I represent an unofficial group called the Citizen’s Committee to Maintain CBC AM Transmission in southern Yukon.
For the last 50 years we have had the 570 CBC AM transmitter operating in the Yukon territory.
This signal is accessible on any portable AM radio or car radio within a 125-kilometre radius of Whitehorse.
A simple antenna (30 metres of soft, insulated wire) will extend the broadcast range to at least 350 kilometres.
FM transmission is only line of sight, so is inherently local and limited. There’s no way that the proposed FM transmission will come anywhere near the efficiency and scope of our current system.
In the past few months we have had road closures due to forest fires and washouts, power outages, and failures in our phone and internet services. The AM signal is the only form of communication that functions at these times.
Perhaps even more importantly, the AM signal keeps our community connected and informed of current events, weather, and the outside world on a day-to-day basis.
If you consider our demographics it is evident that a lot of people live in the 125-kilometre radius, but won’t receive the proposed FM service. Whitehorse residents spend time working and recreating in these outlying areas.
We were pleased to hear the announcement that Whitehorse and YTG have agreed to extend the lease of the land occupied by the AM transmitter for three years. Hopefully, what this means is that both levels of government agree that the AM transmitter is worth saving.
We realize this is not any kind of solution to the problem. What is needed is long-term commitment by all parties concerned to maintain this essential service.
We will be lobbying the city and territorial governments to commit them to this goal.
Specifically, the city could either alter its plans to evict the transmitter or provide a new location.
Evidently, there exists a suitable location near the sewage lagoon. This seems ideal as it’s unlikely any development will occur here.
We realize the city has invested a great deal of time and energy in the proposed development, so perhaps relocation might be the answer. We know that the transmitter grid has been accidentally damaged several times in the past and, on one occasion, a serious injury was sustained by a power company employee working in this area.
These issues could be resolved by relocation.
Every year, YTG spends large sums of money on our infrastructure. Hopefully they will agree that the CBC AM transmitter is worthy of consideration for these funds.
Also, Ottawa has talked a lot in the recent past about its role in the North and its vision for the future. Climate change and sovereignty issues call for an increased and enlightened presence in our North. Surely the replacement of this valuable service by a lesser one must fly in the face of this policy.
What we are saying is that funds for this project might come from unconventional sources and not the limited CBC budget. This is definitely an unconventional situation.
What we ask of the CBC is to please stop the installation of the FM transmitter and give all parties time to discuss this matter and come to a consensus.
It would be a real shame to spend the reported $750,000 on a system that is not satisfactory.
In closing, I would like to say how much CBC radio has meant to me and many, many other folks in the Yukon over the past 50 years.
It is perhaps the largest contributor to my idea of Canada and what it means to be Canadian.
Reliable access to CBC radio ranks with our health-care system and public education and is worth supporting and defending.