Kaja Brown and Victor Aronow come from different generations and have different concerns when they speak out about what’s missing from the Valley’s radio waves.
Brown, a 28-year-old graduate of Arizona State University, points to a lack of issue programming for blacks, American Indians and English-speaking Hispanics, as well as no outlet for local independent musicians.
Aronow, a 65-year-old adult education instructor, dreams of reviving cultural traditions such as poetry readings and theater hours, as well as in-depth, nonpartisan coverage of state government with clever topics such as the “worst bill of the week.”
But Brown and Aronow are convinced all of their interests will thrive if they succeed in their common mission to bring a new radio station to the East Valley. The two men are leaders of the Arizona Community Media Foundation, a nonprofit group waiting to hear from the Federal Communications Commission if it can build a 100,000-watt station broadcasting from Chandler at 88.7 FM.
Both men want to the offer the type of eclectic sounds and intensely local personalities found on community radio stations around the country.
“I grew up in metro New York City, where we could listen to six or seven college radio stations,” Brown said. “I just thought that was found everywhere.”
But not in the Valley. ASU’s radio station can be heard only on the Tempe campus. Rio Salado College does have KJZZ (91.5 FM), this area’s National Public Radio affiliate. But most of that station’s programming is syndicated and focuses on national and international topics during the day and popular jazz at night.
“Community radio open windows that aren’t open in the mass media,” Aronow said.
They are confident the station would find an audience. Community Media conducted a 10-week test last year on 1440 AM, and it has raised $70,000 in pledged personal loans toward a goal of $200,000, Aronow said.
Under federal rules, a community radio station can’t sell advertising, only limited corporate sponsorships. So the foundation will have to rely on donations of cash and time and grants from government and private foundations.
As Community Media waits to hear from Washington, the group is searching for a studio location and is preparing to launch a podcast service at www.azcmf.org. The podcasts will allow Community Media to start training volunteer producers, and to build a bank of shows to help fill 24 hours a day if the station ever gets on the air.
“We want to have something completely different,” Aronow said. “That’s the appeal.”