MTV Tr3s Gives Young Latinos a Forum

NEW YORK MTV Tr3s, the bilingual channel for young Latinos, featured a first-ever platform Saturday for its viewers to voice their opinions on the immigration debate, an issue that is a personal one for many Hispanic youths who are undocumented or who have family members who are not legal U.S. residents.

For the fledgling channel, the move is part of a wider effort through other issue-themed programming on television and online to enhance the political clout of Latinos heading into the 2008 election. The immigration debate is expected to emerge as a key voter issue among Hispanics.

“It’s one of the most important pieces we’ve done that is issue based since our launch,” svp, general manager Lucia Ballas-Traynor said. “This is about giving our audience, Latino youth, a voice in how the immigration debate affects them, what are the solutions and how they can use their vote to affect change.”

She said the impetus for the project was the surprising number of undocumented students who attend public schools but have no options when it comes to attending college or getting a driver’s license because of their immigration status. Beyond Borders may set in motion more issue-oriented programming, though a fixed number has not been determined. The program will be re-aired.

The impact of the immigration issue and its effect on Latino youth emerged as a key social and political issue as MTV Tr3s and community outreach partner Sallie Mae, a provider of federal and private student loans for college students, traveled the nation this year meeting with young Hispanics and hearing their stories during educational workshops, Ballas-Traynor said.

“MTV has a mantra of doing a lot of community outreach with the MTV Think campaign, and we’re always promoting civic engagement and activism,” Ballas-Traynor said. “For us [at MTV Tr3s], the perspective was, ‘This is done a lot by Univision, Telemundo and others, but ours is a different audience with a different perspective.'”

Using the Think campaign Web site, MTV Tr3s will promote its issued-themed programming, giving viewers a chance to continue the dialogue on immigration and other issues such as education.

The U.S. Army, Ford, Verizon Wireless and McDonald’s are among the advertisers of the Beyond Borders series of special programs.

Ad spending in the Spanish-language youth market has reached $1.7 billion so far this year, compared with $2.9 billion for the same time period in 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

“The contrast between a recent arrival, regardless of immigration status, their kids’ level of education is higher and they are English proficient whether they are U.S. born or U.S. raised,” Ballas-Traynor said. “So in essence, they’re the advocates for their parents and they’re the ones telling their parents, ‘We need to get involved, we need to vote.'”