All Change at KLAS Sports Radio and CVM Television

In 2022 so far Jamaica’s media landscape has seen 2 major developments.

  1. It was disclosed recently that CVM Television – one of the 3 free-to-air tv stations in Jamaica – was bought by Verticast Media Group  
  2. KLAS Radio -the pioneering sports station in Jamaica – was sold to Florida based Omega Church International Ministries.

CVM’s REBOOT?

Verticast Media Group’s purchase of CVM Television is a welcome move by its CEO Oliver McIntosh who for decades was the main man at the Caribbean based station SportsMax TV. 

Verticast Group had recently acquired the Caribbean media TV rights to some of the more globally popular sports such as the English Premier League (EPL) and the FIFA World Cup 2022. Thus CVM could be an ideal platform to showcase these marque sports competitions in conjunction with the 2 existing channels on the Verticast platform.

This development can only be a positive step for CVM, the wider Jamaican TV industry and viewers which has been dominated by Television Jamaica (TVJ).

CVM has been under the ownership of Michael Lee Chin’s Portland Holdings (AIC Barbados) since 2006 but for some time the TV station has been flagging in the quality of its output. 

Since its inception CVM could be relied on for the high quality of its evening news reports compared to TVJ. CVM’s local evening news was what many Jamaicans would turn to find was what was really happening across their country away from pr from politicians speaking and Kingston only stories elsewhere.

Today, CVM news – despite the efforts of its young excellent journalists – is a far cry from those impressive days when it was must-see tv. 

A few years ago the evening news format was changed significantly into a “lifestyle” format and it led to a high turnover of news readers and a fall off in its news content. 

The CVM bosses had also done away with the popular current affairs discussion programme  Live@7. What ever happened to the popular What A Gwaan?

Today, CVM’s morning and midday news today are literally just a repeat of the evening news broadcasted the night before. Their weekend evening local news output is at times just  an extension of government information news or in other words how many govt ministers’ speeches can they ram into the 15 minutes?

There is nothing innovative coming out of CVM and some of its overseas dramas they show are so out of date.

How many times was CVM  going to keep showing tv old programmes such as “Keeping Up Apperarances”, “Jeffersons”?

The most highly rated local programme on CVM is probably its entertainment weekend programme OnStage.

CVM has been an excellent foundation for young journalists who then have gone on to excel on TVJ, radio and other media platforms. Garfield Burford, one of the many excellent journalists to come out of CVM,  jumped over to public media in Antigua and recently carved out an impressive stint as a cricket commentator. 

Jamaica’s free-to-air  television needed waking up and this move by Verticast is vital for Jamaican viewers. If I was going to advise the new CVM bosses today is to invest in local programming, develop the breakfast programme and enhance the sporting content especially for the weekends. Above all attract the younger viewers.

I’d also suggest acquiring tv rights to some of the excellent black oriented programmes coming out of NETFLIX, BET and mainstream US TV today such as Abbotts Elementary.

KLAS – OMEGA

KLAS Radio has been in operation since the 1990s from its initial base in Mandeville and for some time now in Kingston.

Back then KLAS brought a refreshing approach to broadcasting. Their popular phone-in programmes – hosted by the likes of Wilmot “Motty” Perkins and Winston “Babatunde” Witter –  brought fresh controversial observations to current affairs and attracted new and loyal listeners.  

For the past 2 decades KLAS has dedicated most of its output to sports with some innovative reporting and international alliances. 

But in recent years the sporting output has gradually decreased and by the time Omega took over in July 2022 sports has taken such a major back seat to the new owners influence of gospel based products.

I am disappointed by the decision of KLAS being sold to a company with the intention of reducing its sports output. I am surprised that the media regulatiors allowed this sale to go through under such terms.

Jamaica can ill afford – in these very challenging times of crime, weak economy and brain drain – not to have a radio station dedicated to sport. 

There are quite a few local Christian radio stations and Jamaicans not only love to watch and listen to sports but they love to talk about it;  which was where KLAS Sport 89 proved to be a reliable forum for such discussions.

When KLAS decided all those years ago to go down this mostly sports route I thought it was a brilliant decision. KLAS Sports was unique and it was open minded about its approach to sports media. 

KLAS is the single sports station I’ve known that covers a spread of sports that no other English speaking sports radio station on the globe covers. Over the years Klas covered cricket, football, netball, NFL, boxing, horse racing, tennis, swimming. Plus their live feed of certain major sports events was a godsend. 

In Sean Grant they have a journalist who takes versatility to uncharted levels.

Over the years KLAS would broadcast programmes hosted by the BBC and Talksport (UK) and also ESPN where for a while they had an official tie-up with that popular US sports company.

KLAS’ flagship programme the Sports Desk became more than a sports calling show, it elevated the level of sports debating. Sports Desk – hosted by “Zidane” Matthews and Orville Higgins – drew callers and listeners from across the island and diaspora. 

Sports Desk became like a community centre with some regular callers creating an environment of unity and good vibes. This positive vibe was so moving at times especially whenever one of the regular callers had passed away.  

But egos got in the way, on-air arguments went out of control and Sports Desk  became something of a soap opera and that for me allowed the show to lose some of its identity and focus. Still going though but doesn’t feel the same.

Even some of my christian friends who are into their sports are bitterly disappointed by the demise of KLAS radio and its transition to Omega radio.

Jamaican’s radio industry is very competitive. Then again with over 30 commercial radio stations – on the various media platforms – you could say the industry is saturated for a nation of 3 million people. 

It is hard to fathom how some of these Jamaican radio stations manage to stay afloat but one of the key areas in acquiring advertising revenue is from the Jamaican government. This could explain part of KLAS’ revenue challenges given its former chairman, Alston Stewart, is an ardent supporter of the People’s National Party that has been out of government since 2016.

Government advertising is a major influence on the media’s revenue fortunes today. But the big private companies with strong ties to the government will also have their say on where their PR money goes. 

I would imagine Stewart had canvassed other revenue streams such as crowd funding or investment from sporting industry figures both home and abroad. 

It is really sad that after 3+ decades the KLAS brand is no more. 

KLAS has been one of the most influential stations in Jamaica’s media industry. It has been the career launching pad for numerous young journalists who went to be household names in other parts of the media. Some went on to cover major global events on behalf of major sporting bodies such as World Athletics.

KLAS radio kept the popular local horse racing industry afloat when other radio stations either reduced their interest or simply walked away. 

Horse racing is easily Jamaica’s richest sport and is very popular amongst punters and big business. Some of Jamaica’s political figures are major breeders and owners in the industry.

To me the local racing industry should have invested greatly into KLAS to keep their sport going in a more dynamic and attractive format. Why not have a Saturday morning breakfast show with racing being one of the main topics for discussion and tips.

I just also felt that KLAS should have taken some  business lessons from the Talksport model of commercial sports broadcasting in order to attract more listeners and keep the station fresh. I.e. 

  • greater phone-ins across the day, 
  • Increased coverage of live sport. 
  • local breakfast show, getting people from the sporting industry to co-host. 
  • Greater synergy with the diaspora in the UK, Canada and the US to generate.
  • Extended interviews with sporting personalities past and present
  • Documentaries
  • Collaboration with international sporting media houses and personalities.  

KLAS could have looked to recruit some eager sports enthusiasts in the key diaspora cities to act their contact in those jurisdictions. 

One of the aspects of new media that KLAS failed to embrace early was podcasting. Podcast in sports media took off in the early 2010s and by the time of the pandemic it became a haven during lockdowns for listeners.

Ironically some of the Sports Desk”s regular callers have embraced podcasting and developed their own niche in local sports media.

Even at the height of its popularity KLAS just never got round to maintaining a professional website. Their website was cumbersome and rarely kept up to date. 

Scoreboard was another one of KLAS’ former crown jewels. The interviews that former hosts (incl Paul Wright, Robbie Robinson, Stratton Palmer,) conducted with local and international sporting figures were priceless. Such content that if shared globally with the right media houses could have given KLAS radio greater exposure, revenue and stability. 

KLAS was also too male-oriented with hardly any female presenters and if they did have a female presenter their stay was brief. The phone-ins rarely had female callers (outside of Keisha & Lady G) unlike their rivals.

In radio, one of the most critical slots in the weekday schedule that generates listeners/revenues is the breakfast slot – especially for those listeners getting ready for work. 

I was baffled that KLAS rarely opted for a live breakfast sports oriented show and instead ran the previous day’s episode of Sports Desk.

There was a space for such a breakfast sports show as it would have been unique from the other rival stations whose remit were either politics, light entertainment or gospel.

But I have to say to KLAS thanks for the last 3 decades. They played a most significant part in the development of Jamaica’s strong media infrastructure. KLAS broke new ground with numerous programmes that others followed or snapped up their presenters.

Shame it has ended.

New Beginnings

But no doubt the pandemic would have also had a drastic impact on the revenue fortunes of both KLAS and CVM plus their rivals.

It is a sign of Jamaica’s sustained competitive radio industry that even during the pandemic none of the local stations folded; in fact more players came on board including  The Bridge 99 FM.

With the acquisition of CVM, Jamaica’s free to air programming is likely to go through a revolution which should be good news for Jamaicans and the wider media landscape. TVJ certainly needs some stiffer competition and let’s hope CVM steps up to the game.

But I have to wonder if the former owners of KLAS did ever hold discussions about selling to Verticas. Asking a friend.

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About africanherbsman1967

On the corner
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