Closure Of NY Radio Station Leaves Jamaican And Caribbean Programmes Without A Home

(JAMAICA GLEANER) – After some 40 years of Jamaican and Caribbean programming, WVIP 93.5 FM radio station in New Rochelle, New York in the United States, stopped broadcasting at midnight.

Affected programmes include, Irie Jam Radio, Grooving Radio and Link-Up Radio.

The station was recently sold by its owner to a Christian broadcast group in Houston, Texas, which plans to air Spanish-speaking Christian programming.

WVIP 93.5 FM operated as a brokered station where anyone could purchase airtime to host their own programme.

With the sale of WVIP, the Jamaican and Caribbean communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and surrounding states are now without a major outlet for such Caribbean programmes.

A scramble is now on to try to secure airtime on other radio stations.

Reports reaching The Gleaner are that efforts are being made to try to purchase WLIB AM Radio, which also went off air some time ago.

Jamaican and Caribbean programmes were previously carried on WLIB and WBLS, before they were sold.

Irwine Clare, who up until recently hosted a talk programme on the station under the Irie Jam banner, said the shutting down of the station leaves a huge void in the community.

“For the first time in years the annual West Indian Labour Day Parade which celebrates Caribbean culture will not have a radio home to bring audiences happenings from the festivities,” he said.

Clare said that the radio station provided not only entertainment programmes geared to the community, but was the main disseminator of information.

“It was a prolific distributor of information to the community not only what was happening in the United States but about happenings back in their homelands,” he pointed out.

He noted that several Caribbean prime ministers, ministers of government, business leaders and community advocates appeared as guests on the station to provide information to the public on what was happening in their homelands.

“Our community does not have a daily newspaper, no television station and now no radio station where we can get information specific to us,” he said.

Clare hopes that the void will be filled soon.

Francine Chin, who was an early broadcaster on WVIP 93.5 FM noted that it was the only radio outlet left to the community.

“I am left wondering what next. Where do we now turn for information and entertainment that are Caribbean-centred?” she asked.

“Our community is still a radio listening community so the need for radio programmes is very great,” she pointed out.

Former New York City Councilwoman Una Clarke told The Gleaner that the station’s closure is a disservice to the community.

“Not only will our community as a whole be affected, but so too will be Caribbean businesses which depended on the station to advertise their goods and services,” she told The Gleaner.

“We are losing a voice. It is sad to see it go,” said veteran broadcaster Jeff Barnes in speaking about the closure of the station.

Barnes, who is also an attorney, said that he wished there was unity in the broadcasting community as they could have come together to save the station.

Executive producer and co-host of Grooving Radio, Clement “Ras Clem” Hume said the closure will have a massive effect on the community as it will now be left without a voice.

“For over 40 years the station has been a voice for the community and with its closure that voice will be lost,” he said.

Hume said many community organisations which raise funds to support schools, hospitals and other charities in Jamaica will no longer have a voice to spread their message.

“It will have a devastating effect on our community,” he said.