Int'l Net Plans Citizenship Drive

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Some foreign-language programmers look at the growing population of recent immigrants and see potential customers. The International Channel also sees future U.S. citizens.

Earlier this month, the network announced that it's trying to drum up affiliate support for "We the People," a new public-affairs campaign set to launch in September, in conjunction with National Citizenship Month.

Specifically, International Channel wants to persuade local cable systems in areas that have seen a large influx of immigrants to help fund required test classes for those seeking citizenship.

"The classes cost money," said International Channel vice president of marketing and communications Jim Honiotes. It's his hope that affiliates can raise scholarship money locally.

Through its affiliates' campaign, International Channel will provide operators with a list of community-based organizations that typically host citizenship classes. The programmer also plans to furnish affiliates with data to determine which segments of the immigrant population are the best target in their specific market.

Affiliates will have discretion over how they raise the funds for the scholarships. Operators might earmark $5 from every new digital-cable subscriber signed during September, Honiotes suggested.

For its part, International Channel plans to help recent immigrants understand the ins and outs of naturalization by featuring the stories of those who have become citizens, Honiotes said.

In September, the network will telecast In America, a three-part original series on the immigration experiences of such high-profile Americans as U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, as well as people outside the public spotlight.

The network also hopes its affiliates will help it locate naturalized citizens willing to share their stories for a series of on-air and online public-service announcements.

Honiotes said the campaign would target both viewers and nonviewers through in-language newspaper and radio advertising in the top 10 multicultural markets.

The consumer Internet subsite (at www.internationalchannel.com) is set for a mid-August launch; affiliate support materials will also be available online (atatlas.internationalchannel.com).

Affiliate promotions aimed at local immigrants are important marketing tactics for local cable operators. That's because their direct-broadcast satellite rivals are aggressively marketing foreign-language offerings of their own.

"Cable operators have a competitive advantage because they run a local business," Honiotes said. "That's something that the national [DBS] competitors just can't replicate."

In its affiliate kit, International Channel recommends that cable operators host screenings of the In America
series and promote "We the People"-related programming and online resources at local ethnic festivals.

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