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Gabriola Radio back before CRTC

The Gabriola Radio Society is experiencing déjà vu in its pursuit of an FM channel for a community radio station.

The society is again before the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission seeking approval to use 98.7 FM as its broadcasting frequency.

Its application was previously before the CRTC in 2009, but the society withdrew it because of objections from Rogers Media. Rogers said the signal would interfere with its existing station – The Ocean, CIOC-FM 98.5 FM.

After the radio society withdrew its application, Rogers applied for a repeater station on Salt Spring Island to boost its signal, which could have made the 98.7 FM channel unusable. The society opposed that project and Rogers ended up building a smaller repeater that doesn't interfere with the 98.7 FM signal.

This time the society is more confident.

“The champagne will come uncorked eventually, but we’re not there yet,” said Ken Zakreski, society president.

Zakreski said if the application is approved, the society has chosen a launch date of December 2012.

“I want us to be on the air Christmas 2012 with Christmas stories for the kids,” said John Hague, a director on the society board. “That’s the vision that pesters me to keep going.”

He said the technical application was accepted by Industry Canada and it appeared before the CRTC on Monday. If the application is approved, the society will be given a deadline to become operational.

The CRTC has received 13 interventions on the application. The majority of submissions are against the application, with only three supporting the proposal.

Judith Graham, in a letter to the CRTC, said Gabriola already receives island-wide coverage from three other stations in the area and there isn’t a need for another, as the others can provide the emergency transmission service.

Melinda Wilde, from Gabriola, wrote that she opposes the application because of health ramifications associated with the radio tower. She asked the CRTC to reconsider because it could cause some people to leave their homes.

“We on Gabriola are a public that is concerned with the environment and our neighbours,” said Wilde. “This tower has serious health threats to both.”

Hague said the radio tower will adhere to Canada’s guidelines on radio frequency radiation, as well as Gabriola Trust’s regulations, which are more stringent than national rules.

“The Islands Trust limit is 10 times more stringent than Industry Canada and we will be 100 times within the limit,” he said.

Hague said it’s a relief to be before the CRTC, but he expects a few people to oppose the project.

“This is Gabriola, any change begets dissenters, even a change with a net economic benefit as this,” he said.

It could take several months for the CRTC to make a decision and the society doesn’t expect to hear news until this fall.

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