NPR In Spanish: Approaching Content For A Bilingual Audience

As the number of Spanish speakers living in the U.S. grows, how is NPR responding?
NPR acquired the Spanish-language podcast Radio Ambulante, hosted by Daniel Alarcón, in 2016. Source: Photo Courtesy of Radio Ambulante

In 1988, NPR canceled its nearly decade-old Spanish-language weekly newsmagazine, Enfoque Nacional, citing lack of interest and funding. A Los Angeles Times article about the decision highlighted the controversy with the headline: "NPR Slammed for Canceling Program." In 1990, about 17.3 million people in the United States spoke Spanish at home.

Three decades later, that number has more than doubled; in excess of 40 million U.S. residents speak Spanish at home, or about 13.3 percent of the population over the age of five, according to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau data. Although most are bilingual, speaking English is a reach for more than 16 million of those Spanish speakers. Spanish increasingly pervades national culture, and commercial Spanish-language radio stations are thriving in major cities across the country.

What does that mean for NPR, whose original mission statement included the goal to "speak with many voices and many dialects" and more recently has pledged to "sound like America"? Its on-air Spanish-language ventures such as Enfoque Nacional remain in the past, but the digital era has offered up some different opportunities. Here are some of the ways NPR and member stations are approaching the issue, along with thoughts about it from some in the public radio community.

Reaching NPR Listeners In Spanish Via Podcast

In 2016, NPR began distributing the Spanish-language podcast The show, which bills itself as "Latin American stories in sound," is hosted by writer and journalist Daniel Alarcón. It tells stories from places like Lima,

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