The cost of keeping campus radio alive

CKUW seeks $50K from listeners in annual Fundrive to keep it running for another year

CKUW, the U of W’s campus and community radio station, has raised money through Fundrive since 1999. Jordan Janisse

Raising $50,000 in one week sounds like the plot to a heist movie, not something a campus radio station should be doing.

But it’s exactly what 95.9 CKUW FM, the University of Winnipeg’s campus radio station, has been doing for 12 years.

From Feb. 11 to Feb. 17, listeners can call into the station and pledge money to keep the station alive.

“We’ve been doing (Fundrive) since 1999,” said Rob Schmidt, CKUW’s station manager. “We knew it was going to be a fundamental principle of the station, that we wanted it to be funded by individuals.”

On average, CKUW meets its $50,000 goal, which accounts for 25 per cent of its operating budget. The rest comes from a $12 levy each student pays at the beginning of the year.

They play minimal advertising, providing the university and University of Winnipeg Students’ Association with free promotions.

“Fundrive allows us freedom,” Schmidt said. “If we had to sell more advertising there’s a chance we could lose our independence.”

Others believe the importance of CKUW transcends the U of W campus.

“It’s important just to have a voice in the community,” said Jay Van Deventer, a CKUW board member and program host. “People download what they think is popular but an important thing with CKUW… is that it’s not just music you find, you find out about stuff in the community too.”

Schmidt believes that being located in downtown Winnipeg gives CKUW a different outlook than other stations around the city.

Fundrive allows us freedom. If we had to sell more advertising there’s a chance we could lose our independence.

Rob Schmidt, station manager, CKUW

“We’re here in the middle of a neighbourhood that’s one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada,” he said. “I think that gives us a real perspective and focus to a lot of our spoken word oriented programming. We try to have an activist approach.”

Cole Woods started volunteering with CKUW two years ago, and now fills in for hosts on his favorite show.

“CKUW is a great tool for (getting students involved in the community); students can see instant gratification for it when they’re volunteering,” said the second-year U of W student.

In contrast with larger stations where the programmer decides the content, each host is responsible for gathering their own music for each show.

“As a listener you have the opportunity to get involved and direct the programming,” said Schmidt. “It’s democratic – the airwaves in Canada are public property and stations like this are really the only opportunity for the public to get on and have their own say. It’s really important to preserve that.”

Schmidt encourages students to listen to CKUW over commercial stations because of the human factor provided by the programming.

“Those stations are almost programmed by a robot. A robot reads the statistical data and says, ‘Winnipeg wants to hear this.’ And there’s no human interaction with it, whereas here it’s completely the opposite,” Schmidt said.

Woods wants as many people as possible to donate during Fundrive.

“Hosts bring out their A game (to Fundrive) ... they get live bands playing, funny stuff happening and various guests,” he said.

Tune into CKUW at 95.9 FM. Call 774-6877 to make a pledge, or visit

Published in Volume 65, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 10, 2011)

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