Hispanics constitute the largest minority in the United States, have growing purchasing power and are able to determine elections but they continue to be invisible on the Sunday news talk shows, according to a report by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.
The Art of Politics Impact Project report, released on Tuesday evening, suggests that the English-language media have not kept up with the country’s demographic changes.
There are 50.5 million Hispanics in the United States, or a little over 16 percent of the country’s population, but their absence is particularly notable on the Sunday talk shows.
“These programs are a forum that establishes the tone and the agenda of the national dialogue. The communications media help to mold public opinion and Hispanics are not there to contribute to that dialogue,” Gretchen Sierra-Zorita, the director of the NHFA’s cultural diversity project in the media, told Efe on Wednesday.
According to the report, between March and November 2011, only 12 – or 2 percent – of the 380 invited guests and commentators on Sunday programs for ABC, CBS, Fox News and NBC were of Hispanic origin.
The 2010 Census figures testify to the Hispanic increase in the United States and, in fact, their growing political power was a decisive factor in the 2010 legislative elections, even moreso than the Tea Party, the NHFA said.
Their political weight has been noted in the 2012 election season, with calculations being that the Hispanic vote could be the determining factor in 15 swing states.
The NHFA says that little has changed in the last 40 years in the demographics of the political pundits who populate the Sunday TV talk programs: “(T)he hosts, guests, journalists and commentators are primarily male and white.”
“Women and people of color are underrepresented and there is a glaring absence of Hispanic contributors,” the report says.
According to Sierra-Zorita, the executives of the programs have been “receptive” to the report’s observations and have made commitments to take measures to remedy the situation.
“During the study, we met with the executives of the programs and other members of the personnel, and the reception was positive. They’re interested in increasing the representation, expanding the audience and maintaining an ongoing dialogue,” she said.
“The first step was to do the study and now we have the numbers; the next step is to analyze the measures and we still haven’t done that,” she added.
The NHFA study, which is part of a multifaceted project begun in 2010 to ensure the inclusion of Latinos in the national dialogue, was supported by the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and other Latino organizations.