“Studing the servents of the Waterversity of Uniloo and Uniloo Lutheran Waterversity, this is Wadio Raterloo.”
– Radio Waterloo station ID, circa 1969
Radio Waterloo is the story about the advent of community radio in Canada as told by the people who struggled to create it. The story follows Radio Waterloo (later known as CKMS) and CKWR through the development stages in the 1960’s, until now, 2017. You will hear DJs from the early days of Radio Waterloo provide details about how Radio Waterloo was established, others provide insights from the University of Waterloo referendum which left CKMS without funding, and then current DJs share how these events have led to the current format and state of the station. Join us as we re-live the painful dedication of local DJs who fought to keep the community voice heard on FM radio.
This documentary also includes performances by local indie and established bands who have been featured on CKMS, and proudly boasts an original soundtrack created by Canadian musicians specifically for this project through a collective called “Robot Apocalypse”. Some of the collaborators include:
Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat, The Mounties), Brad Merritt (54-40), Ian Somers (Limblifter), Brad Weber (Caribou, Pick a Piper), Ulysses Coppard (Smash Boom Pow) and many more.
In 1964, Peter Calvert and Paul Gerster of the Ad Hoc University of Waterloo Student Broadcasting Society met to officially discuss the idea of a weekly, student-run show on the Kitchener AM station CKKW. CKKW reserved the right to “exercise discretion in material to be presented and the matter of such presentation,” and forbade and rock-and-roll or “backroom ballads”. On October 24 at 10:05 PM, the show went to air for the first time. Its success led to the formation of the UW Radio Broadcasting Club, which approached the University of Waterloo for help in obtaining a broadcasting license. Unfortunately, the University declined this request due to lack of funds.
In 1968, after being turned down several times by the University, the club turned to the Federation of Students for partial funding.
The next year, the UW Broadcasting Club changed to become Radio Waterloo. They had a budget of $7000 and featured programming from both UW and Waterloo Lutheran University (now known as Wilfrid Laurier University). Bruce Steele (who later found fame at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) became the full-time station manager.
In 1970, the Secretary of State ruled that provincial institutions, including universities, cannot hold broadcasting licenses. This ruined Radio Waterloo’s plans for an FM station. Instead, Radio Waterloo began broadcasting on cable FM via Grand River Cable. On the morning of November 17, just before 10:00 AM, Radio Waterloo’s broadcast hit the wires at 94.1 MHz.
Community Radio: The Birth of CKWR
In the spring of 1971, the Federation of Students closed down Radio Waterloo. After a week of confrontation, the Federation agreed to reopen the station with a quarter of its original budget. In April of the same year, Radio Waterloo member David Gillick produced a report entitled “Radio Waterloo – An Effective Communications Medium” describing the station’s history, mission, and future potential as a voice of the community. He argued that a nonprofit community radio station “would fill the void left by commercial broadcasters.” With a grant from the Canadian government’s Opportunities for Youth program, a group called Wired World was formed by Radio Waterloo to implement the station. The nine-member group investigated the potential of a low-power FM broadcasting system and presented it to the Federation of Students. They were once again turned down.
With no funding from the University, Wired World broke away from Radio Waterloo to continue their research independently. In 1973, the group obtained a licence and launched as Canada’s first English language community broadcaster, CKWR-FM. Radio Waterloo continued and relaunched with two studios, a news booth, and Trak Four (a four-track recording studio). Radio Waterloo added a stereo broadcast the very next year.
On the Air: CKMS-FM
In January of 1977, having applied for call letters, Radio Waterloo submitted an application for an FM license, which was granted in June. Following a few weeks of delays, CKMS went on the air for the first time at 94.5 MHz with a signal strength of 50W, making it Ontario’s third campus FM station.
In February 1979, Radio Waterloo opened an on-campus news room in the Campus Centre. It was a mini-studio equipped with a direct line to the main station and made it much easier for interested students to get involved with production.
In October of 1983, the last issue of the FM Times is released due to budget constraints. The long-running print guide to Radio Waterloo featured music and movie reviews as well as columns addressing social justice issues, alternative press, and pop culture.
Radio Waterloo celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with an increased broadcast power of 250 watts and a frequency change to 100.3 MHz. On October 15, 1992 the station powered down the old 94.5 MHz transmitter for the last time.
In 2008 CKMS goes fully independent and is no longer funded by UW students. In March 2017, CKMS again switched frequencies to 102.7 FM to accommodate the growth of CKRZ Six Nations on 100.3FM.