Univision Chief Appointed to White House Post; Will Network's News Channels Disclose?

May 27th, 2011 9:21 AM

President Obama is revving up his reelection campaign with a push to secure the American Hispanic vote ahead of 2012. Part of that effort, it seems, is the creation of an "Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics."

While the commission is certainly noble in purpose and its members are undoubtedly qualified, the appointment of Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks, raises some concerns about disclosure and political neutrality on some of the nation's most popular Spanish language news programs.

Jim Geraghty aptly described the concerns in a Thursday post:

I’m sure Mr. Conde is a fine man, and probably will have much to offer a presidential commission on educational excellence for Hispanics. Lord knows, we need as much educational excellence as we can get in this country.

But if Obama or any other president had appointed Steve Burke (president of NBC Universal) or Ken Jautz (president of CNN) or Anne Sweeney (president of ABC Television) to one of his advisory commissions, it would inevitably raise eyebrows about a potential conflict of interest with the network’s news programming. A network president isn’t necessarily a part of the news division, but with this move, the head of the network, who has some form of authority over the news division (even if no direct control over content), in effect now “works for” the president of the United States.

Univision has had on-air expressions of liberal political sentiments before. But Conde's close work with the White House raises questions about whether Univision's programming can, absent proper disclosure, fairly cover the president's reelection, especially given Obama's apparent efforts to turn immigration into a key issue in his campaign.

The standard has been well established by the media's weekend ethicists that the political activities of a news outlet's parent company are invariably reflected in that outlet's political coverage. By the same standard, Univision's involvement with the Obama White House compromises its editorial judgment. But given that such (usually left-leaning) critics have rarely if ever expressed concern about NBC-Universal's flagrant flacking for its corporate parent, we doubt they'll be bothered by Conde's move either.