Rm 312 MacEwan Hall
University of Calgary
On October 17th, 1955, the Calgary branch of the University of Alberta ran a 15-minute program called Varsity Vista on CFAC radio. The show, directed by student Bruce Northam, aimed to give the community an inside view of campus life.
Five years later, a campus radio club was founded. They built a studio in the basement of the arts and administration building, using home-built and donated equipment, and broadcast over a closed circuit PA system into student lounges and common areas.
By 1972 an AM and cable broadcast had been added and the station was on-air 24 hours a day. In the summer of 1973 Deborah Lamb joined the station, becoming Calgary’s first female music disc jockey.
The first attempt to get the station an FM license was in 1974, but as the station applied for a commercial license, it was turned down. Throughout the late 1970’s, the station held a varied format with punk played alongside jazz, blues and reggae. But after years of conflict with the student union over programming policy and money, the union voted to close the station.
So Allen Baekeland, the Station Manager at the time, slept overnight in the office and locked himself in the on-air booth. The next morning he turned the roof speakers atop MacEwan Hall to full-blast while he blared the Pete Seeger song “We Shall Overcome.” After two days of peaceful protest with community and media support, a new student union executive re-opened the station and eventually increased the station’s budget.
After several more failed attempts to gain an FM broadcasting license, on January 15, 1985 CJSW was successful and became the first community-based campus radio station and the 13th FM station in the city. They started the broadcast with the Talking Heads song “Once In A Lifetime.”
The station earns its capital expenditures budget through a Funding Drive held every October. Raising $15,000 in its first run in 1985. Since 2001, Funding Drive pledge totals have been consistently above $150,000. In 2006, the station surpassed its goal of $200,000.
In 2003, the CRTC agreed to allow the station to move its broadcast from the SAIT tower at 1,900 watts to a CBC tower at 4,000 watts. Where once those in south Calgary had difficulty receiving the station, the market now includes coverage of Okotoks, Airdrie and Cochrane. The station is currently run by a paid staff of four, and well over 200 campus and community volunteers. Besides the traditional FM broadcast, the station can also be heard on 106.9 cable FM and streaming online.