January 07, 2015

Erin Radio is back in town

As published in The Erin Advocate

After a brief stay in Fergus, the Erin Radio studio is back on the Main Street of Erin village, with a team dedicated to local programming.

“We’re starting fresh and getting back to our roots,” said Ronia Michael, who took over as Chair of the CHES-FM Board of Directors last week.

Weekday content will include popular music and community information, but they are planning to have more specialized shows with local hosts, guests and musicians in the evenings and on weekends. There is a new website, erinradio.org, and an Erin Radio 88.1 Facebook page.

The radio station still broadcasts at 88.1 FM from the Erin water tower, as it continued to do when production was shifted last year to Centre Wellington Community Radio in Fergus as a way to cut costs.

The Fergus group, which operates The Grand FM 92.9, had come to the rescue of the Erin operation in 2012, investing in equipment, operating a local studio as the Headwaters New Mix, adopting a more commercial style and hoping to tap into more of the Orangeville market.

With lack of advertising revenue from Erin and the recent refusal of the CRTC to allow an additional transmitter in Orangeville, the Fergus group was not willing to continue. They have returned the station to some of the people who founded it in 2006.

“It was great to build a station, but we couldn’t make it work,” said Chair Larry Peters. He has resigned from the board along with Scott Jensen and Vic Folliott. “It’s community radio, but you have to run it as a business,” said Jensen.

Remaining on the board are Ronia Michael and Sales Coordinator David MacDonald, while returning are Treasurer Jay Mowat, Music Director Phil Taylor, Fundraising Co-ordinator Ray Young and Producer Rob Dodds.

“I want to thank 92.9 for being supportive,” said Michael. “We’re very grateful for your help through this transition period – for two years you have kept us on the air. You’ve gone above and beyond.”

Taylor said while listeners can still expect some familiar popular music, there will be more variety, with a greater focus on independent Canadian artists.

Erin Radio will continue as a volunteer-based non-profit venture, keeping costs as low as possible. Erin United Church has donated space for their new studio, which went live on January 5. Arrangements are being made for on-line listening.

Michael appreciates the local community cooperation she has experienced while bringing the new team together, and has special thanks for Doug Bingley of Barrie, whose company Central Ontario Broadcasting operates the Toronto-based radio station Indie 88.1.

She said Bingley supports community radio and has made a partnership with CHES, providing a donation to help with transition costs.

Bingley won the competition to use the 88.1 frequency in 2012 after the Ryerson University station lost its CRTC license. Indie 88.1 plays 60% of its Canadian music from emerging artists – those who have never had a hit single.

Bingley’s station shares the 88.1 frequency with Erin Radio and is not allowed to overpower the Erin signal. The transition of radio reception between the two stations occurs in the south part of the Town of Erin, near 5 Sideroad.

When the Toronto station wants to increase the power of its transmission, it has an interest in helping Erin Radio boost its power, to balance the signals and maintain the territories. Mowat said Erin has benefited from this situation, and may do so again.