CJSW worries about dead air

Running a radio station is a tough business, especially when you don’t know how long you’re going to be able to use your broadcasting tower.

For the past 15 years, CJSW has housed their broadcasting tower on the SAIT campus, but in January 2000, they received a letter informing them the tower must be moved by Nov. 30 of that same year. Though the tower was still at SAIT on Dec. 7, the situation cannot continue much longer.

"We’re looking at negotiations between SAIT and ourselves and other entities about where we’re going to put our transmitter site," said CJSW Station Manager Chad Saunders. "We’ve always had a really good relationship with SAIT; that tower has been there for over 15 years, since we’ve been on the FM dial.

"The lease has come up and it’s time to find a new location. That’s sort of where we’re at now."

The process of applying for a new permanent licence is lengthy and complicated.

"Timelines aren’t really fixed, but there are certainly some complexities when you’re moving a transmitter site," he explained. "Basically, there’s a number of checkpoints that you have to do, more importantly from Industry Canada."

Once a possible site for the transmitter is selected, there are a series of impact studies, structural concerns, and equipment upgrades that must be completed before the tower can be moved.

"It takes six to eight months, or something along those lines, to get a licence for permanent tower location," said Students’ Union Vice-president Operations and Finance Matt Lauzon. "We wouldn’t be able to take that tower from SAIT and put it somewhere else without that licence, so we would be off the air."

Though the deadline for moving the tower has been extended to the end of January, it seems unlikely the station will be able to complete plans for a new permanent location in time. In order to ensure the station does not experience any broadcast disruption, they will move transmission downtown.

"We’re going to a standby site downtown at the Canterra tower, which is the third tallest office tower," said Saunders. "It’s going to be a good standby site and it will basically operate at an area that will cover the Calgary area."

Industry Canada regulations indicate that standby broadcast towers may only transmit at 10 per cent of the power of the station’s permanent licence. CJSW’s current licence allows them to broadcast at 1900 watts, so the downtown tower would use 200 watts .

"[Saunders] believes that that will cover all of Calgary, but some students have expressed concern that right now, with the permanent tower, they can’t get CJSW in the far reaches of Calgary," said Lauzon. "If we are broadcasting at a reduced capacity of only 10 per cent, I don’t think it will get all over Calgary. That’s certainly a concern, not to mention the fact that we’re having to spend $17,000 for a temporary tower that we really don’t necessarily need."
Saunders disagrees the tower would be a needless expense.

"We certainly don’t want to spend more money than necessary, but this is going to be an excellent investment in the sense that if something happened to our main transmitter we still wouldn’t go off the air," he explained. "It’s technology that we don’t have right now. Some costs like installation [will be high], because the Canterra tower is a very nice office building so they have a higher standard of what quality of work can go on with their office tower. They don’t want rubber bands, coat hangers and staples all over the side of their building."

The move to the new site will improve the quality of broadcast throughout the city, hopefully eliminating areas that currently have reception problems.

"With changing and finding a new location we’re going to be applying at the same time for increased wattage," said Saunders. "So the hope is that if you can’t reach us as clearly as you would like, by increasing our wattage output we’re going to be able to cover beyond the areas that already exist."

Saunders reiterated the station’s commitment to its listeners, and asked for support and ideas from the community at large.

"We’re looking for the support of everybody, basically, on this issue, and trying to find the best location for CJSW," he explained. "We’re going to make a seamless transition. We have a commitment to all our listeners, the University of Calgary community, of course, the students, but as well, all the people who helped us out during the funding drive. We’re going to be on the air 24/7. We’re of course on RealAudio network and cable."

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