Residents of the Golden Horseshoe (in Southern Ontario) may soon experience a first in Canadian radio broadcasting – the birth of family alternative radio. Featuring the best in contemporary gospel music, FM 91.7 will broadcast its signal into Southern Ontario and Western New York.
The proposed station, based in St. Catharines, would operate on a 24-hour, commercial-free format. In addition, the station hopes to offer both local and national news as well as a phone-in and information show.
The final hurdle, obtaining an operating license from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), is scheduled for the spring of 1991. A hearing is planned for the October, said founder Bill Johnstone of Hamilton, Ontario.
The national licensing body has consistently refused to license any “religious” radio station. According to a CRTC regulation, “religious broadcasting” is anything that includes “man’s relationship to divinity,” “related moral or ethical issues,” and “programs that examine or expound religious practices and beliefs or present a religious ceremony, service or other similar event.”
However, Bill Johnstone’s vision of a family-positive radio station does not fit into the “religious” mold. Labeling contemporary gospel music as an “art form,” he sees no problem in CRTC approval of the music on its own. However, the combination of music and public affairs, says Johnstone, takes the station “over the [CRTC] limits.”
Across the border in Buffalo, Crawford Broadcasting’s WDCX beams into Ontario. According to WDCX radio personality, Neil Boron, the majority of his audience live in Ontario, not Western New York. From Thornhill to Woodstock, “DCX” as it’s affectionately known, provides a combination of Christian country rock, easy-listening music and evangelical teaching. Daily programming includes a live phone-in show, hosted by Rich Bueller in California and the popular syndicated show, Focus on the Family.
One major drawback to WDCX is the fluctuation of its signal strength. Geographic location and receiver power greatly determine the quality of signal reception in Ontario.
Although FM 91.7 may be viewed as competition for WDCX, Johnstone disagrees. “They serve a different market than what we’re aiming for,” he told The Interim. “We’re aiming for, certainly, a younger market and we’re aiming for a market that’s just not familiar with (our) music at all.”
As Bill Johnstone prepares for the long haul with the CRTC, the one-time farmer turned station organizer is not alone. Standing behind Bill are advisors with years of experience in the radio business. And standing behind them is God!