Spanish-Language Radio Swells Amid Media Slump

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SALT LAKE CITY — La Favorita 104.7 FM started out on a low-strength AM frequency in 2006, a small-time dream of a local Hispanic businessman. The radio station stepped onto the scene at just the right time, though: Utah's Hispanic population grew by 78 percent over the last decade, according to the U.S. Census, and La Favorita's listenership swelled right along with it. July 7 the company moved to Salt Lake City, switched to an FM frequency and started broadcasting from Payson to Brigham City.

The little station's experience is indicative of a nationwide trend. English language media is having a rough go of it. Newsrooms across platforms saw audiences either stall or decline in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Newspaper newsrooms, now 30 percent smaller than in 2000, have shed some 1,500 jobs.

But while Spanish-language daily newspapers have taken some similar hits, radio stations have grown by more than one-third since 2002 and revenues are rising among weekly papers, according to market research analysts. In television, Spanish-language networks are seeing double-digit ratings boosts year-over-year. Top network researchers have predicted the media giant Univision — now fifth in ratings — could soon surpass traditional networks.

The trend is driven in part by population growth. More than fifty million strong, Hispanics now represent 16 percent of Americans. If current growth trends continue, Hispanics will account for nearly one-third of the nation's population by 2050, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. The steady growth of Spanish language media is also, though, an illustration of changing attitudes toward cultural assimilation and what it means to be a Hispanic American.

First generation immigrants homesick to hear a little Spanish aren't the only ones tuning in anymore. Roughly 40 percent of Latinos whose primary language is English tune into Spanish TV or radio for news, entertainment or sports, according to a 2010 poll by Stanford University. Thirty percent of third-generation, English-dominant Latino youths report that at least half of the music they listen to is in Spanish.

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