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Arizona Daily Star 12-18-02
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Protesters decry program change at KXCI

By Olivia Clarke
Arizona Daily Star


Despite public protests and conflicting viewpoints, the music at KXCI plays on. The community radio station, found on the dial at 91.3 FM, may seem like a happy marriage of varying music genres. But like most marriages, things can get rocky.

On Dec. 6, KXCI canceled the 18-year-old "Celtic Crosscurrents," a one-hour Sunday program that played Celtic music.

About 20 people gathered outside the station to protest on Dec. 8, and about the same number met near the station's booth during last weekend's Fourth Avenue Street Fair. About 15 people returned to the station Sunday. Instead of eliminating any type of Celtic show, Program Director Roger Greer started "Celtic Spirit," which will air from noon to 2 p.m. Sundays starting this weekend.

Some former and current volunteers are angered by the way shows are changed, said John Murphy, a paralegal and host of the canceled program. Tony Ford, KXCI general manager, said Greer replaced Murphy's show with a soul, jazz and r&b program called "Cafe Soul", which airs from 6 to 8 p.m. Sundays. Internal conflicts with Murphy also determined the decision, Ford said.

Changes help prevent the schedule from stagnating, Ford said.

"We will take a show off simply to attract something new," Ford said. "It's easier to get a show (now), but more difficult to keep a show."

KXCI-FM is a 24-hour station funded by listeners, local businesses and public and private dollars. All regular DJs are volunteers.

Chris Johnson, whose day job is working with developmentally disabled adults, will DJ "Celtic Spirit." The 41-year-old has worked with KXCI for about four months and participated in the station's DJ class.

But despite the addition of the new show - some remain unhappy. "There's a lack of community input," said 46-year-old Murphy, a KXCI volunteer of about 10 years. "This is supposed to be community radio, but it's not."

Murphy believes that his show was very popular, but was canceled because of animosity the managers harbored against him.

Since Ford took the helm in 1998, he has tried to increase the number of listeners, provide a more organized program lineup and make the station more financially stable.

And it seems to be working.

Audience loyalty, or those who pick KXCI as their first choice, has risen from 18.4 percent in 1998 to 39 percent in 2002, when comparing the spring quarter numbers tallied by Arbitron. While the numbers vary by season, the overall trend is an increase, Ford said.

And total revenue has increased from $170,262 to $505,104 from 1992 to 2001, according to the station's audited financial statements. Many of the complaints have come from those who liked the way things were done in the past, Ford said.

"I think everyone is entitled to an opinion," Ford said. "We do have to focus on the entire audience."

  Contact reporter Olivia Clarke at 573-4357 or at oclarke@azstarnet.com.