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Is Community Radio the Wave of the Future?

By Andy Hart

May 21, 2009

With a tiny transmitter and a broadcast range of only about two miles, WEPA-Radio, 1700-AM is certainly a David among the Goliaths that dominate today’s radio airwaves.

But just as David slew Goliath with one perfectly aimed pebble, WEPA Manager Hipolito Cuevas says the small signal of his Spanish-language radio station is perfectly targeted at thousands of Hispanics living in the Frog Hollow, Parkville and Behind The Rocks neighborhoods. Eventually, he hopes to cover all South and central Hartford.

“Real local radio like this was made possible by new technology which allows community broadcasters to finally take advantage of an FCC regulation called Part 15, which permits low-power stations to broadcast to the local community,” said Cuevas. “Before this new technology, the investment required to set up a radio station was too expensive for people who just want to serve the local community.”

WEPA-Radio, which is headquartered on Arbor Street in the Parkville neighborhood, has been broadcasting in Hartford 24-hours a day, seven days a week since the beginning of the month. The station has been broadcasting in New Haven since September 2007.

WEPA-Radio’s flagship show is “La Brega Mañanera,” a morning talk show that runs from 6 - 10 am and makes extensive use of listener participation. “It’s mostly talk, and that’s what I’m good at,” laughs Cuevas. “Sometimes we talk about Obama, sometimes we talk about what’s going on in Puerto Rico. But we also talk about what’s happening on Park Street, new stores that are opening, concerts that are coming up, real local things like that.”

“La Brega Mañanera,” also includes news reports from “Notiuno de Puerto Rico” at the top and bottom of each hour. “La Brega” is followed by a broadcast from a community radio station in Cidra, Puerto Rico, from 10 am - 2 pm. “La Brega Mañanera” is re-broadcast from 2-5 pm each day. The remaining hours are filled by music and news plus a Mexican show from 1270-AM “La Jefa,” from 5-8 pm.

In addition to the radio station, Cuevas also operates an online newspaper, El Hartford-New Haven Post, and an internet TV station, WEPA-TV, which shows “La Brega” live as well as Latino music videos and classic Puerto Rican television shows. In addition, WEPA-TV produces a program called, “El Big Show with Hipolito Cuevas,” which includes the best clips from past broadcasts of “La Brega.” The program is shown on Hartford Public Access Television (HPA-TV) every Wednesday from 4-5 pm. Cuevas said he is also planning to produce several more community programs to be broadcast on HPA-TV.

WEPA-TV is the latest venture for a man who has been a familiar voice to Greater Hartford’s Hispanic community for almost two decades. A graduate of the University of New Haven, Cuevas has worked for several local radio stations over the years and was also founder and editor of El Reportero, a Spanish-language supplement to the Hartford News, and Imparcial, a Spanish-language community newspaper.

When asked about his market research, Cuevas laughs. “My research was living here for all these years. That’s the best research. Some company could spend thousands sending out surveys, doing telephone interviews, and all that stuff and they still wouldn’t know what the community likes and doesn’t like as well as I do...in all my years on radio, I was known as a good talker but I’m a good listener, too. I know what the community wants to listen to, what they want to watch and what they want to read. And that’s what I’m providing,” said Cuevas.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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