Volunteer radio has a long history in Dawson City, with the current organization – CFYT-FM (106.9) – reaching back to 1984. At that time, the Dawson City Community Radio Society (DCCRS) picked up the mantle left by the Royal Canadian Signals corps, which broadcast CFYT (Canadian Forces Yukon Territory) out of a hotel room in 1948.
The station has moved a few times since the 1980s, when it was located in a little cabin across the street from the Robert Service School. That building, now relocated, currently houses the Dawson City Music Festival.
CFYT relocated to the Bonanza Centre, which is Dawson’s old Rec Centre, and it was intended that the station would move into space on the second floor of the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre when that building was completed. But the second floor never was completed — a long story — and the radio station ceased operations for several years, a period coinciding with the town’s temporary bankruptcy and trusteeship around 2004.
When it started again in 2006, it was located upstairs in the abandoned federal building on Fifth Avenue, next door to where its cabin had been.
As board member Jen Laliberte observed at the annual general meeting in November that once a station loses its certification, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission makes it difficult to get it back. The re-born board struggled hard and received approval in 2009.
Since then, it moved into compact quarters on Queen Street and has filled the airwaves with local content from Thursday to Sunday evening. During the last year, a 20-hour per week station manager – paid for by a grant from the Canadian Radio Fund – enabled the station to air something every day of the week.
Board President Georgia Hammond credits Jonathan Howe’s presence with increasing the station’s profile and effectiveness in fund raising.
The station manages more than just DJs spinning CDs (or MP3s); it sells rolling ad space on channel 11 of the City of Dawson’s cable TV system and provides the video link for the town’s council meetings on channel 12.
With the addition of mobile equipment, it broadcasts from the annual Gold Show and televises political forums during election campaigns. Last summer CFYT assisted the staff at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in creating Radio Zho once a week and in November it covered the Dawson City Invitational Volleyball Tournament.
Howe has pushed to create a bit of radio drama a few times per year and has been encouraging talk radio in addition to the musical fare provided by many of the DJs.
“It’s important for us to be on-air as much as possible,” he told the membership at the AGM, “so people would realize that the radio was a functioning entity and try to engage with us. I think that has happened.”
With two-dozen different program slots active each week and no shortage of people willing to sit on its board, CFYT-FM looks to be in good shape heading into the immediate future.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.