After lengthy delays since March 2009, the two owners behind 101.5 Whistler FM are finally ready to launch their new Whistler-exclusive radio station in early February.
The station is licensed to broadcast top-40, adult contemporary music, as well as news, sports and community updates. Owners Robert Wilson and Barry Duggan of Four Senses Entertainment want to be clear that although top-40 songs will be in the mix, they are hoping to create a music format that is distinctively Whistler.
“We’re calling it a lifestyle music format, totally unique to Whistler and not classifiable as most radio stations like to define themselves," said Wilson. “I brought Jason Jaski on board, who I worked with when he was music director at the Shore 104.3 FM in Vancouver, to help select the songs and genres that we thought would fit this community. What we came up with was an adult contemporary feel, similar to Virgin radio station in Vancouver, but we also hope to bring live music back into the station and bring in a variety of different artists. It will be an evolving sound that we will likely modify as the station gets established."
Wilson and Duggan have also given their workforce and programming some thought. They plan on hiring mainly locals to operate the station, including those who are visually impaired.
Paralympic swimmer and former partner of Four Senses Entertainment, Donovan Tildesley is committed to helping Whistler FM build a Braille system that allows the visually impaired to program music and operate a radio board. Legally blind himself, Tildesley hopes to develop the program within the next year, the first of its kind in Canada.
“This program will be brand new and as of now I have no idea how it will work. It will be a work in progress, and I’m sure it will take time to get off the ground,” said Tildesley. “Currently I only know of two visually impaired people working in Canadian radio. Hiring DJs with disabilities is a great idea, but in no way can we let it undermine the overall sound of the station. Creating good radio is top priority.”
Wilson is committed to supporting the Braille project and as a result he is planning on renovating his new studio in Function Junction to accommodate wheelchairs.
“We had several buildings in Function that municipal bylaws allowed us to broadcast from, but we found that most locations were on a second floor and weren’t wheelchair accessible. So we decided to forgo the mountain-view and instead went with a ground floor space,” said Wilson. “Starting next week, we will be renovating the studio and widening the hallways to allow wheelchairs to pass through comfortably. Unfortunately the new Braille system won’t be ready before we hit the air in early February. We just don’t want to have any more delays.”
In March 2009, the Canadian Radio and Television Corporation (CRTC) granted the ownership group at Four Senses Entertainment a licence to start up a “hot adult contemporary music station.” However the owners found little potential for advertising dollars during the lagging post-recession economy. They have since asked for two extensions to their licence. The last extension was granted early last year which means Whistler FM will have to be on the airwaves by March 2, 2013 at the latest before their latest licence expires.
Adding to delays, Wilson has also run into problems acquiring a functioning antenna to transmit his station’s signal. He has since purchased his own decommissioned television transmitter shelter and hired a local crane operator to transport the antenna and shelter up a nearby mountain. It’s now sitting just about 1,600 metres from the base of Function near Mt. Sproatt at the CBC transmitting site.
For more information about Whistler FM and the announcement of their specific launch date, visit the Whistler FM’s Facebook page.