Steve Jobs' Widow, Clintons Part of Univision's Philanthropic Revamp
Randy Falco, head of the nation's No. 1 Spanish-language network, set out to more narrowly define Univision's charity work two years ago.
This story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
In 1988, when Randy Falco's daughter, Jessica, was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Marfan syndrome. It's sometimes referred to as "Abraham Lincoln disease" because victims tend to be unusually tall and lanky-limbed, but it can have other, potentially deadly symptoms, including defects of the heart valves and aorta. "She went though many surgeries and spent a lot of time in hospitals," says Falco. "But they didn't really know what to do. They didn't give much hope. We just went through hell."
Those years of hardship as he and his wife of 38 years, Susan, struggled with a special-needs child left a powerful imprint on the TV executive. So, when he signed on as CEO of Univision in 2011 -- after 31 years at NBC, rising to network president in 1993 -- he decided to take a look at how the No. 1 Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S. handled its philanthropic programs. "It's so important for people to know that there are other people who actually care," he says. One of the first things he did at his new job was make sure Univision was reaching out as smartly as it possibly could.
The company already had numerous philanthropic programs in place, but Falco, 61, found them too scattered to be of maximum benefit, so he decided to give the network a more narrowly defined mission. "Rather than try to do a hundred different things, I tried to focus on four things that I thought were really important in providing service to the community," he says. Those four were education, health care, prosperity (promoting financial literacy) and civic participation, which Falco gathered under an umbrella program called Univision Contigo (or Univision With You).
Since the new initiative began in 2013, it has launched innovative programs like the Univision Farmacia discount, which has helped 1.9 million participants save an estimated $32 million with prepaid cards that can be used at local pharmacies. It also is teaming with Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene, for an early education program in Silicon Valley and with The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation for an early reading program for underprivileged children called Too Small to Fail.
"Kids," says Falco, "are the great common denominator among all cultures. All parents want what is best for their children." Jessica, by the way, is now 29 and recently graduated with a degree in speech pathology.