Kicked to the mat, but not down for the count

KICK-FM lives online in two streams

  • John Conklin (right), a second-year creative communications student, says changes to the way Red River College produces radio programming will give students more freedom. “Now it’s all about the students, giving them the tools and equipment to pursue a career in radio,” Conklin says. – Dylan Hewlett

The airwaves of Winnipeg’s 92.9 KICK-FM have gone dead, but buzz around the station’s rebirth keeps getting stronger.

The Red River College-based community outlet, touted as “Winnipeg’s indie station,” shut down July 4 after the college did not renew its licence with the CRTC.

Rising from the ashes, though, are a pair of online stations— with old and new faces alike taking to the web to keep their voices heard.

The first is a revival of sorts for KICK-FM’s most listened-to community talent.

Shows like Just for Kicks, Indie Studio and Retro-Evolution are on the shortlist to have new podcasts streamed on the KICK-FM website, www.kick.fm, which has been idle since the station’s demise.

Chadd Cawson, a Red River College graduate, hosted Soundtrack on KICK-FM until the music went to static. He is part of the group interested in moving to the podcast format.

“I was surprised when I was told KICK was going off air,” said Cawson. “I had been offered other shows for this coming fall and, for me, it came out of left field.

“KICK was a great place for people to learn and hone their skills, really the only station of its kind in Winnipeg where you could tune in and the content would change from hour to hour.”

Cawson is unsure as to how production for the podcasts would work though, since the talent will not have access to the old KICK-FM studio at Red River’s Roblin Centre downtown.

Occupying that space now is the other online station, Red River Radio, a student-only 24-hour instructional station launched on Aug. 27 at radio.rrc.ca and run by the college.

Red River Radio picks up where KICK-FM left off, playing local rock and folk bands while training Red River College’s Creative Communications students in radio broadcast and production.

We have the opportunity now to start from scratch, rebrand, and get all our students involved.

Dan Vadeboncoeur, radio instructor, Red River College

This time, though, there will be no alumni or community involvement.

“We have the opportunity now to start from scratch, rebrand and get all our students involved,” said Red River radio instructor and station manager Dan Vadeboncoeur. “Everyone has their fingers in the station to help make it what it’ll become.”

John Conklin, a second-year creative communications student, co-hosted a sports comedy show on KICK-FM last year. This year, he’s got a weekday morning show on Red River Radio, and isn’t deterred at all by moving to the web.

“It allows us a lot more freedom. ... Now it’s all about the students, giving them the tools and equipment to pursue a career in radio,” said Conklin.

That’s something KICK-FM offered as well, but the CRTC changed its regulations three years ago. Stations like KICK that allowed community members and alumni on air were forced to apply for a new community campus licence.

Lacking funding as Red River looked to change its focus to teaching students only, a controversial decision for some, KICK-FM withdrew an initial application for the licence.

This ultimately led to the station’s dead airwaves and the split seen today— one community-based online station and one teaching students at Red River College.

Rob Schmidt, station manager of the community-based CKUW at the University of Winnipeg, presented at the CRTC proceedings and has followed the KICK-FM saga closely.

“CKUW is under the same regulations that KICK-FM would have had to adjust to,” said Schmidt.

“Part of the changes would have included changing their policy on community access, and I guess they felt that an online student-only format would fill their needs just fine.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 12, 2012)

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