Radio Bilingüe launches 24-hour Latino feed

Print More

Public radio last month used an old Ted Turner technique to launch a 24-hour
bilingual radio network for Latinos.

The superstation in this case is KSJV-FM in Fresno, Cal., flagship of Radio
Bilingue’s noncommercial station group.

WSJV’s schedule officially went up on the public radio satellite system
Sept. 16 [1993], the anniversary of several Latin American countries’ independence
from Spain.

The network—named with the Spanish word “Satelite”—gets
its operational funding from the CPB Radio Program Fund and matching funds
for satellite equipment from the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program.

The CPB fund backed the project with $500,000 grant in 1992, for its first
two years, and is considering a $600,000 renewal in the next Radio Program
Fund grant round to be announced early next year, according to fund Director
Rick Madden.

Users will include about a dozen Latino-oriented public radio stations,
and Radio Bilingue Executive Director Hugo Morales also hopes to serve Anglo
stations adding Latino listeners.

Radio Bilingue’s schedule, as its name implies, isn’t all in Spanish, though
its target audience is Hispanic. Broadcasting in English for several hours
a day is necessary to reach many young Latinos, Morales said—particularly
impoverished young people who never learned Spanish.

The Radio Bilingue schedule on the satellite also includes Latin American
folk and jazz music, Tex-Mex and Caribbean music and U.S. rock and soul,
says Samuel Orozco, the news director, who handles programming in general.

The programmers also have acquired radio dramas and documentaries from
the state-owned Radio Educacion in Mexico City. And Fresno station produces
its own 15-minute national newscast, Noticiero Latino, six days a

How the schedule develops depends on what the other stations want, as well
as what they and foreign producers can provide.

Within a year, WRTU and WIPR in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will be using WRTU’s
planned uplink—partially funded in PTFP’s recent grant round—and
will be able to contribute its own programming, including its stable of
commentators from Latin America, according to WRTU Director Raphael Gracia.

Radio Bilingue would like to produce more news programming, but it would
cost more than can be raised, Morales said. Adding an hourly newscast would
cost at least $1.5 million a year, on top of the $350,000-400,000 that is
spent on Noticiero Latino, he estimated.

More likely, he predicted, the Latino stations will get increased government
support for consumer and health information programming targeted at minorities.

It’s possible that Spanish versions of existing NPR and APR news programming
could be created at relatively low cost. Morales awaits results later this
year from a separate CPB-funded study of that idea.

Focus groups of Spanish-speakers last week tested prototype Spanish adaptations
of NPR and APR news programming, ranging from inexpensive reversioning to
expensive remixes, according to Tom Thomas, a consultant managing the research.

The core of Satelite’s users are the few Latino-oriented public radio stations,
including KBBF in Santa Rosa, Calif.; KDNA in Granger, Wash., near Yakima;
KRZA in Colorado’s San Luis Valley; KXER in El Paso; WRTU and WIPR in San
Juan, Puerto Rico; WDNA, Miami; and WLCH, Lancaster, Pa.

The biggest users, however, are KSJV’s sister stations licensed to Radio
Bilingue in Bakersfield, Calexico (El Centro), Modesto and a soon-to-join
station in Salinas.

Having the Fresno schedule available by satellite helps the stations in
Calexico and Salinas, which don’t have resources for full-time local production.
The Calexico station, KUBO, had to cut back its staffing after losing an
annual $150,000 subsidy from the Ford Foundation’s Mexico City office, according
to Morales, and the Salinas station, KHTC, has been losing money under its
present licensee and will be transferred to Radio Bilingue.

Orozco expects the ranks of network users to grow slowly, one station at
a time, with 25 or 30 stations pulling down programs from the satellite
two or three years from now.

Morales sees two marketing jobs ahead. First, he hopes predominately English-language
stations will pull down blocks of Satelite programming. The most likely
users are the 90-some stations that already carry some Spanish-language
programming, including the 70 that carry Noticiero Latino, Orozco

He believes that targeted programming can build a special audience if it’s
given a regular, substantial block of time.

That’s the approach at KBSU-AM, a new multicultural station on a recently
donated frequency operated along with two FM stations by Boise State University.
The Radio Bilingue feed airs between 11 p.m. and 4 p.m., and programmers
are planning other blocks for Native Americans and the local Basque population,
according to General Manager James Paluzzi.

Second, the planners hope Satelite will help new Latino-controlled stations
fill their schedules.

So far there are no Spanish-language public radio stations in New York
or Los Angeles and there’s just one in Texas. Morales said he’s had no success
in sparking the creation of new stations in that state after a year of trying.

Expanding Spanish-language programming in public radio is “a critical-mass
question all the way around,” says Tom Thomas, who worked with Radio
Bilingue on the Satelite project. The ingredients are critical masses of
stations “committed to broadcasting in Spanish for more than a token
hour,” and of program funding, plus “a linkage to get the two

The linkage—the satellite system now operating and expanding—is
already stimulating program proposals to the CPB Radio Program Fund, says

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *