I’ll be honest, I hesitated writing this piece simply because I feel that Radio Shalom needs to be saved. I hesitated writing this piece because after 16 years of volunteering and putting in thousands of hours into the station, here I, and my very popular show, were unceremoniously dumped with all of Sunday night programming to “save costs”, a nonsensical reason based on the fact that my show, in fact all of Sunday programming, did not cost Radio Shalom a dime.
I didn’t want to sound bitter, I didn’t want to sound resentful, because I honestly am not, I am hurt, upset and quite disturbed, however, that my show is being used as a cost saving excuse.
I want to set the record straight.
I started the show in 2001 right after the World Trade Center attacks. I was in the middle of a stint working at The Suburban covering home based terrorism and CJAD, where I was working part-time, had just rejected another application to work in the newsroom. I was told that because I couldn’t work on Friday nights and Saturdays for religious reasons, I was useless to them. Radio Shalom called, they were just setting up and needed some radio experience to join them, to help put them on the map.
I stepped up and started what turned into “The Howie Silbiger Show”. I interviewed community leaders, terrorists, terrorism experts and over time built an audience. When Radio Shalom went on AM in 2006, I was there, hosting the first English show heard on 1650 am and then the daily, Sunday to Thursday “Howie Silbiger Show”.
Allow me to re-iterate, I wasn’t paid for the show, it was two hours a night and I worked a 50-hour week around it. Not only was I hosting the show, I was doing all the research, technical production and call screening. It was a daunting task. Two years into it, when I asked the station for help, I was told there was no budget for anyone. Finding volunteers was virtually impossible, so I cut the show down to three nights a week.
Three nights a week went well, I had a volunteer call screener and the station provided a technician for at least one of the nights and we continued trudging on, volunteering.
Radio Shalom had a problem, though. The management lacked the finesse of dealing with volunteers. When they decided to host a fundraiser at the Olympia, volunteers were not invited (unless they paid for a ticket) and instead of using internal talent, Sonia Benezra was hired to host the event for a fee. The event would have been far more successful had the volunteers been tapped to help out, instead, the stations attitude was, they were doing us a favor by giving us airtime. Our time and contribution was valueless.
Not long after the fundraiser, I decided to drop my show to one night a week, Sundays, Radio Shalom withdrew their technician. I increased the show to three hours and decided at the time to rebrand the show under my Truetalkradio banner, rather than Radio Shalom.
We ran for two years like that, with me using volunteers I recruited to help with the show. Then I hired Sheldon Fried, a dedicated 25-year veteran of commercial radio. Every week, I would pick up Sheldon, bring him to the station, we would do the show, go out to dinner (which I paid for) and then bring Sheldon home.
I also hosted my own archive site for the show and website (the show did not appear on Radio Shalom’s website).
So if I factor in the yearly out of pocket costs of running The Howie Silbiger Show it would look something like this:
Radio Shalom (electricity, approximately $3 a week)
Howie (Approximately $120 a week)
Cancelled after nearly 16 years on air at Radio Shalom, I did not receive a thank you letter or call. I did not get a chance to say goodbye to my listenership nor did I get offered another timeslot during the week.
When I approached Radio Shalom with a proposal to purchase the station, I was told straight out that I was not being taking seriously because they “know I have no money”. A fallacy, but I digress.
Now my show is being used as a pawn to try to guilt people into donating money or investing into the station and that infuriates me. Cutting my show or all of Sunday programming has not saved Radio Shalom one penny. It costs the exact same thing to run pre-recorded music as it does to run pre-recorded programs and my live show.
All this tactic is accomplishing is banging the final nails into Radio Shalom’s coffin and further alienating the population they are trying to appeal to.
I wish them the best in whatever they are trying to achieve and unlike the Radio Shalom management, I want to thank Radio Shalom for the years of use of their station to hone my skills and develop The Howie Silbiger Show into what it became, the most popular English show on their station.
The Howie Silbiger will be launching independently online in the near future. I will post more information as it finalized.