Media: Connecting Latinos
by Consuelo Solar
“Making a better Canada” is the name of a year-long education and outreach campaign to promote the contribution of Hispanic and Italian immigrants to Canadian nation-building. It is how Telelatino (TLN) decided to commemorate its 25 years on air and its programming specially tailored for the Hispanic-Italian community.
TLN was born in 1984, when Emilio Mascia, a Toronto entrepreneur, decided that the community of Latinos and Italians was big enough to support a TV channel made just for them. At first, it had only 4,000 subscribers in Toronto but when it started broadcasting soccer games it rapidly doubled its audience. With the inclusion of TLN in basic cable, its audience increased again dramatically, and it currently reaches 5 million Canadian homes.
It is one of Canada’s most watched ethnic specialty channels, offering a variety of international and domestic content, including news, films, sports, series and music.
“TLN offers unparalleled programming in Italian, Spanish and English. Italian and Spanish are distributed equally and 25 percent of programming is in English,” Bruna Aloe, TLN Communications Director, says. “TLN is uniquely Canadian, connecting diverse audiences of first, second and third generation Canadians celebrating, learning and rediscovering their culture with stellar programming from Europe, Latin America and around the globe.”
Viewers interested in Spanish programs can follow “telenovelas,” the Latin American version of soap operas; news, including segments from CNN en espanol; and an array of entertainment and variety shows such as El Gordo y La Flaca and Don Francisco Presenta. In Italian, the channel offers movies “made in Italy,” – from nostalgic 70’s productions to modern films from the last decade –; series celebrating the “dolce vita,” like Caterina; Italy’s variety shows, like C’è Posta Per Te; the soap opera Centro Vetrine; and news, through Sky TG 24. There are also plenty of programs in English that touch common ground with a Latino-Italian twist, such as the sitcom George Lopez and the recently premiered talk show Lopez Tonight, or the HBO dramatic series The Sopranos. Local programs, like The Soccer Fanatics, are also part of their schedule.
Even though the offer is diverse, soccer remains at the core of TLN programming. In the 80’s, if you wanted to watch an international soccer games in Toronto, the only option was to go to the Maple Leaf Gardens. Back then Mascia realized that the demand for soccer games was growing, especially for Italy’s Serie A – or Lega Calcio, the Italian soccer league, and decided to include it in the channel’s schedule. Since then, screen time devoted to the games has increased, and now soccer fans can also enjoy the UEFA Europa League games and starting June 11, the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010. TLN is the multilingual broadcaster of all FIFA tournaments until 2014 in Canada.
To connect directly with its audience, TLN is involved in a number of community outreach initiatives as well. In 2005, TLN, the City of Toronto and the Hillcrest Village BIA partnered to bring a celebration of Latin American culture to the streets of the city: “Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival,” a party that has marked the official launch of Latino Week in Toronto. Furthermore, in 2008 TLN and 25 prominent Italian Canadian families partnered with the Art Gallery of Ontario for the launch of “Galleria Italia” with an unprecedented $13 million contribution.
TLN continuously helps promote local cultural events through Appunti and Apuntes, on-line community listings, TLN Oggi in Italian and TLN Hoy in Spanish, on-air community segments, and through various partnerships with their network of contacts. "TLN also provides ongoing promotional, production and programming support to many charities and community organizations," Aloe says.
Also supporting younger generations, in 2009 TLN and York University launched the Telelatino Network "Mundo Canuck" Essay Prize, which is awarded annually to two York undergraduate students demonstrating exceptional writing on the experiences of Hispanic people in Canada. The idea is that the winning essays provide critical reflection on the experiences of Hispanic people in Canada, highlighting their past, present and future contributions to Canadian society. According to TLN, "This bursary encourages the development of diverse voices and a breadth of viewpoints regarding the confluence of the Hispanic Diaspora and day-to-day Canadian living." And this is at the center of the TV channel's mission.
In 2010, through “Welcome to Canada Children’s Literacy Program” TLN will distribute 45 sets of 32 titles to selected schools throughout the GTA as a welcome kit to young newcomers of Hispanic descent. The books feature titles like "The Kids Book of Canadian Geography" and "The Kids Book of Canadian History."
Founded in 2006, Opinión Magazine is a Canadian-Hispanic independent newsmagazine published bi-monthly. It is distributed in the Greater Toronto Area in over 140 businesses and/or offices where there is traffic from folks in the Hispanic community. Since December of 2006 it has been a free publication, but readers can request to have it mailed to their address for a yearly subscription fee.
The magazine covers analysis and trends of key social and political issues around the world, with emphasis on Canada and Latin America. It is considered a serious read within the Hispanic community and it includes different points of view in its content. Although the magazine is bilingual, the majority of its content is written in Spanish.
Opinion’s websites (www.opinionmagazine.ca) updates the daily top news stories and headlines. Visitors can also view selections from their previous printed editions.
Correo Canadiense is a Spanish language newspaper, first published in 2001 by its founder, Dan Ianuzzi. 20,000 copies of its weekly printed edition are distributed each Wednesday around the GTA, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Mississauga, Hamilton and the Niagara Peninsula. The newspaper is circulated through newsstand distribution and subscriptions, with more than 1,200 dealer locations.
Its objective is to promote the progress of the Hispanic community in Canada and provide its members with relevant news. Correo Canadiense’s Spanish language editorial team bring their readers coverage of current local and international events, sports, entertainment, and lifestyle, among other topics. Their content is tailored to people who live in Canada and have Spanish as their first language, and people with a different first language, who can read and speak Spanish and have a bond with the Hispanic community.
Its online version (www.elcorreo.ca) complements the print edition with expanded coverage, special series, and up-to-date information on community events, campaigns and contests.