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14 February 2013

A New Dawn in Tucson Radio

Jason LeValley

On January 8th, David Bowie, who was celebrating his 66th birthday, dropped a brilliant bombshell on an unsuspecting public: he announced he would be coming out with a new album, his first in a decade, a little later in the year. This came as a huge surprise even to Bowie's biggest fans. The surprise was intentional, as participants on the album were made to sign secrecy contracts. On that glorious day (yes, I'm a fan), he also debuted an (unsurprisingly) odd video of a song from the forthcoming album entitled Where Are We Now. The title seemed apropos for an artist whose colorful career has seen so many (ahem) changes over the years, and it made me wonder the same.

As someone who is working to help bring about a new radio station, I paused for a moment and asked myself the same question: Where are we now? What is the current state of the music industry? Do people still care about old-school, terrestrial radio when there are so many listening alternatives? I mean, people have more options now than ever before. They can listen to the music of their choice on their phones, in their cars, wherever they want ... literally. So why would anyone choose to listen to a seemingly antiquated system of sonic entertainment?

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why, but they do. I do.

I think it may have something to do with being connected to other people within a community. It's kind of nice to hear familiar voices on the air and learn what's happening in one's community, although the crass manner of commercial radio tends to make that experience bittersweet.

Commercials are often obnoxious and insulting to one's intelligence. The various formats of commercial stations are maddening. Classic rock radio has been playing the same songs over and over again for 30 to 40 years and seems to be intent on doing that until the end of time. Top 40 stations play the same 40 songs every hour or two ad nauseum for months sometimes even a year. I think most people probably know by now that DJs on commercial stations have no say whatsoever when it comes to what they play on the air. That's all decided by the suits in San Antonio who regulate the playlists in almost all of the markets across the entire country, which is why you hear the same songs from town to town wherever you go in this nation of ours. Commercial radio is corporate-controlled and ruled by the almighty dollar. Period! It has no heart, and that is why we need community-based radio.

LPFM stations are designed to be hyper-localized, which means they're there to serve a specific community. In the case of LPFM-Downtown Tucson, we will strive to engage and inform the community about issues that pertain to it. We will run public service announcements to support charitable organizations within our broadcast range and provide a voice for those whose say has been traditionally underrepresented. And, last but not least, we will play mind-expanding music that you won't hear on any commercial station.

So where are we now, you ask? Well, we're gearing up to submit the most impressive application that we can when the FCC opens up its LPFM application window on October 15th of this year. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, we should be up and rockin' a few months later.

Stay tuned, Tucson. The winds of change are starting to blow.