After 37 years, community radio in Hay River is confronting the possibility it may soon have to sign off for the last time.
Laura Rose, treasurer of the Hay River Broadcasting Society, doesn’t sugar coat the situation.
“I don’t like it any more than the next guy but I want to look at it realistically, too, and I’m going, ‘Why try flogging something that looks pretty much like it’s dead?'” she said. “I just don’t see it rising forth with a miracle.”
Rose said she told the society’s annual general meeting in November its radio station – CKHR 107.3 FM – could remain in the Mackenzie Place high-rise until maybe the end of March.
“The crux of the whole matter is that very soon we will probably, unless we can pull a rabbit out of the hat, be having to close this radio station down,” she told The Hub last week. “Because our finances are down close to the bottom.”
Rose explained the biggest expense is the $1,050 monthly rent at the high-rise, plus about $100 in power and $150 to $175 for telephone and Internet service.
The board of the non-profit society, which has existed since 1979, has even discussed the idea of getting a shed to house the radio station’s computer and other items.
“Because the DJs now don’t have to be in the room doing the music,” said Rose. “They can link through the Internet and go on the air.”
The society also recently got an $1,800 insurance bill, she said. “We decided seeing how we haven’t got very much funds left we’re going to not pay insurance. It would wipe out another two grand just about.”
Rose said the financial situation is the result of a lack of advertising.
“That’s why the funds are running out. We used to get a lot,” she said, adding that most came from the federal government. “The Harper government was very good with doing lots of advertising about all kinds of stuff … Our rates are very, very cheap.”
However, government advertising disappeared over the last year and a half.
“So it doesn’t take long for the money to disappear paying the rent and the bills,” said Rose.
At one time, the society also received a grant from the GNWT, but Rose, who has been involved with the society since the early ’90s, said that has not happened for a long time.
Plus, the community radio is facing more than just financial problems.
“There just isn’t the people interested in the radio,” said Rose. “It gets replaced by all the other gadgets and gizmos we got now. Nobody much listens to radio. Nobody wants to be a DJ and do community announcements and do community stuff on the radio. It’s just not a happening thing.”
Most people now communicate on Facebook, she said.
The society could probably keep the radio in operation, said Rose.
“We can keep music coming on it but we just don’t have the people time to put into it.”
Right now, the radio features mostly music, although one person produces Christian radio programming.
At one time, Rose produced three kinds of programming – country music, music from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s for seniors, and a religious show on Sunday mornings.
“It’s been quite a few years now since I’ve done any of them, maybe five or seven years,” she said, explaining most of her time now goes to operating the Hay River Soup Kitchen.
The volunteer station manager Kyle Camsell also said the community radio is facing problems and would not survive another fiscal year in the high-rise.
“We’re looking at all the angles here and we do want the radio station to keep open,” he said, but he also said ad revenue has been very low to non-existent in the last year or two.
“If anything, our time here at the high-rise is probably coming to an end and then a new location will probably have to emerge,” Camsell said.
The station has been in the high-rise since the 1990s and before that was located in a building in the industrial area.
Camsell presents music on CKHR from 2 to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, although his intros are not live but recorded.
The station offers no news or current events shows.
“I think it’s just there’s so many more options than there used to be,” said Camsell. “In the ’90s, there were only a couple of radio stations. Now with the smart phone you have so many options for entertainment of music and online radio.”
Like Rose, he also expressed concern that people – especially young people – are not getting involved in community radio.
Camsell himself is a bit of a rarity in that he started volunteering at CKHR in 2007 when he was in high school and has continued to help since then.
Rose said the Hay River Broadcasting Society would fold if the radio station ceases operation.