The story of Radio Radio dates back to 1971, when the then Calgary Cable Television had an after hours audio service using one turntable and the television studio. This operated for almost a year. The idea of community television was a new vision at the time and for this new idea, the main problem seemed to be that no one seemed to want to use the television facility to develop programming. It was thought that a radio service might help because radio offered some evidently needed privacy and obscurity for potential programmers. A small studio was built and operated on cable channel 6 and cable channel 105.1. This became a popular service, playing music from a purchased library and began to get audience attention. There was only CHFM operating on FM at the time and it programmed easy listening.
The radio service was called Radio Cora and Cora played Rock, Folk, Blues, Classical and Jazz using cable TV employees. The fledgling station was threatened with extinction because of cost cutbacks and it was agreed that the frequency could be made available if interested individuals built and supplied a signal to the cable company using an off premises facility. So Radio Cora became, in 1974, independent of the cable company, which agreed to maintain the frequency licensing arrangements. This agreement holds to this day.
Radio Cora was an organization of people who had grown up with radio or had grown to love working with radio. It was felt that cable had the potential to be a great future in radio and television. In television this turned out to be true but not with radio. The radio service of cable has remained obscure because it does not generate the revenue that television does.
Radio Cora continued to exist throughout the 70’s with numerous CRTC problems because of the fact that cable FM was and is not a recognised form of radio. Regulations focus on broadcast and technically Cable FM, with no transmitter is not seen as a legal regulatory entity. Eventually the CRTC gave up trying to get the Rocky Mountain Radio Society to apply for the necessary licence and filed all information under “experimental” and this situation exists to this day.
In 1977 Radio Cora became Radio Radio to reflect a change in focus from “community” to “alternative”. Radio Radio members loved music and felt that radio is the ideal vehicle to portray a variety of obscure musics that despite proliferation of on air FM continued (and continue) to receive no airplay. Funding the station has been an ongoing problem, since it was felt that commercials as a form of funding compromised the necessary breadth and experimental thrust of musical directions explored on the station. This lack of funding has caused an evolution in equipment use and operational practise, which has become unique to Radio Radio.
The system in effect today is the result of much experimentation with and use of consumer electronics which have to function in a radio circumstance. This has been a success because some consumer gear can indeed be used in this manner. The main problem with consumer gear is its desirability to persons outside the ambit of Radio Radio’s raison d’etre. It is impossible to protect equipment, which is available to a public against theft. The turntable of choice for instance is the Technics SL1200, a robust turntable in use in dance clubs. It’s cult status has made it much desired. In 1996, a break in to the Radio Radio facility cost us the loss of all turntables (three) all CD machines (three) and all cassette machines(three) monitoring headphones (two) and other items.
Radio Radio refuses to be funded by commercial announcements or funding drives. This does not create any kind of profit. Since inception therefore and to the present day Radio Radio continues to be independent, non-commercial, and tiny. Music is purchased by programmers for themselves and they bring their own music to the station for cablecast. We call it narrowcasting. Radio Radio has no budget for promotion, equipment or initiatives for networking with us.
So, in the end Radio Radio is a kind of miracle of no money, skin of the teeth operation. But it has been in continuous operation at three different locations, three different TV channels and two different frequencies for more than 35 years. It currently exists at 104.5 cable FM and has no access to any television channel. Hundreds of people have been involved with Radio Radio. Many have gone on to commercial broadcast careers and the organization continues to survive because of the need for both members and listeners to have a station which does not follow a credo other than to play what is not available on other stations.
As long as people love music and spend lots of money collecting it, Radio Radio will be found by them and used by them to play a unique blend of mixed non-commercial “alternative” music, much as it has done for a quarter of a century.
Radio Radio intends to continue using emerging technologies to fulfill the mission of making radio on a micro budget, which is professional, rewarding and which manages to secure a tiny, and loyal following of living room listeners.
Radio Radio has never asked its listeners for money or insulted them with self- congratulatory hype and incentives designed to help in rating performance. Radio Radio has survived the CRTC, fires, relocation, frequency changes, economic downturns, and financial hardship. Radio Radio is a success, it is truly something for nothing-from nothing, a tiny jewel of operator chosen music which celebrates the romantic radio notion of the RCA ribbon microphone, the big analogue clock, the ashtray filled with cigarette butts and late night intimate communication. Radio Radio supports the notion of sound as a medium of imagination and above all, music as it can be: beautiful, ugly, strange, obscure, magical and restless with its special joy.
On December 6th , 2013 Mr.Dennis Burton passed away from a long battle with cancer. This station will continue in memory of him.
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Some images from the studio ( Thank you Playtime)
Dennis with his pipe (Playtime on the decks)