Telemundo, the NBC-owned Hispanic broadcast network, is following through on a pledge to help promote the 2010 Census by writing a Census Bureau employee into an ongoing telenovela, Mas Sabe el Diablo. The Wire colleague Laura Martinez wrote about this plan earlier but now more can be told.
The character is still being created, but she will be someone emerging from a difficult period in her life who lands a job at the bureau, according to Alfredo Richard, senior vice president of communications and talent development. She won't be counting heads -her character is scheduled to appear in the fourth quarter, and the novela will be over before the census taking starts next April. Instead, she'll be doing "field work, rallying support and getting the word out there," Richard said.
Telemundo produces its own telenovelas and has the flexibility to write in causes the network supports, such as the census or health issues such as diabetes or public policy on immigration. (It also write-in product placements, such as a female character driving a Chevy Malibu.)
The census is important to Hispanics - and Hispanic networks - as it helps set funding priorities and election districts (and TV audience parameters). Telemundo has a "Be Counted" campaign under way. "This is part of our mission as a Hispanic media company," Richard said.
The census is a subject of particular importance to Telemundo Don Browne, who discussed the telenovela placement at a fall-programming breakfast with reporters on May 18: "I feel it's part of our Constitution and should be done correctly," he said. "It's also good for business."
Telemundo addresses social causes with all its telenovelas, Browne said. That includes current hit Tetas No Hay Paradiso (Without Breasts There Is No Paradise). Telemundo used that program - about a teenaged prostitute who undergoes breast augmentation to be more appealing to customers - as an opportunity to encourage young Latinas to talk about cosmetic surgery with their parents, Browne said. "This is a subject that is very difficult for parents and kids to talk about. But it was provocative enough that they actually watched it together and it really did have a very positive effect."