Ethnic radio is a lifeline for Caribbean expatriates in South Florida
S. Florida transplants rely on local stations for news of home
By Georgia East | South Florida Sun-Sentinel November 11, 2008
FORT LAUDERDALE - It was 6 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and Paul Andre Mondesir was trying to save a life. The caller had given up hope. He had no job. He was sleeping on a friend's front porch, living with the fear that he could be deported to Haiti at any time because of his illegal immigration status. He heard Mondesir's radio program on 1320 AM while scanning the dial and felt the urge to call. Mondesir, whose listeners call him "Doc," told the caller that as long as there is a tomorrow there is hope. Then he swiftly ticked off a list of resources that could possibly offer him some temporary assistance. "I give them information with a little self-motivation," Mondesir said.
The incident points to the unique role radio plays in South Florida's Caribbean-American community. It goes beyond entertainment. For local transplants, ethnic radio serves as an information hotline, crisis lifeline and communication link to the islands they left behind. "It's like an umbilical cord to their cultural heritage," said Jean Jabouin, host of the morning show Good Morning Diaspora, which up until recently broadcasted on WSRF 1580 AM, a Haitian station.
Caribbean radio in South Florida can be heard on almost a dozen stations. The majority of the programs are on AM, and most are in Creole. But there are at least two English-language stations. WAVS 1170 AM, which serves the English-speaking Caribbean community, had 43,700 listeners when surveyed this past spring, according to media research firm Arbitron, and some say those estimates are low. There are about 500,000 Caribbean natives in South Florida.
Even with ethnic radio's reach, some within the medium say there's often an uphill battle to get major businesses to advertise with their station. In March, Mystik Radio, a Caribbean AM radio station, pulled the plug. Part of the problem, radio officials say, is that mainstream radio rating systems don't get an accurate count of their listeners.Arbitron sends out listening diaries to a sample of the community, spokeswoman Jessica Benbow said. But some within the Caribbean community say those diaries don't reach their listeners.
At WPBR 1340 AM in West Palm Beach, General Manager Markes Pierre-Louis refers to his station as the CNN of Haitian radio. "We have news live from Haiti every day," Pierre-Louis said. On Friday, when a school full of children collapsed in Petionville, Haiti, many of the Creole-language radio stations here launched into live reports on the victims and recovery efforts. "People want to know what's going on in Haiti because a lot of people want to see change there," said Rodrigue Sejour, a talk radio host on WPBR. On Monday evening, Sejour took questions from local listeners and fielded a debate about reports that the school was shoddily built. "I have a bunch of callers who can't wait to respond."
Fort Lauderdale taxi driver Miche Auguste counts on the radio to fill his cab with everything from compas music and political commentary to a roundup of news from Haiti. It was the first place he turned when friends and family called to say storms were battering his homeland last month."What they do is important," he said. "No matter what, home is home." While some advertisers are still slow to come on board with ethnic radio, politicians recognize itsreach. On the Duke of Earle's show on WAVS 1170 AM, for instance, candidates running for local offices made steady appearances to tap into the Caribbean base.
Last month, Patrick Gaspard, the national political director of Barack Obama's campaign, went on Jabouin's show to talk to Haitians about the campaign. Gaspard is Haitian-American. Most of the Caribbean-formatted stations in South Florida operate on a brokered system: Radio hosts essentially buy time on air and bring their own advertisers. "I don't think some of the larger advertisers understand the value of our community and the value of radio in our community," said Pat Montague, president of Princess PM Productions and a radio host on WAVS.
Just ask Hopeton Green. Before the Hollywood furniture refinisher grabs his drill or pounds any nails, he turns his radio to 1170 AM. It's as automatic as switching on the lights. This is where he can count on hearing a reggae classic. He's also an avid listener of Winston Barnes' Open Mic, a show where listeners talk about everything from politics to the economy, and he makes it a point to catch the Caribbean news roundups. "I have to know what's happening back home because I go home all the time," Green said.
12 novembre 2008
Voci amiche per i creoli rifugiati in Florida
Molto interessante questo articolo del Sun Sentinel, un quotidiano della Florida meridionale che offre uno spaccato della programmazione radiofonica dedicata alle comunità caraibiche residenti in questo stato-simbolo del melting pot americano. Per una volta non si tratta della potente comunità cubana di Little Havana ma di haitiani e creoli che vivono spesso in condizioni di estrema indigenza e in stato di clandestinità, sempre con il timore di essere forzatamente rimpatriati in luoghi dove le prospettive di vita sono di gran lunga peggiori.