Tuning in to diverse voices

Public access shows target minorities, offer information about county services

May 25, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Aiming to get the word out to minorities about county services, a local group will take to the airwaves with a series of shows on the county's public access station.

The first of four shows, Voz Latina, which translates to Latino Voice, starts tonight at 6 on Channel 99 on Comcast and Channel 39 on Verizon's FIOs television services.

The rest of the programming slate, which will begin airing next month, includes, Our Community, Your Voice, targeted at African- Americans and a show called Korean-Americans in Anne Arundel County.

The county is partnering with Minority Communications Group, an organization of citizens who work with minority communities, to produce programming for the 30-minute shows.

The group is also working on a show that will run on the government access channel, 98, beginning in July.

"It's important to have comprehensive and assertive outreach to provide information," County Executive John R. Leopold said. "We do a good job passing bills but not as good of a job informing people."

One expert, however, cautioned that viewership for such programming tends to be low.

"Very few will watch them, but that's true of most public access programming. Their goal isn't a big audience. It's finding niches that are relevant to some viewers," said Louis DeSipio, a political and Chicano studies professor at University of California, Irvine who has studied Latino viewing habits.

However, he said the programming could be valuable, if produced properly.

"I think it can be effective if the content is relevant, like if the programming focused on immigration or naturalization, the risk the producers would run is if they ran programming they were interested in rather than what viewers are interested in," DeSipio said.

Vanessa Morales, who is the county's Hispanic Outreach Coordinator, said language is often a barrier in getting information to the county's growing Latino population.

According to Morales, the county's Latino population is about 3.6 percent. She noted that a past cable access show based in Annapolis called Hablamos (Let's Talk) was popular.

"For our community, radio and TV is the best way to reach out," said Morales, who will host the monthly Latino-based show. "We want to use the show as an outreach tool to bring information to our community in Spanish about resources that the county has."

The first show deals with summer activities for children and features a tour of a local library and information for immigrants about registering children for school.

Our Community, Your Voice, hosted by Jessica Henderson, will feature information about health and education and highlight organizations and events in the African-American community.

"We will take a comprehensive look at what African-Americans are doing in the county," she said. According to recent census numbers, African-Americans make up about 14.7 percent of the county's population.

All of the shows will be produced by volunteers, and the county does not expect to contribute any funding.

"It's efficient because it doesn't cost the taxpayers anything," said Sheryl Banks, special assistant for minority affairs for Leopold. "And it's effective because even if we reach 10 people, that's 10 more people we've reached."

The group will partner with local churches and also broadcast the shows at free clinics, and places like the Stanton Center.

Organizers want to not only boost ratings for the public access station with the new shows, but also expose the county to diverse segments of the population.

"I think this program is going to be a great asset to the Korean-American community," said Mark Chang, who works in constituent services for Leopold and will produce the show. "And it will help mainstream community understand what the Korean- American community is all about."

Other new programming planned for the public access channel includes Be by the Bay, which will focus on county waterways and debut next month, and a youth-oriented show, which will begin in the fall.nia.henderson@baltsun.com

TV for Minorities

Public access shows targeted at minorities will start tonight on Comcast's Channel 99 and Verizon's Channel 39.

Voz Latina, which translates to Latino Voice, starts at 6 tonight.

Our Community, Your Voice, targeted at African- Americans, begins next month.

Korean-Americans in Anne Arundel County also begins next month

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