Tue | Aug 20, 2019

Howard explains radio programming strategy - Statement from Dr Dennis Howard, RJRGLEANER - Communications Group general manager, Radio Services

Published:Sunday | April 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Dennis Howard

In response to recent newspaper and social media articles that have quoted two dancehall artistes complaining about the way in which their songs have been treated in recent times by the Radio Services Division of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, I wish to point out the facts as follows:

Since I took up the position of general manager, Radio Services, for the RJRGLEANER Communications Group about 19 months ago, I was mandated by the board to streamline all the radio stations within the Group with a view to creating an identity for each station based on differentiation of content.

With that in mind, Hitz, FAME, RJR 94 FM, Power 106, and Music 99 now have distinct content and music formats to cater to their particular target listenership.

For instance, Hitz 92FM, which started out as a predominately long-form live sports, reggae, and lifestyle station, morphed into playing more dancehall music than reggae. So under the new structure, the programming focus has returned to its original mandate.

Fame FM, is an entertainment station for the young and young at heart, where a wide range of music genres is played, including dancehall, hip hop, and global pop music.

The flagship station, RJR 94FM, plays mento, dancehall, reggae, and other types of music, sometimes fun and sometimes serious talk, news and information, while Music 99 FM provides adult contemporary music for easy listening, interspersed with messages of affirmation.

And Power 106 FM is for the market, with its business, enterprise, current affairs, talk format, with strong diaspora content.

So dancehall has its place in the new RJRGLEANER leaner Communications Group's radio programming formats and schedules and it is being played on the respective radio stations that are targeted. Therefore, members of the entertainment fraternity, including artistes, producers, and booking agents, should find their comfort with how the new strategy is being applied on the various radio stations.

All should take note as well as the increased avenues for new, older, and contemporary artistes being featured, interviewed, and showcased in different programmes across the radio brands of the Group

It should be pointed out, too, that as part of meeting our regulatory requirements for vetting and compliance of the content aired, a system has been put in place where all songs entering a playlist must first be approved by the management of Radio Services. The management is held accountable for what is played and must, therefore, approve it first.

This is consistent with global standards, and, we feel, will allow for better control of the quality of songs that are played on air as in the past, we have had challenges - listeners and regulators could correctly point to breaches of programming norms. There were also accusations of payola, to which we had no system to credibly respond, which threatened our licences.


Improved listenership


Since the introduction of the new system and approach, we have had tremendous improvement and have not been cited for any regulatory breaches. At the same time, we have improved our listenership on our radio stations, and on all platforms, we have seen positive changes. In fact, our digital platforms show a significant increase in our listeners across all radio stations. In addition, we have seen renewed interest by advertisers, with both Fame FM and Hitz 92 now playing commercials, where there were none before the new strategy was introduced.

It should be noted that over the years I have been a critic of all genres of music in my capacity as a columnist, ethno-musicologist, and an academic, where I am expected to do critical analysis - of music in general - aimed at genre development.

Of note, too, is the fact that as a former broadcaster, artiste manager, and producer, I have created opportunities for upcoming dancehall artistes to express themselves and to get exposure.

I am, therefore, puzzled that I could be accused of being anti-dancehall. In my role as general manager, I am not a critic, but a professional seeking to provide the best variety of content for listeners across our stations.

Jamaica introduced reggae and dancehall music to the world, and I maintain that we are still one of the most creative people globally, so my aim is to ensure that our music lasts forever and is exposed through any avenue over which I have leadership.