The Washington area's first Spanish language television channel will go on the air Sunday morning. Latin American, Spanish, and American-produced programs will be broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, network officials announced yesterday.
The experimental offering, which will not include any locally produced programming for the foreseeable future, will air on Channel 56, said Rene Anselmo, president of The National Spanish Television Network.
Anselmo said that the broadcasts will provide the estimated 150,000 Hispanics in the Washington area with news, variety shows, in-depth programs on issues, as well as movies and other drama offerings.
"We're very happy about being in Washington," said Anselmo, "which for us is not one of the major Spanish-speaking markets." He characterized the broadcasts here as "symbolic" because of Washington's importance in the world and the hemisphere.
The broadcasts will be beamed by satellite to Washington and then transmitted from a radio tower at American University. The signal should be strong enough to be received by television sets within approximately a 20-to-25 mile radius, he said.
Anselmo, who said the network now has 51 outlets around the country, called the local transmission experimental because the Federal Communications Commission is studying the concept of allowing broadcast companies located elsewhere to broadcast in areas that might not otherwise receive such specialized programming.
Denver is the only other city where a similar method is being used, he said. Anselmo also said that he expected the FCC to rule on the practicality of the idea within the next year.
The network is based in New York, and is the first and only broadcast network in the country that provides entirely Spanish language programming, he said.
In an effort to give the Washington broadcast operation a local base, Anselmo said that six Washington area Hispanics have agreed to serve as officers and directors of Channel 56. He said that an office is being established in Washington.
"I basically welcome the idea of having 24-hour Spanish language broadcasts," said Silvario Coy, a Latin community activist here and chairman of a group that has been pushing for more air time for Latin programming on local television stations.
"However, my concern is the lack of access to programming and lack of opportunity to participate in the selection of programming.