Hispanic and non-Hispanic youths are getting a skewed picture of what it means to be Hispanic by watching entertainment and news shows on television, according to the National Council of La Raza.
The group used its annual report--the "State of Hispanic America''--to decry the negative portrayal of Hispanics in the media.
Included in the report's barrage of statistics are some initial findings from a yet-to-be-released study that La Raza commissioned through the Washington-based Center for Media and Public Affairs.
Analyzing programming from 1992 to 1993, the center found that on entertainment shows Hispanics were twice as likely as whites and three times as likely as blacks to be cast in "negative'' roles. Hispanics were four times more likely to commit a crime on television than whites or blacks.
The report attributed this portrayal in part to what it termed a "dismal'' record on hiring Hispanics in the entertainment and news businesses.
The report also cites various studies that point out that Hispanics rarely are quoted in news stories as expert sources: They are more likely to show up in a newspaper's pages as the perpetrator of a crime or in the context of illegal immigration.
Watching programs with stereotypical or negative Hispanic characters likely has an adverse impact on Hispanic children's self-image, the report said, though the authors acknowledged the difficulty in quantifying such effects.
According to a 1983 study, Hispanic children watch more television than other youth groups and are more likely than other children to interpret what they watch as true.
But the report raises the issue of impact on all children.
Non-Hispanic children are not likely to have much direct contact with Hispanic peers or adults, the report warned, saying that Hispanic children are relatively isolated in school and that less than 3 percent of the nation's teachers and administrators are Hispanic. The non-Hispanic children are likely to use the images they see on television to fill that void.
The report is part of La Raza's new media-reform initiative, which will include commissioning research and increasing pressure on the media and the federal agencies that regulate broadcasting to hire more Hispanics and to be more sensitive to ethnic stereotypes.
Copies of the report are available for $10 each by calling La Raza at (202) 289-1380.