1993’s Valentine’s Day saw the birth of a private radio station that would propel into a nationwide entity providing Belize and listeners overseas with an in-depth coverage of current events occurring in our country. From a humble beginning, forcing Rene ‘Chief’ Villanueva Sr. and his family to give up the lower flat of their residence at #33 Freetown Road in the old capital, LOVE FM was housed in the old wooden structure and it was inside that building that the station conducted its first transmission tests a few days after being granted its license on December 9, ‘92 by the Belize Broadcasting Authority. With limited financial resources, a locally man-made antenna and transmitter were built and erected to complement Love FM’s radio studio which was completed on December 18, 1992. On the first days of its transmission tests, Love FM could have been heard in the City and just pass the Haulover Bridge with a mere output of 250 watts. With a technical team of only two persons, Rene Villanueva Jr. and Mike Gundy, the work continued. With Chief being the only investor in LOVE FM, there were much financial difficulties but the sacrifices were made and with hard work and perseverance, LOVE FM had transmitters in every district and town within three years of its inception.
In a casual conversation in Love FM’s studio, Radio Announcer, Lorraine Enright Bennett brainstormed the company’s slogan “MUSIC POWER” which was immediately adapted and later amended to “NEWS AND MUSIC POWER” when a News Centre was established with the assistance of Pauline Rodriguez Romero , Leo Bradley Jr., Marlon Dubon Flores and Rene Mendez. The News Centre was built on the policiy of always airing the latest news in an unbiased fashion – it was on this premise that the station’s NEWS FLASH was developed as most times the local authorities would learn of incidents via our airwaves.
The first few weeks of 1993 proved to be crucial to the small staff of LOVE FM as they were spent preparing for the official inauguration that was held in the backyard of the radio station on February 14, 1993. Despite the doubts that clouded the minds of many, Chief was determined to bring this dream into full fruition and was prepared to make the sacrifices necessary along with his wife, Susan Villanueva. From the onset, when LOVE FM was merely a dream, Chief had the support of his family including his mother, Mrs. Helen Villanueva (deceased) who proudly wrote the prayer which can still be heard each morning on the station and has been dubbed Love FM’s Official Prayer.
Chief’s plan for LOVE FM was to make it the first truly formatted music station in Belize thus the very strict policy of no dancehall, rap or loud vexatious music. The power behind the music was the transmission of top hits in several genres including Golden Oldies, Country, Pop and Souls dating in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s and now it has been sprinkled with selected hits of this decade. With each staff member being cognizant of the station’s policy and following a staff meeting at the Chateau Caribbean in June 1993, the Mission and Vision Statements were drafted.
In the mid 90s some students of the then University College of Belize conducted a survey and found that of the four radio stations that were operating in the country, LOVE FM had garnered 49.8% of the country’s radio listeners leaving the other three stations to share the remaining percentage. This was quite a feat for the station whose future had appeared bleak on many occasions.
1998 proved to be a year where the station’s credibility ratings had hit the roof as Belize was faced with Hurricane Mitch, a natural disaster that found LOVE FM being the only station listened to by residents, their family members abroad and Government officials. A standard had been set that is yet to be surpassed. From thereon, LOVE FM had become and remains the team looked upon in providing up to the minute reports on national issues including elections, natural disasters and current events.
Having garnered much support from advertisers and the listening public, the station began expanding its Marketing, Programming, Technical and News departments, making the structure on Freetown Road inadequate for the station’s growth. In September 2003, the station’s offices were relocated to a three storey structure on Slaughterhouse Road where it currently remains open and now houses the offices of LOVE FM’s affiliates, Love Television, More FM and Love Entertainment.