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Telemundo Claims Rival Network Pressured 2 Singers

Television: Enrique Iglesias and Shakira cancel interviews for a new talk show. Univision is accused of threatening them with reprisals.

May 12, 1999|KEVIN BAXTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Telemundo talk-show host is crying foul after two of Latin America's top pop singers canceled long-standing commitments to appear on his program following alleged pressure from Univision, Telemundo's only national Spanish-language television rival.

Enrique Iglesias and Shakira were to have been guests on "El Show de Jaime Bayly," which begins airing on Telemundo this summer. But the day before the May 4 taping, representatives for both artists canceled, telling Bayly that an appearance on Telemundo could jeopardize future appearances on Univision.

"Shakira's manager for Latin America, Patricia Tellez, said Univision was warning them that if they came to my show, they were going to be punished," Bayly said.

Reached by telephone in Colombia, Tellez confirmed that report, saying Jorge A. Plasencia, director of marketing for Estefan Enterprises in Miami--which produces Shakira's music for Sony Discos and arranges her appearances outside Latin America--e-mailed her saying that Shakira wouldn't be able to do the Telemundo show. When Tellez protested, she said, Plasencia told her "if she did this show, Univision wouldn't do a series of programs [featuring Shakira] that were scheduled for this year," Tellez told The Times.

Executives for both Univision and Telemundo declined comment, as did Plasencia, but a spokesman for Estefan Enterprises blamed the cancellation on scheduling conflicts. "The reason that Shakira is not doing the [Bayly] show has nothing to do necessarily with the fact that Univision is telling us that if she does it she's boycotted from the network," said Frank Amadeo, noting that Shakira appears in Telemundo promos for Sunday's Billboard Latin Music Awards. Although Shakira attended, she did not perform as she did during last week's "Premio Lo Nuestro" awards special on Univision.

A Telemundo spokeswoman said Shakira was asked to sing but declined, even though her recording company, Sony, is also Telemundo's parent company.

Univision, the nation's fifth-largest broadcast network, draws more than nine times as many viewers as Telemundo, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Meanwhile, Iglesias' manager, Fernan Martinez, said Univision officials called him after learning Iglesias would be a guest on Bayly's show. Martinez said a Univision executive argued that the network has always supported Iglesias and that he didn't want "the other network [Telemundo] to come along and take advantage of that."

"This is nothing strange, nothing funny there," said Martinez, who added that Univision is planning "a big special" featuring his artist later this year.

"That means 40 points in the ratings compared with two or three with Telemundo. It's pure elemental math where you go."

Telemundo is exploring legal options but its attorneys have said it is too early to detail any civil action against Univision.

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