On Thursday, April 16th, the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR) in association with People of Black Heritage and ZYNC TV hosted another in its forum series this time addressing the question “Do radio deejays contribute to the state of popular Jamaican music?” In a spirited and enlightening discussion held in the auditorium of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx, panelists, Dahved Levy of WBLS (107.5 FM), DJ Roy of Irie Jam on WVIP (93.5 FM), Mikey Sterling of R5 Radio on WVIP, Avril Francis of ER Radio on WVIP, Carter Van Pelt of WKCR (89.9 FM), Spread Love Bobby on WPAT (930 AM) and Richie Poo of Royal Radio (106.3 FM) provided insightful and often candid answers to the question. The high energy exchange between the panelists, commentators and the community who packed the auditorium was moderated by Sharon Gordon, chairperson and co-founder of CPR. The official commentators for the evening, legendary radio host, Jeff Barnes, singer/drummer/producer Ed Robinson, radio host, Francine Chin, and the well known DJ Prentice all offered unique perspective on the issue.
Many on the panel thanked CPR for the opportunity to hear how the people in the community feel and think, while many in the audience expressed gratitude to CPR for giving them a place for their voice to be heard. “I was amazed to see how many people took listening to radio so seriously,” said DJ Prentice, “the panel had an opportunity to see the reaction on the other side of the mike.” Kittitian panelist, Avril Francis stated that, “CPR is the saving spirit that was missing to uplift the people…for those who missed the forum, you missed one chance to feel passion, unity and togetherness.” In her role as commentator, long time broadcaster, Francine Chin, admonished the panel collectively, “Everyone needs to operate according to set standards…we have to raise the bar not only in being creative in music and radio but the entire industry.” Chin continued, “Broadcasting has aspects where there is a universal language, a universal code…it’s up to the broadcasters and the community to enforce this.” With many on the panel being on brokered radio, a good portion of the evening was spent discussing the challenges of brokered radio on which the community relies heavily to hear music and obtain information. The exorbitant costs of maintaining brokered air time was passionately discussed. According to DJ Roy, all brokered radio jocks have another job because they have to pay for their time on the radio. “Being on brokered radio is no joke,” he chuckled. “It’s not easy coming up with the $12,000 per week to pay for Irie Jam’s airtime,” he shared, “that’s before the staff or any other operating expense is paid.” Bobby Clarke and Louie Grant owners of Irie Jam Media group could be seen in the audience, nodding their heads in agreement. Dahved Levy the only, radio jock on a mainstream station, unapologetically, expressed that, “I have to do what it takes to keep my number one spot, of course I played Dutty Wine but I played it later on in my show, after I had already played the vintage reggae tunes in the opening and lead up to the current tunes.”
The forum promised a keen insight into the question and after three and half hours, some in the audience surmised that “this is a community issue and only the community can solve it” while others felt strongly that, “we need respectability and professionalism on the radio.”
To top off an already lively evening, Dahved Levy concluded the evening’s deliberations with an unprecedented move as he announced he was signing up on the spot to become a member of CPR. All other members of the panel and others in the audience followed suit to the delight of CPR. “We are pleased to have Dahved Levy as a charter member of CPR,” says Carlyle McKetty, President of the Coalition, “his stature in the industry can only enhance the credibility to our organization. “CPR is here to facilitate community involvement in examining issues and proposing remedies and solutions,” says Sharon Gordon. “As stakeholders we are all affected and we must come together and find common solutions.”