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The First Stations

Campus radio was born in Canada in 1922 on the campus of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Begun as an electrical engineering experiment, this station, CFRC, remained Canada's only licenced campus station until CJUS-FM at the University of Saskatchewan was licenced in 1963.

During the 50s and 60s, campus radio clubs began on many campuses across the country. They were primarily volunteer operations with very limited budgets (funded by their student councils) and broadcasts were restricted to closed-circuit operations on their campuses. Some stations were fortunate enough to receive a few hours of airtime each week on a local commercial or CBC radio station. As interest and membership in these radio clubs grew, problems of limited listening range created problems in getting increased support and more volunteers for these stations.

The First Associations

Many stations felt that it would be helpful to organize the stations across the country to exchange information and ideas. In the fall of 1959, stations from across the country met to discuss their problems and exchange ideas. Although this conference proved very useful for the stations attending, there was not enough support at that time to establish a national organization similar to the organization in the United States, the IBS (Intercollegiate Broadcasting System), which had started up several years earlier. Indeed, several new stations started operation as a result of information gained at that meeting. Several Canadian campus stations joined the IBS organization.

In the 1960's, regional organizations began and stations began meeting on a regional basis. By 1971, three regional organizations existed - The Western Association of University Broadcasters, the Ontario Association of Campus Broadcasters, and the Atlantic Association of University Broadcasters.

The Western Association of University Broadcasters (WAUB) had members from British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. At their annual conferences, members discussed topics that still concern stations today - finances, dealing with the CRTC and Carrier-Current broadcasting, and sending newsletters between stations via tape. The peak year for the WAUB was 1969. With six active members, the organization provided a number of benefits for the participating stations. Membership dropped the following year to two, and shortly thereafter, the organization folded.

The Ontario Association of Campus Broadcasters (OACB) was the first of several Ontario based campus radio organizations. Formed in 1971, one of its main aims was to act as a lobby force in dealing with the CRTC. The OACB also intended to set up a central purchasing body with equipment manufacturers for lower rates, explore the possibility of setting up a clearing house for national block advertisers, and provide a mechanism for tape exchanges. One of the first problems the OACB addressed itself to was the question of distribution. At that time there was no established procedure for carrier current applications and several campus stations considered carrier current to be a better (and cheaper) distribution method than closed circuit. The OACB commissioned Professor Janisch, from the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario, to prepare a brief to be submitted to the CRTC on the subject of a special licence for carrier current. Professor Janisch submitted his report to the CRTC in the summer of 1971. The CRTC issued a policy statement on student carrier current on May 4th, 1972. Despite its ambitious aims, the OACB lasted only one year.

The Atlantic Association of University Broadcasters was the oldest surviving campus radio organization in the country. It was set up in 1969 at a conference at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, to promote cooperation among Atlantic university radio stations. The organization sponsored two annual conferences for several years, which was later reduced to one annual conference. Although it had twelve member stations from all of the Maritime Provinces, it folded in 1981.

The Seeds of a Campus Radio Association

In November 1972, at the Canadian Entertainment Conference held in Kitchener, Ontario, a meeting was held with representatives of campus radio stations from across the country to discuss concerns and ideas of campus radio in Canada. At that meeting, one of the main topics of discussion was the need to exchange information and programming between stations. As a result of that meeting, a national campus radio magazine called CCR (Canadian Campus Radio) was set up and mailed to all campus stations across the country. It included a directory of campus stations, reports from different campus stations across the country, tape lists from twelve different campus stations, articles on the music industry, and articles and briefs on the proposed FM policy that the CRTC was preparing. Six issues were sent out before it stopped publication in late 1973.

In the fall of 1977, representatives of five Ontario campus radio stations met in Hamilton to discuss the formation of new provincial campus radio organization. In April 1978, the Ontario Campus Radio Organization/l'Organization de Radio Campus d'Ontario (ORCO) came into being with eighteen founding members. ORCO focused on financing, distribution, and information exchange. ORCO attempted to facilitate information exchange between members by holding business meetings every six weeks, by publishing a monthly newsletter, and by holding a major conference annually.

Although the first community radio station in the United States started operation in 1949 as KPFA in Berkeley, California, community radio in Canada did not begin until 1974/1975 when four stations, CFRO-FM Vancouver, CINQ-FM Montreal, CKCU Ottawa, and CKWR-FM Kitchener began operation. The late start was due primarily to the fact that in Canada, community radio stations must depend on donations from listeners for financial support.

Community radio in Quebec began to grow in 1975 when the Parti Quebecois Government expanded the Programme d'Aide aux Medias Communautaires (PAMEC) begun earlier by the Liberal government. With increased financial assistance and other help from the Quebec Ministry of Communications, 22 community radio stations now exist in Quebec with several more in the planning stages. In 1979, l'Association des Radiodiffuseurs Communitaire du Quebec (ARCQ) was established with a membership of 22 community stations.

In Northern Canada, Native Community Radio has grown substantially since the Northern Native Broadcast Access Program was started by the Secretary of State in 1983. Thirteen regional production centres were established with financial assistance from this program and there are now over 60 additional community stations in native communities in northern Canada. Despite the growth of community radio in Quebec and the north and much interest in other parts of Canada, there have been few new community stations licenced in other areas of Canada. There are several groups across Canada currently planning community stations.

As campus radio organizations evolved through the 1970's, the nature of campus radio stations changed. Only two campus stations held on-air licences at the beginning of the 1970's - CFRC at Queen's University and CJUS-FM at the University of Saskatchewan. By the beginning of the 1980's, FM stations could be found on campuses in Winnipeg, Guelph, Hamilton, Waterloo, Ottawa, London, Quebec City, and Fredericton. Priorities have shifted away from carrier current and closed circuit systems to Cable FM and Low Power FM. The need for campus radio organizations, both on a regional and on a national level, was greater then than it had ever been in the past.

The First NCRC and the National Campus/Community Radio Organization

In February 1981, the first National Campus Radio Conference (NCRC) was held in Ottawa, Ontario at Carleton University, with 120 representatives from campus and community radio stations from across the country. The CRTC's FM Radio Policy of 1975 had recently allowed campus and community radio onto the FM band for the first time, and most in this group were either hopeful or very new broadcasters. At that conference, the National Campus/Community Radio Organization (NCRO) was formed to exchange ideas, share experiences, and work on networks to promote campus radio across Canada. The NCRO published a regular newsletter, organized six more annual conferences, and worked on other projects.

For its first three annual conferences, there was no Board of Directors. The goals of the organization were to provide a national voice, and for that role, a standing working committee was needed, so a board was formed. One of the most important roles of the Board was to represent the needs and views of our sector to Government and other agencies. The CRTC is open to communication with anybody, including all stations, however, as individual stations our opinion was only our own and was not necessarily a reflection of the needs and wants of other stations, even similar stations in comparable markets.

In August 1983, the third annual conference was held at Concordia University in Montreal where the delegates voted to formalize the structure of the NCRO further and to establish an office to carry out a variety of services for member stations. That year the Alternative Radio News Service, a regular mailout of alternative news and information, was started to campus and community stations.

1981 The First Conference

Founding board member Pat Nagle writes:

I originally got the ball rolling by suggesting the idea of a conference.  At the time, I was the manager at CHRW.  Craig Mackie proposed having it in Ottawa, as CKCU was at that time the "big" station, and so away we went.

The original organizing committee was David Assmann (manager of CKMS-FM at the time), Sandra Berry (a volunteer at CKCU), Craig Mackie (manager at CKCU-FM), Graham Saywell (manager at CKLN) and myself.  The conference began on the Friday with remarks from Mackie ("The Future, its problems and potential for Campus radio in the Canadian Broadcasting System").  It featured other things, such as workshops on station management, music programming and copyright, national advertising/sponsoship, program exchange, technical information exchange, community access, recruiting and training volunteers, a discussion of the Toronto Campus FM project (a group I was involved with which planned for a joint FM licence by UofT, Ryerson, York, and some others), and panels with record company people, and a panel with the CRTC, Department of Communications, the CBC and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.  The closing plenary dealt with the weighty question "Is it time for a national organization?"  Part of the discussion was about future national conferences, a national newsletter (which I undertook to edit), program exchange, etc.

The upshot was it was agreed, if I remember correctly) to have another national conference the following year, which was originally going to be held in London, Ontario.  There were preliminary discussions about a national organization, and I remember some people being chosen to continue with the work. Unfortunately, we were not big on note-taking and I don't remember who...

1983 NCRC Montreal

Founding board member Pat Nagle writes:

The 1983 conference was moved to Montreal to co-incide with the first World Community Radio Conference, and a number of things were shared (like billets and accomodation).  David Assmann and I attended the AMARC planning meetings on behalf of the NCRC (as it was then called).  Some folks from Concordia were also involved in the planning (I don't recall the names). The campus/community radio part was smaller than the previous year, given that we expected many to be involved in the world conference.  I don't recall there being notes around.  The newsletter continued, and David and I, along with a range of others, carried what work needed to be done on a fairly adhoc basis, consulting with stations by phone and through the newsletter. (There may actually be some copies of  the old newsletter in some stations, or at the Public Archives.  I have a few from the first year here.).

At the 'conference, discussion arose about making the organization more formal and establishing a protocol for moving the conference around from region to region.  If I remember correctly, we continued to manage the national organization on a somewhat adhoc basis, from my office at CKCU in Ottawa.

The National Campus and Community Radio Association

At NCRC '84 (Vancouver) and NCRC '85 (Fredericton), plans for incorporation were discussed and bylaws for the organization were drafted. In July 1986 the NCRO was incorporated as the National Campus and Community Radio Association Inc./ L'Association nationale de radios étudiantes et communautaires Inc. (NCRA/ANREC). Sinc then, the primary work of the association has been done by a volunteer board of directors. In the early 1990's, there was an NCRA/ANREC national office and executive director for a short period of time, but due to lack of stable funding, among other problems, the office closed after less than one year of operations. In February 2002, the NCRA/ANREC established a new national office in Montreal with a national coordinator. The office moved to Ottawa in May 2005.