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Gavin's Underground

Utah Free Media

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2008-03-11 -

Is it just me or does it feel like local radio isn’t trying this year? As if throwing up it’s hands and admitting defeat, most of the stations (regardless of format) have pretty much made a statement that they’re either going corporate out of ratings lack or staying with what they’ve got to keep what little they have. And that trend sadly included KRCL who bowed out to pressure and announced a more “professional” sound in January. During last month’s fallout of the announcement of KRCL’s corporate makeover, a lot of people gave the station grief and called for a change. Even I threw in my opinion saying that they should forget KRCL and start a new station. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who had the same idea.

Over the past month a new group of people, in partnership with XMission, have started work on an internet based radio station called Utah Free Media. I got a chance to talk with UFM Co-Owner, Troy Mumm about the project and what’s to come for the future of community radio.

Troy Mumm


http://www.utahfm.org/

Gavin:
  Who are you and tell us a little about yourself.

Troy: My name is Troy Mumm.  I am the co-owner of a web development company called Third Sun Productions.  I was the Operations / Program Director at KRCL from 1998 - 2005, and have been involved in community and college radio for over 15 years.

Gavin:  What is Utah Free Media?

Troy: UFM is a nonprofit organization that has been established to provide an outlet for volunteer-based community broadcasting.  We were informally established about a month ago, by combining the technical resources of XMission, the programming experience of many displaced KRCL volunteers and a passionate community radio audience.

Gavin:  How did the idea come about?

Troy: Mike Place from XMission, had attended a KRCL volunteer meeting in which he offered to provide web space for any KRCL volunteers that were losing their show.  I've known Mike for many years, and after hearing about his offer decided to get together with him.  At the same time, a number of upset KRCL listeners were meeting to discuss the situation.  We decided to band together and move forward with this project.

Gavin:  What kind of format are you aiming for?

Troy: The format will be mostly music for now, with many diverse offerings.  We hope to provide a live webcast at least from 9AM to 6PM each day, but will likely soon expand to weeknight and weekends as well.  Until there are more volunteers on board there will be either a repeat of each day’s program on the overnight, or an automated stream of a music mix.   In the near future we will begin offering programs via a podcast, and may eventually look into multiple streams of programming.  In addition the UFM website will become an extension of programming, offering information, blogs, forums, etc.

Gavin:  What will be the ratio of music programs to talk?

Troy: There probably won't be much Public Affairs or talk programming at first.  Were certainly open to the idea, but most of the volunteers at this point are music programmers.

Gavin:  Any live performances or programmed music only?

Troy: As I indicated, we hope to provide a live stream as much as possible.  In addition we hope to get out in the community very often, webcasting live performances from coffee shops, clubs and other venues.  Being internet based makes it much easier to plug in anywhere there is an internet connection and broadcast live.

Gavin:  Will it mostly be outside music, or will you aim to have locals only programming too?

Troy: I think we will have a lot of local music - including live performances, but that will be up to individual programmers. There will be no master playlist of any sort.  We will reach out to connect with the community in many ways -- including giving information about concerts, events and other community happenings.

Gavin:  Will there be any week-long DJ's or will it just be whomever you can get for a spot?

Troy: First priority is being given to KRCL programmers losing their shows -- in the same spot they are currently on if they prefer.  In addition, you'll see the return of a bunch of ex-KRCL programmers.  The exact schedule is still being worked out.  You can see a list of folks committed to the project on the website.

Gavin:  Would you be interested in already established people moving in or are you looking for new talent?

Troy: For now, we don't have the facilities or people to do any sort of training program, so it will be programmers that have experience.  Hopefully after we are established we can build a program to bring on new people.

Gavin:  Any news programming planned, or will that depend on what the talent does?

Troy: Probably not for a while, news is expensive to produce, and many local stations do a good job at it.  We may look into playing some alternative news programs that are being removed from KRCL like Making Contact, Counterspin and others.  But that is still being worked out.

Gavin:  Will you only be internet based or will you eventually move to a signal?

Troy: We will be internet based for the foreseeable future.  Signals rarely become available, and if they do require millions of dollars.  But if the opportunity comes up to purchase a signal, we will be an established, solid organization that will make that transition feasible.

Gavin:  Do you feel there will be more of an audience on the net since that's the way things seem to be shifting these days?

Troy: Well, it is certainly only going to grow in the future.  Internet broadcasting is still relatively new, and this particular model hasn't been tried too much. Most internet broadcasters are a guy streaming some music from a computer in his living room.  To have a live, community focused webcast is a rare thing.  What makes this feasible, and where a lot of internet radio fails, is the huge financial barrier has been overcome by the support of XMission.  Not having to pay the estimated $20,000 - $40,000 in bandwidth costs each year obviously makes a huge difference.

Gavin:  What are your opinions and current feelings both good and bad about current community radio?

Troy: KRCL was a huge part of my life for many years.  I moved to Utah just to work at KRCL.  So, it really saddens me to see it go through this turmoil.  I think a lot of the bad feelings and negative reactions could have been avoided had the management there handled this change differently.  I understand why they did what they did, and it may or may not work, but I think KRCL is making a big mistake tossing aside the years of experience and talent of its volunteer base.  So, we saw an opportunity in that.  I feel deeply about the ideals of community radio, I really believed what we said year after year during fundraisers.  It seems to me that KRCL has turned its back on that.  KUER does an excellent job, as does KCPW with local news.  I've recently acquired an HD radio and have been able to listen to KUER's new HD stream of Xponential Radio. Its very good music, if a bit lifeless because of the "canned" nature of it.   It seemed to me to sound a lot like the music mix the consultant had recommended for KRCL.

Gavin:  Same as the last question, only on commercial radio?

Troy: I'm not so in tune to commercial radio -- there are some talented people involved in some stations, but the music is a non-issue. It’s the same old, same old.

Gavin:  Will you be looking for sponsors, or will you stick to being donation based?

Troy: We're open to sponsorships, but hope to have real grassroots, community involvement from as many people as possible.  We don't need a lot of money to operate, but we do need some.  We've found the licensing fees to be reasonable, and we have rent free space for the time being.

Gavin:  Will you partner with any other local broadcasters or publications for things, or will you aim to be a stand-alone station?

Troy: We hope to partner with a lot of different nonprofit organizations, business and individuals.  There is a ton of untapped opportunity out there, and we've already had a lot of interest.  We're not closing the door on anything.  Although a nonprofit organization, we don't have the limits of a FCC/CPB regulated radio station.

Gavin:  Anything else you'd like to talk about?

Troy: First, we want to make clear we are not doing this to spite or challenge KRCL.  They decided to change directions, and we saw and opportunity in that. Everyone involved is only doing this because we care about how important this medium is to a community.  We love music and want to have an outlet to present a wide range of style, genres, and eras.  We are trying right now to get as much community support as we can.  We are asking those folks that feel disenfranchised by the changes at KRCL to give us a chance.  In addition to financial support, we need other products and services and have a wish list on our website.  Look for us at the St. Patrick's Day parade on the 15th, and watch for a launch party in mid-April.

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