By Georgie Wilson (Host of Tidal Zone Monday 6:00-8:00PM)
CFUV first broadcast beyond the Student Union building in December 1984. With its 49 watts of power, it beamed into parts of Gordon Head and Victoria. Today, thirty years later, it’s heard throughout the Greater Victoria area, and thanks to streaming, can be picked up all over the world. The original LP collection in our music library has grown to 55,000 CDs and thousands of albums available digitally. Instead of splicing bits of tape (a process that sounds truly gruesome and time-consuming), programmers can use sophisticated computer software to edit interviews, create promos, and produce complicated and effective documentaries.
The station has always supported local bands and performers. Now, there’s a dedicated Friday afternoon slot (Basement Closet Sessions) for live performances, which are also filmed and placed in our Web archives. Our successful annual fund drive has provided funding for new station equipment, making CFUV one of the best-equipped campus/community stations in the country.
In 2009, to help celebrate the 25th anniversary, I interviewed 30 past and present volunteers and staff. (The shows are archived at the CFUV website.) Reflecting on these accounts and my 13 years as a radio host, I am struck by the amazing energy that has been poured into building this great station.
It is run by a small staff and by hundreds of volunteers working on-air or doing technical and numerous other tasks. The people at the station have certain characteristics in common: a passion for music, or politics, or social and cultural issues—or combinations of all of these. The expertise and knowledge held by so many is truly impressive, leading to shows that include music, commentary, and analysis that you’ll hear no where else. Each show is unique, guided by the interests and idiosyncrasies of the host(s). After all, where else can you hear yodelling, for example?
These qualities of passion and commitment have always been part of the station. The early days, from 1982 onwards, were heady ones. A small group of enthusiastic students and community members expanded the range of the broadcast zone, bought equipment, discovered new music, encouraged local venues such as Harpo’s to support local bands, and mastered new technical skills. CFUV, for instance, was the first station to broadcast Question Period at the Legislature, a complex feat accomplished by some very talented techies. CFUV was the alternative voice in town, for bands, new music, community news, and public affairs. Early CFUVers learned to deal with makeshift equipment; one early programmer, for instance, remembers having to prop up a rooftop antenna during howling windstorms. It was a chaotic and stimulating time, and people who were involved speak of the excitement, the lifelong friendships created and the confidence gained. There was room for a bit more zaniness in those early times, including on-air hosts who would destroy 45’s with drills, or music directors who would throw unworthy LPs out the 2nd storey station window. Ah, the restrictions of today’s professionalism—and a basement location. Nowadays, too, it would be difficult for drunks from Felicitas’s to stagger into the station, demanding ACDC.
We still have programmers who were part of the early station, and shows (by various names) that have been playing since the 80s—Alive and Dread; Ode to Ani; Straight, No Chaser; Let the Good Times Roll; Italian Broadcast System; Soitellaan; Searchin’; Postal Portuguese; Rhythm-a-Ling, Eclectic Folk, and others.
Our present shows, whether established or new, continue to cover a huge range of musical styles. Our spoken word programmes are still engaging, informative, and thought provoking. All of us at the station, including our very dedicated staff, are here because we enjoy the community that’s created by so many lively characters, enjoy the music, the ideas, and the challenges and enjoy the sharing of our various enthusiasms.
One positive change that has taken place is in the greater number of women at the station now. There have always been some women involved, but the numbers have grown as more and more women have taken on administrative, technical, and on-air responsibilities. (The Big Broadcast and Women on Air are two excellent shows, focusing on women’s music and issues.) Another change, too, is that there are now more student DJs in prime-time slots, adding to the diverse voices, experiences, and interests available to CFUV listeners.
The station, after 30 years, is well established, its function as a cultural hub solidified. In the world of the Web, of course, its role is changing and evolving. Music and information is accessible from thousands of sources, with radio no longer being the focus. CFUV, however, still provides an important alternative to the corporate media, one that allows individuals to share their insights and discoveries. As Randy Gelling, our long-time Station Manager states, CFUV carries “the flame of an authentic, more vital culture.”