San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 18 (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Hispanic Leaders Support Univision in Verizon Spat

Urge distributor to reach deal in light of natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Mexico

Several leaders in the Hispanic community have urged Verizon Communications to continue to provide broadcaster Univision to its subscribers while it negotiates a retransmission deal, adding that the channel is one of the Latino community’s few sources of Spanish-language information regarding recent natural disasters in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked central Mexico on Sept. 19, killing at least 369 people, 228 of which were in Mexico City. Recovery and relief efforts continue.

More than a third of the residents of Puerto Rico are still without power and clean water after Hurricane Maria cut a path through the island on Sept. 20, killing at least 48 people. Relief efforts there still continue.

Univision went dark to Verizon customers on Oct. 16, which the broadcaster said was a surprise but the telco argued was the result of weeks of contentious negotiations. Verizon has said Univision is demanding exorbitant price increases for its programming. While Univision acknowledges the impasse, it has also offered Verizon an extension to keep its programming available to subscribers while negotiations continue, citing the disasters in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Related: Verizon Gives FCC Its Side of Univision Impasse

Verizon provides other Spanish-language channels like Telemundo, Discovery en Espanol, Telemicro Internacional and TVE Internacional. The distributor said it also has worked with the owners of WAPA America and TV Dominicana to make those channels available to all customers at no additional charge. It has also pointed customers to the Univision app, Univision Now, adding they will offer a one-time bill credit to offset the $5.99 fee for the app for customers that can prove they watch the channel for at least 2 hours per month.

On Friday (Oct. 20), several leaders in the Hispanic Community expressed their concern.

“Our population is suffering the effects of these catastrophes because many of us have families and loved ones in Mexico and Puerto Rico and don't have news of their status or survival,” said National Hispanic Media Coalition CEO Alex Nogales in a letter to the company. “I advise that you put Univision back on the air while you work out your business arrangements. Anything else is detrimental to our community and Verizon risks being ostracized by Latino consumers that will not forget that at a time of crisis and need Verizon turned its back on us.”

“Univision’s programming is critical to the United States Hispanic community right now giving the natural disasters that have severely impacted Hispanics community around the world,” said Tech Latino: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association CEO Jose Marquez in a letter to Verizon COE Lowell McAdam. “It is crucial to the U.S. Hispanic community that we be considered as well, by resuming negotiations with Univision to ensure Verizon subscribers have full access to Univision’s networks and stations. Let’s think about how this community who still suffers the affects of the digital and language divide,have their lives at stake over a contractual dispute is worthy to be address if only for this issue alone. Let me be clear, there is no replacing the reach and credibility Univision News has with those 5 million customers who are without their primary (and in most cases) their only source of news and information.”

More information is available at Univision's website.