It’s been 16 years since Vancouver Island University’s volunteer-run community radio station first broadcast on the FM dial, and like any other teenager, CHLY 101.7 is moving past its turbulent adolescence and toward a place of confidence and maturity.
When CHLY board president Jesse Woodward joined the station’s executive four years ago, he said “the station was in a bit of a crisis.” CHLY was facing debt and dysfunction, resulting in soured relations with VIU and the students’ union.
“Whether an organization succeeds or it sinks, it fails, is really dependent up on the people who were there,” said Sandeep Chauhan, a CHLY programmer and executive member who has been involved with the station since April 2000, joining two weeks after its first online broadcast.
“One of the things that has helped is when we’ve been in those moments of crisis, people have come and stepped up and said, “Look, you know what? I care about this place, I care about what it offers and I want to see it keep going.”
Woodward said the station’s debt has since been repaid and its internal drama resolved. In the next two to three years he envisions the station returning to the VIU campus from its current location in the basement of the Queen’s Hotel.
With its books balanced, he hopes to eventually afford to hire paid staff to help supplement its volunteer workforce, upgrade equipment and acquire remote equipment to allow for broadcasts outside of the studio. Woodward hopes to take a step in that direction by adding between $15,000 and $20,000 to CHLY coffers as a result of its upcoming fall fundraiser, which begins after Thanksgiving.
Woodward and Chauhan credit the station’s longevity to its dedicated supporters and volunteers. While Chauhan concedes that CHLY was “chaotic back in the day,” those involved with the station are now “developing more towards a co-operative movement.”
“It’s a platform for people who are passionate about something to share and build community around that and that’s what keeps us going,” said Simon Schachner, a 12-year volunteer and the host of the reggae program Rebel Music International.
“It’s cool to be a cultural contributor and a cultural promoter and Nanaimo’s kind of a place that’s always trying to prove itself, to a degree. Being between Victoria and Vancouver, it’s sort of the junior player in the arts and has its moments of glory but it takes some real champions of culture to make it happen and CHLY is something that’s consistent.”