A coalition of minority organizations is calling for a boycott of the four major networks during the first two weeks of the TV season to protest "the continued invisibility of Latinos on television." The "brownout" of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC begins Sunday and continues through Sept. 25.
The National Council of La Raza, which is coordinating the boycott, counts just one Hispanic--Martin Sheen, on NBC's "The West Wing"--among the lead characters in the 38 new series premiering this fall.
At a news conference today, the group said it had teamed with other minority groups in a push to force the entertainment industry to address the issue. They formed a negotiating team made up of former California representatives Norman Minetta and Esteban Torres, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and the founder of American Indians in Film, Sonny Skyhawk.
While Hispanics constitute 11 percent of the U.S. population, they make up less than 2 percent of all characters on prime-time shows, according to Lisa Navarrete, a spokeswoman for La Raza. In addition to Sheen, the group counts three Hispanics on returning series: Bruno Campos on NBC ("Jesse") and, on CBS, Hector Elizondo ("Chicago Hope") and Cheech Marin ("Nash Bridges").
The results of the boycott will not be measured by ratings, Navarrete said. "If we can educate a large proportion of the community and others who are interested in this issue, then we've succeeded," she said.
Responding to the boycott plans, CBS said in a statement that it "remains committed to the idea that our programming, and indeed our organization, should reflect the diversity of our society. We agree that much progress in our industry remains to be made."
Said ABC: "We are making improvements and understand that we need to do more. This is an ongoing process and ABC is deeply committed to it." Fox declined to comment on the boycott, and NBC had no immediate comment.