The first thing I noticed when I turned on the radio as the plane was landing was how many more stations were on the air than were listed in the World Radio TV Handbook. The Aruba government has been pretty loose about issuing FM licenses, and the band is getting pretty full.
Most of the stations run similar formats, or lack thereof. Several Aruba broadcasters told me that the local audience is much more patient than the average American audience when it comes to unfamiliar material, and will gladly stay with a station through a few unfamiliar cuts, as long as they meet the other important criterion for Aruban airplay: Almost everything on the radio there has a strong, danceable rhythm to it. The usual programming language is Papiamento, the local creole of Dutch, Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Here's what the dial looks like, with a few notes following. I have indicated call letters where known, but they are heard, if at all, only at sign-on or sign-off.
960 Radio Victoria (P4A-6) - religion, on limited hours (10am-7pm) 1270 Radio 1270/Radio Antilleana - located in San Nicolaas 1320 Voice of Aruba (P4A-10) 1440 Radio Kelkboom (P4A-5) - off the air (see 106.7 FM) 88.1 Mega 88 - co-owned with Hit 94 89.9 Superstation FM90 - co-owned with 1320 AM 93.1 The Sound Experience (P4H-8) - co-owned with 960 AM 94.1 Hit 94 95.1 Top 95FM - located in Santa Cruz 97.9 Radio Carina - mostly automated 98.9 Radio Carina - separate programming from 97.9, automated US-style rock 99.9 Radio Galactica 101.7 Radio Cristal 102.7 Radio Caruso Booy 106.7 Radio Kelkboom - Aruba's oldest station, music mixed with talk and news 107.5 Mi FM - co-owned with 1270 AM
I visited several of these stations, including extensive studio tours of Galactica, Cristal, and Radio Kelkboom, where station owner Emile Kelkboom showed us around. Kelkboom is located in a rural area, in a small one-story building with several compact radio studios and a larger recording studio where many CDs of local music are recorded (Emile gave us several as souvenirs). Kelkboom runs news in Dutch via satellite from Holland, as well as several programs for Aruba's ethnic minorities. The 1440 AM transmitter was off for repairs during my visit; it normally simulcasts the FM. Also of note were two English- language tourist shows, the established "Dick Miller Show" weeknights at 7 on 89.9, and the newer "Nightbeat with Angel" weeknights at 6 on Mega 88. Weekends brought "Aruba's Top 20," simulcast Saturday afternoons on Mega 88 and Hit 94. I drove past several other stations, including Top 95's pastel-colored building in the rural town of Santa Cruz, and the more imposing facility of Radio Victoria/Sound Experience in the village of Pos Chiquito. Sound Experience merits mention as well; it's an easy-listening/religious FM outlet on air 7am-10pm daily with a VERY weak signal. There's one local TV outlet, Tele-Aruba, channel 13, on the air daily 4pm till midnight, but you can easily get Venezuelan TV (especially Radio-Caracas TV and Venevision) most places on the island, and cable TV and satellite dishes were common.
860 Radio Curom (PJZ-86) 1010 Radio Hoyer I (PJC-7) -- // 101.9 FM 1100 Radio Caribe (PJL-3) -- some programming is leased-time 1500 Radio Hoyer II (PJC-9) -- // 105.1 FM 90.7 Radio Tropical 92.3 Radio Mercadeo -- off the air 93.9 Radio Korsou FM (PJO-9) 95.7 Curom Z-FM 97.9 Easy 97.9 (PJQ-97) -- American-style soft rock, automated 98.7 Radio Semiya 100.3 Radio Super Jumbo 101.1 Laser 101 (PJO-10) -- very hot dance/rock format, co-owned with 93.9 101.9 Radio Hoyer I 103.1 Radio Paradise -- tourist radio, mostly in English with some Dutch 105.1 Radio Hoyer II 107.9 Radio Exito
Again, the formats of most of these stations were fairly similar -- a diverse mixture of American hits and oldies and all sorts of Caribbean music. The only studio visit I made was to Laser 101/Radio Korsou FM, where AIRWAVES reader Mezen Dannawi (a.k.a. "Il Capo Della Radio") was a most accomodating host. Laser 101 has a very modern studio setup, including digital audio storage and playback (they run automated overnight this way). Down the hall is Radio Korsou FM, the older, more powerful (25kw) sister station aimed at an older audience. A few blocks away is the darkened studio building of Radio Mercadeo, 92.3, which I'm told went bankrupt last year. I drove by a few other studios, including the Radio Hoyer facility at 21 Plaza Horacio Hoyer, marked by a statue of Mr. Hoyer himself, identified as the father of radio in Curacao. Across St. Anna's Bay, in the neighborhood called "Otrabanda" (literally, "the other side"), are the studios of Radio Curom (short for "Curacao Omroepstadt" or Curacao Broadcasting Station), Curacao's first station, in what appears to be an old mansion. Down the street, I also found Radio Super Jumbo, a fairly new station, in -- and where else? -- the Super Jumbo Shopping Center!
A visit to the Amstel Brewery turned up an interesting fact from our tour guide, named Sheila -- she also leases an hour every afternoon at 5 on Radio Caribe for a radio show! She told us to tune in, and sure enough, that afternoon, she dedicated a song to "the newlyweds." Kinda neat...
Television in Curacao is again a single-channel deal, with Tele-Curacao broadcasting on channel 8 from its site on the bluffs above the Queen Juliana Bridge, along with a translator on channel 6 somewhere to the north. A company called "TDS" runs a wireless-cable system that delivers some 25 channels, including US network affiliates and two Venezuelan stations.
Speaking of Venezuela, its AM stations dominated the dial in Aruba and Curacao. Most notable were the stations in Coro, which boomed in on 660, 780, and 820, but it was also easy to hear Valencia, Caracas, and other cities. There were also several powerful Venezuelan FMs, notably Radio Genesis on 99.5 from Coro, and something on 106.5.
x x X x x
The TWR 800kHz transmitter operates only from 7pm till 12:30am, and again from 3:30 until 8:30am. From 7am until sign-off at 8:30, programs are in English and non-directional. Other times, TWR uses a directional pattern beamed south to South America when in Spanish, or north-south in a figure-8 when in English at night. There's now a large empty room at the TWR transmitter site where the shortwave transmitters used to sit. They were removed a few years ago, and that area will soon be a power- generating facility for the island.
Equally impressive is the Radio Nederland facility...a studio located just south of the TWR studio, and a huge transmitter farm on the scenic road north of Kralendijk. The curtain antennas, strung from some 15 towers along the hillside, are breathtaking.
There's also some local radio:
94.7 Voz di Bonaire -- music and local news (formerly on 1400 AM) 97.1 Ritmo FM -- dance music 101.1 Laser 101 -- translator of Curacao 102.7 Bon FM -- music variety
Voz di Bonaire is located in a tiny concrete-block bunker in Kralendijk. Ritmo FM is co-owned with Flamingo TV, channel 11, and the local cable company, and Bon FM is in what looks like a former gas station that's impossible to miss as you drive into Kralendijk from the airport.
555 ZIZ (St. Kitts) -- English-language, music, BBC and local news 620 ABBS (Antigua) -- local music and news, BBC news 640 RFO (Guadeloupe) -- French variety (main st. feeding 88.5, 88.9) 690 Caribbean Beacon (Anguilla) -- Dr. Gene Scott all the time! 780 ZBVI (Tortola, B.V.I.) -- English-language music 830 Trinity Broadcasting Network (St. Kitts) -- audio of US religious TV net 880 ZJB (Montserrat) -- English-language music, news, ex-885 895 Voice of Nevis (Nevis) -- local music, news, BBC news 930 Radio Antilles (Montserrat) -- local music, BBC, VOA, DW relays 970 WSTX (Christiansted, USVI) -- reggae music 1300 PJD-2 (Sint Maarten) -- mostly English, news, music 1340 WSTA (St. Thomas, USVI) -- island music "Lucky 13" 1505 Radio Anguilla (Anguilla) -- local music, news, BBC news 1610 Caribbean Beacon (Anguilla) -- like 690, but not parallel 88.5 RFO (St. Martin) -- French variety 88.9 RFO (St. Barths?) -- // 88.5 91.2 France Inter (St. Martin) -- relay of French mainland network 92.5 Radio Maranatha (St. Martin) -- French variety, religious 93.9 Voice of Saba (PJF-2) (Saba) -- English-language ac 94.7 Jammin 94.7 (PJD-1) (Sint Maarten) -- dance music 98.7 Radio St. Barths (St. Barths) -- French ac, claims a simulcast on 103.7 99.9 GBBC (Great Bay B'casting Centre) (Sint Maarten) -- ac music 101.5 Radio St. Martin (St. Martin) -- French ac and news 102.1 Radio Caraibes 2 (RCI2) (St. Martin) -- French ac 102.7 PJD-3 FM (Sint Maarten) -- English-language, hits (co-owned with 1300) 104.8 ???? -- all-classical with NO interruptions at all 107.9 Gem Radio Network (Sint Maarten) -- hits, relay of Montserrat
I was able to see only one station, Jammin 94.7, and that just from the outside, and I left without ever identifying the strange all-classical signal on 104.8. From the signal strength, it sure seemed to be on French St. Martin, but it was hard to tell. Not a lot of special programming to note here, although the Dick Miller tourist show is also heard in Sint Maarten daily at 5pm on PJD-2, 1300 AM. Some of the outlying AMs were interesting, as many of the British islands (Anguilla, Antigua, St. Kitts, Montserrat) all run lots of BBC news on their local outlets. ZJB Montserrat must have moved from 885 to 880 fairly recently, perhaps related to the evacuation of much of the island in advance of the possible eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano. Many of the Puerto Rican AMs, notably 580, 630, 680, and 810, were extremely strong here as well. Three missing AMs: WVWI 1000 in the US Virgin Islands, still off from Hurricane Marilyn in 1994; PJF-1 on 1410 in Saba, which I'm told is on a very limited schedule, and ZDK 1100 in Antigua, which should have been clearly audible had it been on the air. The effects of Marilyn were still very visible in all the damaged buildings and tarpaulined roofs, and I hope the island wasn't damaged much further by Bertha. One final note: RFO on the French side is "Radio France Outre-Mer," or "Radio France Overseas," which also runs two TV channels that I could pick up on the multistandard (SECAM/NTSC) set in my hotel room. There's supposedly a TV station on channel 7 in Dutch Sint Maarten as well, but I saw no evidence of it.