Let's talk now about the media.
Well, the media project wasn't necessarily a conflict, though it
sort of was a conflict. The way we started this whole thing was back in 1969 or early '70 a
previous CRS person noted that the Hispanic community was being totally left out of the
media. CRS was working on special programs at the time, so he started a media project. He
suggested that a group of media people and Hispanics get together to talk about ways in which
Hispanics could be represented more in the media. But then he was transferred to Dallas, and
I got his job. I followed up on his starting work.
So I identified agency people -- because they're the ones who had the
resources -- agency people that might be interested in understanding what radio and TV is all
about, the FCC regulations and so on. We came together at the post office in downtown
Denver and we had at least forty people there. They were interested, so I brought in a person
that knew FCC law to explain it to them further. He explained about the citizens' rights -- that the
airwaves belong to the citizens and not the companies and so on. They were very much
interested in it because they were concerned about lack of employment opportunity for
Hispanics in radio and TV. The group was formed immediately because they were so interested
in the issue. They called it the Colorado Committee on Mass Media of Spanish
I brought in a professor from Metro State that was interested in
media, and then we brought in people who knew even more about media in Denver. They had
a round table discussion on it and then the committee spread out to go to the various TV and
radio stations to look at their licenses. At that time the license renewal was every three years.
At that time the community had the right to protest. Now I think it's seven years, or nine years,
or twelve, they've extended it so much. However, it was only three years then, so the
committee members went to the various stations and looked at their licenses and found out
how many Hispanics they had working for them. They found that there were hardly any
Hispanics at all, on or off the camera.
So they came in and they went over the whole thing again and
talked about strategies to approach the problem. There was another group in Washington
D.C. that was even stronger than the group that we had identified initially. It was called
"Citizens Communication" and they had attorneys helping them. Also, the United Church of
Christ was much involved in communications at that time too. So CRS paid for some people
from Citizens Communication to come in to Denver and to explain how they could help the
Denver group, what they could do for them. Then they returned to Washington to begin
preparing some documents -- they already had a boiler plate of something they could do.
In the meantime the group had a conference on mass media in Denver. So they ended up with
two conferences -- one followed the other. At the second one they broadened the constituency
group: the Indian group came into it and the black group came into it. The first conference
was primarily Hispanic. Because they're the ones who were leading it. By the time of the
second conference, the larger group was about ready to file a complaint. By then it was a
mixed group -- even the American Indian movement was there. We had it at one of the colleges
there in Denver. So we had a large group and a lot of publicity on it and the Colorado
Broadcasters Association became concerned. They even had their own meeting, saying who
are these people, and what are we going to do, because they're really beginning to challenge us.
Sure enough, we did file a lawsuit. That happened because one company was going to
purchase five stations and there's something in the law that one company can't dominate the
media. That company had publications and everything else, and now they were trying to
purchase five radio stations too. One was in Denver, and that was the wrong place to choose it,
because we had the media group really going strong then. They were also purchasing one in
San Diego, one in Bakersfield, one in Indianapolis, Indiana and one other place that I don't
recall. But our group, along with Citizens Communications challenged the purchase of these
stations and filed complaints against these stations for their lack of minority participation. And
we also filed a case saying that the company could not purchase five stations, they could
purchase three. We won; the court went along with it.
From that time then, all the stations began to open up and say, "Well what can we do?" What
happened with the company, is they only bought three stations, not five. Also they identified a
person who coordinated their activities with our Colorado committee. That coordinator became
like a spokesman for them, and he provided resources to the Colorado committee. So he
became a little more knowledgeable about what was going on in the stations.
In the meantime the stations formed Hispanic committees, and black Committees, and the TV
stations did too. All those established committees and they would meet with those committee
people and they would foot the bill for everything. Those committees began to explain what
their priorities were what their objectives were for changing the media in Colorado to be
These were made up of citizens?
Citizens of the minority groups. I thought that was great -- and that's why you saw all sorts
of changes all of a sudden. There were programming changes and personnel changes and so
on. I still don't think they did as much as they could've done, but nonetheless they got
something done. And they got results and even though CRS didn't mediate, per se, they
provided enough resources and enough consultants to educate the committee. And the
committee, since they were agency people, understood it quickly and moved quickly on it.
So this is another instance where CRS empowered the local citizens to help themselves.
Now this description makes it sound as if CRS was
playing more of an advocacy role than a neutral role.
Yeah, under the program activity. I think you're right, I think that's probably why they
decided that maybe we shouldn't do project programs. Later they decided that perhaps that
would not be a wise thing to do and maybe they got too far away from the letter of the law of
CRS, that's probably what happened. Also, the media doesn't like being challenged. Nor the
newspapers. I think they might've said something and that might have brought it to light
someone said to CRS, "you can't do this". Or "you should not do this." They didn't scold us but
Was this before or after mediation was introduced?
This was after. In other words mediation was is according to the law. Mediation is there
already, and this came after. I think the directors felt that perhaps projects like the media one
would help prevent conflict in some manner. In other words if there was a housing project or a
housing program that you could implement, that would limit future conflicts. Even if there
wasn't a current conflict, if there's a way to improve it and have a stronger citizen group in that
housing project and money flowing properly, then problems can be avoided. But like I said
they later decided not to proceed with that whole area.
That came down from Washington?
That came down from our office. If it was from up above we wouldn't know, but our office
said that we're going to eliminate that. And then the reduction in force occurred, and we didn't
have enough people to work on projects anyway. We went from three hundred people
nationwide to only a hundred and some. So then all we did was mediation.