‘Radio Lider' to bid its listeners ‘adios'

A drama that has been playing out for a week on Spanish radio ended Thursday with the news that talk and information station “Radio Lider” will cease programming Saturday.

“Radio Lider,” Charlotte's first Spanish station, is programmed by Orbimedia Communications and leases the radio signal from New York-based Davidson Media Group, which holds the federal broadcast license for WNOW AM (1030).

Orbimedia and Davidson were unable to come to financial terms on continuing Radio Lider.

Word of the impasse surfaced last week when the station's best-known host, Aura Maria Gavilan-Posse, announced on her morning show that Orbimedia could not afford to meet Davidson's price for the station and might not continue. Since then, dozens of listeners have called in and gone on the air to support Radio Lider.

Davidson leased the signal for $25,000 a month and was raising the price to $30,000, said Julian Posse, president of Orbimedia and Gavilan-Posse's husband. He said he offered Davidson $1.6 million for the station and its license, but Davidson held firm to a price of $2.2 million.

Sluggish ad market

His business plan would not work at that figure, Posse said, nor would the station be profitable at the higher lease rate.

“Advertising is down,” he said Thursday. “They didn't consider that. I can't afford it.”

Most commercial radio stations, even those in the fast-growing Hispanic market, have been hit hard by the general downturn in advertising.

What will replace Radio Lider on the frequency was not immediately clear. Calls to Davidson Media executives by the Observer weren't returned Thursday.

Davidson operates 28 Spanish-language stations, including the separate WNOW FM (“La Lider” 105.3), which will continue with its regional Mexican music.

Gavilan-Posse, whose provocative show “Digalo Sin Miedo” (“Tell It Without Fear”) was one of the prime sources of talk and information to the immigrant community, said she will miss talking to listeners every day, but understands the ways of the industry.

“I've been in the radio business for 15 years,” she said. “Radio is radio. You never know.”

A native of Colombia, she came to the United States in 1990, learned English and became a citizen in 1999. She is now one of the most prominent Latino businesswomen in Charlotte.

She began renting time on the station in 1994, selling ads to support the programs, and by 1997 the station was broadcasting almost entirely in Spanish. Previously, it carried religious programming.

Competition grew in Spanish

WNOW's success eventually attracted spirited competition.

Atlanta-based Norsan Broadcasting, which operates 10 stations plus Charlotte Spanish-language weekly Hola Noticias, carries its “La Tremenda” format on WGSP AM (1310 and 1060). It also airs Spanish programs on an FM station it acquired in Pageland, S.C., WRML FM (“La Raza” 102.3). And in April 2007, Davidson added WNOW FM to the Spanish dial.

This week, Norsan's WRML added the No. 1 syndicated Spanish morning show in the nation, featuring Eduardo Sotelo, known as Piolin.

Spanish-language stations attract about 4 percent of the listening audience in Charlotte, according to Arbitron.

Gavilan-Posse said closing Radio Lider would mean the loss of jobs for five announcers and one office assistant.

Gavilan-Posse said she cannot join another Charlotte station for one year because of a non-compete agreement in the contract with Davidson. She said she is exploring the idea of doing a Web-based broadcast.