The commitment to air local news by affiliates of Fox's new Hispanic-targeted broadcast network is creating 48 new TV news departments at stations across the United States. "They all committed to having local news; it's just a matter of time," says MundoFox SVP of News Jorge Mettey. "If they want to be successful, they have to have local news."
MundoFox Triggers Explosion In Local News
The 50 TV stations that have signed on to be MundoFox affiliates will broadcast local news, many by the end of this year — a move that will hugely expand the number of news-producing stations nationwide.
“They all committed to having local news; it’s just a matter of time,” says Jorge Mettey, SVP of News for the Spanish-language network, a joint venture of News Corp. and Colombian programming giant RCN.
News will help the network and the affiliates reach their targeted audience — young, bilingual Hispanics, he says. “If they want to be successful, they have to have local news.”
Announced last January, the network is set for a soft launch tomorrow and an official launch on Aug. 13.
The creation of 48 new TV news departments (the MundoFox affiliates in Los Angeles and Miami already air local news) will be a boon to local news, which has lost 26 TV newsrooms over the last decade.
There are currently 725 TV newsrooms that, because of duopolies and other news sharing agreements, produce news for 967 stations, according to the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University annual study.
The fact that the bumper crop of new newsrooms will be geared toward Hispanics — and broadcasting in Spanish — reflects a larger growth in the number of TV newscasts trying to capture Latino viewers, says Bob Papper, the Hofstra journalism professor who oversees the study.
“There’s no question that many of the stations that have been creating news departments over the last five years or so have been Hispanic,” he says.
“And while critics frequently talk about the news race between Station A and Station B, in a lot of markets the real news leader in audience is Station H, a Hispanic station,” he adds.
The two affiliates that already have news departments — Meruelo Group’s KWHY Los Angeles (DMA 2) and America CV-owned WJAN Miami-Fort Lauderdale (DMA 16) — will debut their local newscasts right off the bat when MundoFox officially launches on Aug. 13, Mettey says.
There is no firm deadline by which the other 48 affiliates have to have their news operations up and running.
Mettey says he would like it to be “no more than a year to have them all on board,” although a plan of this scope could take longer.
In the meantime, affiliates without full-fledged newscasts are expected to generate two-minute local news inserts that will run during the network’s nightly national newscasts, Mettey says.
“We want to enable the affiliates to see the huge value of having local newscasts,” he says. “As long as TV stations are able to really make emotional local connections, they will be successful in their markets.”
While the creation of the affiliate news departments is being handled at the local level, MundoFox has established some parameters for them.
For instance, stations are expected to have late afternoon news leading into MundoFox’s nightly 6 p.m. national newscast, which debuts Aug.13, Mettey says.
The affiliates’ newscasts also will be in keeping with the tenor and approach of MundoFox’s network news, which Mettey says is “going to have very different content and have a very different way of approaching the news.”
That newscast, anchored by KWHY Los Angeles anchor Rolando Nichols (who will continue to host the affiliate’s newscast as well), will originate from Los Angeles, and tap the resources of a bureau in Washington and RCN’s international news team for content.
Mettey has built a 33-person news team nearly from scratch over the last three months, hiring individuals ranging from Nichols, a seasoned broadcast journalist, to a Washington correspondent best known as a print and digital reporter.
The network will produce two live, half-hour newscasts a night — one for the East Coast, one for the West.
In keeping with MundoFox’s larger goal of reaching bilingual Latinos viewers that, at 18-34, are younger than those being courted by existing Hispanic networks, the newscasts will reflect the network’s philosophy of speaking to Latinos who consider themselves American yet remain culturally connected to their heritage, Mettey says.
That tenet will influence which stories the network and its affiliates cover — and how they cover them, he says. Stories that touch the themes of finances and education, both areas that positively serve today’s upwardly mobile Latinos, will be given priority, he says. Those stories are just as likely to be rooted in the U.S. as they are overseas, he says.
In addition, the news team will weigh how much time each individual story deserves rather than follow a formula that includes time constraints.
“I am not afraid of not having the stories that everybody does,” Mettey says, adding that he is also “not afraid” of giving more — or less — time to particular stories that warrant it.
In addition, Mettey says he will not overemphasize the network’s commitment to broadcasting in Spanish by putting subtitles on, say, a news clip featuring President Obama.
“This is going to be in Spanish but very respectful of who Latinos in the U.S. are,” he says. “We are proud to be Latinos obviously but we are also proud to be Americans.”
In doing so, MundoFox could potentially draw viewers away from English-language broadcasters as well as Spanish ones because they will be wooing some of the same audience, industry watchers say.
A study released in April by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that among all Hispanics, more watch English-language television than Spanish-language programming. By the second generation, 69% say they watch television in English, 17% say they watch English and Spanish-language television equally and 12% say they watch TV primarily in Spanish.
“No doubt the competition increases,” says Al Tompkins, the Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcast.
But the network could have a tough road ahead, especially going up against established Spanish-language networks, he says. In May, for example, Univision reported a 7% increase in primetime ratings.
“Univision is so strong in so many metro markets that it will be very hard to cause a quick dent,” he says.
Still, Tompkins says he considers MundoFox’s approach to news “smart, because it is looking beyond first-generation immigrants to second and third generation.”
“They may be less likely to care as much about news from outside of the U.S. as their first generation parents.”
Ed Esposito, a former RTDNA chairman, agrees, saying that MundoFox’s plans are in keeping with broadcasters’ long history of using a national network to launch local news.
“They ought to be applauded, and it’s good to see more robust thinking of news service for wider and diverse audiences,” he says. “I’m in favor of any broadcast group … or online or print or whatever, for that matter … using their platforms to serve their communities with news and information.”
Read other Air Check columns here.