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Radio Milwaukee announces new Urban Alternative channel

88Nine Radio Milwaukee has received a $450,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to start a new Urban Alternative channel to reach young, multicultural audiences through on-air and digital streaming platforms, the station announced Tuesday.

“Radio Milwaukee is thrilled to bring the Urban Alternative public radio format to Milwaukee,” Executive Director Kevin Sucher said. “We are excited to be part of this national effort to elevate Black voices and celebrate Milwaukee's unique culture. Through this new platform, Radio Milwaukee will amplify untold stories, champion homegrown talent, and create a space for celebration and creativity.” 

Radio Milwaukee’s Urban Alternative will offer an eclectic radio experience, celebrating the full spectrum of Black music and the power of public radio. The Urban Alternative channel will have a terrestrial presence on 88.9FM from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends; and will also have a 24-hour presence on WYMS’ HD2 channel. The station’s all Milwaukee music channel, 414Music.FM, will transition to HD3. Additionally, Urban Alternative will focus on a multi-platform digital approach online, on smart speakers and through a mobile app to achieve the greatest accessibility for its audience. 

The channel will be Milwaukee’s first non-commercial Black-centric public radio station. Station Director Jordan Lee will oversee the collaboration between the existing 88.9FM station, which will continue with its current format, and the new Urban Alternative channel. Lee was originally recruited to join Radio Milwaukee after his years of event and music production in Milwaukee's hip-hop community. In 2009, he brought this community into station programming like 414 Live, 414Music.FM and the Radio Milwaukee Music Awards. He led 88.9FM's programming as its director from 2015 to January 2021, when he was promoted to station director.

Radio Milwaukee’s Urban Alternative channel is slated to launch June 2022. The station will be hiring for Urban Alternative’s program director role and other positions in the coming months. 

Since 2015, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has invested in developing the Urban Alternative format around the country. Radio Milwaukee’s Urban Alternative joins stations in Chicago; Denver; Houston; Norfolk, Va.; Minneapolis and Jackson, Miss. in this effort for public radio to reach young, multicultural audiences. 

Lee and Radio Milwaukee’s Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation Tarik Moody have consulted on the development of other Urban Alternative stations around the country. Moody’s syndicated program “Rhythm Lab Radio,” which has aired on Radio Milwaukee since its inception, has also pioneered the Urban Alternative sound nationally.

“The new channel is an opportunity to highlight artists and sounds from the full spectrum of Black music that have not received support from commercial radio,” Moody said. “The programming will pay respect to the musicians that helped pave the way for today’s generation of talented artists.”

Radio Milwaukee’s Urban Alternative channel aims to positively impact Milwaukee by attracting and retaining young Black talent, growing the city’s millennial population. As Radio Milwaukee has done over its 14-year history, the channel will inspire listeners to become more involved in their community, increasing empathy and engagement. Radio Milwaukee intends for Urban Alternative to shift the perception of Milwaukee nationally by committing to better serve Milwaukee’s Black residents.