Cool guy with cool tastes
PANAMA. Gerry Dowden, known to friends and listeners as Gerry D, has been in Panama over 15 years, and today hosts some of the few Engl...
PANAMA. Gerry Dowden, known to friends and listeners as Gerry D, has been in Panama over 15 years, and today hosts some of the few English radio programs in Panama.
After the Southern Command Network (SCN) —which served those living in the former Panama Canal Zone— left the country in 1999, he lamented the void it left in Panamanian radio.
In mid 2006, in hopes of changing the status quo and bringing back English language broadcasting to Panamanian cars and homes, he started the Panama Broadcasting Corporation.
In the comfort of his apartment, Gerry has set up a state-of-the-art production company.
From his home office, he can broadcast and produce anything, which in his trajectory has even included an interview for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Gerry started off in radio broadcasting while in the UK air forcefrom the 60s to the 80s.
Assigned to the Middle East, he was in charge of many areas of military communication, including live programming that ranged from news brought in from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to music.
The BBC influence and good grounding on radio hosting explains the high interest in structure that he exudes through his work in Panama.
His Panamanian radio trajectory started off at Radio Metropolis (93.5 FM) by buying two hours of their time on Sundays and airing music (oldies) interspersed with 10 minute news sections.
As people began to react to the program, he gradually changed the format.
News coverage was extended, and a new interview section called “person to person” was included.
His Sunday night broadcasts are placed on the Internet after they air which means that anyone in Panama and abroad can tune in at any time during the week to enjoy.
The Sunday program runs from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., which catches people at home and those returning from weekends away, beginning with 30 minutes of “a very professional news program”, as Gerry likes to call it, which narrates Panamanian news as published by local media outlets without additional commentary.
As “foreigners”, Gerry strongly believes he and anchors Buzz Lattrell and Sandra Snyder should not air personal views on local news. “We have no right to tell people what we think,” he argues, “ we just report what’s reported.”
As the only English news broadcast out of Panama, his program is heard worldwide, with a varied audience that includes entities like the CIA and the Pentagon according to Gerry. “That’s why it is important that it is real (news),” he added.
The 30 minutes of news are followed by around an hour and a half of music, a varied mix of 50s oldies to 90s songs.
After meeting the owner of Cool FM, Gerry started presenting two 2-hour programs every week on Cool FM. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 8 – 10 p.m. on 89.3 FM he plays refreshing music on his “Cool Nights” program.
When asked about the genre of music his program plays, he said it is an “eclectic mix” that includes everything from Jazz to Spanish and Italian songs.
With “Cool Nights” he aims to provide his audience with music they would otherwise not hear on Panamanian radio.
The music he picks for any particular Tuesday or Thursday depend on his mood. “Music is a bunch of frequencies put together,” Gerry claims. “I have always used music as a mood thing.”
Gerry hopes to one day run an English radio station in Panama, as he feels English programming in Panama today is fragmented: at different times, different days, different stations, making it hard for an English-language-listening audience to keep track.
Ideally, he would like to run a completely-English radio station with structured, continuous programming, where you can bring English language programming from abroad, and carry daily news sections in English.
“Until we get to that, we are never going to see structure,” he said.
At the moment, he points out there are no free frequencies in Panama, which is why he is waiting for someone with an existing station who would be interested in undertaking this task, one whose “potential is incredible”.
Panamanian law forbids radio hosts to broadcast live without a license, which he finds “frustrating”. Gerry thus records his programs and turns them into the stations before they are aired.
When asked how he interacts with his audience— which is meant to be anyone looking for news and programming in English, not only the ex-pats community— Gerry explained they can ask questions through the web page, send him an email, or text him.He gives out his email address and cell phone number on air.
You can check both his radio shows, on Sunday evenings at Radio Metropolis (93.5 FM) and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Cool FM (89.3 FM).