SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Radio listeners didn’t hear a peep out of the animated Spanish-language personality nicknamed for “Tweety Bird” after Univision Radio Network yanked the talk radio host from the air, playing only music in his place.
Monica Talan, a Univision spokeswoman, confirmed Tuesday that the morning show “Piolin por la Manana,” hosted by Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, had been dropped. She declined to provide a reason.
For now, she said music will be played in the absence of the Mexican-born disc jockey, who urged his listeners to turn out for immigration reform events and pushed Hispanics to wield their clout in elections. He joined the station in 2004.
Sotelo rose to fame when he and other Spanish-language DJs used the airwaves in 2006 to propel immigrant supporters en masse into the streets of cities across the country to rally for immigrant rights.
Sotelo’s program was peppered with pranks and jokes, but he also interviewed President Barack Obama and other politicians. He urged Hispanics to naturalize so they could vote, and became an American citizen himself at a 2008 ceremony teeming with media.
Javier Novoa, 50, said he liked the way Sotelo interviewed psychologists, immigration experts and financial gurus and imparted their wisdom to his audience. Novoa said he listened regularly to the program on his way to work selling CDs in downtown Santa Ana but lately found he was getting more music and less talk over the airwaves.
“It’s surprising to me because this was a very good program. A lot of people listened to it,” he said of the decision to pull Sotelo off the air.
For five of the last six months, Sotelo’s show has lagged behind Ricardo “El Mandril” Sanchez’s program in the Los Angeles-Orange County market’s Arbitron ratings for morning shows. Both programs played regional Mexican music.
“El Mandril” was listed in the No. 1 spot in June, while Sotelo’s program was No. 6, the ratings showed.
Dolores Ines Casillas, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, said she didn’t think the ratings drop was significant enough for Sotelo’s show to be cancelled.
She said Sotelo was extremely well-known and had been making television appearances in addition to radio. He also voiced roles in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and other movies.
“It happened so suddenly,” said Casillas, who is writing a book about Spanish-language radio. “His show still was incredibly popular.”
Sotelo, who grew up in Santa Ana, is expected to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in November. He often spoke of his own experience as an immigrant, crossing the border illegally in the 1980s, in an effort to inspire his listeners.
Immigrant advocates praised Sotelo for supporting the community in 2006 but said he didn’t take on the issue as aggressively after the marches.
“He took time from his morning entertainment show to become the voice of the voiceless,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “For that, we will always be thankful.”
On Tuesday morning, the station played music and commercials. Sotelo could not immediately be reached for comment, and no updates were posted on his Facebook page or Twitter feeds.
Associated Press writer E.J. Tamara in Los Angeles contributed to this report.