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Protesters Demand Spanish-TV Station Resume

February 20, 1992|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — More than 120 protesters marched on the Glendale City Council Tuesday, demanding that the popular Spanish-language television station KMEX be reinstated on the local cable system.

Demonstrators accused the city of being divisive and un-American. Officials had urged the Sammons Communications cable system earlier this year to add KVEA, a Glendale station that has broadcast in Spanish since 1980, to the system's programs. Sammons responded by replacing KMEX, the oldest and highest-rated Spanish-language station in the Los Angeles area, with KVEA on Feb. 1.

Council members Tuesday told protesters that city officials had wanted Sammons to add the local station to the network as a second Spanish-language channel.

Mayor Ginger Bremberg said the request was made during negotiations with Sammons on renewal of its franchise. She said the city has little control over the cable company, which also serves Burbank, La Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta.

Shirley Orr, general manager of Sammons, said Wednesday that city officials were told that the 40-channel network does not have room for two Spanish-language stations. She said the cable company is negotiating with Glendale and Burbank to expand the number of channels offered when the franchise next comes up for renewal in April, 1994.

Orr said cities can control the number of channels offered to subscribers, but they have no control over programming. "We listen to them to learn what they would like, but programming is done strictly by the cable company," Orr said.

She said Sammons, which serves 67,000 households, has received about 60 letters of protest over the switch in Spanish-language programming.

Officials at KMEX, a Hollywood-based station that has been broadcasting in Spanish since 1962, charged that the switch shows a callous attitude toward Latino television viewers. "It was a political decision that was unilateral without consulting the community," said Michael Martinez, KMEX general manager, who estimates that 60,000 Latino families live within Sammons' franchise area.

After almost an hour of protests, several council members said they will again urge Sammons to expand its Spanish-language programming. But Councilman Carl Raggio also urged the demonstrators "to exert the same kind of energy on Sammons."

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