Dialing It Up: Phoenix Radio Station KWSS Expands Its Reach to the East Valley

Local music booster and KWSS radio host Dani Cutler is excited about the expansion into the East Valley.
Local music booster and KWSS radio host Dani Cutler is excited about the expansion into the East Valley. Catriona Simental
Local award-winning terrestrial radio station KWSS has expanded its reach to the East Valley. Station volunteer and on-air personality Dani Cutler says she is thrilled with this addition to the KWSS family.

“We have always had a goal of bringing our unique mix of mainstream, classic, and independent music to the East Valley, and we couldn’t be more excited to see our goal achieved,” Cutler said in a recent news release. “The West Valley can still find us on 93.9 [FM], and now listeners in the East Valley will find us on 99.5 [FM].”
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KWSS volunteer Dani Cutler points out, “The West Valley can still find us on 93.9, and now listeners in the East Valley will find us on 99.5.”
Chanelle Sinclair/The Fates Co.
Believe it or not, terrestrial radio has held its ground over the years. Although listenership has declined, it’s not as drastic as one might think in the shadow of satellite channels. A 2020 study shows that 83 percent of people ages 12 and older listened to terrestrial radio in a given week. That's only a slight drop from the previous year. This data applies to all types of content, not just news.

The KWSS expansion to 99.5 will cover Mesa, Tempe, and Old Town Scottsdale. Cutler tells Phoenix New Times in an email interview this week that she has been waiting for this moment for a long time — nearly 17 years. “I can't tell you the joy it brings me to be on my side of town (I live in the East Valley), turn on the radio, and hear us!" she exclaims. "Literal tears the first time I heard it and I was at Greenfield [Road] and Southern [Avenue]. I'm so proud and grateful we had this opportunity come our way.”

There won’t be any changes in format at the new channel. Cutler and other KWSS personalities will be grandfathered in and their shows will remain as scheduled on both channels. “The new channel is still a low-power FM channel, so if neither work, you can stream,” adds Cutler. “So, I guess the difference would be the East Valley now has access to our excellent range of music, which includes independent and local Arizona artists in regular rotation.”

Having access to local antenna radio is important for many reasons. KWSS weekend personality Licia Torres says since the 1950s, television has edged out terrestrial radio. But as with most media, it becomes adaptable by becoming more portable. Technology adds to that convenience Torres explains; in fact, it could save your life.

“Year after year, there are predictions on the demise of terrestrial radio,” Torres states to New Times via email. “Again, radio adapts this time by becoming available on smartphones. Terrestrial radio is important because it gives us up-to-the-minute news on disasters in our areas. It connects you with your local community. When the internet and power go out, all you need is your battery-operated radio to keep you up to date on the latest news, possibly save your life, and of course, provide your favorite music.”

Unlike satellite radio, where some stations have playlists on an endless loop with prerecorded promo drop-ins, terrestrial radio can offer a more personal touch. And that can mean discovering new music away from hit lists.
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KWSS personalities including, from left, Dani Cutler, Jay Cairo, and Licia Torres, will remain as scheduled on both stations.
“Terrestrial radio allows the local DJ to connect one-on-one with their listener,” adds Torres. “Your local radio DJ has been known to discover the next big hit song! Record labels rely on radio to break their songs. Terrestrial radio is important because it gives us the whole package, including music, news, human connection, accessibility, and as they say in radio, ‘so much more.’”

Being a popular KWSS personality, Cutler’s role won’t change. The hard-working multitasker says she is “still hosting the morning show and Dani's Diner Retro Hour, along with managing daily operations for the station. Oh, and diving right into fall fundraiser preparations, which is November 19 at Pho Cao in Scottsdale — where 99.5 comes in loud and clear!”
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Timothy Rawles