Coming to you independent and ad-free

CKUW calls for community support with Fundrive

CKUW program director (and Uniter columnist) Scott Price mans the mics during CKUW’s Fundrive. (Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black)

Between the same couple hits playing over and over, disc jockeys seemingly talking about nothing and the blare of advertisements, finding quality radio can seem like an impossible task.

CKUW 95.9 FM, the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) on-campus radio station, attempts to make that choice easier by creating radio made by listeners for listeners.

Every year, CKUW hosts an event called Fundrive to collect donations that help keep the station independent and community-driven. This year, Fundrive runs for two weeks. From Feb. 10 to 24, listeners are encouraged to donate through various incentives across multiple pledge levels. For a $70 donation, for example, listeners will receive a discount card and a custom-designed T-shirt by artist Mahri White.

Station manager Rob Schmidt says the donations collected during Fundrive are critical to maintaining CKUW’s “philosophy of being independent, ad-free and supported by the people that listen to us.”

To Schmidt, independent radio stations like CKUW fit in a valuable niche in the landscape of radio. Independent stations like CKUW sit between privately owned radio stations like 103.1 Virgin Radio and government-funded broadcasters like the CBC.

“We don’t have a corporation that directs our operation, that has a profit motive,” Schmidt says. “We don’t have to change our programs to make more money. We serve our listeners and our volunteers.”

By remaining independent and community-funded, CKUW is able to broadcast diverse and controversial voices that are unable to easily find platforms elsewhere.

“We are a place where people can share ideas that might not be popular in the mainstream,” Schmidt says. This includes discussions about “police reform, anti-war, that sort of dialogue that doesn’t often happen on private media or the CBC.”

The bulk of CKUW’s programming takes a grassroots approach, reflecting the voices of the university and general downtown community. “It’s an organic reflection of what the community wants,” Schmidt says.

CKUW remains connected to the community through their focus on volunteer-run programming. As volunteer coordinator, Ugonna Chigbo says “without the listeners and the community, CKUW wouldn’t exist.” The station’s programming is guided, not by the state or a private corporation, but by a diversity of community members who want their voices heard.

“The community is eccentric. People come from different backgrounds with different viewpoints,” Chigbo says. “It is ever-growing.”

Many of the station’s listeners and volunteers are U of W students. Schmidt says the connection to students and their energy keeps the station fresh and exciting.

“That energy and student experience and search for knowledge is fundamental to what creates the culture at CKUW,” he says.

This year’s is the first Fundrive after the provincial government and U of W loosened COVID-19 restrictions. CKUW hopes to showcase more live impromptu radio than was possible in the past couple of years, and local musicians may come play live in the studio.

Above all, both Schmidt and Chigbo emphasize that when listeners call in or go online to donate, it is an opportunity for CKUW to solidify the connection with its listenership.

“Every time the phone rings, that connection between the station and the audience is created, and it’s real,” Schimdt says.

Donate to CKUW at or call 204-774-6877.

Published in Volume 77, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 16, 2023)

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