A-Musings: Talk Radio

I was pleasantly surprised shortly after my recent return to Saint Lucia to find that W-VENT Radio was still on the air on 93.5 and 94.7 FM; it can’t be easy for them. As we at IETV have discovered to our chagrin, Saint Lucians and Saint Lucian companies would rather support beer drinking and bacchanal than serious educational content or social discussion. I wish them well.

Talk radio presents discussion on topical issues. Most shows are regularly hosted by a single individual, and often feature interviews with a number of different guests. The genre may include an element of listener participation, usually by broadcasting live conversations between the host and listeners who “call in” to the show.

In theory, this format should work in Saint Lucia. Unfortunately, most of the shows presently airing encourage inarticulate gibberish from a coterie of regulars more at home in a bar. Many sound less than sober, no matter what time of day they call. Their comments are predictable. Sadly, the shows turn out to be a celebration of the inarticulate addressing an apparently uninformed core of listeners.

Tim’s guests treat him with cloying familiarity; you know, the “Tim, my brother, how are you?” type. Others, full of their own self-importance, speak with the authority of those appointed by public opinion to air their insightful nonsense. Few are lucid; even fewer articulate. But there’s always Rick, of course; the later he calls in, the longer we have to wait, the more we anticipate his contribution. Always the manipulator, he adds zest and spice to the show – unless, of course, his contribution is trumped by the untimely intervention of Ms Jadia.

The political hacks, as Rick likes to call them, have a heyday. Somehow the lines always seem to be open to them. Lord only knows how they get through, but get through they do. And then, of course, as mentioned earlier, there’s the government’s spokesperson, Kenny’s personal mouthpiece, who has the gift of casting her spells and causing Tim to bear silent witness to government propaganda; he is apparently impotent to stop her steamroller attacks and often allows her to monopolize large segments of the show.

Tim’s show is probably the best and most popular show of its kind in the country, which is why he receives most stick. There is very little screening, not of content issues, but of contributors. How nice it is to hear a new voice now and then, scarcely more than one a show, instead of the tired hacks with their boring, self-important hang-ups.

In the USA, expressing and debating political opinions has been a staple of radio since the medium’s infancy in the early 1920s; by the mid-1930s, radio priests were reaching millions per week. There was a national current events forum called America’s Town Meeting of the Air that broadcast once a week starting in 1935. It featured panel discussions from some of the biggest newsmakers and was among the first shows to allow audience participation: members of the studio audience questioned the guests and even heckled them.

Despite the plethora of so-called talk shows in Saint Lucia, W-VENT does stand a chance of succeeding if the station can attract an audience interested not only in airing its limited, bigoted, biased beliefs brought to us in basically bad English, but also in participating in lively stimulating discussion. A lot will depend on the presenters and their capacity to engage callers and get them to offer lucid argument for their views.

If you listen to some talk show hosts you’ll find that their god is the answer to everything, despite the fact that in a global perspective theirs is a minority religion, which is not necessarily a bad thing if the show is featured as a religious show for a religious audience or for those open to mystical explanations.

W-VENT is trying to reach out to all linguistic sectors; they have programs in Creole, programs in English and bilingual programs. As yet, it is early days still, and they are not immune to teething problems. Some of the talent is fresh, some old, some refreshing, some a bit staid. Personally, I would appreciate a lot more educational content in short, sharp bursts, perhaps the sort of thing that could form a basis for later discussion and commentary. Why not, Dear Reader, take a few moments to check the station out? With your support, it could become a vibrant force for discussion and change. Get off your collective asses, Saint Lucia, and dial in change. VENT a little!

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