Despite some apparent concessions to its critics, Spanish-language station KVEA Channel 52 was threatened Thursday with an escalation of hostilities from a community coalition accusing the station and its parent Telemundo network of discriminating against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in its programming and senior management.
Members of the Mexican Coalition for the Improvement of Mass Media on Thursday expanded their attacks against KVEA, demanding that the station replace its six top managers with Mexicans or Mexican-Americans because of their alleged efforts to orchestrate the recent firing and forced resignation of the last high-ranking Mexican-Americans in KVEA senior management.
The coalition's members gave Telemundo one week to respond to its demands before taking further action, including a threatened lawsuit and a campaign to revoke KVEA's operating license granted by the Federal Communications Commission.
Veteran English-language TV newscaster Frank Cruz left his position as KVEA's vice president and general manager in February while Bob Navarro, another English-language veteran TV reporter, said he was fired last month because of differences with Cruz's replacement, KVEA's present general manager and vice president, Stephen Levin.
Ironically, the latest round of charges and countercharges by KVEA's critics were made inside a station studio provided by Donald G. Raider, Telemundo's chief operating officer, as an expression of good will following a more than three-hour meeting Wednesday with members of the newly formed coalition.
Nevertheless, Raider characterized the coalition's latest demands as "totally unreasonable," adding that "it would be a major disaster for the station and the employees themselves. Some of the managers are Hispanic-Americans who are very capable officers."
Still, Raider promised that Levin would make every effort to develop and promote Latino staffers, including persons of Mexican descent, to the general manager position as soon as possible. "But I would like for the coalition to realize the difficulty of finding qualified talent to fill those positions," he added.
Ruiz said the coalition was not being unreasonable. "We don't think that's such an illegitimate list of demands," he said. "They have caused the problems they now find themselves in." He also answered the allegations that the coalition was asking KVEA to discriminate against other Latinos with this question: "Why is it that no one is concerned that there are so few Mexicans represented in this station's management?"
Raider also promised that KVEA would soon invite Latino leaders and professionals to sit on a station advisory council as well as create a full-time community liaison position to act as the general manager's representative in community and government affairs. This position, Raider added, would most likely be filled by a person of Mexican descent.
But the coalition's leaders, though thankful for Raider's gestures, nevertheless insisted that Telemundo's Raider had not offered any concrete proposals to satisfy their concerns.
Except for KVEA's present news anchorman Alberto Aguilar, "There are no persons of Mexican descent in any policy-making positions," said Antonio Rodriguez, director of the Latino Community Justice Center. "This reflects a discriminatory attitude toward their audience whose majority is Mexican."
"With one possible exception, no Chicanos or Mexicans are employed as Telemundo network employees," said Ruiz. But he dismissed as irrelevant claims of a so-called "Cubanization" of Spanish-language TV. He said a careful look at Telemundo's corporate hierarchy and its parent corporations show that virtually all its directors are white males.