New community radio station focuses on community content

Jim King, founder of Beaver FM, has his eyes set on a specific slice of the Calgary airwaves. His aim is to capture the roughly 24,000 listeners that his FM transmitter can reach — located in his garage cum studio — with an explicitly local focus. King and his business partners, Kim and Doug Hayden, are after the minutiae that larger radio stations ignore.

“It’s a very unique project. We’re basically a community radio station, in a big city obviously, and it certainly has its challenges,” King says. “But the goal is to reestablish a sense of community. We want to get people involved in these communities.”

It’s only natural for a successful business to grow, but King perceives this growth as a fundamental breakdown of what Beaver FM wants to achieve. As stations grow and their listenership increases, they begin to lose the ability to cover community-orientated events that wouldn’t appeal to their broader audience — especially in a sprawling city like Calgary. It’s in this space that King and the Haydens have positioned the station.

“When you look at where radio has gone, your typical commercial radio really, these larger stations can’t service these specific communities,” says King. “They don’t just encompass the City of Calgary itself, but the outlying areas as well. When you look at what their programming is going to be and what their coverage is and who they want to sell to, they can’t do it. With us, it’s a smaller area and it’s a lot easier to control our programming and the quality of information.”

Beaver FM — set to broadcast to McKenzie Lake, Cranston, Copperfield and Douglasdale — will also reap another benefit by focusing on specific communities in southeast Calgary. The station will be accessible and open to feedback from people in the communities as they iron out any kinks or deficiencies in their programming.

As with almost all radio stations, Beaver FM will play its fair share of music, but King is intent on avoiding a pitfall of national radio — repetition in their music libraries.

“I’ve been involved in radio in Calgary for 16 years and I’ve covered many facets of it, and the complaint that you always hear from people is that stations are playing the same music over and over and over,” says King. “We sit at just under 2,500 songs and the average station in Calgary sits at around 800, so we’re three times ahead of where everyone else is with variety and it guarantees less repetition.”

Beaver FM currently has the capacity to broadcast to its target area on the FM frequency, but is awaiting approval from the government before hitting the airwaves. The station is available to listeners through their website and internet capable mobile devices.

Further down the road, King hopes to be able to introduce a series of small community radio stations to Calgary, each serving specific areas with the same community focus that marks Beaver FM.

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