The last time I looked Jamaica had over 20 radio stations on the FM band. That is roughly 1 radio station per 125,000 Jamaicans and most are driven by one genre of radio. Speech radio.
Talk radio has been developing in Jamaica since the late 1960s. During the 1970s/80s when Jamaica had 4 radio stations talk based radio in Jamaica started to develop through programmes such as “Public Eye”, “Sportslight” and Hotline.
From the early 1990s talk radio programmes just exploded on to the scene and at the forefront were 2 controversial figures, the late Wilmot “Mutty” Perkins and Winston “Babatunde” Witter. Perkins became a public thorn in side of -the left of centre -People’s National Party (PNP) whether they were in government or in opposition. His points and analysis were relentless, sometimes repetitive, but never dull. Perkins placed most of Jamaica’s problem at the feet of the PNP. Most of the callers to Perkins’ show agreed with his viewS. But Perkins was more excited and interesting when he had callers from those disagreed with his views or supported the PNP. Perkins (aged 80) worked up to December 2011 but sadly passed away early this year.
“Babatunde”Witter was more to the left side of Jamaican politics and he had that ability to connect easily with some Jamaicans who felt left out of the dialogue for the development of Jamaica. Witter took his talk radio show across the island during the 1990s and no doubt increased his popularity. His regular use of the Jamaican patois language and outburts drew in more listeners. Witter returned to airwaves last year after a long sabbatical (motorcycle accident) and can be heard on BESS radio.
Over the past 2 decades the increased use of mobile phone users allowed the average Jamaican to call these talk radio shows. Some of these callers are as popular as the host themselves and have develop their own unique identity via the airwaves.
Callers with established nick names such as “Balance”, “How Come”, “Fanna”, “Margaret MouthaMassie” “Barcelona”, “Nemisis”, “Below Average” “Zidane” “Lady C”, “Infinite” “Jamintel”, “Rollington Town”, “Wilson” and are known to the wider Jamaicans.
Jamaicans love their sports and on Mondays there are up to 8 sports programmes. The quality of which is of a high standard. These sports hosts are all knowledgeable of both local and international sport. But Jamaican radio could do with a few more female sports broadcasters and reporters.
Orville Higgins’ “Sports Desk” (Klas Radio) is one of the more controversial sports show on radio. Orville knows how to stir up his listeners. Whether it’s deliberate on his part Orville has garnered out a niche and unique style for his show. Higgins has admitted that “Mutty Perkins” had a big influence on his style of broadcasting as well as sports broadcaster Lance Whittaker.
Many of the daytime talk radio shows focuses on the events of the day with an emphasis on the economy as well as crime. Callers also vent their frustration on poor state of the roads, water shortages, utility bills, taxes, education, jobs, food prices and much more. The discussions are engaging and can stray from the serious to the downright ridiculous.
Klas Radio has been around for over 2 decades and most of that period has been speech related led by the likes of Mutty Perkins, Winston Witter, Michael Cuff and late night stories and jazz by the late Charles Hyatt. In recent times though Klas has moved to become a primarily dedicated sports station led brilliantly by the likes of Maurice Foster, Juliet Cuthbert, Robbie Robinson and especially Stratton Palmer. Palmer is at ease in discussing with callers and guests any sports such as cricket, football, NFL, basketball, cycling, tennis, horseracing, cycling, table tennis and boxing.
Other specialist programmes provide a useful service to john public. Programmes dedicated to law, emigration, consumer affairs, religion, health, agriculture, government programmes, current affairs, business and land.
One of the most contentious issues that affect many Jamaican families is the subject of land and property and so the free advice given by lawyer Gloria Brown on “Land Solutions” (Power 106) is a critical show for Jamaicans at home or abroad (online).
The quality of the current affairs programmes during the weekdays is superb. They cover community, local, Caribbean and international issues in equal depth and substance. The likes of Gladstone Wilson, Professor Trevor Munroe Cliff Hughes (Nationwide Radio) and Deon Jackson-Miller must be commended for the excellence of their respective shows.
Jackson-Miller’s “Beyond The Headlines” (RJR) in the evening is a daily fix for many Jamaicans including my dad. Deon is never scared to get under the skin of her guests – whatever their status. So on any given day on one of these current affairs shows you can get an in-depth analysis of what’s going in Syria, US elections, and the exams pass rates by high school students in Jamaica.
- Dervan Malcolm on Power 106 to me is the most energetic and engaging radio announcers in Jamaica. His weekday show “Both Sides of the Story” is worth a listen . If there is more positive Jamaican on the air waves than Dervan I have not heard them yet.
- Barry G – The Boogie Man also has weekday programme where he engages listens on health and spiritual issues which is informative.
- I have to mention a health programme hosted by Dr Tony Vendryes on Power 106. Dr Vendryes provides holistic and home remedial advice to his callers. His advice on the benefits of various food supplements such as fish oils, Vitamin B and home vegetation such as gideon weed was priceless for my welfare.
- Dermot Hussey on Newstalk also deserves a mention as his music show is both entertaining, thorough and educational. Hussey delves into all forms off music and has done special programmes on the likes of Fela Kuti and the late Chuck Brown.
Sunday programmes across the airwaves features primarily religious programmes including live or pre-recorded church services in the morning. Sunday’s also includes music from our yesteryear.
There are 3 programmes on Sunday which are worth checking out. The first one is the morning show “Running Africa”on IRIE FM hosted by the versatile Andrea Williams and over the last few weeks Andrea has featured in depth discussions on Garveyism and black consciousness. The Marikana Massarce and the controversial death row executions in Gambia were covered on this week’s programme.
Each Sunday McDaniel is joined by a special guest for his 3 hour+ show and he delves into the guest’s career with input from listeners on the phone or on Palav Mac’s facebook page. Only this week Palav’s guest was the great Leonie Forbes with live on air fun and laughter from media icons such as Ruth Ho Shing, Beverly Cole and the colourful Fae Ellington.
“Sunday Contact” acts as invaluable platform for those Jamaicans wishing to contact long lost relatives and friends. The amazing thing about the show is the success rate of connecting lost ones. There was one touching story I heard on the show where a man was told in his youth that his mum had died in 1979 and he was ringing the show to locate some other relative. Only for the caller to discover that his mother was alive and living in the US. Even with the advent of facebook and other reunion type websites “Sunday Contact” continues to prove its worth.
Radio stations in Jamaica have made full use of social media applications such as bb, Facebook and Twitter. These forums gives those listeners -who cannot get through on the telephone – the chance to air their views and opinions.
These radio stations have their own websites and attract listeners from across the Jamaican diaspora in North America and Europe. “Dear Pastor” has a regular caller on his show from Norway! “Dear Pastor” is a talk show that focuses primarily on personal relationship issues. Sometimes quite hilarious, warm, deep, shocking and at times not for the faint hearted.
IRIE fm plays only reggae music supported by their own unique nightly programmes such as “What’s the Score” (sports) and “Sex Wise” (relationship and related health issues).
Some of the other interesting talk radio shows across the Jamaican airwaves worth mentioning are hosted by the likes
- Ron Mason, Emily Crooks (Nationwide),
- Jerry Small (News Talk),
- Patrick Anderson’s “Sports Grill” (Hitz Radio),
- Barbara Gloudon & Clive Mullings “Hotline”(RJR),
- Marlene Melahoo-Forte, Joan Williams(Power 106) &
- Mutabaruka’s “Cutting Edge” , Andrea Williams’ “Sex Wise”, Hewit/Williams’ “What’s the Score” (Irie FM).
But apologies for the good talk show programmes that I have not reported on.
Although there some much to love and appreciate about Jamaican radio (talk or music) there is always room for some improvement.
- This might to too much– but I wish daily news papers would review some these programmes in their papers. Even more helpful would be for newspaper to provide programme schedules of any upcoming interesting shows or even reviews.
- Occasionally, when a radio station is presenting an outside live broadcast the station seems more interested in the sponsors rather than the subject matter they are meant to be covering. Radio stations need advertisers to fund their existence but a better balance can be struck on how much influence any sponsor can have their shows. Sponsors need radio as much as the other way round. But I understand the commercial obligations that the radio stations have for their sponsors.
- There have been some excellent programmes – especially live interviews with a key figure in our society- that I wish the radio stations would archive and post those interviews (& other features) to their websites for others to listen at a later date. E.g. Klas Radio “Reminisce” programme aired twice weekly has featured terrific interviews which should be kept, catalogued for later referencing. Podcasting such clips & shows would increase the exposure of those radio stations world wide. Could also increase advertising revenue via their websites.
- I do find whenever a radio journalist stops their interview with a live guest (especially at a critical stage in the interview) for a time signal slightly disrespectful. Worse still if the guest has to hold on to the phone while the station covers for 5 minutes live horseracing or advertising. Where is the sense in that? Some good debates or interviews could lose it’s impact just for a simple time signal.
- Some of the radio stations website could be a bit more professional looking and up to date with their content. Some like Power 106 looks too basic. Given that Power 106 is the property of the owners of the Daily Gleaner you would assume that the content management and layout of the website to be first class.
- More Jamaican music on the airwaves. The output of Jamaican music is lower than one would imagine. Especially that of dance hall music. Apart from say IRIE FM and Zip FM dance hall is getting a fight to be heard. Not all of dancehall music is disrepectful and programme producers need to give these young artistes their fair play. Dance hall is a key part of Jamaican music and should not be ignored.
Finally, there is one other station that sits on of the FM band permanently in Jamaica. BBC World Service. Sadly the due to severe cutbacks to their overall funding imposed by the current UK Government World Service’s daily output is made up largely of repeats. Shame. But even there – through phone calls and facebook – Jamaicans still get their points across.
List of Jamaican radio stations