Grassroots Radio Conference:

Grassroots Radio Conference:

Going live, connecting, true JEDI work, and redefining quality.

By DJ Llu

I now have a radio crush on ArtxFM, WXOX, Louisville, thanks to the annual Grassroots Radio Conference. Each year, a community radio station hosts this conference (usually in person) and the fine folks at ArtxFM were all set to bring programmers and station leaders to Kentucky as they hosted this year—but COVID had other plans. ArtxFM rose to the challenge and pulled off a really valuable virtual conference, all while showcasing a number of their programmers (moderating panels, leading sessions, and holding social time) and broadcasting much of the conference live on the air too. 

It is clear ArtxFM is a station full of passionate programmers, using the air-waves to activate their community through music and activism. In the time of COVID and located in the heart of the Breanna Taylor protests (Louisville is where Breanna was murdered by the police), ArtxFM made it a priority to get and keep programmers on the air. They turned their entire station remote in just a few weeks this spring. They figured out the easiest tech for home broadcasting and broadcasting in the field from the city protests so that programmers could get their content out, live on the air. I encourage you to check out this station to learn more:

Attending the conference sessions on how they did all this, as well as hearing about how this all-volunteer station (and others) have really stepped up to meet their communities’ needs for connection during COVD over the air-waves has reenergized me about the power of radio. And, it has me thinking about three recommendations for WBTV-LP:

  • Get all programmers set up to go live from home. ArtxFM shared with us very easy to replicate set-ups to do this! And, it would help us provide critical live content for our community as we continue to ride out this pandemic here in Burlington into the winter. 
  • Create more community connection among programmers. We should find ways to bring our programmers together online once a quarter or once a month to keep us all connected. This is such an isolating time, seeing and hearing each other could really recharge our creative batteries!
  • (JEDI) Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in community radio. We are living through a defining moment about who holds power in our country, in our communities and in our organizations. GRC held a panel on JEDI needs and strategies that really pushed all of us to answer hard questions: what are we doing to be a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive at every level of WBTV-LP and our partners at the Media Factory? Who is at the table of decision-makers? Who is not? Who are paid staff? Who are not? Are our outreach efforts to increase our inclusion working? Do we walk our mission and values around JEDI work? What does accountability look like? What learning do we need to undertake? What do we need to change? There is a lot to unpack here. As a station that is still relatively new, I think we have an opportunity to really step up in having these hard conversations and doing this work at all levels of the station. How could we start these conversations as a station?
  • Redefine “quality” radio. A presenter made a great point at GRC. Traditionally, even community radio has held a high standard for the “professional” nature of the sound quality we are all going for. Normally, anyone could access the high-quality gear by joining a station and using a studio. During COVID, community programmers have had to work with what they had at home for gear, sometimes using just a headphone mic and a streaming music platform off their laptop—not exactly the highest quality audio. The result actually creates more access for programmers, more creativity, and more immediacy. Perhaps we should realign our thinking about what quality means to us now? I think it is about the content of what is being said and shared and how often, less about the actual sound.

I’m happy to connect with any programmer or station leadership who wants to hear more about the conference and how we can infuse other stations’ successes into how WBTV-LP operates. Drop me a line:

About the author

Athena Kafantaris administrator