Three days after local outlets in Puerto Rico reported that 109 employees at Univision Puerto Rico (Channel 11) lost their jobs and the channel’s news department was essentially gutted, a Facebook page calling for a island-wide boycott of the channel has received close to 30,000 likes at the time of this initial posting.
Calling itself “Boicot a Univision,” page organizers are following a similar social media strategy to that of the “Boicot La Comay” campaign, which led to the removal of Puerto Rico’s top-rated show once advertisers stop their sponsorships. According to the Univision page, one company (Mr. Special supermarkets) has already stopped advertising on Univision Puerto Rico as of this morning. Nonetheless, while the push by fans of the page insist that the decision by Univision to significantly cut its staff is a blow to local talent on the island, the page’s administration had to address serious concerns that people are being anti-Mexican after this meme went viral on the page:
This morning, the page’s administrator posted the following response:
“This is a boycott against UNIVISION and not against Mexicans,” part of the post said, “so I ask that we respect that. Every nation in every corner of the world has good people and bad people. We shouldn’t generalize. Remember that we are all LATINOS.”
Meanwhile, news of the Univision Puerto Rico layoffs has begun to trickle in via English-language sites that cover media diversity issues. On Friday, journalist Richard Prince was one of the first to report news of the layoffs in mainland-based media page. According to Prince’s story, “WLII Caguas, a Univision television station in Puerto Rico, ended its morning, noon and evening newscasts and laid off 109 employees in its news, production and promotion departments Friday, a network spokeswoman confirmed to Journal-isms.”
In Prince’s story, Unvision spokesperson Mónica Talán said that the national network, whose corporate headquarters are located in New York City, is “not ending our local programming,” noting that an RFP call for new local programming is being made. She also said that “Note Rubén & Company is being extended to a one hour show and is being moved to 5 pm (current affairs and talk). We also announced that we brought together television, radio and digital under one management team led by Juan Bauza.”
A Univision news release confirmed Talán’s comments to Prince and contains additional details about the news out of Puerto Rico:
SAN JUAN, PR– OCTOBER 17, 2014 – Univision Puerto Rico, a division of Univision Communications Inc., today announced executive leadership and programming changes to Univision Canal 11. Respected Puerto Rico media executive Jaime Bauzá has been promoted to the new position of senior vice president and general manager, overseeing Univision Puerto Rico which includes Univision Canal 11; its second broadcast station in Puerto Rico, Tele Isla Canal 7; the Company’s radio properties WKAQ-580 (WKAQ-AM & WYEL-AM); KQ105 (WUKQ-FM) and (WUKW-FM) and Univision’s digital assets on the island. In addition, the popular roundtable discussion program Rubén & Co. expands to one-hour, Monday to Friday and moves to 5 pm.
Univision Puerto Rico also announced that Nelson Ruiz, executive producer for Univision Network, will be doing a request of proposals for programming created and produced in Puerto Rico to add to its offerings on Univision Canal 11 in 2015.
However, news of the layoffs hit now former Unvision employees hard. For example, once veteran Univision journalist tweeted this photo from the newsroom on October 17, after the announcement was made:
Consummatum est. pic.twitter.com/n1WyoMqAkv
— Felipe Gómez Martíne (@felipegomez1960) October 17, 2014
There is also an active #BoicotAUnvision hashtag on Twitter, where profiles are posting tweets and images expressing their anger towards the network.
The channel’s official Twitter feed, which has over 111,000 followers, has not tweeted since October 17, and it’s last tweet was a link to the Univision corporate statement.
Rafeal Lenín López, President of the Association of Journalists of Puerto Rico (ASPPRO) told Caribbean Business that the news “was a big blow to the communications industry and the practice of journalism in Puerto Rico.”
Besides the push on social media to pressure viewers to stop watching and supporting Univision Puerto Rico, sources from inside Puerto Rico told Latino Rebels that in addition to a protest being held today in front of Univision Puerto Rico, there is talk about possible legal action against the channel, although those ideas are just in preliminary stages and cannot be independently confirmed.
Unlike other parts of the mainlaind United States, employees in Puerto Rico are not at-will employees. “The laws in Puerto Rico provide numerous safeguards for employees in terms of the legal and monetary ramifications of employment termination,” according to one legal blog that specializes in cross-border employment.