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    WMNF spares, but changes, its Latin show

    Oye Latino will get a new name and time slot. It will try to appeal to general listeners.

    By KATHRYN WEXLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published November 28, 2002

    TAMPA -- Oye Latino is not dead after all.

    The long-running Latin music show on community radio station WMNF-FM 88.5 was to be axed next month as part of several program changes. That would have reduced the station's Latino-oriented programming by half.

    But after an outcry from Oye diehards, program director Randy Wynne has changed his mind.

    "I came to rethink the idea for the show," Wynne said Wednesday.

    The show will move from Sunday night to Tuesday morning, and from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Oye host Franco Silva will remain, but the program will get a new name. It will continue to feature a mix of Latino genres but will also include guests from the Latino community talking about matters unrelated to music.

    Silva, who led the small but persistent movement to keep Oye on the airwaves, called Wynne's reversal "a victory."

    "The end result is we get three times more listeners at that time of day," Silva said. "I feel good."

    According to Wynne, Oye wasn't reaching its target audience and drew few pledges during the show's recent fundraiser. The show also didn't fit with his new agenda to increase the station's black audience.

    Oye just can't win over Latinos from all-Hispanic programming on the AM dial and it should no longer try, Wynne said. The program will now try to appeal to general listeners rather than native Spanish speakers.

    "The show does not succeed in penetrating the Latin community," Wynne said, "but it can have value for the station if we look at it as an indirect impact on the Latin community by providing for the general community a window into Latin music and Latin culture."

    Wynne put forth a tentative plan last month to cut certain shows in order to make room for programming to recapture the ears of African-Americans, a group that used to listen in large numbers but mostly tuned out WMNF during the last decade.

    The station could not be all things to all people, Wynne said at the time. Attracting Latino listeners was not a goal.

    That fired up Latino activists, who launched an e-mail campaign to save Oye. At a town hall meeting in Seminole Heights last week, some frustrated station hosts and volunteers accused Wynne of being short-sighted and biased.

    Wynne has backed away from drastically increasing programs aimed at blacks. His most recent proposal includes only two new shows, an African-American magazine-style program Sunday morning and a jazz show Sunday night. Hosts of other shows must reapply, and local news will be greatly expanded.

    In addition to a new version of Oye, WMNF will keep broadcasting a party mix of salsa and merengue. That program will be lengthened by 30 minutes and switched from Sunday evening to Saturday afternoon, 4 to 6.

    Silva said the guests on his new show will range from Latino poets to social workers. He said he will particularly target female listeners and will stick to English.

    "We've been given a clear directive," Silva said. "I will be introducing Latin music and culture to a non-Latin audience."

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