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Spanish Language Radio Stations Hit Hard By Drying Up Of Zero Down Mortgages
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July 14, 2008, 05:00 PM
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The same days as the news of proposed government bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Washington Post runs a revealing article on how the drying up of subprime mortgages has badly hurt the advertising revenue of Spanish language radio stations in the DC area:

But these days the subprime mortgage meltdown has hit many Spanish-language radio stations hard. Real estate companies that targeted the Hispanic community have closed their doors or cut back on advertising and sponsorships. Aragon has lost most of the real estate agents who once advertised with him…

As the housing market took off, Spanish-language radio and real estate companies — two businesses that are highly locally focused — became increasingly intertwined. Jose Luis Semidey, a real estate agent who catered to the Hispanic community, ran Radio Latina at 950 AM in Potomac and 810 AM in Annapolis. He`s no longer an agent, and he ceased operating the stations in 2006. The realty firm Vilchez & Associates was a principal sponsor of Radio Universal in Manassas at 1460 AM, which no longer exists. It was shut down last year to be reopened this year as La Kaliente, with a new format and a new owner.

Peruvian native Ronald Gordon, whose Arlington-based ZGS Communications operates 11 Telemundo television station affiliates and three radio stations, including VIVA 900 AM in Laurel, said the housing bust has hit Spanish-language radio in the area, much like it has hit the whole Hispanic community.

"I think in terms of the mortgage and real estate industry, we were over-indexed in terms of advertising," Gordon said.

With a pair of headphones over his brushed-back black hair, his lips never far from a suspended microphone, Aragon can be found weekday mornings in his studio, pumping out a steady diet of Spanish-language news, talk, and Mexican and Central American tunes on his show "Buenos Dias Washington."

Aragon began renting his station`s signal from JMK Communications of Los Angeles in 2002, changing its format from country to Mexican regional. Those days, the housing boom was just getting underway and an influx of Hispanics that would change the county`s demographic mix had begun.

The station began throwing an annual Fiesta Hispana in its parking lot. It promoted Mexican and Central American bands. And when the latest immigration debate heated up, the station served as a place for information about demonstrations and meetings.

At the height of the housing boom, Aragon had as many as 15 real estate agents advertising with him, he said. He got his own Realtor`s license three years ago and began advertising his services on his show — which he still does today. Only one other real estate agent remains as an advertiser.