News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Controversy as a profit center

CBS-owned TV stations in over a dozen U.S. cities jettisoned more than 160 employees last week. The reason? The expected windfall of ad spending from the primary election campaigns turned out to be less than expected. Adding to the woes of broadcast TV, more people are turning to the internet for news. Local news, traditionally the biggest profit center at affiliate stations is beginning to lose its Midas touch.

So what will broadcast TV do to survive? If the decline in viewership continues, we can expect the current climate of Chicken Little reporting from broadcast news sources to escalate. Local TV news editors already give apocalyptical coverage to every murder, thunderstorm, snowfall, auto accident, and fire. As broadcast TV become more desperate for ad revenues, this climate of ultra-hyped news will only get worse. And that will have a profound impact on U.S. society.

Already, the Los Angeles media is reporting violence between rival Black and Latino gangs as a “race war.” (The fact that “Latino” is not really a race is another media shortcoming.) These stories continue to appear despite assurances from the LAPD that Latino gangs and Black gangs battle their own kind much more frequently than they fight each other. The motives for these clashes are not racial. They are fighting territory in which to market drugs, prostitutes and exhort local businesses.

In my novel, AMERICA LIBRE, an isolated incident hyped by a desperate national broadcast media during a slow news cycle becomes the catalyst for a Hispanic insurrection in the United States. It worries me when my fiction appears prophetic.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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