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MEDIA

A family drama in Spanish television

Telemundo elevates Michael Rodriguez in wake of Salinas scandal. His brother leads rival.

August 16, 2007|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

In a plot twist worthy of the most gripping telenovela, two brothers are battling for real-life television glory.

NBC Universal on Wednesday cast a new leading man to run Telemundo's KVEA-TV Channel 52 in Los Angeles, the Spanish-language station that has been rocked by scandal in the wake of revelations of an affair between one of its news anchors and the mayor of Los Angeles.

Michael Rodriguez, 40, started Wednesday as interim general manager of KVEA, replacing an executive who lost his job this month as a result of the station's ethical lapses in its coverage of the mayor.

But cue up the sinister-sounding music that is a staple of Spanish-language soap operas. His older brother is none other than Ray Rodriguez, the powerful president and chief operating officer of Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications Inc. -- the arch-enemy of the smaller Telemundo operation.

Telemundo declined to make Michael Rodriguez available for an interview, saying he was too new to the job. However, in an interview with the Miami Herald newspaper five years ago, when he was tapped to run Telemundo's TV station in South Florida, Michael Rodriguez said he had long looked up to Ray, who is 16 years older than he is.

"Ray used to hold my hand when I got scared at night," Michael said. "I was always attracted to the entertainment field, so when he went into it, I said, 'Why can't I?' Now when he does great, I'm happy, and when I do good, he's happy."

These days, Michael might not be so quick to cheer Univision's successes. In the ratings, Univision's prime-time telenovelas trounce those that play on Telemundo.

And in Los Angeles, Univision's KMEX-TV Channel 34 is so dominant that its local news programs typically trump the ratings of those that air on KVEA and the English-language stations, including NBC's KNBC-TV Channel 4.

What's more, Telemundo's KVEA is also still grappling with the scandal involving newscaster Mirthala Salinas' romantic relationship with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. It was 35-year-old Salinas who sat in the anchor chair in June and reported that Villaraigosa's 20-year marriage was falling apart, yet she did not disclose to viewers that she was dating the mayor.

Telemundo's top management later deemed her actions a "flagrant violation" of the company's ethics guidelines.

Early this month, Salinas was suspended from her job for two months without pay, the same punishment handed out to KVEA's news director, Al Corral. In addition, Manuel Abud was relieved of his duties as KVEA's general manager. Abud is expected to be reassigned to a new position within Telemundo.

Univision's Ray Rodriguez was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached. Ray, who was born in Cuba, has been with Univision for 17 years. He previously served as business manager for singer Julio Iglesias.

Michael Rodriguez was born in Miami. Just in case there weren't enough television personalities in the family, Michael is married to Maggie Rodriguez, who in June joined CBS News as an anchor of the "Saturday Early Show."

--

meg.james@latimes.com

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