Cambridge Bay finds its voice — again

Community radio returns to CamBay



IQALUIT — With the turn of a knob, community radio returned to the airwaves in Cambridge Bay last week after almost a decade’s absence.

Since Aug. 20, the station has played music and aired local information for three-and-a-half hours each week-day.

Just days after the first broadcast, Cambridge Bay resident Donna Olsen-Hakongak talked excitedly about how she helped get the new station off the ground.

More than a year ago, Olsen-Hakongak and four other residents formed a group, the Cambridge Bay Communications Society, to start a local radio station.

The society, whose members include Olsen-Hakongak, Robert Esser, George Bohlender, Grant Corey and Garry Clark, spent the next 12 months working on the project.

“There was a strong desire from the community to get this initiative going,” Olsen-Hakongak said.

Although none of them have any radio or journalism experience, they all share the joy of listening to good radio.

“It’s a passion for them,” Olsen-Hakongak said.

Needless to say, the group was overjoyed when CFBI FM 97.7 –as the station is called– finally hit the airwaves.

Olsen-Hakongak said the new community radio station fills a void created nearly 10 years ago when the old station fi led away.

“There was a need for having a way of advertising and communicating more effectively,” she said.

Until now, people and organizations wishing to publicize events or meetings tacked posters up at the grocery stores or advertised on the local co-op television channel.

Olsen-Hakongak said community radio station provides a way of publicizing activities — and helps residents feel connected.

Keith Peterson, Cambridge Bay’s mayor, said that’s an added bonus.

“It brings the community together and gets everybody involved,” he said. “It increases and improves the community spirit, as far as we’re concerned.”

Peterson said he likes the idea of residents being able to go on the air whenever they need to.

“I can go over there to the station as a mayor and start talking — but they can turn me off if they want,” Peterson joked.

Peterson said the hamlet was behind the push to get the station because it didn’t make sense for a large centre like Cambridge Bay not to have its own station.

“We put $30,000 into it. That’s how important we thought it was,” Peterson said.

The $30,000 came from the hamlet’s community initiative program. The money helped buy necessary radio equipment, such as microphones, a mixer, a transmitter and a CD player.

Each day — from noon to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m. — the station’s host, David Kaniak, reads community announcements in English and Inukinnaqtun and plays tunes.

So far, Kaniak seems to have a knack for operating the equipment. The Cambridge Bay elder was a familiar voice on the town’s old radio station years ago.

Kaniak is one of several residents who know their way around a radio booth.

“We have a lot of people in town who, just out of their own interest, have a lot of abilities in terms of radio equipment and a general passion for getting the radio program on,” Olsen-Hakongak said.

She said Cambridge Bay residents are lining up to host their own programs, such as radio dramas and elders’ stories.

Olsen-Hakongak voice gets even more excited when she talks about the endless possibilities.

“We’ll have a mix. There’ll be music one night, drama one night, wildlife tips one night,” she said.

“We’re only limited by our imaginations.”

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