Why Is Community Radio Important?

Before Radio Boise began, our area hadn’t had access to a true non-profit community programmed radio station since 1988, when KBSU radio became an NPR Station instead of broadcasting student and citizen-driven programming. Read the History of KBSU. In 2002, a loosely organized group of people – gathered by founder Jeff Abrams – started meeting to discuss the possibility of creating a community radio station. Every single person that came in contact with the project had a vision for what the future could sound like, and anticipated the groundswell of the long-awaited connective tissue of a community station.

Boise, as a place, is far away from the next nearest metro area: 340 miles (5 hours) –> Salt Lake City / 429 miles (7 hours) –> Portland / 503 miles (8 hours) –> Seattle… our little island town is both beautifully isolated and stiflingly insulated if we don’t have avenues to connect to each other – encouraging open discussions, discovering things we didn’t know we might like, or being exposed to people who we would not have otherwise met.

But why radio?

1) It’s the most democratic form of media available to the average citizen today.

A radio can be found very inexpensively at almost any thrift store, plugged into an electrical outlet and the sounds of nearby broadcasts come spilling out, instantly available. The internet, a wonderful place, is rarely provided for free and, because our country is so large, it will take a long time to develop a pervasive public wireless network. And mobile is also a reality – but also has a monthly fee for access. Radio can be heard by anyone with anything: a crystal-based home-made radio, an old stereo receiver handed down from your parents with a simple bundle of wire shoved into the antenna port or by streaming online in a browser on your mobile phone… The root of the broadcast, radio, is a signal sent into the air and received for free.

And maybe you recall – “technically” we own the airwaves. Throughout the years we’ve reached a place where narrow windows of time exist for new station applications, or you can purchase a frequency for a large chunk of money. Jeff Abrams applied for and successfully received a frequency during one of those window of time when groups could put in an application with the FCC for a non-commercial spot on the dial – and on Sunday, April 24, 2011, Wayne Birt hosted the first live terrestrial-broadcast radio show on KRBX.

Thousands of people have worked to bring or have contributed to the radio station since it was nothing more than a few people sitting around a donated conference room, and maybe you’ve been part of “us”, together, creating its reality.

2) There is almost a limitless amount of music that’s been recorded in the world, yet most of it doesn’t get heard.

Up and down the radio dial, most stations are owned by highly-consolidated media organizations – many suggest that it’s just seven corporations (CBS, Clear Channel, Comcast, Disney, News Corp, Time Warner, Viacom) that direct most of the public media we consume every day. Talk about ultimate control of content and discourse! At Radio Boise, DJs shape the tone of their shows independently around the loose guidelines of providing sounds that are more like unique gems than overplayed sameness that exists on other stations.

The internet provides vast means in which you can entertain your ears, most of which at their root are computer programs. When human beings program a show to share on the airwaves, the idea is that a warmth and personality is communicated with awareness of our communities’ nuances that the automated mechanisms cannot provide. That is one definition of community. The station’s goal is to make sure we’re filling a unique niche in music and local-interest programming that is refreshing, engaging and helps expand our listeners perspective.

With the landlocked reality of our physical location on the planet, a person could go a long time without coming in contact with things that present a different perspective than they’re used to, or hear an honest discussion about the state, our natural environment, or hear songs they’ve never heard before. And considering media consolidation – you can hear the same song on lots of channels played all day long. Many DJs, on those stations, don’t even officially host a show. They record their vocals ahead of time, send files to the station and a computer automates the pieces.

3) Because done right, radio should engage your imagination.

Radio is a minimalist marvel. Imagine the potency of a medium that not only expands the reach of communication, but simultaneously increases the intimacy of that expanded reach. This epitomizes the power of things created by people: means, however elaborate and unrecognizable they may seem at first, that increase the human in things.

We at Radio Boise support local artists, musicians and cultural activities, and the goal is to remain funded by the public and local businesses. But the thing to remember is you support us in kind. You are our content. Tune into 89.9 or 93.5 FM, where you can hear members of our community, talking to you, creating, spinning music, but also hear a little bit of yourselves in what we hope, is a two-way covenant of contact and inspiration.

You’re invited to participate – in life, in general – but in specific with Radio Boise.

Because with you, and our commitment to serving the public good, we will create a democratic powerhouse that is a respite for curious minds, sparking future community inspiration, one show at a time.