November marked the 40th anniversary of CKCU 93.1 FM, the community-based campus radio station operating out of Carleton’s University Centre.
On Nov. 13, local bands No Fly List and High Waters played a concert at Irene’s Pub to honour the campus radio station, and the next night an official gala at Oliver’s celebrated four decades of radio programming.
In 1975, the station registered for a licence to serve Carleton’s student body and the outlying area. The hybrid licence from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission was a historic first that allowed CKCU to begin their broadcast on Nov. 14 of that year with Joni Mitchell’s “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio.”
About 340,000 hours of radio transmission later, CKCU is still going strong as one of Canada’s longest running campus radio stations.
“Well, we’ve gone from heavily in debt to setting up a reserve fund,” said Matthew Crosier, station manager since 2000. “CKCU has made some serious inroads in the last decade. We keep increasing our programming and have had to shorten shows to increase the amount of voices and languages on the air.”
CKCU has always celebrated alternative music far before mainstream radio, and showcased varied opinions on politics, social issues and art in several different languages. There are currently 106 programs on the station (the most CKCU has ever hosted), many of which are weekly alternating shows and others that air monthly.
As it was in the beginning, the station is almost entirely run by volunteers both on-air and behind the scenes and is primarily financed by an annual funding drive. Those inroads that CKCU has made in the last 10 years are most evident in the success of each annual funding drive.
The 2015 drive raised $139,344.60 in just over two weeks, slightly above the $135,000 goal. Surpassing funding goals has been an agreeable trend in recent years.
“It’s an excellent showing of the value of the station to the community and it’s very humbling,” said Crosier. “Not only are the listeners supporting us, but so are the volunteers who are here every day. They’ve seen the value of the station.”
And though most of those funds will go directly to operating costs, saving up for major projects is always a priority. This summer, the last of the station’s three analog consoles was replaced with smaller digital control panels after saving up for them for seven years.
“We replaced the analog McCurdy consoles from the mid-1980s because, although they were excellent, it was getting harder to find replacement parts to maintain them,” said Production Manager Dylan Hunter. “The new Wheatstone consoles are digital, so they are a lot quieter and smaller, and basically run like a network of computers.”
Coming off the high note of the 40th anniversary, CKCU is already looking ahead to the next decade. One of the few long-term projects that doesn’t yet have a deadline is the need to move the station to larger headquarters.
Until then, the extended family of organizers, supporters and more than 200 volunteers that has made CKCU hum all these years will continue to focus on the daily, the weekly and the yearly as they serve their listeners with interesting and diverse content.