2011 Media report chapter 1 – the increasingly silent radio dial

The decline of reliable radio in British ColumbiaVictoria, British Columbia’s place on the coastal ring of fire almost guarantees that one day we are going to be struck with an Earth moving earthquake.
There will be challenges. We will need to survive on our own devices for upwards of a week before help arrives – but what will be absent are some of the reliable radio voices that we have depending on for news… for years.

Camosun colleges CKMO Radio Society station on 900khz has decided to change from classic AM radio broadcasts to a more “sustainable, future-oriented digital platform to deliver the popular campus radio programming.” Their words…

“We live in a world with so many new media channels and technology options,” says Andrew Bryce, Chair of Camosun’s Applied Communication program (ACP). “Traditional broadcasters are scrambling to find new ways to connect with their customers and communities in the digital world. Camosun’s radio station will be ahead of the game, and still deliver great programming.”

My problem with this – CKMO will opt to be carried on the internet – the first thing that will fail in the event of a natural disaster. There are few things more technologically vulnerable than an all-internet hosted medium. Eggs in one basket if you know what I mean. A stand alone AM radio station can kick in a diesel generator and be on the air in minutes helping with an emergency. On the internet, no such contingency.

Brad Edwards, CKMO Station Supervisor says, “The AM transmitter we now use is expensive and power-hungry. The station can save a lot of electricity by moving to online streaming, a great green option.”

Calling this green is an illusion. Radio stations around the World are using this fib.
Picture this: Turn off a 10kw transmitter that they are probably paying dollars an hour to run and off-load the “energy cycle” of this process to each user who is, in turn, using 50 to 300 Watts of power to flash their computer to hear the broadcast – And the end user is paying 25 to 50$ a month for the privilege of the internet connection.

“ Moving to online streaming will also enable savings to be redirected into areas that will more directly benefit the students and the station, including long-overdue updates to critical equipment like microphones, broadcast boards and hardware and software necessary in establishing a stronger online presence within Victoria and around the world.”

Not sure about the microphones they use but the ones I buy are a once in a lifetime investment. They do not wear out.

CKMO radio listeners will still be able to access the station they have come to love and, as further investment is made into streaming technology and a state-of-the-art production facility, the quality of the signal will also improve considerably.”

Signal? Quality of the signal? There is no signal if you switch off the transmitter.

Listen to Village 900 while you can. The old fashioned way. On good old radio. And while you are at it (after sunset) tune your old radio dial around for stations located in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and beyond… for free.

And reliable as gravity. Earthquake or not…

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident, writer and federally certified Electronics Technologist.