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Updated: 4:38 p.m.
In the steamy world of Spanish soap operas, a plot about the U.S. Census may seem out of place.
But that’s just the sort of programming Hispanic media companies hope will drive millions of Latinos to the polls this fall. While their English counterparts shy away from direct advocacy, Spanish-language media executives say it is central to their mission.
“Empowering the Latino community is part of our DNA,” Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks, said in an email to Roll Call.
Univision, the nation’s top Spanish-language network, and its NBC-owned rival, Telemundo, have both launched separate get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of this fall’s elections to capitalize on their broad reach into Hispanic households and to mobilize viewers.
Last month, Univision partnered with Hispanic advocacy groups and smaller media outlets in a campaign called “Ya Es Hora,” or “It Is Time,” to broadcast information on how to register to vote, comprehensive campaign coverage and news segments on issues such as immigration and jobs.
A similar campaign ahead of the 2008 elections helped naturalize more than 1.4 million people, according to the network.
Telemundo launched its own campaign with advocacy groups in November, called “Vota por Tu Futuro,” or “Vote for Your Future,” and has even worked political plots into its steamy soap operas. One love story featured a subplot with a census worker who dispelled other characters’ misconceptions about the government count.
"Telemundo has both the opportunity and the responsibility to empower the Hispanic community and engage them in the political process by inviting them to register to vote," station spokesman Alfredo Richard said in a statement.
Like the soap opera character, many of the stations’ GOTV efforts go beyond public service announcements. Univision plans to have talk-show hosts discuss the elections, programming that discusses how to vote on Election Day and debates with politicians. The station will also direct viewers to its advocacy partners in the campaign for further guidance.
Both Spanish-language networks have embraced voter advocacy as part of their missions, setting them apart from their mainstream English counterparts. Some English networks, such as MTV, have participated in voter outreach, but not to the same extent.
“They very much advocate for political participation. That’s really unique,” said Leslie Sanchez, head of the communications research firm Impacto Group. The former George W. Bush administration official consults businesses on Hispanic media.