CKLU (96.7 FM) is a not-for-profit, community radio station, and its programming spans the gamut from jazz to indie, to world music, to J-pop, to clips from YouTube.
CKLU is the official radio station of Laurentian University and programming is provided by volunteers in a do-it-yourself type of environment. Hosts develop their own shows, select music, do research, and they are their own producers.
Radio volunteers don’t have to attend the university, but many do, and then retire after graduating. (CKLU’s mandate requires 75 percent of the hosts be Laurentian students and alumni.)
Over the years, this revolving door of hosts has been a plus for programming because it means show format don’t get stale. There is constant renewal of new music, ideas, and technology.
At the same time, some people have long relationships with the community station.
“We have volunteers who have been here for 15 to 20 years,” said Deborah Ann Frankel, general manager of CKLU.
It takes a special kind of person to volunteer at CKLU; it takes someone with passion. “You can’t pay for that kind of loyalty, you can’t pay for that kind of enthusiasm,” Frankel said.
She has been the general manager for the past three years, and during this time she has worked to continually upgrading CKLU equipment. Her latest endeavour is the digitization of CKLU’s eclectic music library, thanks to a grant from the Trillium Foundation.
“We have every single genre imaginable, she said.
The library already holds over half a million songs, and for a fee, students will be able to access the new digital library, while adding their own music. Kind of like Limewire for Laurentian students.
CKLU doesn’t just play CDs, they also play vinyl records, cassette tapes, and reel-to-reel tape.
“A lot of stations have phased that stuff out,” said Frankel. “I never will. Just because there’s a new technology doesn’t mean an older system doesn’t have its qualities. All hosts should have the option to create their own sound on air and play music the way they want to.”
Frankel has also pioneered certain endeavours that have been adopted by other community radio stations, such as a radio workshop for kids. This provides young disc jockeys the opportunity to host their own programs on Saturday afternoons.
Frankel’s most recent endeavour is the CKLU Gallery. The Gallery Wall features two to three local artists a month, through a YouTube video on the CKLU website, where the artist will describe one of the pieces. These videos will be designed to work on the radio as well as the web, so they can be played on the air on CKLU.
“It’ll be like sharing a piece of art with someone who can’t see,” she said.
When compared to other college radio stations in Canada, CKLU has it’s advantages and it’s disadvantages. “(They) are way ahead of CKLU in terms of technology,” said Frankel.
“But in terms of ways to find other sources of funding, reach out to the community, do things that are un-traditional and interesting, they’re way behind CKLU,” said creative director Jeff Littlejohn, who is in charge of the Gallery Wall.
“In a larger city it’s easy to fall into a routine of what works and not be put in a position where you have to think outside of the box to come up with ways to make people aware of the station and get people listening and participating…” he added.
Frankel emphasizes that CKLU is a community resource. “It’s important we’re always accessible, and we do our best to include anybody who’s interested. We absolutely can always find a way for them to participate and be a part of it.”
Frankel estimates the station has 25,000 listeners at any given moment over their FM frequency. Through the CKLU online streaming, there are new listeners, most from outside Sudbury, and some from as far as Japan and Ireland.
“Thanks to our hosts who are connecting to our listeners and reaching out to the global village.”
Some of CKLU’s diverse programming includes Lunch with the Trinnie, hosted by Joseph Sahadat. He is an immigrant from Trinidad and an ordained minister. The talk show promotes the different cultures within Sudbury.
Since 2007 Sahadat has interviewed 120 people, mostly immigrants, on his show, and he plays music from around the world. He used to do four shows a week, but a year and a half ago cut back to only one show a week.
His show is on every Wednesday at noon. Immediately after Sahadat’s show is Cupcake and Tea, Now Serving Nerds. Host Nadine Olivier talks about geek culture, anime, science fiction, technology and social networks and plays all kinds of music, some from Japan and Korea, some 8-bit style music, and her favourite YouTube clips.
Olivier was recruited to CKLU after someone spotted a YouTube video of her singing. Most of her listeners come from other countries, through the internet stream, primarily because she promotes her show through online social networks, such as Twitter and YouTube where she is known as CupcakeAndTea.
Her favourite part about CKLU is the bragging rights, “Not many people get to say, ‘I’ve done a radio show.’” Even her parents are impressed.
The Laurentian SGA provides the operational budget for CKLU. Other funding comes from commercials and government grants.