Línea Directa has been a true pioneer in the use of Spanish-language media as an effective mechanism for increasing community empowerment. When the series was first broadcast on January 25, 1990, there were no local Spanish-language television newscasts in the Washington metropolitan area, and Latino families had virtually no access to information about daily life in the United States.
Línea Directa was the first weekly series created to serve the new immigrant community, and to communicate the message that all persons living in the United States have rights, regardless of their legal status, income, or ability to speak English. After more than 21 years on the air, the program has become an invaluable source of information for the region’s growing Latino community, and has given local leaders an effective platform for outreach and dialogue.
Línea Directa’s programming accomplishments have been many. In 1991, after two days of riots in the Latino neighborhood of Mount Pleasant, the program’s one-hour televised community forum allowed Latino leaders to engage District of Columbia Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly in a wide open dialogue about the causes of the violent disturbances. The historic event marked the first appearance by a city Mayor on Spanish-language television, and was widely credited with helping to diffuse the tense situation with the Metropolitan Police Department.
In 1993, Línea Directa succeeded in forcing local Spanish-language radio and television stations to cancel the broadcast of commercials and infomercials being produced by fraudulent psychics who were stealing thousands of dollars from vulnerable immigrants. Thanks to the educational campaign launched by Línea Directa, not only were the false healers denied access to the airwaves, but the public attention generated by the effort led the Washington Post to devote a major front page story to the problem.
One year later, Línea Directa was the first local program to speak openly about the use of condoms, infidelity, and the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community. The innovative four-part series broke many traditional Spanish-language television taboos, featuring on-camera interviews with men and women living with AIDS, and dramatizing the process of condom negotiation between couples.
In November 2000, EVS forged a public service partnership that is unique in the nation, and that allows EVS to produce Línea Directa in the studios of NBC4 in Washington, D.C. The collaborative relationship with NBC4 gave EVS the opportunity to provide quick, effective coverage of two critical events in 2001 that deeply affected the Latino community — the devastating earthquakes in El Salvador and the terrorist attacks in September. At a time when telephone lines were still down, and information about loved ones was extremely scarce, Línea Directa gave Salvadoran Ambassador Rene León an opportunity to provide thousands of worried families with a detailed report on the situation in the country. Days after the tragedy in New York and the Pentagon, Línea Directa broadcast a program designed to help Latino parents talk to their children about the traumatic events. The following two weeks, EVS produced shows focusing on the employment and mental health crisis that resulted from the attacks.
Since establishing the groundbreaking relationship with NBC4, EVS has produced nearly 300 Línea Directa programs, including a series focusing on the health of Latino women for the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, a series on the rights of Latino workers for SEIU, and a series on the dangers of tobacco for the American Legacy Foundation.
Through the years, EVS has collaborated with nearly every single Latino social service agency located in the Washington metropolitan area. These include Identity, CASA of Maryland, the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Health Care, Centro Nía, the Hispanic College Fund, the Latino Student Fund, the Montgomery College Hispanic Business Institute, the Spanish Catholic Center, the Latin American Youth Center, Clínica del Pueblo, CARECEN, the Nueva Vida Breast Cancer Support Group, the Hermanas Unidas Domestic Violence Support Group, Casa de Esperanza, the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mexicanos Sin Fronteras, AYUDA Legal Services, the Hispanic Committee of Virginia, local chapters of the Service Employees International Union, and the Laborers International Union, Tenants and Workers United, and Housing Counseling Services.