In Charlotte, political money not flowing to Latino radio


by JEREMY MARKOVICH / NBC Charlotte Staff

Posted on October 4, 2012 at 5:42 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 4 at 9:46 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On the eighth floor of the golden-windowed Independence Tower in east Charlotte, there’s a manila folder sitting in a filing cabinet in the back of a closet at Norsan Media. It’s labeled “Political File.” It’s empty.

If politicians were buying campaign ads on Charlotte’s four Spanish-language radio stations, there would be something in it. But they’re not.

“We had been approached by the Romney campaign and we did an event in September, and they bought a booth for the event,” says Sergio Garcia, the stations’ program director. “That was it.”

Campaigns and political action committees are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in battleground states to carpet-bomb the airwaves with their messages. Increasingly, that money is going toward commercials that specifically target Latinos. A report from Kantar Media CMAG says $11 million has been spent so far on presidential ads targeting Hispanics, specifically in several battleground states: Florida, Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina. The amount of money spent on Spanish-language ads is eight times what it was in 2008, says Kantar.

Yet, in Charlotte, that money is not flowing to Norsan, the largest Hispanic broadcaster in a city where, as of 2011, the Latino population was 13.4%.

“We have a lot of Latino population in town,” said Garcia, “but of the registered voters, obviously that number is not that appealing for the campaigns to invest money.”

(To be fair, the vast majority of political ad money is going toward television, not radio. For example, Pat McCrory’s campaign for governor has committed more than $6 million to TV commercials in North Carolina. It’s spending $300,000 statewide on radio spots, and the ones it’s airing are audio versions of the TV commercials.

“Our radio strategy is to accentuate our TV ads,” said Brian Nick, a McCrory spokesman.)

Money for Spanish-language ads is flowing to other broadcast stations in other cities. In Raleigh, the Romney campaign has aired a Spanish-language TV ad, where Romney’s son Craig campaigns for his father. The Kantar report says President Barack Obama’s campaign has dedicated 9 percent of its TV ad budget to Spanish-language ads. Romney, the Republican nominee, has dedicated about 4 percent.

Garcia has friends who work at bigger Latino stations in bigger markets with second and third-generation registered Latino voters.

“They’re seeing some money,” he said. “It’s frustrating to read the radio news. Everybody’s getting a big chunk [of money] this election year. But not us.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.