentality makes it hard for newcomers to get a foot in the door.

“They all want to do the same thing over and over again,” Nogales said. “They’re more comfortable that way. We are prepared to demonstrate, to write to advertisers, and to do all of things that in the past we really haven’t done.”

(Pictured: The CBS medical drama “Code Black” offers one of the network’s most diverse ensembles) 

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  1. Irwin "Nugent, Ted Nugent" Fletcher says:

    There are 500 spanish language television channels on my basic cable package. Which is one of the reasons why we need “a la carte” or Pick and Pay cable where you pay for what channels you want.

  2. Billy says:

    So the lack of representation of minorities in mainstream media isn’t a big issue to work on? Of course its not as major as the political climate but it does play a big part in these group of people who aren’t represented and its a chain reaction in influencing people in feeling that they live in a country that doesn’t properly give them a voice because this system is run by a larger majority who aren’t of a minority group and they hold the power in depicting and choosing what gets shown. If there was a balance in the higher ups based on race and sex you best believe that you would see more tv shows and movies featuring diversity. The industry of actors, writers or Hollywood in general is not as organic as let say a job at an office, the statistics don’t lie and you cannot work if they aren’t writing roles for certain ages, sex and races. Its sad that this even still exist in this day and more proof is actors changing their names and hiding their heritage from the public for the reason of getting roles.

  3. Why does every minority group have to complain about representation in the media or in jobs? In the vast majority of situations, nobody is being discriminated against, there just happens to be a certain number of people from each group in a chosen role or position. With jobs, it’s a far more organic situation related to how many happen to be in a given career field. But on screen, you really can’t promise to give equal representation to every single minority or group. It’s just not possible. So unless someone is actually being discriminated against, stop complaining about representation and let’s focus on very real issues! As we have a lot of them right now, especially around race.

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