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 four major 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’ organization is the most active of the 10 groups that comprise the National Latino Media Council.
The NLMC targeted CBS first among its broadcast peers because it viewed it as the having a poor track record in employing Latino actors, writers, directors, and producers. The group did a 10-year analysis of CBS’ statistics regarding Hispanics and determined that the network’s track record was worse this year than it was a decade ago. The NLMC also discovered that CBS’ numbers weren’t that much worse than ABC, NBC, or Fox — a harsh reality that has motivated the organization 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.
It took close to four months to arrange the CBS meeting, in part because Nogales and Saenz insisted that Moonves (CBS CEO) be a participant. The NLMC had assembled a 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.
When 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 coming season have doubled compared to last season.
CBS executives agreed to negotiate additional scripts from Latino creators and agreed to give more episodic directing assignments to Latinos. The commitment includes a higher volume of episodic directing assignments spread among a wider pool of directors. And Kahl agreed to hear additional program pitches from Latino writers and/or producers.
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 show runners,” Nogales said.
“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.
Fox is next focus of the NLMC effort. Efforts to schedule a meeting are in the works 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 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 says, one of the reasons is “laziness” and a tendency to stick with a small pool of the same 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, write to advertisers, and to do all of things that in the past we really haven’t done.” Whatever it takes.