DAVID GREENE, HOST:

According to the latest census, Hispanics now account for more than half the growth in the U.S. population from 2000 to 2010. And that is starting to influence what we see on television. NPR's media correspondent, David Folkenflik, has the first of two stories about American networks trying to appeal to a broader Latino audience. Today a look at Comcast's NBC News.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Every day, NBC News officials hold a conference call with their sister networks to talk about stories of interest.

ALEXANDRA WALLACE: So every morning at 11:45 we have what's called a share call. And on it are NBC News, The Weather Channel, CNBC, Telemundo News.

FOLKENFLIK: Alexandra Wallace is senior vice president at NBC News. She says she relies on Telemundo to keep tabs on stories and events that matter to Hispanics, whether in the U.S. or abroad.

WALLACE: The great thing about Telemundo News is they are flagging us now to stories that we might have heard about but probably haven't heard about. That is a really valuable resource for us. There are things that it takes three weeks to work up to the New York Times. It's very nice to hear about them two days after they start being discussed.

FOLKENFLIK: It has been a decade since NBC, then run by GE, acquired the Spanish language broadcaster Telemundo for $2.7 billion. It would seem a natural news partnership in a country in which Hispanics are growing in numbers, influence, wealth and importance. But for years, their interactions have been modest at best, especially on the news side

About a year ago, however, there were greater stirrings. Telemundo's Jose Diaz Balart filled in as a daytime anchor on MSNBC and appeared with NBC's Brian Williams during a Republican presidential primary debate

JOSE DIAZ BALART: Governor I'd like to ask you, a Border State governor, what specifically in your mind would make the border secure?

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Well, the first thing you need to have is have boots on the ground...

FOLKENFLIK: But after that one question and a few follow ups, Diaz Balart was done for the night, thanked by Williams, and left. It felt a little jarring.

Alina Falcon is Telemundo's executive vice president of News and Alternative Programming.

ALINA FALCON: That was one of the first times that someone from Telemundo had actually been integrated into one of the very important events that NBC had. Even though it was a limited role, having his direct participation in that debate was very significant.

FOLKENFLIK: In June, Telemundo and NBC announced what they called an unprecedented collaboration of coverage for the rest of this election season; joining in polls, convention coverage, town halls, and giving NBC's Wallace a direct role in overseeing Telemundo's news, as well.

NBC and Telemundo officials say they can share logistical help, resources and planning. Telemundo reporters with English language skills are starting to appear more frequently on NBC and MSNBC. And the same occurs on Telemundo for NBC's journalists who can speak Spanish.

Mark Hugo Lopez is associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

MARK HUGO LOPEZ: When you take a look at the size of the Latino market, the Latino market is measured to be over a trillion dollars in purchasing power. And it's growing. It's growing because the Hispanic population is growing.

FOLKENFLIK: And that growth has all the networks scrambling. NBC's top-rated "Nightly News with Brian Williams" draws proportionately modest numbers of Latinos compared to their share of the population at large. For that matter, so do ABC's and CBS's evening newscasts. Network executives look at those numbers and see what people in the business call a good growth opportunity.

But political scientist and Hispanic activist Angelo Falcon - no relation to Alina - says major English language news organizations simply haven't taken Latino news seriously on a day-to-day basis.

ANGELO FALCON: NBC, for example, has Telemundo as part of it. But a lot of people feel Telemundo has been a very marginal part of the whole NBC operation.

FOLKENFLIK: And yet there are visible signs of cross-pollination. Late last month, after elections in Mexico, it was an NBC's Mark Potter who reported from Mexico City for NBC "Nightly News." But anchor Kate Snow also introduced viewers to the president-elect this way

KATE SNOW: In an interview with Jose Diaz-Balart, of NBC's Spanish language network, Telemundo, he talked about the drug-related crime wave that's cost the lives of tens of thousands of Mexican citizens over the past six years.

BALART: (Spanish language spoken)

FOLKENFLIK: NBC's Alexandra Wallace says it's the latest census report that has changed her network's thinking.

WALLACE: In 2008, this was something that I don't remember talking about it as much. I don't remember hearing about it as much. As that population grows we need to be much more attuned to what is of importance to them.

FOLKENFLIK: Wallace says NBC will not, cannot, miss this opportunity anew.

David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: And tomorrow, in his second report, David will look at how ABC News and the Spanish language network, Univision, are teaming up on cable.

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