SíTV and the emergence of English-language Latino television networks
by Juan Pinon — New York University
November 15, 2007 – 04:01
English-speaking Latina/os have historically suffered a double marginalization by U.S. mainstream television and by the Spanish-language television networks. These entities have built structural barriers against Latina/os, denying access in terms of ownership, management, and the participation on the production of Latina/o representations within the screen. After 50 years of television, and more than 30 years after the civil rights and labor movements pushed Chicanos and Nuyoricans to the streets to fight for space within the television screen, there was still, in 2000, a blatant lack of representation of English-speaking Latina/os in TV. Besides the historical role of CPB/PBS in the visibility and containment of U.S. Latino film and television production, the field of Latino television is changing with the very recent emergence of English-language cable national networks, such as SíTV, LATV, Yo Voy, MTr3s, and Mun2. Among some of these cable networks, the case of SíTV is of particular relevance. SíTV is considered the very first English-language network conceived in targeting young, acculturated, second and third generation English-speaking Latinos with original programming that reached national network status by 2004. SíTV emerged when Jeff Valdez founded it in 1997 as an independent production company in Los Angeles, California with the purpose of growing into a network. By 2000, Nickelodeon was broadcasting The Brother García, a SíTV production. The emergence of SíTV signaled future movements from the Spanish-language networks tagging a bilingual population and the location of Los Angeles as a new televisual center for Latinidad in English, against the Miami Spanish-language television transnational corporate world. SíTV is not only a network that delivers programs for Latinos but one owned and produced by Latinos. Some of the programs aimed to cater the young U.S. Latinos are LatiNation, The Drop, The Rub, American Latino, Jammin, Dating Factory, Flow and Tell, and the news segments On the Up. I chose the video clip from the SíTV network The Rub (2004/2005) as a way to show the kind of challenges that the new English-language television is facing when it reproduced the very same stereotypes of assumption about Latina/os that have been around in media for so long. It is important to stress that the program The Rub (2004) was the first SíTV syndicated show for international audiences (2005). The show is hosted by Diego Varas (Chilean born), Kristina Guerrero, Kerri Kasem, and Sam Sarpong and described by the network as "featuring candid talk about anything and everything related to sex, love, and relationships." Even though the evident intention of a multicultural and multiracial cast and audience as a vehicle to portray Latina/o diversity, the blatant sexism and hetero-normative patriarchal position of the hosts pose a challenge to this nascent network. The producers of the program cut in the middle of demand of ratings and advertisers, are calling the attention of young audiences by exploiting the discussions of sex, love and relationships under an easy formula of "candidness" that make room for blatantly sexist positions. After a long history of struggles for a space within the television industry and the screen, English-language Latino networks have the challenge abandon the very formulas that Spanish-language television has used for decades, or to overcome the stereotypes that mainstream have constructed about them. Even though the emergence of SíTV and its programming has been a good sign as a window that represent U.S.
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