“Little radio station goes big time,” reads the headline of the press release sent out by CICV, 98.7 FM, the Lake.
On August 9, at 9 a.m., the Cowichan Lake not-for-profit radio station received notice from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission that it has been approved to begin transmitting at 50 watts instead of 5.
“This will definitely improve signal strength and reception to our present listeners,” said Mike Bishop, chair of the Cowichan Valley Radio Society. But it also means a much broader broadcasting area once the station’s transmission tower is relocated.
“Our testing has shown that from the new transmitter site we can be heard as far to the east as Tansor and westward to the Youbou lands and beyond,” said Bishop.
A location has been identified, but not released as the station is in the process of attaining the rights to the property.
The announcement also means security for the radio station.
“It’s good for seven years,” said Bishop. “We don’t have to go back and ask them for anything until 2019. It gives us a chance to do some long-range planning because we’ve got a long range future.”
The biggest adjustment, says Bishop, will be that as of September 1, listeners will have to set their dials at 97.5 FM to tune in to CICV’s programming.
On August 10, Area F Director, Ian Morrison used the announcement as an opportunity to present Bishop with a cheque for $1,000, half of which is in support of the Summer Nights program happening Saturday evenings all through August.
“We’re using the radio station because they’re an established organization that can receive funding. There wasn’t an umbrella group that could have represented the loosely knit people that were putting that together,” said Morrison.
The other half of the funds goes towards the station directly as a grant-in-aid.
“It was in a sense partially in pursuit of the license and various expenses and upgrades. Now, I realize that this is sort of a small part . . . [they] will have to do some serious fundraising for the next stage,” said Morrison.
“The radio station’s announcement is just huge in my book,” added Morrison.
Morrison sees the radio station as a unifying force, tying together all those who live around the lake regardless of local government divisions.
He also commented on the stability this provides local students when looking to participate in radio station programming as part of their curriculum through Lake Cowichan Secondary and middle school.
“You know, there’s kids that go into the school and help with techie stuff, but not knowing what the long range future of the radio station is, is somebody that is in Grade 7 or 8 going to want to invest time and energy into something like this if they don’t know if it’s going to be there,” said Morrison.
Another thing that excites both Morrison and Bishop is the fact that the new transmission range will allow the station to become part of the emergency brodcast system, keeping Cowichan Lake residents up to date in the case of an emergency.
To this end, Bishop has been speaking with Protective Services at the CVRD.
“This is our main underlying goal,” said Bishop. “We’ve got standby power right now so that we can run the whole station in the event of a power failure.”
The station has also recently acquired gear that allows them to broadcast back to the station from anywhere in the current range, and which allows them to be mobile at any time, transmitting from either cell phone link or landline.
“In this area, ever since the start of the Great Shakeout, our station’s been involved with that ever since the first one,” said Bishop. “And our intention, once we get more established in that, is to coordinate with the school.”
Bishop adds that the October deadline for the next Shakeout practice for the town is too close for the station to coordinate with them at this time.
The station is still looking for a new studio location, as their lease with the town of Lake Cowichan for their current location on Wellington Road expires in February 2014.
“But we are still looking at different options,” said Bishop.
Stanley Gordon Elementary is not entirely off the table as an option, and Bishop says that Mike McKay, the Ministry of Education appointed trustee, is reviewing the station’s application.