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The Expansionist
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Spanish PBS. Did you know that PBS launched a Spanish-language cable network two months ago? I hadn't heard about it at the time, and I watch a lot of news on TV and read a lot of news on the Internet, so I guess the story was glossed over by major English-language media. I chanced across the actual network a couple of weeks ago in channel-surfing, and thought the "ME" stood for "Mexico". But "V-me", pronounced váe.mae, stands for the Spanish compound word "veme",* meaning "see me". It is a co-production of a private company and various public broadcasters, including Newark's own PBS station, WNET (which claims to be a New York station but is actually assigned by the FCC to Newark, NJ).
V-me maintains a website in Spanish, with some English.
“Public television exists to serve the American public, and Latinos and Spanish-speakers are an increasingly significant part of that public. With V-me, public broadcasters are able to fulfill their mission and serve this vitally important new audience,” said William F. Baker, Chief Executive, Educational Broadcasting Corporation. “An endeavor this significant could not be created by public broadcasters or private investors alone. Through this unique partnership, public television brings hundreds of hours of high-quality, exclusive programming to America’s Latino families.”

V-me Media, Inc. is a media company formed to create and distribute the best quality content for Hispanics in the U.S. and internationally. The company is a partnership of PBS flagship, [Newark's stolen] Thirteen/WNET New York [no: Newark], and private investors, led by The Baeza Group and including Syncom Funds, both of which specialize in investing in media companies to reach underserved markets. Company revenues will come from the development and launch of strategic partnerships, the international syndication of its originally produced and co-produced programs and sales of post-broadcast products such as DVDs and other program related products.
(Oddly, the website asks for your 'postal code' (not "zip code") in order to show the station in your area with which V-me is affiliated, but does not show what channel to tune to to find the programs it lists.)
Is V-me a good thing, bad thing, or mixed?
That depends upon its intent and effects. If the intent is to create a parallel society within the United States that does not integrate with the majority culture, then its intent is decidedly a bad thing.
If its intent is to give Hispanics who may not have received much education in their home country the kinds of information other Americans have, that intent is a good thing.
If one of its intents is to give students of Spanish from other language communities a whole range of quality-content broadcasting in Spanish, that intent too is good.
What, likely, will be its results? Already, there is GED preparation in Spanish. Why? Can students take the GED in Spanish? Do we not require students to know English in order to get a high-school equivalency diploma? If that is the case, we need to crack down hard on educators, rescind all such diplomas, and demand that competence in English be a mandatory part of a high school diploma or equivalent. No one in the United States is truly educated if s/he can't speak, read, and write English fluently.
Is teaching English thru on-air or online courses designed specifically for speakers of Spanish part of V-me's mission? Not as far as you can tell from its website. I did a search for both "english" and "inglés" (with the accent) and found almost nothing. The nitely feature films are subtitled in English, and that appears to be about it.
Why would a PBS venture, presumably funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a governmental entity that takes money involuntarily from taxpayers, not offer English-language instruction tailored to Spanish-speakers? Is it V-me's intention to keep current speakers of Spanish speaking Spanish only rather than help them gradually learn English to fit better into the larger society? Is it V-me's mission to help Hispanics retain their language against the forces of assimilation? If that is its mission, it should be immediately de-funded by every entity, public and private, that believes that this is ONE Nation, not many, and that everyone who lives here has an obligation to learn the one language that will permit them fully to participate in national life: English.

* This is a combination of "ve" (see) + "me" (me), pushed together as one does in Spanish with imperatives and pronouns.
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 3,431 — for Israel.)

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