Gabriola group gets green light for radio frequency

The Gabriola Radio Society is one big step closer to establishing a community radio station on the island.

The Gabriola Island is one big step closer to establishing a community radio station.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has approved the Gabrioal Radio Society’s application to broadcast at 98.7 FM. This is the second time the group has applied – the first application in 2009 was opposed by Rogers Media.

Now the non-profit group, which started the project in 2001, has given itself one year to raise the money needed to establish the service, said president Ken Zakreski. The CRTC has given the society two years to become operational.

The group estimates it will cost about $320,000 to build a tower, studio and offices.

Zakreski said the proposed location for the tower is at the end of Chernoff Drive, on property currently used as a gravel pit.

“Next steps include a public meeting and hearing with Islands Trust over the site of the tower,” he said.

The society is looking at the village core for its studio and offices, but a location will be determined only once the tower site is selected, said Zakreski.

He said a modern community radio station office might be something more like a community meeting place and there might not be need for a large studio, as modern technology allows people to broadcast from their homes.

The station’s estimated annual operating budget will be about $60,000 and the group hopes to raise this through a Regional District of Nanaimo referendum in three years asking Gabriola residents to support the station through property taxes, he said.

The $60,000 works out to about $7.70 per $100,000 of assessed value.

With community funding, the society would not need to run any on-air fundraising campaigns or advertising.

“Our goal is to provide a CBC-like service,” said Zakreski.

He estimates the 60-watt transmitter will send the signal south to the Malahat, north to Nanaimo North Town Centre, west to Vancouver Island University and east to Wreck Beach in Vancouver.

In keeping with the community radio model, the shows will be run primarily by volunteers, most of whom Zakreski expects will be Gabriola residents.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem in filling our broadcast schedule,” he said. “The challenge is going to be, as it always is, quality content.”

Proposed content includes news programs, music, community event promotion, spoken word features and even children’s bedtime stories – the last being a request from many community members, said Zakreski.

A theatre fundraising event is planned for Jan. 7 at The Haven.

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