“Wanted: Concordia broadcast journalism students and other afflicted gypsy scholars, poets, painters, buglers, advocates, prosecutors, fellow travelers, techno-geeks, yahoos…interested in launching a timely, little rapscallion on-air hobo AM Radio Station.”
It’s not your typical invitation but that’s because Barry Conway, Concordia radio journalism professor, is determined to start up a student-run AM radio station on the Loyola Campus for less than $500. So, come this Feb. 13, if students are looking for a “demonstrably different” Concordia sound on the AM dial, they need only to tune into the Gypsy Scholar AM radio.
“A lot of campus radio is really about music and spinning disks…this is where the Gypsy Scholar strategy is a bit different. We are looking to produce spoken word content,” explained Conway. “We’re not interested in going network or national, or doing Britney Spears specials, we’re interested in finding out what’s going on in the block that we live in.”
Conway says the idea came to him when CJLO approached him to volunteer some of his time because they wanted to introduce some news content in their programming. He explained they also had plans to apply for licensing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for a big station but that the idea seemed to be going nowhere quickly.
“I looked around the journalism department and I was a little surprised to find that there wasn’t an on-air broadcast service,” he said.
He said radio journalism students don’t have the opportunity to do on-air activities in the news side of things and they should. Then, he started to look at Internet sites for the CRTC and Federal Communications Committee and he “realized that it wouldn’t take two years and a lot of lawyers and a whole bunch of money to get a license, especially on the AM side.
“If you put up a small transmitter that basically can cover about a quarter-mile or the side of a university campus like Loyola, you can broadcast without a license.”
Then, he went looking for the technology to make this possible and came across what he sees as a “little evolution or revolution.”
He said, “The pirate radio crowd of the 60’s and 70’s had been replaced by micro-broadcasters.” Micro-broadcasters are low powered radio stations that broadcast locally with a license but within CRTC regulations.
A former As It Happens CBC producer, Conway said the first step is to go on-air by Feb. 13. Once they are up and running with some content that’s available on a regular basis, they’ll go after what’s called a CRTC low power developmental license, which takes about six to nine months. “And what I’m hoping to do is get a smaller 50 watt transmitter and that would take about another $500.” With that transmitter, they’ll be able to reach the downtown campus and McGill University, which is why they would need to get a license. “It’s always been amazing to me that we have the journalism department and they [McGill] have the radio station [CKUT].”
Futhermore, Conway wants this to be as rich of an experience as possible, which is why he says this isn’t restricted to journalism students. He says any students, from philosophers to mathematicians, are welcome to contribute. “We’ll show them in a couple of boot camps that will last from two to four hours each what the basic ingredients are and give them some equipment and off they go.”
Conway adds he’s even got a list of eager graduated students in different cities in the world, which he called the “Wild Geese” who “on the drop of a quarter we can call up and do a report from these particular cities.” Conway doesn’t want this radio to become a bureaucratic function of either the journalism department or the university itself and he’s even going so far so to fund the initial project from his pocket.
“My only requirement of contributing my free time and my know-how is that it has to belong to the students. If it doesn’t belong to the students, I’m not prepared to work on it,” stated Conway.
That’s what students who decided to get involved with the project like to hear.
“If Concordia is launching a radio station it hopes to have licensed by the CRTC, there was no question, I had to be involved,” said third joint specialization journalism and communications student Matthew Stone, who wants to pursue a career in radio.
“It would be nice to put on my resum