Dawson’s CFYT will soon be on the air again

It’s like an old dog that won’t give up the ghost. After a six-year hiatus, Dawson City’s 83-year-old radio station is once again…

It’s like an old dog that won’t give up the ghost.

After a six-year hiatus, Dawson City’s 83-year-old radio station is once again preparing to go back on air.

Clad in mittens and hat, CFYT’s new volunteer president, Ashley Doiron, explained the abandoned station’s state of affairs in a cold office above the old post office on Fifth Avenue.

The 1,000 or more albums collecting dust in the corner should not be warped because the station’s office and control room are still without heat.

Still, Doiron works there weekly, and enthusiastically awaits the return of music and chatter to 106.9 FM before summer arrives.

A $5,000 community development grant from the Yukon government is helping revive the station, which has been off the air since its licence expired in 2000.

The money will be used for training radio society members, said Doiron.

“We will focus on getting our board members and volunteers trained. If this round is successful, we will try to bring the training back and open it up to more people in the community,” she said.

Doiron was working at Yukon College last October when she discovered an in-house advertisement for anyone looking for radio training.

“I thought, ‘Yeah, we’re interested in radio training.’ The curriculum is developed by Frank Fry at CBC, so it’s very professional.’”

The four-day course will be held in April, after the Easter weekend.

Meanwhile, Doiron is working with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to resurrect the station’s dead licence, which allowed CFYT to operate from the 1970s through until 1999.

Renewing the licence has not been easy, she said, because CRTC guidelines have evolved.

“It’s actually quite tricky. I’m really not sure what kind of licensing they had in the past, but CRTC licensing parameters don’t stay the same for huge periods of time,” she said.

Doiron suspects that anyone who applied for a licence 10 years ago did not through the same process as someone who applies today, she said.

To apply for a community radio licence, she must provide detailed financial statements and a programmer’s list of what will be on air.

That’s putting “the cart before the horse,” she said, noting a first step is to heat the office.

So, she has applied for a three-year development licence, which will allow society members to use their training to begin operating the station.

“It’s an expedited process that allows a community station to get up and running for the purposes of primarily training, which is what we are proposing for April,” she said.

“They’d like to see some rationale and some minor projections as to how many hours we plan to be on air.”

Doiron expects to be on air shortly after the training course is finished.

“I’m pretty confident that we will be able to have all our licensing in place by then.”

Radio has been a part of Dawson’s media since 1923, when the Canadian Armed Forces set up the RC Signals station so the town could stay in touch with its closest neighbour, Mayo.

The station’s call letters, CFYT, stand for Canadian Forces Yukon Territory, said Doiron.

“It draws me to the idea of Dawson radio,” she said. “It’s a tradition that’s been here for a very long time — like many in Dawson. In my belief, It’s not something that people want to see go away.”

The Transport department ran the station after the capital of the territory moved to Whitehorse in the 1950s.

The station was then passed on to a community group, which ran it out of the former government building, now the Dawson City Museum.

CFYT went off the air in the 1960s, then was resurrected by another community group in the 1970s.

The radio society expanded into television in the 1980s and piped programming in from Whitehorse-based CKRW.

CFYT ran uninterrupted until the end of last century, when it went off the air because of a shortage of volunteers and a failure to move it into a permanent home, said Doiron.

“Key people put their energy and efforts into things and when they move on, the organizations in town suffer until other people take over or realize it’s something worth continuing,” she said.

“That’s the nature of Dawson really, isn’t it?

CFYT was known for zany antics and inconsistency in the 1990s.

Summer disc jockeys with minimal experience would hit the air waves to play and say whatever they wished.

One radio station member called the police to have a drunken DJ removed from the air.

Doiron, who first came to Dawson as a student in 1995, smiles at these memories, but she does not want to spend too much time reflecting on the past.

“I’m trying to take a step away from what was,” she said. “The organization has gone through some ups and downs and there is no reason to focus on what slowed it down.

It’s more important to focus on the people who have good energy and who want to put their energy into building the station, she said.

Doiron wants to run the station professionally, including a signed agreement between a radio programmer and the station before anyone is allowed to go on air.

This is a simple CRTC regulation, she said.

“It’s a small thing to do in order to go on air and have a show that everybody can enjoy.”

Eighteen people have chipped in $5 apiece to become board members and resurrect the station.

But town’s airwaves will not be run by a select few.

“I’m not interested in keeping this closed. An organization will not exist if it’s too closed. It will falter. It improves its chances of disappearing.”

CFYT will offer Dawsonites “a voice within the community that can have an impact on many levels,” Doiron said.

“I really hope when the radio station is up and running, that it will help boost people’s spirits. We need a boost in community spirit here.”

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