New report finds lack of Latino representation in U.S. media is bad for business
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
About 30% of the New York City Police Department are U.S. Latinos, but "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" on NBC has only one Latino co-lead.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Folks, this is detective second grade Nick Amaro. He just transferred in - two years under in narcotics warrants. He took down the MS-13 case.
SIMON: According to a case study that's in a new report by the Latino Donor Collaborative, Latinos are notably underrepresented in U.S. mainstream media, and that is ultimately bad for business. Ana Valdez is the president and CEO of the Latino Donor Collaborative, and she joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.
ANA VALDEZ: Thanks so much for having me, Scott.
SIMON: What were your main findings?
VALDEZ: You know, we found that this underrepresentation that you mention is dramatic, and unfortunately, it has been prevalent for the last five years. In this big effort for diversity, the Latino community has still lagged behind. First of all, we're extremely excited that other minority communities are getting representation. That is the way it should be. It should have been from the beginning. We are just concerned that the Latino community is not being able to catch up. Quite frankly, it is not a good business to ignore the audience and the clients and the customers.
SIMON: Do you have any idea how that's happened because, as you say, it would seem to be just a good business practice?
VALDEZ: You know, people are comfortable. Business seems to be surviving, because, as you know, media is in a very disrupted era, and we Latinos, quite frankly, are not very loud. We don't bring up this fact very often. We are very focused on economic and the wealth creation side, but we are not very outspoken. And so that's why we're bringing this benchmark to everybody that is in the content business so that they see the business they're missing, and also, quite frankly, so we can see how every one of those studios and companies are putting an effort in the next months, in the next years, to move that needle up.
SIMON: I haven't seen "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" all the way through in years. I am a passionate fan of the original "Law & Order" and even see it in reruns, and I remember, well, the golden age, Benjamin Bratt playing a detective who happened to be Latino. His partner was Jerry Orbach, who happened to be Irish and Jewish, and of course, their lieutenant, played by S. Epatha Merkerson. And I remember thinking at the time, wow, this is, like - you know, you could run for city council with a ticket like that, because there's such perfect representation. But that's changed?
VALDEZ: That's changed. And you know what, Scott? There have been people making the effort here and there, content creators that at the beginning had the right idea, exactly as you say, to represent the constituency, right? Unfortunately, and specifically with this "Law & Order" kind of spin, this specific new officer, if you may, starts in the show as a not very legitimate, not very liked character, as a negative role model. So why would somebody choose to just make Latinos criminals or horrible victims of violence? There is no reason. There is no valid argument. As we say in the report, Latino talent and Latino stories actually travel amazingly well.
SIMON: I mean, I think, for example, of a fine actor like Andy Garcia.
VALDEZ: Absolutely. But how about - you know what's very interesting? How about his latest movie, which is "Father Of The Bride"?
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FATHER OF THE BRIDE")
ADRIA ARJONA: (As Sofia Herrera) I have something to say. I'm engaged.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Congratulations, (inaudible).
ARJONA: (As Sofia Herrera) And I proposed.
RUBEN RABASA: (As Tio Walter) You proposed?
ANDY GARCIA: (As Billy Herrera) Hold on. You proposed?
ARJONA: (As Sofia Herrera) Yes.
GARCIA: (As Billy Herrera) You proposed to him. He didn't propose to you. Can you do that? Does anyone do that?
VALDEZ: So you have a Cuban family playing amazing roles, and so the content works.
SIMON: What are you calling on producers to do, and is there a time frame - like, a year from now or something? Yeah.
VALDEZ: First of all, to use this benchmark to start measuring themselves, to use it to measure their content creators, quite frankly, their producers, their - the people that have deals with them, I believe that - and we all believe that this minimum benchmark will help the CEOs to make more money. It'll help the shareholders to make more money, and it'll bring audiences back that have moved on to, you know, places like TikTok and YouTube and Instagram and other places where they actually see themselves represented. And then we're also providing another tool, a database for Latino talent for Hollywood, and why? We are not looking to be cast - you know, casting agencies. We're not looking to be agents. What we're looking to be is providers of free information of more than 3,500 talented Latinos that have worked in the industry and that are ready to go because, Scott, one of the biggest excuses is that there is no talent, and that's why they're not hiring. Well, this database of 3,500 names will actually combat that excuse.
SIMON: Ana Valdez is the president and CEO of the Latino Donor Collaborative. Thanks so much for being with us.
VALDEZ: Thank you, Scott, for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.