A major Spanish radio network is exploring the possibility of setting up shop in Honolulu and has approached a local radio station about a possible purchase.
Hawaii Hispanic News publisher and Latin Business Hawaii co-founder Jose Villa is facilitating next week's visit of an executive from the network.
Just which radio station was approached is unknown, and Villa is not permitted to disclose the name of the network, he said.
"The visit's purpose is to determine the viability of establishing a 24-hour Spanish radio station in Honolulu that will serve our 121,000 Hispanic residents -- and all those Hawaii residents interested in Latin culture, food, traditions, dance, art, religion, etc.," Villa reported to those on his mailing list.
Hawaii has about 121,000 residents who identify as Hispanic or Latino, and census data show they make up about 8 percent of each island's population, Villa said.
He has advised network executives that "about 80 percent of Latinos in Hawaii speak and read English and 20 percent are Spanish-language dominant, or Spanish-language only," he said. "That's why my newspaper is in English."
His counsel to them has been to devise a station that is "part Spanish, part English ... and part Spanglish."
He analogizes Spanglish to "how local people use pidgin mixed with standard English," as in, "'Why don't we get together for pau hana?' We do the same thing in Spanglish," Villa said. "That music was 'chevere,'" means that music is "cool or right on," he explained.
There are and have been English-language Latin and Hispanic music shows on Oahu, such as the lamented "Sabor Tropical" on Hawaii Public Radio's KIPO-FM 89.3 and "Alma Latina" on KWAI-AM 1080.
On Maui, Spanish-only speakers have "Ventana al Mundo Latino" or "Window to the Latin World," from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KNUI-AM 900. Hosted by Carlos Hernandez, the show has aired for about a decade and a half, Villa said. "He's a lifeline to all those Latinos that don't speak English there."
Should the mystery network establish a station in Hawaii, it would be "an outstanding opportunity for the (Hispanic) community" because Hawaii lacks the Hispanic community infrastructure that exists in larger markets.
Villa has facilitated Spanish-language workshops on Maui for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and hopes to set up more on Hawaii island, both of which have large concentrations of Spanish-speaking agricultural workers.
The trouble is, the ones who need it most may not be able to attend, because they are working, he said. "But if we have a radio station providing information, we can help them that way, leveraging the little bit of power that we're starting to get -- to help the segments of our Hispanic community that don't have a voice, that don't have any power."
There are some powerhouse Spanish-language and bilingual networks in the U.S. that operate both radio and TV stations, including Univision Communications Inc., Spanish Broadcasting System Inc. and Entravision Communications Corp., to name a few. Hispanic Communications Network, based in Washington, D.C., produces and distributes educational and informational programming across the U.S., and its website indicates a Hawaii presence, but its local affiliate could not be identified by deadline.
The unnamed network would provide some of the programming for any station it secures, because "that's what they do for a living, but we'd be able to generate local programs" that address things going on in the local community, Villa said.
By "we," he means not the royal we; rather, he means members of Hawaii's Hispanic community. The potential Honolulu radio station presents opportunities for new talent, he said.
Villa is taking calls at 744-7225 and scheduling meetings for between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week to gauge the interest of potential advertisers.
"If we don't get the advertisers, we're not going to get the station," Villa said.
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