Ethnic media speaks in many tongues

Katherine Stapp

Although largely ignored by advertisers, ethnic radio, television and newspapers in the United States now reach an astonishing 64 million people, about half of whom prefer them to the mainstream press, according to the first ever nationwide assessment of foreign-language and ethnic media. “This is a truly groundbreaking study,” said Karen Lawson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, which commissioned the study with New California Media and the Centre for American Progress. The poll surveyed 1,850 Hispanic, African American, Asian American, Arab American and Native American adults, representing 64 million ethnic and racial minorities — about a quarter of the entire U.S. adult population. The interviews were conducted in 10 languages: Arabic, Cantonese, English, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Sandy Close, executive director of New California Media, noted that advertisers spend about 145 billion dollars a year courting U.S. consumers, but just three to four per cent goes to the ethnic media. Ethnic media also serves about 40 million people in traditional minority communities like African American and Native American.

“This is not just a poll of immigrants but of all people who consider themselves part of these five groups,” said Sergio Bendixen, whose firm conducted the poll. The poll found that 45 per cent of all African American, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American are “primary consumers” of ethnic media, meaning that 29 million adults, or 13 per cent of the entire adult population of the United States, use it as their main news source. More than half of all

Hispanic adults are primary consumers of ethnic media, while two-fifths of African Americans and Arab Americans and a fourth of Asian Americans and Native Americans prefer ethnic media to mainstream media. “There are two important lessons here,” Bendixen said. “People tend to utilise the ethnic media to find out about what’s going on in their native country, but when it comes to covering U.S. politics and government, there is a low level of information.”

“The ethnic media needs to make a more aggressive effort to cover U.S. government policies,

elections, etc,” he said.

Among Asian Americans, pollsters questioned subgroups of Indians, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese, while Hispanics were broken down into Central Americans, Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and South Americans. The study found that the Spanish-language media is especially popular, with 87 per cent of all Hispanic adults accessing Spanish-language radio, newspapers and television stations like Univision and Telemundo on a regular basis. While less than a quarter of Hispanics have access to the Internet, Arab Americans have the highest level of connectivity of any group studied, with three-quarters of all Arab American adults having access to the Internet and a majority of them regularly visiting Arabic websites. Among African Americans, radio stations that focus on Black themes and content are the most popular medium. “This poll is a remarkable portrait of the central role ethnic media now plays in the journalism landscape,” Close concluded. —IPS