Nightclub Jitters

For listeners of Boom, DJ Kike Posada's Latin-rock radio show, it was the day the music died. On Sunday, September 17, the weekly hourlong program failed to air for the first time since it premiered almost two years ago as Miami's first Spanish-rock program on commercial Latin radio. "I immediately started getting beeps and faxes," says Posada. "The regular listeners were really sad. It was like losing contact with their culture."

One week earlier, Heftel Broadcasting took over Radio Ritmo (WRTO-FM 98.3 FM), home of Boom, and three other local Spanish stations -- Radio Mambi (WAQI-AM 710), La Cubanisima (WQBA-AM 1140), and Super Q (WQBA-FM 107.5) -- after paying a reported $19.8 million to the Suarez-Fernandez family, which previously operated the stations.

Boom was just one casualty of the management change. About two dozen employees were let go from the stations, including Super Q program director Leo Vela and DJ Jose Carlos Ortiz, who, following Posada's lead, created a nightly Latin-rock radio program, Super Q Internacional, at the beginning of this year. Adding to listeners' confusion, Radio Ritmo and Super Q have exchanged signals and formats. The new 98 Caliente (formerly Radio Ritmo) is a youth-oriented station, while Amor 107 (formerly Super Q) -- whose signal reaches the Hispanic populations in Broward and Palm Beach counties -- features romantic ballads and tropical music aimed at an upscale, mostly female audience.

The reason for the changes? Research.
"Spanish is not a format, it's a language," explains Heftel general manager Luis Albertini. "There was no research being done [at these stations]. Not every song that Julio Iglesias puts out is a hit. How do we know that? Research. Every song we put on the radio from now on will be tested."

98 Caliente's new format is heavy on salsa and merengue, but the play list also will include English-language pop hits and some Latin rock. Posada has been given a new hourlong show, Fuego Rock, slotted for weeknights at 10:00. "I think that if they're going to have a rock program, it means that they've seen that a real market exists -- there's pressure from the public to play this kind of music," comments Posada, whose new program was scheduled to debut this week. "Definitely, this [Latin rock] is not a trend, it's a real movement. What's really important is that the people are here to support it. If you give them radio, so much the better.

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Judy Cantor