Spanish language radio gets tainted
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
By Richard Brand
Uncontrolled shock jocks follow counterparts into arena of raunch
The Federal Communications Commission may be in an uproar over Janet Jackson’s
exposed breast, but it’s unlikely it was paying much attention to the raunchy
jokes on the radio last week about her “teta desnuda.”
More and more, Spanish-language radio, once considered a tame alternative to its
English counterpart, is getting known for shows with language and jokes racy
enough to make Howard Stern blush.
Last week, for example, the most popular
Spanish-language radio show among young people in South Florida, “El Vacilon de
la Mañana” on WXDJ-FM, broadcast the voices of a masturbating priest and a
pot-smoking welfare recipient. In another of their pranks, they called Haitian
President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s office, and when they couldn’t get through,
called his secretary gay.
A competing show, “El Mikimbin de Miami” on WRTO-FM, quipped about bare bottoms
and chastity belts.
The rise of the Spanish shock jocks in markets with large Latino populations
like South Florida, New York and Los Angeles has raised a chorus of complaints
from Hispanic leaders, programming watchdogs and politicians who warn the medium
is too explicit and largely unregulated.
“The standard by which we judge radio has been shattered. The level of acrimony
that is there, the crude language, it’s inappropriate for public hearing,” said
Raul Yzaguirre, president of the Washington-based National Council of La Raza.
“Spanish-language radio is raunchier than English. And there is no
Of the 20 investigators in the FCC’s obscenity enforcement bureau, only one
speaks Spanish, officials at the commission say. So when complaints about
Spanish radio come in, they are farmed out to a private company that turns the
tapes into English transcripts, which are then reviewed by FCC staffers.
Lawmakers increase fines
Since November 1999, according to FCC records, the agency fined or proposed to
fine five Spanish-language programs for indecency or obscenity for a total of
$77,400. During the same period, the commission fined or proposed to fine 21
English-language programs a total of $1,377,500 for indecency or obscenity.
Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., last week approved a measure that would
significantly increase the fines the FCC can impose on offending broadcasters.
But critics say using English transcripts makes it difficult for the FCC to
determine if a program is actually indecent since the vulgarity of many Spanish
words can be lost in translation.
“In terms of English- and Spanish-language broadcast, there is a clear
discrepancy on how much scrutiny the indecency problem is given,” said U.S. Rep.
Peter Deutsch, D-Fla., a member of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on
telecommunications and the Internet, which oversees the FCC. “The bottom line is
that the FCC just doesn’t have enough people to translate Spanish.”
The FCC said the rate of complaints against Spanish-language broadcasts is still
low compared to English outlets. Hispanic advocacy groups say that’s because
Spanish speakers don’t realize they can file their concerns with the government.
Several politicians say the FCC should start girding now for an onslaught of
complaints as the immigrant population gets more assimilated and as the medium
Hispanic entertainment is the fastest-growing segment in the broadcast industry.