There was a time in the 20th century when media ownership was a priority among minority entrepreneurs. In the Hispanic market the attraction mainly focused on Spanish-language electronic media, particularly radio, and some of the early pioneers of Spanish-language media in the U.S. are still active in today's media markets.
With market activity now expanding to the Web, online media has become the new frontier for pursuing Hispanic media ownership. Minority media ownership remains nonetheless almost as inaccessible as it was during the l970s and '80s.
On the contrary, in recent years, ownership consolidation in the industry has increased. In the 21st century the Federal Communications Commission, which once was at the forefront of advocacy for minority media ownership, has not been supportive. Another complication is the attraction shown by foreign investors and media operators for the U.S. Hispanic consumer market.
Media companies from Latin America and Spain have demonstrated a keen awareness of the growth and potential of the U.S. Hispanic consumer market, especially the Spanish-speaking part of it. All the same, few U.S. Hispanic media entrepreneurs have subscribed to positions and public views shared by proponents of media minority-ownership in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Virtually no Hispanic leaders speak on behalf of Hispanic media ownership. Media ownership was perhaps the most elusive goal for all minority groups in the 20th century.
The Strengths Of Hispanic Ownership
Amador Bustos, a leading player in the arena of popular Hispanic radio, said Hispanic ownership helps open doors when trying to successfully reach an audience.
His company, Bustos Media, owns more than 30 radio stations strategically placed in many of the nation's leading Hispanic markets.
"It is important to have Latinos in the broadcasting game because the Hispanic owners will undoubtedly have a greater sensibility to the idiosyncrasies of the various Spanish-speaking groups," said Mr. Bustos, whose company has 60 employees and reported $12.9 million in 2007 revenue. "On the programming front, their understanding of the language, culture, and regional politics will contribute to shape the breadth and depth of the news and information coverage. On the employment front, historically Latino owners have been more prone to hire and promote other Latinos."
Hispanic entrepreneurs, Mr. Bustos recalls, were once at the forefront of Spanish-language media. It was their commitment to the community, as well as their capital and cultural knowledge, that drove development.
"Local promoters or entrepreneurs started buying blocks of time in other people's radio or TV stations," he said. "By the early 1970s, Spanish-language programming began to occupy 100 percent of the programming time and Latinos started to own many of those stations around the country."
Entry into the media market was facilitated by the relatively low cost of ownership and regulations limiting the number of stations any one firm could own. Starting in the 1990s, however, consolidation began.
Mr. Bustos explained, "Companies were allowed to own up to eight stations in any one market. We saw a rapid decrease in Hispanic ownership because many of the individual operators sold their stations at a premium (for the time) to the consolidators."
The dwindling number of Hispanic-owned companies forced a seismic shift in the landscape and has allowed entrepreneurs who remained in the market to use Hispanic ownership to their advantage.
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