Media Watch

Downtown Radio celebrates pair of firsts

Low Power station Downtown Radio 99.1 FM KTDT has achieved an on-air milestone on two fronts. In addition to celebrating its first anniversary, the station is the first in Tucson willing to accept advertising, or in its case, the community radio equivalent of underwriting, from a medical marijuana distributor.

The Prime Leaf dispensary has been advertising with Downtown Radio for more than a month, and the move, if nothing else, is a foray into the morass of multiple bureaucracies. Other radio stations won't touch advertising from marijuana outlets because of the uncertainty of its regulatory status. Indeed, the DEA recently retained marijuana as a Level 1 drug despite obvious growing public acceptance for the substance.

But for most radio stations, the concern is with how another federal agency, the FCC, the regulatory body for on-air licenses, might view the decision to accept money from a business that sells a product the government has yet to approve.

"As a broadcaster, we are the holders of a federal license to broadcast," said Ken Kwilosz, the GM at Lotus owned rock stations KFMA 102.1 FM and KLPX 96.1 FM. "We therefore, follow federal laws. It's still not legal based on federal law."

Lotus is dealing with gray area advertising acceptance for the e-cigarette industry, itself facing the uncertainty of increased federal regulations.

Community radio station KXCI-FM 91.3 has much the same outlook.

"KXCI does not accept any underwriting from marijuana outlets," said KXCI GM Cathy Rivers. "As long as pot is federally illegal we would not consider it."

But Downtown Radio Operations Manager Jason LeValley has been told it's acceptable.

"This is not a reckless decision," said LeValley. "I wrote to the FCC and received a written response informing me that there is currently no law in place that would prohibit us from airing underwriting announcements on the station. I have long believed that marijuana should be legalized for adult use.  The 'medical' qualifier is really just a stepping stone for that to happen, in my opinion.  With Tucson MMJ dispensaries now in abundance, the time is right for working with those dispensaries—or at least The Prime Leaf, who is currently underwriting us."

As for the other first, the station's one-year on-air anniversary, Downtown Radio is sponsoring a music fundraiser at Flycatcher this Friday, Sept. 16, featuring Katterwaul, Golden Boots, Louise Le Hir, Adara Rae and the Homewreckers and 8 Minutes to Burn to celebrate the accomplishment and bring in more coin in pursuit of future improvements as it ventures into year two.

"I'd like to expand the wattage to 100 watts in the near future," LeValley said. "This is a legal process which will increase the range and strength of the station. I'd also like to get equipment that will enable us to do remote broadcasts as well as build a bigger studio."

If the response in the future is as well received as it was throughout year one, Downtown Radio should be well on its way to strengthening its foothold.

"The thing that most impresses me is that we have received so much positive feedback and, 11 months into this thing, No negative feedback about the station," said LeValley.

In addition to its location on the FM dial, Downtown Radio can be streamed online at and via the Tune In smartphone app. LeValley says a Downtown Radio phone app is in the works.

Greg Hansen just learned about streaming

It is not uncommon for newspaper sports reporters to appear on radio shows in other markets.

Perhaps unfortunately for Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen, his fantastically entertaining interview with Salt Lake radio station 1280 The Zone prior to the UA football team's season opener against BYU didn't sit so well with folks in the Old Pueblo.

Hansen, who loves Utah and writes as if he's trying to land a job with the State's Board of Tourism every opportunity he gets, railed on the UA football program, most notably on the defensive side of the ball.

Among the interview highlights: "At best they'll be average this year, maybe the worst defense in the Pac-12. Maybe the worst defense they've had here since the 1950s. It's a sinking ship."

"They have four new defensive coaches, all young guys, and one of them has never coached in a college game before. They're really good recruiters, apparently, and that's why they hired them. Maybe that's the new wave in football. If you're a school like Arizona, that's what you have to do. Recruit instead of coach."

"Their nose tackle is a return missionary who is one of the nicest guys I've ever met. He's undersized, but he tries hard. Their secondary is a bunch of guys named Joe."

Naturally, Arizona's defense played well in the BYU game, and every Hansen prediction, including needing to score 40 to win, didn't quite come to fruition.

But the interview, which if one removes the UA red and blue glasses, is exactly the kind of conversation a radio show loves, is the latest in a series of curious Hansen reactions to the football program. Sources say he was noticeably absent at numerous press functions and did not attend the BYU game, just up the road in Glendale.

Maybe he has personal reasons. Maybe he came to his senses and realized that under the UA's absurdly restrictive media access policy there's really no reason to attend press functions. And under that policy, watching games can be a lot more comfortable from the recliner. Maybe he's needed behind the scenes to try to help hone the sports department's efforts—sans Bruce Pascoe, who actually still does report—to turn the section and its accompanying social media into a one-line stand-up comedy troupe.

Maybe he's checking out the newly revamped, which looks poised to make a real run at actual Tucson sports reporting.

Whatever the reason, Hansen's recent uncharacteristic absences have been noticed. As have his entertaining radio interviews in other markets. At least he's made it easier on the producers looking to book guests.

About that upgrade

Four high-profile local sports reporting names are collaborating in an effort to fill the void for sports coverage in the market. is getting a new look, additional contributors and sound funding resources as it hopes to live up to the name of its website moniker.

In addition to the voluminous contributions of Javier Morales and Andy Morales' unparalleled local coverage of high school sports, reporting veterans Steve Rivera (UA men's basketball) and Anthony Gimino (UA football) bring decades of invaluable historical program knowledge to their respective assignments.

"For a couple of years, Anthony and I have broached the subject with Javier Morales to revamp the website to make it friendlier to read," said Rivera. "I finally came up with a financial backer who sees value in local sports coverage at all levels. This is important to me, given the state of the media business not just here, but everywhere. Between Gimino, Javier, Andy and myself we have more than 75 years of covering sports. We know the landscape. We know the people. And we like telling their stories. This will give us a chance."

An end

This is the final Media Watch column in the Tucson Weekly.

Thanks for reading.