Music News

Radio Phoenix: Is Phoenix's Only Community Radio Station Tuning In or Fading Out?

Last month Neba, Underwater Getdown, Kinch, Black Carl, Kirkwood Dellinger, and Lisa Savidge all donated their time to the grassroots, DIY, volunteer-based, non-profit organization that is beginning to fill a void that Phoenicians so desperately crave. They call it Radio Phoenix, the only community-based radio station in town.

Radio Phoenix's general manager Kaja Brown points out that Phoenix is the largest city without a community station. Many of its residents have come from other places where community radio is a part of local music. While Tucson and Bisbee and Green Valley have community stations, Phoenix, sadly, until October, did not.

While ASU's radio station, The Blaze 1260 AM, operates under a similar volunteer structure, involvement is limited to those attending the university. Radio Phoenix seeks to reach out then to the most under-represented communities, musical and otherwise. Their programming includes talk shows regarding the LGBT community, social justice issues, feminism, the environment, and the Native American community, to name a few.

Radio Phoenix's national music director, Jeremy Deatherage, says that music constitutes the majority of the station's programming which also includes talk shows regarding the LGBT community, social justice issues, feminism, the environment, and more.

"Our most important goal with that is to develop programs that feature very under-represented music," says Deatherage. "Independently produced rock, independent hip-hop, electronica, world music, and stuff like that, that you pretty much don't get on any other commercial stations around town."

Currently, Radio Phoenix broadcasts solely online, though the plan is to obtain an FM signal, build a tower, and be live on FM radio within 18 months. While this sounds overly ambitious to some, the team of people working toward this goal put in over four years of research before even launching, and are modeling themselves after Pacific Coast radio stations like famed KEXP, out of Seattle. The locally controlled "by the people, for the people" station is the radio service of the Arizona Community Media Foundation, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to "strengthen our community by providing access to and participation in independent educational and cultural community-based media."

In fact, the modest house (known as "the bungalow") in the heart of Roosevelt Row that is home to Radio Phoenix and is the site of its broadcasts belongs to Rhonda Boyle, the executive director and president of the Arizona Community Media Foundation. 

The station is not just innovative in its programming, though. It is making new and unique concerted efforts to help the local music community in unprecedented ways. Local music director and assistant program director Nick Gortari is interested in bringing more people out to local shows, making it easier for them to come and stay, and partnering with venues and other local businesses to make the success of local music beneficial to everyone.

So what do you say, Phoenix? Is this start-up radio station the solution to forming a more coherent local scene or should we just tune it out?