- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

Spanish-language television station WZDC-TV (Channel 64) will begin a daily newscast on Monday, becoming the second broadcaster to target Washington's growing Hispanic population with local news.

WZDC, an affiliate of the Telemundo network, will air a half-hour local newscast at 6 p.m. on weeknights.

It will air opposite a Spanish-language local newscast on Univision affiliate WMDO-TV (Channel 30), as well as local news on the ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates.

"We are the second Spanish-language newscast in the market, but we will not be second in terms of quality," said Wendy Thompson, WZDC's general manager.

Hispanics are a growing force in the Washington area. More than 445,000 residents here, including the outer suburbs, identified themselves as Hispanic in the 2000 census, an 88 percent increase from the 1990 census.

WZDC's "Telenoticias 64" will be produced in partnership with NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4), which airs most of Washington's top-rated local newscasts.

WRC will give WZDC technical assistance and provide it with footage of general-interest news events. This will allow WZDC to focus on Hispanic-related news, said Robert L. Long, WRC's vice president of news and operation.

"If they need footage of Rolling Thunder [the patriotic motorcycle rally] on the Memorial Bridge, we can provide that for them. They won't have to go out and get the shot themselves," Mr. Long said.

WZDC will have one news anchor, five reporters and five behind-the-scenes staffers. WMDO has a 15-person news team, including three anchors and four reporters.

Both newsrooms are significantly smaller than their counterparts at the major network affiliates. The typical big-city TV newsroom has about 120 employees.

WRC wants to offer more coverage of Hispanic-related matters, but it is unlikely to air reports produced by WZDC, Mr. Long said. "We won't swap exclusives."

NBC purchased Telemundo for $2.6 billion last year, but Mr. Long and Miss Thompson said the relationship between their stations was formed before the deal. WZDC produces a weekly public affairs program at WRC's studio in Northwest, but its nightly newscast will originate from an Arlington studio.

WMDO began its 6 p.m. local newscast in the late 1980s. It added an 11 p.m. newscast three years ago and is considering adding weekend newscasts.

"It's ironic that [WZDC is] saying they are going to be the voice of the community, when we've been here doing this for a number of years," said Rudy Guernica, WMDO's general manager.

Roughly 20,000 Washington area households tune into WMDO's local newscasts on a typical weeknight, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.

Washington has the 18th-largest population of Hispanic TV viewers in the country, with 109,240 Hispanic households having a TV set, Nielsen said. The largest market, Los Angeles, has 1.5 million Hispanic TV households.

Local advertising executives say Washington can support two Spanish-language local newscasts. Many advertisers gravitate toward news programming, which tends to draw the best-educated viewers, executives say.

"Unequivocally, this is a great opportunity," said Luis Vasquez-Ajmac, president of Maya Advertising & Communications, a local agency that helps mainstream businesses reach Hispanic consumers.

Most of Maya's biggest clients, including Comcast Corp., Potomac Electric Power Co. and the federal government, purchase airtime on WMDO and WZDC, Mr. Vasquez-Ajmac said.

In cities with many Hispanic residents, local newscasts on Univision and Telemundo stations often beat the competition on the major network affiliates.

In Miami, each of the ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Univision and Telemundo affiliates air local newscasts weeknights at 6 p.m. The Univision station is ranked first for that slot, and the Telemundo station is third.

In Los Angeles, the Univision and Telemundo stations each produce a half-hour of local Spanish-language news in the evenings, with the Univision station in third place behind the local news on the NBC and ABC affiliates.

The Los Angeles Telemundo station recently won an Emmy award for producing the city's best overall local newscast.


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