Immigrant voices coming in waves as metro Aurora’s newest radio station goes on the air

“Sept. 11 we were on air. We got our license on Aug. 30 and the transmitter arrived on Aug. 8, which was my birthday. It was an awesome birthday gift,” Getahun said. “And the (immigrant) community was surprised. Some of them didn’t know (we were going to be on.) They were just switching the dial and found us.”

Endale Getahun adjusts the sliders of his mixing board, Oct. 2 in KETO studio, located in an administration building on the Aurora Central High School campus. His  radio station, KETO 93.9, went live on Sept. 11 2017, Ethiopia's independence day, and is t

Endale Getahun adjusts the sliders of his mixing board, Oct. 2 in KETO studio, located in an administration building on the Aurora Central High School campus. His radio station, KETO 93.9, went live on Sept. 11 2017, Ethiopia's independence day, and is the only Ethiopian FM radio station in the U.S. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

AURORA | Metro Aurora’s newest radio station has been broadcasting for less than a month. But the low power FM station’s presence on the air represents a 17-year journey for a radio station dedicated to the immigrant community of Colorado’s most diverse city.

When 93.9 KETO-FM launched on Sept. 11, the Ethiopian New Year, it represented almost two decades of work for Endale Getahun, an Ethiopian immigrant whose dream has been to provide immigrants from across the world who live in Aurora a voice of their own.

“Sept. 11 we were on air. We got our license on Aug. 30 and the transmitter arrived on Aug. 8, which was my birthday. It was an awesome birthday gift,” Getahun said. “And the (immigrant) community was surprised. Some of them didn’t know (we were going to be on.) They were just switching the dial and found us.”

While the radio station is in its infancy, it’s broadcasting music and other news programs. But in the coming months, it plans to do everything from provide a platform for law enforcement officials, including the FBI and Homeland Security, to reach out to the immigrant community to broadcasting Aurora City Council meetings in 11 languages.

“We want to be the ear and mouth of the community,” Getahun said. “We want to attract other speaking communities to fill the programming. After (we attract more programming) we will use radio animation to make sure certain programming airs at certain times. And we will have a week’s worth of programming saved online as well.”

Getahun said there’s still work to do to fully realize his dream of what KETO can be including gathering more equipment to allow for things like call in shows. But after 17 years of work to make the station a reality, everything after getting the station on the air is the easy part.

“Building a capacity is much easier than getting to hear. Getting it (on the air) was the hardest part,” Getahun said. There were so many generous people that helped us.”

Getahun is quick to praise city officials who helped get the station off the ground, including Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and City Councilman Charlie Richardson.

“This is a unique concept, and it’s unique enough that it makes sense for the city to be involved and to help,” Hogan said last year in an interview. “It addresses a need in the immigrant community, the Ethiopian community in particular. That uniqueness is part of the reason why both the city is helping and why it’s taking so long.”

Part of Getahun journey was finding a location for the 100-foot antenna needed to broadcast the low power station. In January of 2000, the Federal Communications Commission created a low power FM radio protocol specifically to serve noncommercial educational entities such as churches, schools and nonprofits. Low power FM stations can operate at a maximum power of 100 watts, which generally provides coverage of three to five miles.

The tower is now located on the Aurora Central High School campus, a source of pride for the school district, said Debi Hunter Holen, Aurora Public School’s community engagement advocate, and someone Getahun said was also critical in the radio station getting on the air. Getahun plans to involve the students in the studio and in programming.

“He’s being very generous in his praise. I helped guide him to the people he needed to talk with to get it set up. He’s very dynamic and he had this plan in place,” Hunter Holen said. “How can having the station here not help raise not just (immigrant students’) self esteem, but also their self worth? It shows them their ability to contribute to their own community. It can’t do anything but build them up and really provide a way for the to be more connected and involved with the city.”

To check out the radio station, either tune the dial to 93.9 FM in the city or check out ketofm.org to stream the station and find out ways to help provide support to the fledgling broadcast.