Arlene Davila and Yeidy M. Rivero's Contemporary Latina/o Media

Contemporary Latina/o Media

Given that most scholarly work on Latino media tends towards analyses of representations, the collection Contemporary Latina/o Media seeks to redress this emphasis by looking behind the scenes at changing industrial formations as well as their effects on media labor and audiences. As editors Arlene Davila and Yeidy M. Rivero note, “Latino media” has historically been transformed through transnational processes of import and circulation of talent and content — programming scripts, trends, formats — across the continent. Attendant to this complexity, the essays in this collection argue for the need to consider the political economy and cultural politics of Latino media by examining policy decisions, audience practices, and media activism across Spanish-language television and radio as well as digital and alternative media. These entries likewise defy the industry spin about Latinos consumers as the “new hot market” for advertisers and the uncritical celebration of emergent Latino media networks by emphasizing the fact that Latinos remain largely excluded from the industry as a whole. Yet, the collection resists providing a totalizing view of Latino media, instead exposing the erasures and inequalities consistently reproduced as media industries try to incorporate Latinos into their fold.

In this excerpt, Dolores Ines Casillas examines how established ratings systems continually obscure the Latino audience from industry metrics. Casillas details the inadequacies of the measurement practices by Arbitron, the premiere radio ratings company, in light of the rise in Spanish-language radio. Arbitron introduced the Portable People Meter (PPM), a digital technology meant to record listeners’ preferences without the person’s active involvement, as a way to resolve limitations in its listener diaries methods — in particular, minorities’ low response rate meant their listening habits were reported based on merely a handful of diaries. Still, the company’s broader ratings collection practices continue to struggle to capture the Latino market. For one, the new PPM has raised Arbitron’s subscription costs, leaving many small radio stations, most of which broadcast in Spanish, unable to afford the benefits of Arbitron’s services. As well, Arbitron’s recruitment of listeners for sampling depends on mail and landline outreach, while many Latinos in the United States have no registered address and use mobile phones instead of landlines. As Casillas points out, the industry’s overreliance on a ratings system whose practices are not attuned to the diversity of listeners’ conditions has dual repercussions: Latinos continue to be excluded from audience measurements, and therefore, radio stations that cater to them cannot create revenue by selling airtime to advertisers. 

At a time when Latina/o media industrial practices and audience negotations take place in an increasingly interconnected and convergent mediascape, this collection's essays furthermore prove a valuable contribution to media industry studies as a whole. 

Arlene Davila and Yeidy M. RIvero, eds. Contemporary Latina/o Media. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

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