Vancouver Island University’s community radio station is now 20 years old.
Oct. 5 marked two decades years since CHLY 101.7 was first heard on the FM dial. The station is celebrating that milestone with a concert featuring local artists and executive director Jesse Woodward said there are tentative plans to apply for city grant funding to put on a downtown concert series.
“It’s 20 yeas of memories for a lot of different volunteers current and past at the station,” he said of the anniversary. “There were definitely times where I think many amongst us didn’t think we would make it and yet we prevailed and we’re still kicking around today.”
One of those past volunteers who has remained involved with CHLY from the beginning is Gord Bibby. Bibby was the one who appeared before a CRTC panel to request a broadcasting licence in 2000 and since then he’s held roles including executive director, president, treasurer and programmer.
“I’m exceptionally pleased that the station is still on the air after 20 years and in some cases quite surprised, too, because of the rocky history and the circumstances under which the station got started,” he said. “It really is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the many volunteers.”
Bibby said 20 years ago he wouldn’t have expected the station to last for as long as it has. At the time he joined CHLY it had just been evicted from the VIU Student Union building and had its proposed funding discontinued due to disputes between the station and the student union.
“We had this impossible situation where we had a station that was yet to appear before the CRTC to make the application for the radio licence, we had no funding, we had no place for a studio,” he said. “And so it required some creative thinking to proceed.”
CHLY managed to find a new space downtown and while they were waiting for their broadcast licence to be approved they began streaming online in April 2000. After the station was evicted from that space, “as is the case with CHLY and its history,” Bibby found a new location in the basement of the Queen’s and CHLY has been broadcasting from there ever since.
The station faced challenges over the years, Bibby said, namely funding, which was mitigated when CHLY and the student union made peace, and management decisions such as a move to the Globe Hotel in 2013 which Bibby said brought CHLY close to bankruptcy.
Since then Bibby said the station has done “quite well” and Woodward expressed hope that CHLY might one day return to VIU to finally broadcast from the campus.
“Twenty years is a lot of time. If we were a kid we’d be going to university so it’s exciting and there are plans to hopefully one day return to the university,” Woodward said. “So it makes for a nice poetic metaphor that we’re growing up and we’re maybe returning to school.”
WHAT’S ON … CHLY 20th anniversary concert takes place in the Lois Lane courtyard, 2-34 Victoria Cres., on Oct. 15 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets $10 to $20, pay what you can. Proof of vaccination required.