Monday, February 16, 2015

The Potential of a Radio Station

The press release, already sparse on information, didn’t even get, arguably, the most important fact right. It gave 104.1 FM as the frequency of the new radio station. According to FCC documents, it’s going to be at 104.7 FM. I understand they’re new at this. But we’re talking basic information that you cannot promote wrong.

FCC Permit, Page 1
Last month, the Mutual Musician’s Foundation (MMF) won a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a radio station. The call letters will be KOJH-LP. The -LP identifies it as a low power radio station. KOJH, MMF official say, stands for Kansas City’s Oldest Jazz House.

The permit, FCC file number BNPL-20131114ARG, was granted on January 20, 2015. MMF received notification of the approval on the 26th. The permit allows 18 months, until July 20, 2016, to have the station operational. MMF officials have set the goal of being on the air one year from the date of notification, January 26, 2016.

FCC Permit, Page 2
The antenna will be built atop of a tower at Arts Asylum at 1000 E. 9th St. The station will broadcast from the Foundation’s offices. MMF places the cost of bare bones equipment and installation at $25,000. They’ve already raised the first $1000, a donation from the Ben Webster Foundation in Copenhagen, Denmark.

They won the permit over evangelical churches and applicants who would have broadcast a Spanish language station. In a mission statement filed with their application, MMF said:

Mission Statement
“With a radio license, the Mutual Musicians Foundation would be able to educate the public about Kansas City’s jazz heritage by broadcasting live and recorded jazz music, conducting interviews with local jazz musicians, and playing historical programs that cover jazz history and Kansas City history. The station will also include the surrounding neighborhood which is eclectic mix of Vietnamese, African, Hispanic, Italian and African American for six to ten miles of the historic jazz district. The musical heritage of each of these ethnic groups makes up an opportunity to present the World Music aspect of preservation and educational programs that support inclusion, understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures. Foreign language programs, classes and information will be an integral part of the station utilizing music as the ‘universal’ language entree.”

MMF Press Release
Initial plans are to broadcast eight hours a day, seven days a week (the permit requires broadcasting a minimum of 32 hours a week), with a block of world music on Saturdays and traditional gospel on Sundays. Otherwise, the station will be all jazz. They say they will grow into broadcasting 24 hour a days, seven days a week. From the start, MMF expects to be simulcasting KOJH-LP on the internet.

The low power station will broadcast at 22 watts, 207 feet above the ground. According to a blogger who knows more about these details than I do, a modern car radio should be able to receive the signal twelve miles away. A mapping tool places that as far as I-435, including northeast Johnson County, on the West; Independence and Raytown on the East; Highway 50 on the South; and Highway 152, including Parkville, Gladstone and Zona Rosa, on the North.

Tower Placement, Page 1
The application can be viewed here. The FCC’s page on it is here. Details on the permit granted is here. A summary of the station’s technical information is here. The FCC’s page on technical details is here.

The Mutual Musician’s Foundation’s weekend overnight jam sessions remain an unreplicated Kansas City treasure. It’s a National Historic Landmark. Along with the Paseo YMCA (where the charter officially creating the Negro baseball leagues was signed) and Harry Truman’s home, the Foundation stands one of this area’s most historic structures. They’re approaching their hundredth anniversary. Local 627, Kansas City’s Black musician union from which MMF evolved, was founded in 1917.

Tower Placement, Page 2
But at a time when much of Kansas City’s jazz community is pulling together, the Mutual Musicians Foundation has positioned itself as an independent outlier. They were the city’s only major jazz organization which chose not to participate in last August’s Charlie Parker celebration, and for half a month jazz awareness in Kansas City focused everywhere except 1823 Highland.

They complain of being under recognized, noting highway signs directing visitors to the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Museum, but not to the Foundation. But those signs are earned by what an institution has done lately, not by being around for a hundred years. And outside of the jams and their Saturday youth education program, the Foundation has not been known for its successes.

Here’s an example. Last June, the Foundation sponsored a blogger’s summit, including a tour through the area of Kansas City where Black residents could live when jazz flourished. It was fascinating history. But transportation was an old church van with a cracked windshield. Two would-be participants left rather than ride in it. A couple months later, as part of the Parker celebration, the American Jazz Museum sponsored a tour of Kansas City sites associated with Charlie Parker. This tour carried guests aboard a comfortable and sold out trolley.

Professionalism wins highway signs.

The announcement of MMF winning the FCC permit has been greeted by both congratulations and skepticism. One journalist told me he would believe they’re operating a radio station when it’s been on the air for three years. Yet, this is an opportunity that can change perceptions. With the possibility of eventually broadcasting jazz 24 hours a day on the air from Overland Park to Parkville, and worldwide on the Web, the Mutual Musicians Foundation has the chance to build a voice nobody else in Kansas City jazz can match or ignore. But, while a shake-down period is inevitable, by the time of the Foundation’s hundredth anniversary, KOJH-LP cannot be sounding like the equivalent of an old van with a cracked windshield.

The Foundation has taken on a terrific challenge with terrific potential. A good start to building KOJH-LP success might include not putting out any more press releases with the wrong location on the FM dial.


  1. For someone touting the virtues of the "facts", the "colored" musicians union was LOCAL 627 not 34!!!!! Get YOUR facts straight!!.

  2. Thank you for pointing out the error. The correction has been made.

  3. gotta start somewhere... recall how long it took to get KKFI off the ground. that said, let's hope they hit the ground running with as much professionalism as they can muster. if I were them, I'd seriously look into talking with jazz programmers AT KKFI, if not even ask them to handle a shift or two. - mike t.


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