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Airwave connections How CKCU FM has become an anchor in sharing Ottawa voices and linking Carleton University’s campus to the community

By Natalie Pressman

Campus to Community Connection

Video may have killed the radio star, but a community like the one Carleton University’s CKCU radio station has built is unwavering.

CKCU has been a cornerstone of the community since it first hit the airwaves with Joni Mitchell’s “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” in 1975. As one of Canada’s first station’s with a campus community license, CKCU welcomes all Ottawa residents to not only tune in and listen, but also to participate by sharing their voice from the other end of the speaker.

“It’s a place where people bring their great passions,” says CKCU station manager Matthew Crosier. He says that being both a campus and community radio station creates a platform for plurality and diversity in content.

“Even in a world that is clearly now dominated by digital communication, to my knowledge there are no other places that have 200 different voices or more on a weekly basis. I think having so many different voices with so many different ideas and opinions in one spot is invaluable.”

Creating an Inclusive Volunteer Environment

As a station run almost entirely by volunteers, CKCU encourages community members to be creative and grow their skillsets while exploring new ideas. CKCU’s longest running show “An Indian Morning” began in November 1975, making it as old as the station itself. The average show, however, lasts about a year, due in part to the fact that many are run by students.

There are no qualifiers or barriers to entry in becoming a CKCU volunteer. The station runs volunteer training sessions several times a month where students or community members can learn about production and programming roles.

Jeff Pelletier became a CKCU host after joining a friend on air as a guest. “I had such a fun time on the show that I was invited back again. It then got to a point where I was less of a guest and more of a co-host,” Pelletier says.

While Pelletier never initially saw himself in radio, he says he has benefitted from the experience and gained skills to use both in and outside the studio.

“You get to learn a lot, you get to try cool things that really no other club or place on campus offers and you could possibly have your voice heard by people all around the world who decide to tune in.”

Over the years, thousands of people have had hands-on training from CKCU, which relies on its volunteers. That means that if you are interested in hosting, programming, producing, script writing, DJing events, managing social media or even just sorting CDs and records, there is an opportunity for you to find your place at CKCU.

That range of roles, along with the freedom of creative control is in large part what makes the station so beloved. That, in addition to the support CKCU gives volunteers to take on new challenges – even if it doesn’t always work out.

“I think giving young people in particular an opportunity to fail and to get experience is useful. People can make mistakes and that’s okay,” Crosier says. “In order to grow you’ve got to be able to take risks. You can fall down and get back up and I think that is one of the things that is really invaluable here.”

Unwavering Support

The community’s appreciation for CKCU becomes especially evident during the station’s annual funding drive. Every year, from the end of October to the start of December, audiences and volunteers contribute money to keep the station going. CKCU’s funding drive is one of the most successful in the country and brings in about a quarter of the station’s revenue.

“There’s an element of it being gratifying to know that people enjoy it and value it enough to pay money to keep it going,” says Crosier.

Crosier, who has been involved with CKCU since the '90s, originally began volunteering for the station because he found it was an exciting and dynamic place. “It appealed to me then, and it still does,” he says. “None of that has changed.”

He says CKCU is a place where people “invest themselves and gain their own confidence and skills, as well as share their knowledge with the general public.”

While CKCU is evidently a radio station, it is so much more. It’s a gathering place for creatives, music lovers, news junkies and Ottawa residents of all kinds. It’s a place for people who want to learn, grow their skills, share their knowledge and be a part of a community whose limits reach far beyond Carleton’s campus.

Team CKCU at Ottawa's Community Cup, a family-friendly, community-centred event hosted by the Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI) Ottawa.

Connect with CKCU FM:

Website: https://www.ckcufm.com/ | Facebook: CKCU-FM | Instagram: @ckcufm | Twitter: @CKCUFM

For more Carleton University community engagement news, including success stories and partnership opportunities, visit the Hub for Good!

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Created with an image by smorazanm - "microphone i am a student radio"

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