28 June 2009

101.5 FM Dramatically Improved

Eleven months ago, it looked like "Indie 101.5 FM" (KTNI-FM) branded as an "independent alternative" was an unprofessionally run disappointment. Even those willing to give the station the benefit of the doubt admitted that "The morning show is a bit ... well ... needs some work. However, jocks working together have to form chemistry and that takes time too."

Apparently, the station's owner went bankrupt (Wikipedia says in February of 2008), changed the station's format, sought permission during the bankruptcy to operate the station from Aurora in January, 2009, and has since emerged from bankruptcy. A culture writer at Westword started a local band show on the station about a week after a dead air incident in August, 2008 had cast doubt on its future and professionalism.

The greater Denver radio station is now greatly improved. Someone must have been listening to the early complaints and taken action. Perhaps the weekend programing is just better, but listening this weekend, something like 95% of the music was actually fresh (if sometimes raw), and the previously annoying DJs were muzzled down to sometimes witty sound bites.

Westword returned the favor of receiving a local show in 2009 with a pair of Best of Denver Awards, but from the sound of the station now, it may have actually earned them.

The advertising is still anemic (a few local bars and restaurants, a local electronics clearing house open only on weekends, and a musical instrument store offered most of the ads in a couple hours of Sunday listening, mostly in just one commercial break), so I don't know if this station will last, but the quality of what it is offering is tremendously better than it was a year ago, when it was trying to publicize its debut.

While a wholesale format change is an unremarkable enough event, it is very rare that a radio station really whips itself into shape while staying within format (the station's music director goes by "Whip"). Good for them.

The station's sister channel, branded as HOT 107.1 FM was even worse than KTNI a year ago, but may deserve a second listen as well.

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