TV deal leaves program up in the air

A sudden deal between a Miami television station and one of the main national networks has left in limbo one of the best-known debate programs in local television, the one hosted by journalist Maria Elvira Salazar.

The association of the new Spanish-language network, MundoFOX, with WGEN-TV also impacts America TeVe, one of the most popular local channels in the Cuban community. Some months ago, WGEN-TV loudly announced an agreement of affiliation with the company recently formed by RCN Television of Colombia and Fox International, a subsidiary of the media colossus News Corp.

With great hoopla, WGEN-TV in October announced a relaunching of the channel with new programming. The offer included locally produced newscasts, entertainment spaces, telenovelas (soap operas) and other segments developed for South Florida’s diverse Latin American audience.

The figure most prominently shown in the station’s promotions was Salazar, who returned to the small screen after leaving Mega TV in June 2011.

But now the future of that new programming is up in the air.

Luis Calle, vice president for operations at Caracol Colombia, one of the owners of WGEN-TV, said that the program, Maria Elvira, has not been eliminated from the program list, although its usual air space, 8 p.m., has been filled by a telenovela for a week.

“WGEN-TV has a contract with her,” Calle told El Nuevo Herald. “In the light of this new reality of an affiliation accord with MundoFOX, we’re seeing what the fate of that accord will be.”

Salazar told El Nuevo Herald that she is shuffling several options.

“All I’m interested in is serving the public in Miami,” the host said. “I am looking at the different options before me, and in the next several days I shall make an announcement.”

On Dec. 28, MundoFOX announced the signing of its affiliation agreement with WGEN-TV. At once, its programming occupied the TV frequency, which is broadcast on Channel 8.1 in an open signal, and the main services via cable and satellite.

“The arrival of WGEN-TV to the family of affiliates of MundoFOX represents a big step forward for our network in Miami, bringing full coverage, a consistent channel number and a strong Spanish-speaking audience,” said Emiliano Saccone, president of the Los Angeles-based network, in a press release.

Some programs with local talent that were left out of the WGEN-TV grid after the accord include Alain, a Friendly Hand, with clairvoyant Alain Pupo and Laura Ferreti; Show Business Extra, with Gaby Acuña and Omar Nassar, and The Tony Benítez Show, among others.

Calle said that, so far, only Noticias 8, in its new time slots of 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., remains on the air. The newscast is anchored by Ricardo Brown and Andrea Linares.

MundoFOX was launched nationwide in August by Fox International Channels and Television RCN, a Colombian group, with a budget of about $100 million to hire personnel, develop programming and launching the service.

In South Florida, the new network had signed a transmission accord with Grupo America CV, owner of Channel 4-WJAN/America TeVe, whereby it would share the signal with the pioneer station in local Spanish-language programming.

The Miami station, according to the agreement, would cede its signal on channels 41.1 and 48.2 to the new network and would continue its regular programming on channels 48.1 and 41.2 and the corresponding channels in cable and satellite TV. It also envisioned the production in Miami of 500 hours of programming that would be broadcast nationwide.

Until recently, a billboard outside the channel’s headquarters in Hialeah Gardens hailed the new alliance.

The station of Grupo America CV declined to comment, but in a communiqué confirmed the cancellation of the affiliation accord for the South Florida market.

At the close of this edition, MundoFOX had not responded to calls from El Nuevo Herald asking for the reasons for the sudden change in partnership in South Florida.

WGEN-TV had engaged in negotiations with CNN en Español. Later this month, the national news network will launch CNN Latino, a new block of programs created for the Hispanic market in the United States.

In this connection, Calle, who is also president of Caracol America Productions in Miami, said: “We entered into talks with CNN sometime last year and then resumed the talks toward the end of the year but in a very superficial way.”

“We had nothing concrete with them,” Calle added.

Salazar finally commented: “I have always said this: If God is with you, who can defeat you? And soon I’m going to show that that’s the truth, more than ever.”

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