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September 30, 2019

A Wider Reach

Latino Public Broadcasting pursues an all-inclusive audience.

Dinah Eng
  • Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno

    Latino Public Broadcasting
  • Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage

    Latino Public Broadcasting
  • Sandie Viquez Pedlow

    Latino Public Broadcasting

"Public media represents the public."

That may sound obvious, but for Sandie Viquez Pedlow, it's worth affirming. "You have the opportunity to tell important stories without commercial considerations. I want to appeal to everyone."

As executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), Pedlow is doing just that: using Latino stories to make programs that appeal to all audiences, regardless of racial or ethnic background. And advancing the narrative of the Latino in the U.S., she says, is more important than ever.

"The country is changing," Pedlow says, noting that Latinos represent 17.6 percent of the U.S. population. "The conversation about Latinos tends to be about immigration and 'the wall.' But we've been here 500 years and have made significant and lasting contributions to our multicultural landscape."

LPB came to life in 1998, when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting requested proposals for an organization to head a Latino consortium. Actor–activist Edward James Olmos and Marlene Dermer, cofounders of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, responded by cofounding LPB.

In the early years, most LPB content was distributed regionally. Twenty-one years later, PBS distributes more than 90 percent of LPB's content nationally, with copresentations on series like American Masters and Frontline.

LPB's signature series, Voces (Voices), returned September 13 with Raúl Juliá: The World's a Stage. A copresentation with American Masters, the program examines the life of the charismatic Puerto Rican actor.

Other upcoming LPB documentaries include The Pushouts, which follows Victor Rios, a former gang member turned professor, as he mentors young people; Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno, about an unsung early activist for farmworkers' rights; and Porvenir, Texas, an investigation into the 1918 murder of 15 Mexican men in a Texas border town.

Each year, LPB funds 12 to 15 projects that explore the Latino experience through history, arts and culture, as well as social issues from the Latino perspective. In addition to her programming work, Pedlow oversees audience engagement through community meetings, screenings and panel discussions.

"We reach a lot more people face-to-face than we do with the broadcast," she says. "We heavily promote the streaming of the documentaries, and young people are starting conversations on social media about what they've seen."

Pedlow also works on multiplatform distribution and raising money for programming. Though funded primarily by CPB, the nonprofit receives grants from foundations and individuals.

"It's hard getting corporate funders," she allows. "People say they're committed to diversity, but not all follow through."

For her part, Pedlow remains committed to the broad reach of LPB: "I don't want us to just be seen during Hispanic Heritage Month."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 9, 2019

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