Guyana has a rich history in radio

IF any Caribbean or even South American country has had a rich history in radio broadcasting then it has to be our very own Guyana. And from its humble beginnings in the 40’s, radio broadcasting has been building over the past decades leading to the eventual establishment of the Voice of Guyana (VOG) and the National Communications Network. But my research tells me that radio broadcasting was one of its first in the Caribbean and was started as early as the 1920’s. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programming was dominantly being aired for the first, but more programmes ensued not long after. Radio Demerara came to reality in 1951; The Guyana Broadcasting Service (GBS) in 1958; Action Radio in 1968, and the GBC in 1979. The changes did not end there. The Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) was divided into two factions with a new motto: “One station, two channels”. Channel One and Channel Two later became Radio Roraima and The Voice of Guyana respectively. Then, finally in March 2004, National Communications Network (NCN) emerged out of the Guyana Television Broadcasting Company Limited (GTV) as a new company.

QSL letter from GBC for reception in New Zealand, 1997
© Chris Mackerell Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation

Today, we have VOG and 98.1 FM as Radio Roraima was withdrew nationally from the airwaves some years ago. Today, it is purported that this station broadcasts to the city population only.

But today’s radio does not really reflect that rich history that has been passed down through the ages from when we were Guiana to present day Guyana. I can remember listening to a few radio broadcasts when I was small. We had a lot of time to spare. Electricity was a luxury then. Radio is an ever important medium of communication. I loved listening to the radio especially like over a decade ago. As a teenager, I remember (and even listened) to programmes such as Rick Dees Top 40, For Family and Friends (which is under a new name [A Better World] today for what reason I do not know), Quiz Catch, Best by Request with Pancho Carew (late), Doctor on Call, Plain Talk, among others.

My research also reveals that a plethora of persons have made their impressions by being involved in Guyanese radio since its humble beginnings. Somebody took the time to compile a very informative list; see Many programmes which still air today on the Voice of Guyana have been in existence for decades now. I am glad that management has still kept them on the air. I am talking about programmes such as: Man in the Street, Operators Night Ride, Action Line, Sunshine Corner, Concert Hall, Good Morning Guyana, Soundsational, Yours for the Asking, Talking about Education, Salute to Senior Citizens, Best by Request, Broadcast to Schools, etc.

It is quite amazing to note that the radio guide of Sunday, September 9, 1974 had The Catholic Broadcast, a programme which is still being aired at its same timeslot (11.45am) some thirty years after. The Voice of Guyana has also stuck to its original format of broadcasting throughout the entire day which starts with devotionals and religious programming during the early morning hours, live interactive shows during the day, news, afternoon family shows, more news, documentaries and locally- produced programmes and in the late evenings lovely music: oldies and soul among other genres. They end of the broadcast day by still linking with the BBC World Service.

I listen on the internet to Guyana radio these days even though the streaming is not always reliable. And it should be. Web streams of our radio broadcasts must be accessible all over the world. I am sure there are Guyanese all over the world that would do anything to listen to the sound of our local Guyanese radio. While listening, the broadcasts might even bring back memories of the decades of rich programming through radio. Berbicians are still awaiting the services of 98.1 FM and Radio Roraima.

If one thing is commendable about Guyanese radio, then it is the vast music library they possess. I have never heard such a large quantity of music than what I’ve heard on VOG and 98.1 FM. I am sure the oldies bring back good memories even to my father who insists that I turn up the volume of the computer on the oldies hour of the Sunday night show’s oldies hour (from 8pm) on 98.1 FM. Sunday is one of the best days I enjoy 98.1 FM. The music drives nostalgia to great heights. It is good that 98.1 FM has stuck to this format every Sunday as it is one of the more quietly spent days of the week when persons are at home and relaxing. I know VOG must have preserved the old records from the 50’s and 60’s to now because that is the only reason I can see as to how they have such a rich music library.

98.1 Hot FM logo

Programmes I’ve spent my nights listening as of recent include Ron’s Rendezvous. I was made to understand that this programme has been airing since the 1980’s. The Basil P Show on Sunday nights has been airing for over ten years now.

I also remember making contributions on Plain Talk and Action Line a few years back. Only the former has survived. Also, I’ve noted a trend that Action Line – a programme which allows members of the public to call in and air concerns is not being aired on a weekly basis. Is this a way of stifling the nation and blocking people from saying where development is not taking place? Action Line, over the years, has been one of the most effective ways of exposing corruption and problems being meted out by citizens and I would like it to be on the air every single Monday nights.

I always love listening to American radio stations but there’s nothing like home that touches you and bring you back to your roots. I also enjoy the old American songs (pop, soul) that are played on Guyanese radio. As I said, I don’t know where they pick up these vintage songs from. Triple ‘M’ Show with Franklin Langhorne and Music to Remember as well as Straight from the Heart are some of the best music programmes on Guyanese radio today. Thank you, Mr Langhorne for your musical tribute to teachers last Monday night.

However, while Guyana radio maintained many of the old programmes, much was not the same with the producers and announcers. Of course, veterans such as Ayube Hamid, Bertie Chancellor (who selected the music), Pancho Carew, among other great broadcasters have all gone in the great beyond. However, Guyanese radio has let go of excellent broadcasters such as Maggie Lawrence, Ron Robinson, Prudence Lewis, Phyllis Jackson, Claudette Fredericks, Rovin Deodat; those are the names which come to mind. The more senior folks would recall more names. I was not even born during those times.

The current band of broadcasters, many of whom are rookies have taken over Guyanese radio by storm leaving only embarrassment behind for themselves and anger and resentment by the radio loving people of Guyana.


© October 10, 2009

This material remains © Guyana National Newspapers Limited and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

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