Open Letter to Mr. Sokol, Intermedia WapaTV and WapaAmerica

Subject: Open Letter to Mr. Sokol, Intermedia WapaTV and WapaAmerica
From: Jonas Santiago
Date: 6 Jan 2013
WAPA, Puerto Rico television

Dear Mr. Sokol,

I am writing to describe a crisis in confidence between the citizens of Puerto Rico and WAPA-TV regarding the program SuperXclusivo. This crisis in confidence has extended to the citizens of the mainland and over 20 social activist groups and WAPA-America (1). As you are aware, the initial incident was a rogue artist’s (Kobbo Santarrosa’s) crass remark. This type of incident is nothing new in the history of television. Now the fact it has become an event of national and international magnitude can only reflect on the crisis management team of WAPA (2, 3). Anyone involved in crisis management or anyone with access to internet nowadays can find the basic steps of crisis management. Although there are several models for crisis management, they all cover the same elements under different headings. For simplicity’s sake, let’s utilize a five-step approach to evaluate WAPA's response to the crisis (4).

1. Awareness - WAPA’s lack of awareness made them unable to define the problem, the affected public, and the relationship between the sponsors, the public, and their TV station. From their very first reaction, WAPA stumbled. In the midst of a country's mourning a horrible death, Mr. Joe Ramos’ response to the critics was that they were experiencing an "emotional response." His chosen words and his ill timing aided a grieving public to find comfort with each other through the social media. Mr. Ramos statement “We sincerely regret if comments made on the show are ever taken out of context or misinterpreted to be deliberately hurtful” was labeled as the worst "non-apology apology” by Fox News (5). When the opposition group organized and demanded action, Mr. Ramos, instead of taking step 2 (listening), again rushed in and defined the actions of the public as "censorship." As you will see, this decision will come back to bite him later on. Mr. Ramos defined the problem as censorship and proceeded to further push forward his view by recruiting members of the media and lawyers and parading them on his channel. Mr. Ramos’ lack of awareness transcended the public and spilled over to the sponsors. When the sponsors began canceling their ads due to the public outcry, Mr. Ramos’ response to them was "If one leaves another will take its place." This not only comes across as cocky, but also inconsiderate to businesses which have spent a large amount of advertising money over the years.

2. Listening - Sadly there has been very little of this going on. As you are aware, during the beginning of the crisis, an email response from WAPA TV labeled everyone in favor of the boycott as part of the "gay agenda." Recently, Mr. Ramos stated that he was unable to talk to the opposition. This assertion was later refuted when a member of the boycott publicly revealed details of a conversation he had with Mr. Ramos. The tone of the conversation was described as shouting. Mr. Ramos was heard saying, "What is it that you want? To fine Kobbo? To take him off the air for a few days? An apology?" (8).

Another instance is the listening style of Mr. Ramos as can be seen in the following link:

This interaction between the reporter and Mr. Ramos has been described as "violent." As seen in the video, Mr. Ramos’ style is not conducive to frank communication. In the video, he is seen asserting his right to "censor" his television program, a right that he vehemently denied the opposition on the grounds of being "unconstitutional."

3. Transparency - WAPA's attitude throughout the crisis has been one of lock-down (old style crisis management). No employees are allowed to give interviews in support of or against the company. One instance where lack of transparency and a double standard were enforced was when a local artist was taken off the air. The local artist, Lisa M and her musicians, showed up at WAPA’s studios to fulfill their negotiated agreement to perform several tracks from their Christmas album. When her performance was about to start, the microphone was taken out of her hand and she was told, “How dare you be so fresh to show up in our studio after you participated in the Vigil for Peace last night?” And with that, she and her musicians were escorted off the premises. This in effect was the station enforcing the same censorship it was trying to avoid the general public enforcing on them (7).

4. Feedback - This is a short step to discuss, because if there has not been any communication between parties, there is no feedback to be given to each other. In more than one instance, one feedback that has been clearly announced by the sponsors was their companies were being advertised after they clearly informed WAPA to please remove their advertisements from the program. (Azucar Caña, Goodyear, Dish TV etc.). Each time WAPA made the mistake, it was followed by an apology.

5. Resolution - It seems there is a disconnect between the outraged public and WAPA. Although the boycott would not settle for anything less cancelation, WAPA seems to have moved forward to the resolution independently. They are under the impression that the "non-apology apology" and the fact that the show is no longer going to be live should be enough. This attitude is reflected in Mr. Ramos’ last comments, "I have a lot of years doing this. In other words, enough, ok, hello, I got it, let it go." (6) Mr. Ramos’ solution is to allow the same "old" team that was supposed to fix the problem two years ago to monitor the same program, but now with a time delay. It is amazing that he believes this proposal would carry any credibility. This proposal is a non-starter, as it offers nothing new to a tired and beleaguered audience.

This analysis of this crisis management shows that WAPA's management has lost all credibility with the general public. Sadly, all of these fumbles have magnified what started as a boycott against a single artist (Kobbo Santarrosa) into a full-blown attack against an entire television station. This is evidenced by the over 100 complaints filed with the FCC against WAPA TV and the many others currently being filed as we speak.

As you are aware, this fumbling has spilled into Intermedia's lap. I believe there is a huge generational gap between the WAPA leadership and our general society and modern world. There is no need to go down in history as the worst textbook case on how not to handle controversy. Although the clock cannot be turned back, I do not believe that all is lost; many companies, when faced with similar or worse controversies, have been able to evolve and come out of it with an improved corporate image.

This change in image has to occur immediately, as my sense is that the fight against your companies will be a prolonged one. The only hope to start building anew and for WAPA and Intermedia Advisors to gain credibility in Puerto Rico and the world will be to present a new face to the negotiation. This will eliminate years of baggage and allow both parties to start learning to trust each other.

I do not believe what I just explained here are just my impressions. I would encourage you to read the following link were many of the same points are included (

It is time for WAPA TV to move on gracefully and evolve into a positive force for all of us in Puerto Rico and Latinos in the mainland.

God Bless and Feliz Navidad

Jonas Santiago

emailed to Ms. Katie Hamlin (12/23/12)




So, the moral of the story is make sure you always in company law if you do thinks after hours