Talk it out!

McKenzie sees dialogue as way out between Howard, fraternity

Observer senior reporter

Friday, April 13, 2018

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Music insider Clyde McKenzie has weighed in on the drama between Dennis Howard, general manager for radio services at the RJR Communications Group, and members of the dancehall community.

According to McKenzie, the parties need to sit down and have a mature discussion.

“There needs to be a meeting of the minds. Not to say this will automatically reverse the decision taken by Dennis and RJR, but at least it could lead to a better understanding of the rationale for the decision taken by the company. If explained correctly, who knows, we could see both parties coming to some decision which could benefit them both in the long run. My philosophy is that talk is the best route through a dispute,” he told Splash.

“I can't honestly say if there haven't been efforts made for there to be dialogue. However, what we need is less rancour. We have to avert any possibility of a full-blown fight... that would just be a grand waste of time — time which could be used for much more productive purposes,” McKenzie continued.

McKenzie was the first general manager of the all-reggae radio station IRIE FM, which incidentally had Howard as it programme manager.

He points out that the music fraternity has no right to dictate airplay on any radio station, and that management of the media house has the right to decide their format.

“In this current paradigm, as it relates to broadcasting, every station has to be responsible for the decisions taken regarding format; a decision that should be taken based on research to determine its position in the marketplace. That said, the RJR Group has to live by whatever decision it takes regarding the format, and it is the responsibility of management to bear the consequences, positive or negative, of the business decisions,” he said.

McKenzie stoutly defended Howard in light of criticisms that he was anti-dancehall music.

“IRIE FM has been hugely successful over the years, having chosen a format that is consistent with the market. As programmes manager, Dennis was a strong advocate for dancehall to be played on air. As a result, he was responsible for bringing more dancehall to the station than we had originally envisioned. This led to a much more diverse offering and created opportunities for a lot more people.”

For the past two months there has been heated comments from members of the dancehall community directed at Howard and the RJR Communications Group regarding its perceived anti-dancehall format. In February, Beenie Man accused Howard of trying to kill dancehall music.

A week ago, an online petition was launched calling for Entertain-ment and Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange to intervene. This petition has so far garnered 45 signatures.

Singjay I-Octane has also made his voice heard regarding the matter. In a post on social media, the artiste claimed that his music has been banned from RJR.

McKenzie maintained that dialogue has to be the way forward.

“This has the potential to get stupid and ugly, and that is in no one's best interest. The interested parties will just have to sit down and get through this bread and butter issue. Engage an interlocutor, if needs be, who can mediate. There is no need for a drag-out fight,” he advised.

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