National cable news left Spanish-speakers in the dark on emergency hurricane safety information
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National cable news networks failed to carry the Spanish-language portions of emergency press conferences about storms held in Texas and Florida -- two states with some of the largest Hispanic populations in the country -- on at least two occasions in recent weeks. While English-language outlets cut away from the Spanish-language parts of press conferences on Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, national Spanish-language outlets neglected to air the press events at all, leaving Spanish-speaking viewers in the dark regarding vital emergency preparedness information.
During a September 7 press conference in which Florida Gov. Rick Scott was addressing the nation in preparation for Hurricane Irma, the two largest national Spanish-language news outlets, Univision and Telemundo, continued their regular programming rather than airing the news. Between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., when the conference was taking place, neither Univision’s Despierta América nor Telemundo’s Un Nuevo Día carried the press conference live. Contrary to the national networks, local Univision and Telemundo affiliates serving Miami and Fort Lauderdale (Univision 23 and Telemundo 51) both aired the press conference in-full and even provided Spanish translation when necessary.
At about 9:54 a.m., a reporter asked a question in Spanish about whether authorities would be checking immigration documents of individuals forced to evacuate or take refuge from the hurricane, to which one of the press conference speakers responded in Spanish, “They do not have to be thinking about that” because “none of the places that they will be going will be checking [immigration] documents.” After briefly airing part of the Spanish response provided by Florida authorities, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all cut away, continuing to show the conference in the background but with network anchors speaking over it.
Similarly, Univision’s and Telemundo’s national outlets declined to cut away from regular programming on August 28 to air a news conference about Hurricane Harvey, and in this case, none of the local affiliates available in media recording service iQ media appeared to air the press conference live either. Fox News and MSNBC again spoke over a Spanish-language portion of the press conference soon after a reporter asked a question about whether authorities would be able to accommodate non-English speakers needing rescue. CNN stayed on the Spanish-language portion of the press conference for about a minute and a half before also cutting away.
In these instances, while Spanish-language affiliates in Florida compensated for holes in coverage from national news outlets, Spanish-speaking viewers in Texas watching either national cable news or local Spanish-language news missed updates as they happened.