Layoffs at ME Television

Layoffs at ME TV.

Paul Saucido
Paul Saucido

The rumors were out there, thanks to some loose lips at a cocktail party I attended last year, so when Paul Saucido, the VJ Host of Sonido Boombox sent the word last week that he was laid off from ME Television, I wasn't surprised -- sad, but not surprised.

The Los Angeleno turned Austinite has worked hard to raise the profile of Rock en Español in Austin -- an uphill climb Saucido didn't expect. Challenged by those who refuse to see that Latino music is not bound by boundaries of any kind, Saucido was quick to see that some of the most exciting Latino acts in this town are not recreating the wheel, but spinning out their own music, embracing all their influences -- from heavy metal to yes, the rhythmic ranchera music pulsing from the radios in the kitchens of their youth. As a longtime Los Angeles resident (by way of Arizona), he came to Austin skeptical that Austin was really all that. He soon discovered it is. Here's set down roots here and says he has no plans to leave.

Saucido was not the only VJ to be cut loose. Hip hopper and fellow VJ Bavu Blakes was also shown the door, two of the "temporary layoffs" to occur in ME TV's programming and production departments, according to Connie Wodlinger, President and CEO of ME Television, via e-mail. She further states that Saucido and Blakes "will continue to be invited to make on-air appearances ... [and] "we hope to be back to full staff by year-end."

ME Television started in 2005, taking over the slot once held by the struggling Austin Music Network (cable channel 15). The goal was to make ME Television a model of how a regional music network could be run and managed, and to be "the ultimate source for entertainment information," Wodlinger said in a report published in 2005.

Whether ME Television has lived up to that goal is debatable, though those who follow Latino music and hip-hop may argue that now that Saucido and Blakes are gone, whatever edge ME Television had is gone. Others will argue that TV is not the true medium to cover music to begin with -- it's too static, requiring viewers to be set in front of their TVs, and what real live music lover wants is to do that?

If the music industry has taught us anything, it's that audiences are highly mobile and eager to use whatever medium works best for getting and relating to the music they want. This desire for "what I want, when I want it," has filtered into other forms of entertainment. Not to sound like a brown-noser, but when it comes to keeping in the know, the Chronicle is still the favorite for any local live music lover to go and find out what's going on and where. Yes, in this regard, the "old-fashioned" rag keeps pace with more tech savvy folks who may be pulling up the same info on their tech toys on- the-go (possibly pulling up the Chron listings?) And isn't it curious that almost any time of the day or night, if you flip over to ME Television, the crawl will be club listings -- culled from the Austin Chronicle?

While "Sonido Boombox, and a couple of other series will go on hiatus for the time being," Wodlinger writes, "we will continue to represent Latin music along with all of the other artists and genres in on-air the music will not be effected. We continue to tape performances and recently put Airwaves with Bobby Bones back into production."

ME Television will provide Austin City Limits coverage, as they did last year, Wodlinger continues, and is scheduled to launch as an HD channel in San Antonio by the end of the year. Saucido will continue with Rock and Roll Dia, the terminally fabulous, Day of the Dead music fest he coordinated with ME TV backing (held in November). Whether ME TV will be on board this year is anyone's guess. In the meantime, Saucido is not one to gather dust. Among his many projects, he can be heard on Rock and Roll Radio. Google the boy. He (as well as Blakes) is all over the Internet.

As for the future of ME TV -- well, lay offs are not exactly what you'd call a good sign, particularly in this wobbly media climate, but Wodlinger is nothing but upbeat.

"We are optimistic that ME will continue to grow in many areas,including expansion to other markets and international syndication for some of our series via a new distribution deal. We look forward to continuing our support of independent and established artists of all kinds, and the vibrant live music scene here in Austin."

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Me Television, Paul Saucido

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