Caribbean Radio Station Switching To Liberal Talk Radio
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The traditional home on the city’s radiowaves for Caribbean music and news is changing formats, to talk radio.
At the end of the month, WLIB (AM 1190), which broadcasts from Brooklyn, will begin airing Air America Radio, a new network with a liberal slant.
The change has upset longtime listeners. Many Caribbean immigrants living in the city have depended on the station for news from home.
“It was sort of a pan-Africanist view,” said Brooklyn City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke. “We're able to understand issues that arise instantly. So in real time people are able to find out what's happening with their friends and neighbors and relations back home and be able to address their concerns here in the U.S. LIB, on a day-to-day basis, was able to link up with just about every nation throughout the Caribbean. Now, there is going to be a delay.”
Air America’s commentators say they'll offer an alternative to what they see as the slew of conservative radio hosts who dominate the airwaves. Comedian and political commentator Al Franken is one of Air America's main hosts.
However, critics of the move say the new liberal network isn’t a substitute for real news on the Caribbean community.
“We'll see if Al Franken will be giving results of the election in Haiti. We'll see if Al Franken or Janeane Garofalo will be interviewing candidates on Eastern Parkway come Labor Day,” said “Dylan,” a popular DJ who was among those who were let go from LIB to make way for Air America.
Some are also concerned that Caribbean-related businesses in the city that advertise on WLIB will suffer.
“Many restaurants, many entertainment centers, bakeries, and travel and tourism businesses depended on WLIB, and it is going to be a major loss for our community,” said Roy Hastick of the Caribbean Chamber of Commerce.
“If you want to know what's going on in Caribbean life, this is what you listen to,” said Owen Larman of the Underhill Senior Day Center. “[It tells you] where the parties are at, what restaurants are hot, what shows are going on.”
WLIB management says the reason for switching formats is to make money and get national attention. Part of an announcement currently being played on the station states: “We have elected to embark in a new direction which will once again put WLIB in the vanguard of change, change that will have an impact not just here but across the country.”
Political host Mark Riley is the only WLIB personality scheduled to be part of the new Air America lineup when it hits the air waves March 31st.
Rival AM station WWRL has hired fired LIB DJ “Ian the Goose” to work weekends. WWRL hopes to pick up more Caribbean listeners.
“If there is room for us to expand and do anything further on weekends, we will do that,” said WWRL Program Director Rennie Bishop.
Whether that will be enough to satisfy the city's Caribbean community remains to be seen.