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PTC looks at content on Spanish stations

Univision and Telemundo, like their English counterparts, air too much sexual material, advocacy group says.

September 01, 2004|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

The Parents Television Council's first study of Spanish-language television has concluded that there is as much sexual content on Univision and Telemundo as on the six broadcast networks, but far less violence and profane language.

The nearly 10-year-old PTC, whose conservative profile has been raised considerably since Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunctioned at this year's Super Bowl, examined the amount of vulgar language, sexual material and violence in 99 shows over a three-week period last year.

"There's way too much sexual content on the English and Spanish networks, but for Spanish-speaking households there are no family-friendly alternatives," said Melissa Caldwell, PTC director of research and publications. "They can't switch to Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel."

The study takes particular issue with one of the oldest and most popular programs on Spanish television, Univision's "Sabado Gigante," and a 26-episode teen drama, "Los Teens," which aired last summer on Telemundo. PTC analyst Lucia Alzaga, who conducted the study, said in a statement: "The nature of the sexual content ... is extraordinarily degrading toward women and sets a horrible example for young girls." "Sabado Gigante," the highly popular variety game show hosted by Don Francisco, an icon in the Latin entertainment world, "is the raunchiest program" on Univision, according to the study.

Univision executives issued this statement on Monday: "At Univision, we endeavor to responsibly provide high quality news, entertainment and public interest programming to our viewers and to do so within all applicable laws and regulations." But Telemundo's vice president of programming, Mimi Belt, had more to say, especially about the award-winning "Los Teens," a drama about a Miami high school developed to create awareness among Latin adolescents and their parents about issues relating to teen sex and pregnancy, HIV, drugs and alcohol, suicide, obesity, homosexuality, racism and divorce. The PTC said the show "focuses on sex as if it were the one and only one dimension in the life of the adolescent," Belt said. The study does not mention the public service announcements that were part of each episode, designed to assist teens or parents in need of help, she added.

"What is surprising about this study is that we took a very responsible approach with this show," Belt said. "It was a message-driven show. We were not flippant about the dialogue or the situations. We work so hard to be responsible in all of our broadcasts but with this show we were very diligent about projecting these messages responsibly." Telemundo can take heart that at least someone got the message: L.A. Bishop Leonardo Marin Saavedra of the Holy Catholic Church of the Anglican Rite wrote the network a letter praising the show's "valuable lessons" for Latin families.

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