When Spanish-language TV viewers tune in this spring for their daily fix of drama, their Telemundo telenovela will feature a tale of betrayal, passion, love -- and Census awareness.
Starting April 1, Telemundo will kick off a company wide campaign to raise awareness among Spanish speaking Latinos about the upcoming 2010 Census and the importance of their participation in the process. Aptly named "¡Hazte contar!" (Be Counted!) the initiative will encompass all of Telemundo's properties and is expected to last for one full year.
In addition to incorporating the Census theme into the storyline of its original telenovelas, Telemundo's campaign is expected to encompass all of its properties across its broadcast, cable and digital platforms, as the company plans to reach not only the older, Spanish dominant viewers, but also the younger generations watching mun2 online and on the Web.
The idea, said Telemundo president Don Browne, is simple: "Our mission as a Hispanic media outlet is to inform, empower and inspire our audience," Browne said in a recent interview. "And we cannot afford for our audience not to be ready for the  Census."
An important aspect of the Census awareness campaign touches on the scores of undocumented immigrants, who historically have been afraid of participating, fearing the census workers would turn them in if their migratory status isn't clear. "There is certain fear that participating that giving information could be detrimental to their status," said Browne. "But the idea here is that people don't fear this process. It's not a time to be invisible; it's a time to be counted."
There is a lot at stake. According to the Census Bureau's 2007 American Community Survey, 45.5 million or 15.1% of the U.S. population is Hispanic, making it the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. Based on population estimates, it is expected that between 2010 and 2050 the U.S. Hispanic population will triple, resulting in one in three people in the U.S. being of Hispanic origin.
But the Census is only the latest in a series of community-awareness topics that Telemundo has incorporated in its telenovelas. These include construction safety, diabetes, breast cancer awareness and citizenship awareness. In 2008 the network was recognized by the Hollywood, Health & Society for the construction safety-themed telenovela Pecados Ajenos (The Sins of Others) whose drama touched on the perils of construction work.
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