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LOW POWER FM 99.1 LOOKS FOR FUNDING ASSISTANCE

There's a pretty good chance you won't hear The Long and Winding Road on Downtown Radio's non-commercial rock format, but it would certainly be fitting given the organization's struggles to get approval for a low power FM station.

That road now has a viable destination, an on-air launch date likely slated for early 2015, a welcome sign for a process that has been years in the making.

The FCC made some low power FM frequencies available for Tucson and Southern Arizona. This led the Downtown Radio organization to file the necessary paperwork. Unfortunately, it ran into some initial issues over frequency sharing requirements and didn't rank high enough in criteria to get a guarantee to operate the on-air space exclusively. At one point it looked as though the downtown radio project might be staring at the prospect of sharing signal space with a Spanish language church and/or the Tohono O'odham Nation.

But when signal space became available for those separate entities, a trickle down affect occurred that allowed Downtown Radio to get the frequency it wanted all along, at 99.1 FM. (The Spanish language church gets 90.1 FM; the Tohono Nation 102.5 FM).

Furthermore, a construction permit was approved last week for Downtown Radio's studio space in the basement of the Sinfonia building at 1 East Toole, which will now feature an antenna on the roof to assist in a broadcast radius that figures to cover downtown, the UA campus, A Mountain, slightly north of Grant and south of Ajo.

"Now it's a matter of finding the funding, purchasing the equipment and start broadcasting," said Jason LeValley, the blood, sweat and tears behind the Downtown Radio endeavor. "We need about $20,000. We don't want to skimp on our equipment and the antenna. If we can get more money than that and purchase better equipment, we will. 20K is about the minimum we'll need to get going."

LeValley says the fundraising effort is off to a good start.

"The Fine Arts for Five Cents show guys will help donate to Downtown Radio. That's at Club Congress Nov. 14," said LeValley, who has helped with promotional efforts for that event. "Last year they got 300 people through the door, and they're charging $10 apiece. They've done a lot of promoting. It's potentially going to get us a quarter of the way to that $20,000."

For those who want to assist in getting Downtown Radio to the rest of its goal, there's a donate button on the organization's website: downtownradio.org.

"We're a community radio station and we'll be community supported. We're going to be relying on the community to exist. We'll need that support. We're not in competition with (91.3 FM KXCI)," LeValley said of the long-time multi-format community radio station that recently raised over a half million dollars to dramatically improve signal strength and make much-needed studio and equipment improvements.

But like KXCI, LeValley wants to make the radio venture an important part of Tucson's bustling scene.

"Downtown is booming right now," said LeValley. "It's a great time to be launching a new radio station that's downtown-centric. We'll be in touch with what's going on in the community. We'll provide information and updates on the station and also hope to highlight things people are doing that are having a positive impact, get youth involved, and make a positive difference in addition to playing music not played on the other channels."

Non-commercial rock, to be specific.

"That means we're not going to play songs you hear on the other commercial stations in town. We think people have heard "Hotel California" enough times," LeValley said. "We really don't want to play something where people are going to say, 'Oh, I'm so sick of this song,' and change the channel. That's not to say we won't play familiar artists. We will. But just not their best known songs. There's so much great stuff out there. There are so many great songs that could have been played on the radio that just weren't for some reason. We will be rediscovering classic rock as well as playing stuff that would be classified under alternative, modern, college rock.

"We'll also have specialty shows. I've had a number of people approach me about jazz shows. I think jazz is underrepresented in Tucson. There's still quite a bit of programming that's yet to be determined, and that depends on what people want to bring to the station. We're open to anything, although we would like to keep it as predominantly a rock station."

KEVT EXCELS WITH ELECTION COVERAGE

While most folks interested in election results likely bounced between local television coverage or their preferred national tilt of choice, which amounted to endless gloating on Fox News or the snark induced liberal meltdowns on MSNBC, for others traveling the roads opting for radio updates, the new player on the AM scene, 1210 KEVT, stepped up extremely well.

While KNST AM 790, in its familiar Clear Channel fashion, largely jettisoned any local input and NPR affiliate KUAZ 89.1 FM balanced between local and nationally produced updates, two other stations, KQTH 104.1 FM and KEVT provided consistent local coverage throughout the night.

And of the two, KEVT was the market standard bearer.

The independently managed station, run on a shoestring budget, dedicated pretty much its entire local staff to the cause. As a result, guys with a multitude of election coverage experience, from John C. Scott to Forrest Carr to Jim Parisi to Mark Ulm, constantly bounced off one another with input and understanding of the nuances of various races.

At KQTH, election night host Ed Martin was often on an island, forced to fill time solo on the numerous occasions he wasn't able to land guests, seemingly struggling as he attempted to meander through whatever updates might be available on the computer. Once he got assistance from on-site contributors, such as Jim Nintzel at Democrat headquarters, it helped a great deal and allowed the program to progress well.

More by John Schuster

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