96.1 the first to support

local music airplay law

November 5, 2000

THE nation’s most listened to radio station, 96.1 WEFM, has come out in support of the Recording Industry Association of T&T (Riatt) in the latter’s bid for a mandatory minimum of airplay for indigenous music.

Riatt on Friday staged a protest march through the streets of Port of Spain to bring attention to the disproportionate amount of local music being played on radio, one week after holding talks with and delivering a draft of its position to Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj.

Among the stations singled out for special and derisive mention by Friday’s protesters was 96.1 WEFM, which Soong jointly owns and manages along with popular DJ Anthony Chow Lin On (aka Chinese Laundry). At present, the station plays a diet largely comprising hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall music.

Speaking yesterday to the Sunday Express, Soong said: “We are not just sympathetic, but supportive of the Riatt initiative, just as we were when this matter was raised by another interest group two years ago. We hold the same position and if anything, are now stronger in our support. Our view is that we would wholeheartedly support any legislation that mandates a minimum percentage of local music to be played on the radio daily.

“We are even more happy that Riatt has made clear its position on a definition of local music, because there is a view that every time somebody says local content, they mean wine and jam and soca music exclusively. We are happy that they made the point publicly that the definition includes pop-rock, traditional calypso, parang, chutney and, for that matter, gospel and classical music.

“Just to choose one area, local gospel music is by no means inferior to the imported variety. There are also more pop and rock bands in Trinidad and Tobago than soca bands and they have a good following. There is a lot of music yet to be heard.

“In any event, there can be no argument,” Soong said. “This kind of legislation has been successful in developed countries and the people there do not seem to argue about their programming. If countries like Canada could develop a stance to protect their culture, I do not see why Trinidad and Tobago radio should feel that it is being pressured into anything that cannot or would not sell.

“Mark you, we disagree with the 50 per cent in one leap or in the first instance, because it could lead to a watering down of the brandy. We feel it should start at a lower figure and move up gradually, even if there is a warning that in 2002 it will move to 35 per cent and then 40 per cent and so on.

“Like any other kind of radical change in business or social arrangements, radio should have some kind of moratorium to make the adjustment,” Soong said.

“You might very well find that, by the time we are ready to mandate the next level, some stations might have run past that figure already, but I believe it should be introduced then stepped up, rather than making the first stage a 50 per cent law one time.

Terry-J at I-Level

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