TV8 Offers News In Spanish

February 25, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — With 29.1 percent Hispanic and Latino residents, collectively, residing in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Oceana counties, according to the 2000 U.S Census, WOOD TV8 is now marketing to over a quarter of the population by offering its 6 p.m. weeknight broadcast of 24 Hour News 8 in Spanish.

And while advertising dollars did not drive this deal, a chance to market to a large part of the population and create a partnership, did.

Because the translation program is still in its early stages — it began Feb. 3 — President and GM Diane Kniowski said the news program is the only part of the broadcast that will be translated.

“We are currently concentrating on delivering the 24 Hour News 8 at 6 with Spanish translations,” said Kniowski. “Because live, simultaneous translation of the news presents many challenges, we are not translating our commercials. After six months, we will re-evaluate our product and systems and at that time we may consider expansion of translation services.”

Scott Campbell, general sales manager for WOOD TV8, added that the response from the Hispanic and Latino communities has been strong and the station expects it will see that same interest from future underwriting and advertising partners.

“Huntington Mortgage is already an underwriter of the program,” he said. “They have an interest in working with the Hispanic community and we have been contacted by other companies that would like to come on board.”

As of now, however, he added, it is too early to look at specific advertising opportunities. He noted that the station does have the physical and technological capabilities to translate the commercials or run Spanish commercials.

“This will be a continual examination process,” Campbell said. “It will depend on the advertiser and it is of course our goal to get to that place down the line.”

While no advertising partnerships have come out of the translation process yet, one partnership fueled the program from the start.

In order to offer the newscast in Spanish, WOOD TV8 is partnering with Voices For Health (VFH). The partnership will provide a program that will allow Spanish-speaking audiences in West Michigan access to local news, weather and sports. And what makes the program unique is that it is offered in real time.

The increasingly diverse West Michigan audience will be informed of the news, weather and sports through two translators. Molly Kelly of WOOD TV8 said the two translators will be provided with a script for the scripted parts of the show, but that is only a minimal part of the broadcast.

“For the video segments, question-and-answer periods between the anchors and reporters, the weather cast and the sports cast are all unscripted,” said Kelly. “That is when the translators will have to listen and translate instantly what is said.”

An audio booth will be set up for the translators who will receive the English audio feed through a set of headphones. They will operate their own audio board and watch the newscast on a monitor.

The translators, who were hired, trained and monitored by Voices For Health, need to have a strong command of both languages, Kelly said.

“Especially with idioms, sayings and slang,” said Kelly. “Especially in sports when the reporters and announcers use such colorful language to describe the scene.”

This complicated program and partnership has been a long time coming, and both Voices For Health and WOOD TV8 are excited about the venture.

“This program has been under development for almost a year,” said Kniowski. “We are committed to serve all members of our community. We believe that we have a responsibility to dedicate our resources to provide access to local news and weather for the growing Hispanic population in West Michigan.”

Besides the responsibility of recruiting, training and supervising the interpreters, VFH is establishing a model that can be used by other television stations.

“We are very excited about this challenging opportunity because we hope that in the long run it will help Hispanics become more integrated into the mainstream West Michigan community,” said Carlos Pava, vice president of VFH. “They will be able to do this by learning about local events and issues on a daily basis.”

WOOD TV8 will offer Spanish translation on the secondary audio program (SAP) channel. A rebroadcast of 24 Hour News 8 with Spanish translation will be available weeknights at 7 p.m. on WXSP TV.

To do this, Spanish-speaking viewers need to access the SAP channel, an audio channel that is different from the main audio channel.

“We are currently trying to secure a third interpreter for back-up in case of vacation or sick days,” said Kelly. “We just started and already we are growing. This is an exciting step.”  

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