August 23, 2002

UCLA Study Shows Spanish-Language Broadcasters in Los Angeles Receive Less Money, Benefits Than English-Language Counterparts

Los Angeles Spanish-language television broadcasters on average earn 70 percent less than those at English-language stations, according to a new policy brief released by UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. The brief, based on a study undertaken by UCLA’s Center for the Study of Urban Poverty, also revealed that Spanish-language broadcasters receive less comprehensive health and retirement benefits than their English-language counterparts.

The median salary for on-air talent at English-speaking stations in Los Angeles is about $200,000 for television broadcasters and $90,000 for radio broadcasters, according to “Spanish-Language Broadcasters: Top Ratings, Second-Class Status.” The median income for Spanish-language television broadcasters is $60,000 and $41,000 for radio broadcasters, according to the study.

“Despite the phenomenal growth of the Spanish-speaking broadcasting industry in Los Angeles, the public faces of Telemundo and Univision remain underpaid, overworked and unappreciated relative to their English-speaking counterparts,” said Abel Valenzuela Jr., director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Urban Poverty and a professor in the Cesar E. Chavez Center for Chicana/o Studies and the School of Public Policy and Social Research. “Compared to their English-language counterparts, Spanish broadcasters earn significantly less, have fewer benefits and experience uneven working conditions.”

In 2000, more than $1.7 billion was spent on Spanish-language television and radio advertising in Los Angeles, Valenzuela said.

The study is based on a survey of Spanish-language on-air broadcasters conducted in spring 2001. The results are based on the responses of 114 Spanish-language on-air broadcasters and on 14 in-depth interviews with broadcasters in that industry. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists provided information about the English-language media market in Los Angeles and funded the study. The Center for the Study of Urban Poverty conducted the study.

Researchers also found that the median income of a unionized Spanish-language broadcaster in the Los Angeles metropolitan area was $80,000, almost double that of a non-unionized Spanish-language broadcaster, or $43,846. Although unionized salaries are higher than non-unionized salaries in the Spanish-language broadcasting industry in Los Angeles, the higher salaries are low when compared with English-language broadcasters’ median salaries in Los Angeles ($200,000 for television and $90,000 for radio). Researchers said among the nearly two dozen major radio and television stations, two Spanish-language broadcast media companies in Los Angeles are unionized — KMEX-TV and Metro Network. All of the English-language television stations in Los Angeles are unionized, according to the study.

Eighty-six percent of the respondents in the survey also expressed dissatisfaction with employment conditions, according to the study.

“Non-standardized hiring practices, the lack of job security, low pay and limited health benefits all contribute to the interviewees’ discontent,” the study said.

In the English-language industry in Los Angeles, researchers said they found that health benefits are more comprehensive. For instance, workers in the Spanish-language industry are only eligible for health benefits if they work full time, according to the research. Nearly two-thirds of those receiving benefits in the Spanish-language broadcast industry pay for a portion of those costs, researchers said. In the English-language industry, the employer-paid American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Health Fund covers full-time employees and many part-time workers, the study said.

Sexual harassment also emerged as a problem in the Spanish-language broadcast industry, according to researchers. Eighty-six percent of the female broadcasters who responded to the survey reported being sexually harassed in the workplace, and an equal percentage of male broadcasters expressed awareness of discrimination against women in the industry, the study said.

Researchers also made recommendations about how working conditions in the Spanish-language broadcast industry might be improved.

“Clearly, several things can be undertaken by the Spanish-speaking broadcasting industry,” Valenzuela said. “For example, they can increase pay to levels comparable to those at English-language stations. In addition, they can encourage contractual arrangements, improve employment benefits, including health and retirement, and enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws.”

UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center released the study as part of its Latino Policy and Issues Brief series. Researchers have also released policy briefs about such issues as the lack of Latinos on television.

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