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KXCI DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE
Tucson Citizen 12/14/02
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Group protests KXCI's cancellations of three local shows

POLLY HIGGINS
Tucson Citizen
Dec. 14, 2002
A small group of demonstrators moved amongst the foot traffic at the Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair Saturday to voice frustrations about management decisions at community radio station KXCI (91.3-FM).
Twenty or so KXCI members, supporters and programmers past and present walked north about two blocks from the corner of East Ninth Street and North Fourth Avenue to stand outside the station's booth. They held signs that read, "Respect KXCI volunteers, DJs and members!" and "KXCI ... not real people, not real radio."
The demonstrators, among them an architect, a University of Arizona faculty member and a high school teacher, were voicing displeasure with the recent cancelation of three show: the hip-hop Beat Street, Jim's Joke Joint, and the 18-year-old Celtic Crosscurrents. Programmer Bruce Hilpert, one of three co-hosts of the Grateful Dead show Dead Air, was also let go.
"There's always going to be conflict around change," said KXCI General Manager Tony Ford. The program schedule is occasionally altered, he said, "to try to do different things for the station."
Ford said that the hosts, including John Murphy, who has hosted Celtic Crosscurrents since the mid-90s, had been dismissed because of "instances of their behavior."
The nearly two-year host of Jim's Joke Joint, Jim Swope, mopped his brow under the warming sun and said he was told by program director Roger Greer that he was being let go for "programming priorities" on Friday Dec. 6, which made him unable to do a final show that Sunday. Swope, a volunteer, as are the majority of KXCI programmers, said he felt he was dismissed "because I've been a thorn in their side for so long."
That "thorn" refers to a growing group of frustrated KXCI programmers, a self-described "guerrilla movement," that for months has been meeting to enact changes at the station. Included in the group's complaints is a lack of clear criteria for programmer dismissal and a desire for increased input in station decisions by the community and KXCI members and volunteers.
All volunteers must complete a training class, and Ford said that station guidelines are given there.
When volunteers have complaints, he said, the normal avenue for voicing them involves first talking with program director Roger Greer, then himself, then board president Rick Bacal.
Murphy, who described volunteers as disenfranchised," said that of the recent dismissals, he, Swope and Hilpert were among the more vocal dissidents. The three, along with 50 other programmers and members, signed a July letter to KXCI management and the board to articulate their concerns.
A former host of Celtic Crosscurrents, Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll said the issue isn't just about shows being canceled but about "a right to due process."
"I just have a lot of support for people who go down and offer 100 of hours of time like I used to, Carroll said. "Infighting ruins stations. You have to be civil as a nonprofit director, but you also have to be lenient in many ways."
"I was brought here to change the station, to professionalize it, to make it fiscally solvent," Ford said. "And in doing that you have to make hard decisions, and we've changed the way those decisions are made even so that they're centralized."
KXCI members Peter Yates-Hodshon and Mare Hodshon-Yates joined to protesters "because we support community radio," Yates-Hodshon said, adding that he feared his favorite block of programming, the Latin shows from 6 p.m. to midnight on Wednesdays, could be altered.
"There really isn't a voice for members. If they want to change programming, why not consult members?" he asked.
Laura Kerr, a member for 10 years, said she loves KXCI.
But after watching changes at the station over the last couple of years and talking with DJs, "I fear the narrowing of ideas in music," she said.
Kerr has contacted Ford and said he "was very open, and it was good. He's definitely very welcoming to talk to."
The protesters often encountered shakes of the head from passersby in response to one question: "Do you listen to KXCI?"
Those who responded "yes" were handed an information sheet detailing their concerns.
Carmen Boyer, a teacher, said she enjoys Celtic Crosscurrents. "From what I understand, I agree with the protesters," Boyer said. "It's a community station, and if they're taking that away, it's sad."
Of the protest, Ford said, "Intelligent people can have different opinions. And in the end I hope that they'll recognize that this station is doing well. But if they don't, we'll continue to serve southern Arizona, not just those folks."
Ford said that a new Celtic show will be added to the schedule in a Sunday noon to 2 p.m. slot, starting Dec. 22. It will displace the syndicated Mountain Stage.
KXCI has two other syndicated programs, Sounds Eclectic and the popular Democracy Now. As Dead Air was moved from Fridays to Saturdays 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., an electronic show and two punk rock programs will air Friday nights, starting at 10.

For more information about KXCI, go to www.kxci.org. To join the discussion group of those unhappy with issues at KXCI, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KXCIBulletinBoard