The National Hispanic Media Coalition is now pressing the presidential candidates on their plans to resolve issues of technology and media that affect Latinos.

The group is challenging the candidates to respond to measures in the 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda, aimed at changing media, communications and technology policy. Goals include closing the digital divide, modernizing Federal Communications Commission programs and expanding the agency's purview. The group joined 40 other leading Latino advocacy organizations backing the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda's blueprint for public policy affecting Latinos.

The 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda (HPPA) was released last week by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), an advocacy group comprised of 40 Latino organizations across the country. The omnibus document outlines policy issues facing Latinos in education, civil rights, immigration, economic security and improvement, health, and government accountability. The document is intended to advance the Latino community through a comprehensive blueprint of policy solutions.

As part of that alliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition highlighted particular plans in the agenda that would impact Latino communities by improving broadband Internet access for people of color, modernizing the FCC's Lifeline program and making sure diversity remains important in media.

"This agenda, with broad support from the Latino community, confirms that closing the digital divide is of critical importance of people of color," wrote President and CEO of the NHMC Alex Nogales in a statement released to Latin Post.

"We need members of Congress, FCC commissioners and 2016 presidential contenders to realize that open and affordable access to communications is an urgent need," he continued. "Latino voters across the country will be pressuring politicians to articulate concrete next steps for opening opportunities for communities of color to be heard online and on the airwaves."

Closing the Digital Divide

The digital divide -- the disparity in access and affordability of the Internet and the devices used to access it -- still particularly affects rural areas, underserved communities, Latinos and other communities of color.

The HPPA includes several recommendations on measures the FCC and other government agencies can take to close the digital divide for all Americans and Latinos, in particular. The agenda outlines the following:

  • Support ongoing modernization of the Lifeline Program at the FCC to extend the phone service subsidy to cover broadband services. Continually evolve to meet the needs of low-income consumers.
  • Fund English and Spanish language digital literacy campaigns and ensure that Latino outreach related to these campaigns is culturally relevant.
  • Promote competition in the broadband and mobile phone markets to lower prices and improve service.
  • Support the building of high-speed Internet infrastructure to improve connectivity in rural and underserved areas, schools, libraries and community centers.
  • Support the FCC's E-Rate Program, which subsidizes broadband access in schools and libraries.
  • Continue to convene the Broadband Opportunity Council, comprised of 25 Executive Branch agencies and departments, to explore further, cross-agency action to improve broadband deployment, adoption and competition.

Promoting Diversity in Media

The NHMC also pays attention to media and its lack of diversity -- be it cable news talking heads, film and television writers or media owners. The advocacy organization pointed out measures in the HPPA that address diversity issues and hate speech, and it provided recommendations for economic policy measures to help minority media owners:

  • Encourage a comprehensive FCC inquiry into the extent and effects of hate speech in media and/or an update to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) 1993 report to Congress, "The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes."
  • Undertake efforts to discontinue the use of inflammatory language about Latinos and immigrants by the media in order to help prevent the fueling of hate speech and intolerance.
  • Support FCC policies to expand and promote media ownership diversity.
  • Oppose broadcast consolidation as a race-neutral way to open doors for diverse owners to enter the media marketplace, including but not limited to unreasonable covert consolidation, such as through Joint Sales Agreements and other vehicles, designed to circumvent FCC ownership limits.
  • Ensure that the FCC is collecting thorough data on diversity of media ownership and employment. Require that the FCC provide this data to the public in a transparent and easily searchable format that organizes the numbers by race and ethnicity.
  • Support congressional action to reinstate the "minority tax certificate," which increased ownership diversity substantially before it was abandoned in the late 1990s.

Diversity and the digital divide are two giant issues, but the NHLA's huge policy agenda addresses several other major challenges. Check out Latin Post's previous coverage to see the other issues the 40-part Latino coalition is challenging the presidential candidates to respond to, from Puerto Rico's financial crisis to education to immigration reform.