Thursday, May 12, 2011

May 12: What Was Channel 23 Thinking (It Wasn't) In Dade Mayoral Debate Exclusions?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Univision/WLTV Channel 23 has been trying to expand its reach even to people who don't necessarily speak Spanish.

That's why the decision to exclude two-thirds of the candidates running for Miami-Dade mayor from a forum at Florida International University yesterday may go down as one of the worst in Univision's history. One reason is because the excluded candidates do not speak Spanish.

The station's excuse wasn't so great, either: Selected candidates were the ones who have been leading in fundraising. When so many people are complaining about the influence of money in politics, is it really a good idea to have an open forum only for those who raise the most cash?

Florida International University (full disclosure: my alma mater), which hosted the forum, has been put on the spot, though those from FIU who have commented have stressed that Univision/Channel 23, not the school, organized the event. As a public entity, FIU does have the responsibility to do more detail checking to ensure the events it hosts do represent the entire community. Because of Univision/Channel 23, this one didn't.

The recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez opened the door to a potential major setback in Dade's ethnic relations through a mayoral election that will likely divide voters along racial and ethnic lines. A television network and station that's been growing in influence hasn't helped matters with its behavior. Univision/Channel 23 owes the community, and the omitted candidates, an apology.

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