Thanks to the community, local University of Lethbridge-based community radio station CKXU has expanded its signal reach, so people all over southern Alberta who are tired of mainstream radio have another listening option.
“There is always room for more local content. The door is always open at CKXU to start your radio journey,” said CKXU program director Adrianna Smith.
After five years of planning, grant application and local fundraising, mostly from five Fundrives, CKXU is now broadcasting at 2,900 watts at 88.3 FM, upgrading from the previous 150-watt transmitter, which means you can listen all the way out to Claresholm in the north, Fort Macleod in the west, down to Coutts in the south including most of the Blood Reserve and out to Taber in the east. And depending on environmental factors and the strength of your car stereo, the signal reaches even further, even out to Vulcan.
“All you need is a radio. You don’t need a computer or a streaming service, smartphone or app to listen to us now,” said Smith, noting the station has over 40 local shows and 20 other shows from across Canada, plus several others in training.
“This transmitter is a long time coming and I feel privileged to be part of it,” she said.
“CKXU is 100 per cent community stakeholder driven,” said station manager Aaron Trozzo. “We have no affiliation to any outside entities. CKXU is as real as you and me.”
The on-air personalities include community members and U of L students who are responsible for their own programming.
“It has been a real passion project. It has been a real long term goal for CKXU to become a bigger community presence,” Trozzo continued, adding the project took five years to complete including a long year of solid planning and another four years of fundraising and tracking down matching government grants.
“We started planning in 2013. And 2018 was the build year though there are still a few things to work out. It feels really great to have it completed,” he noted.
“It’s come with a new set of responsibilities financially and socially. We want to increase the quality of the of the programming so we will provide better learning opportunities for the DJs of our responsibilities,” he continued, adding that means staff must ensure additional training is in place to maintain and increase professionalism among the on air personalities.
“With the expanded reach there are 100,000 more possible listeners all over southern Alberta,” he observed.
One of the big on air changes during the initial testing period was playing station IDS every 15 minutes abut the signal change and giving a phone number to call with concerns, which the station passed.
“So we don’t have to play those anymore. The main reason for those was safety because a lot of different things use FM frequencies particularly airplanes. So those spots gave them a chance to call us if there was any interference, Smith said.
“It’s really been a long time, so we really appreciate everybody’s patience,” Smith added.
Trozzo said the transmitter cost around $120,000 including a combination of grants and the proceeds from four CKXU Fundrives.
“We had to use a portion of the FUNDrives to keep the lights on in the station. But the transmitter is solid proof of where your dollars went to in the community,” Trozzo said.
The station is getting ready for the next Fundrive, March 16-22, which has the theme “Into The Radio Realm.” Proceeds from this years $30,000 goal will go towards updating the CKXU website.
“The most important idea is to help better connect with the community, so we want to be able to do podcasts, so you can hear our programming any time you want to even if you aren’t able to listen live,” Trozzo said, adding the revamped site will also include show and programmer bios.
“And the board minutes need to be more easily accessible on the site,” he said, thanking listeners and community members for donating during FunDrive.
This year, there will be new swag and designs created by the same artist who designed last year’s NASA-inspired logo.
“This year we have beer steins,” Smith said, adding there are also patches, stickers, hot sauce and more.
“It isn’t the same as last year. I don’t want to wear the same things as last year,” she said.
While this year’s Fundrive isn’t for a month, CKXU kicked off “30 Days of CKXU loves you” with their annual Valentine’s party at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Feb. 9.”
“So there is a callout for testimonials about how CKXU has benefitted you. They will be run on our blog and Facebook,” Trozzo said.
“They will also be in radio plays,“ Smith said.
There are a lot of familiar events planned for Fundrive including their popular cover night drive ending event, Musical Monarchy featuring bands covering bands with a regal feel to their names like Prince, Queen and Queens of the Stone Age, a mid week battle of the bands and the always popular kickoff party.
“But the one I’m most excited about is Love n’ Records, which is a blend of our cupcake carnival and Love and Records,” Trozzo said.
The event is a partnership with the Lethbridge Public Library, which is celebrating their 100th anniversary and are giving out free memberships. It is one of about a dozen community partnerships CKXU has formed for Fundrive.
“It is from 11 a.m.—4 p.m. midnight on March 16. There will be seven or eight record vendors who have been at Love and Records and two stages, including an acoustic stage upstairs and an electric stage in the theatre gallery, which the Library has allowed us to use, with bands who have performed at Love and Records like Outlaws of Ravenhurst, who performed when we had the Medieval club sword fighting (in 2014) and Jom Comyn and nêhiyawak who are an indigenous, ambient indie band from Edmonton,” Trozzo enthused.