CKUA-FM, Educational, Edmonton

CKUA Radio Foundation

CKUA-FM199598.1100 wattsCKUA Radio Foundation
CKUA-FM197594.9100 wattsACCESS
CKUA-FM194894.9.250 wattsAlberta Government Telephones/University of Alberta


CKUA applied for an FM licence. It was recommended for approval by the CBC Board in December.


CKUA-FM signed on the air on June 28. It broadcast on a frequency of 98.1 MHz and had a power of 250 watts. CKUA-FM simulcast CKUA-AM’s programming.


Hon. D.B. MacMillan, provincial minister of public works, announced equipment for the province’s CKUA radio would be offered for public sale. Formerly run by the University of Alberta, CKUA had been operated by the province as a non-commercial outlet since April of 1945. Manager Walker Blake had no comment on the possible sale of CKUA. A story in the Edmonton Journal said, “it is understood that a stipulation of the prospective sale will be the new owner’s ability to obtain a commercial licence.” Edmonton commercial stations CFRN and CJCA had applied to use CKUA-AM’s 580 kHz frequency. The CBC board told the applicants that 580 kHz was being used by CKUA so the frequency was not available. This seemed to put to sleep, the possibility that the CKUA stations would be leaving the air.

Walker Blake resigned as manager. He left radio. He was succeeded by John Langdon, drama producer and music commentator at the station.


CKUA moved to the Alberta Block on downtown Edmonton’s Jasper Avenue.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, CKUA pulled back from popular music and concentrated on music not generally found on other stations, experimenting with an eclectic program style combining jazz, classical, folk and other genres. It also introduced talk programs featuring discussion of arts, ideas and current events. 


CKUA 98.1 had a power of 352 watts. It had no network affiliation and operated commercial-free. The University of Alberta was listed as the licence holder. The owner was ultimately the Government of Alberta.


Power was increased to 10,000 watts, pushing CKUA’s signal to almost all points in Alberta. Alberta Government Telephones was listed as the licence holder with John W. Hagerman as President.


Slogan: Canada’s unique station.

Roger Steinhauer was program director.


June 9 – Federal government directive to CRTC stating that broadcast licences could not be granted to provincial governments, their agents or educational institutions put CKUA’s licence, still held by the university, in jeopardy.


July 13 – Federal government issued a directive allowing a broadcast licence to be held by an independent corporation not directly controlled by a provincial government — programming must meet a strict definition of “educational programming.”


Alberta government created a crown corporation, the Alberta Educational Communications Corporation (later known as ACCESS), to assume control of CKUA and the province’s educational television operations.


On March 31, the broadcast licences of CKUA-AM and CKUA-FM were transferred from the University of Alberta to the Alberta Educational Communications Corporation. The station was now called ACCESS Radio CKUA.

On December 18, CKUA-FM was authorized to move from 98.1 to 94.9 MHz, increase effective radiated power from 352 watts to 64,000 watts, change from an omnidirectional to directional antenna, broadcast in stereo, and operate from a new transmitter site.

CKUA was authorized to add transmitters at Calgary (93.7 MHz with directional effective radiated power of 74,000 watts) and Lethbridge (99.3 MHz with directional ERP of 100,000 watts).


On October 1, the technical changes approved last December went into effect. CKUA was now broadcasting in stereo on new frequency – 94.9 MHz.

A transmitter was authorized for Medicine Hat (97.3 MHz with ERP of 100,000 watts, non-directional).


On February 27, CKUA-FM began its planned construction of 15 FM repeaters throughout the province. The expansion began on this date with the launch of the Lethbridge (99.3 MHz) and Medicine Hat (97.3 MHz) transmitters.

The Calgary (93.7 MHz) transmitter signed on September 10.

On November 21, the Peace River (96.9 MHz) transmitter opened.

The Grande Prairie transmitter (100.9 MHz) was launched.

The licence for CKUA AM-FM and the FM network of the Alberta Educational Communications Corp. was renewed for only two years. The CRTC was concerned about the provincial Act establishing AECC contained a potential for lessening the independence of the Corporation and wished to assess, on a continuing basis, its eligibility to hold licences. The programming of the stations must also be educational and distinctly different from other broadcasting services.


John Mann was appointed general manager, technical services.


On February 23, the Red Deer transmitter opened (101.3 MHz, 100,000 watts).

ACCESS received approval to use SCMO for experimental educational purposes. SCMO would be used on the Grande Prairie and Peace River transmitters on a temporary basis.


On July 13, CKUA opened the Hinton transmitter (102.5 MHz, 20 watts – not 98.3 as originally proposed). Transmitters opened on the same date at Edson (103.7 MHz, 20 watts), Whitecourt (107.1 MHz, 20 watts) and Fort McMurray (96.7 MHz, 20 watts).


On February 1, the Athabasca transmitter opened (98.3 MHz, 20 watts).

Peter L. Senchuk was named president of Access Alberta, succeeding Larry Shorter. He had been vice president and general manager of CKSA-AM-TV Lloydminster. At this time he was president of the Broadcast Association of Alberta and a director of CAB.

Jack Hagerman retired after 33 years with CKUA.

The Drumheller/Hanna rebroadcaster (91.3 MHz, 100,000 watts) opened December 31.


A transmitter (99.5 MHz, 50 watts) was opened January 14 at Spirit River.


On January 11, the CRTC renewed CKUA-FM’s licence until September 30, 1985. The renewal included the following rebroadcast transmitters: CKUA-FM-1 Calgary, CKUA-FM-2 Lethbridge, CKUA-FM-3 Medicine Hat, CKUA-FM-4 Grande Prairie, CKUA-FM-5 Peace River, CKUA-FM-6 Red Deer, CKUA-FM-7 Hinton, CKUA-FM-8 Edson, CKUA-FM-9 Whitecourt, CKUA-FM-10 Athabasca, CKUA-FM-11 Fort McMurray, CKUA-FM-12 Spirit River and CKUA-FM-13 Drumheller/Hanna.

Don Thomas was general manager of Access Alberta Radio.


On June 30, CKUA-FM began feeding its FM network of repeaters via the Anik C3 satellite replacing the original microwave system.


On June 10, the Banff/Canmore repeater opened on 104.3 MHz. Power was 84 watts.


CKUA-FM was authorized to move its transmitter site from one located about 9 km from Edmonton to one situated about 16 km southeast of the city. It would be co-located with Access Alberta’s yet to go on the air CJAL-TV. The change would result in improved coverage.


The Access Radio Network received approval for a rebroadcaster at Lloydminster (200 watts on FM channel 248).


Access appointed Don Thomas as president and chief executive officer. His 44 years in broadcasting included 21 years at CFCN in Calgary. At Access, he was general manager of CKUA Radio for seven years, and interim president for the past 14 months.


ACCESS entered an agreement to sell the CKUA radio network to the not-for-profit CKUA Radio Foundation. The Alberta government would provide transitional funding for the move: $2.6 million in year one, $1.3 million in year two and $650,000 in year three. Public support would be required to continued the operation of the Edmonton AM and province-wide FM service.


CKUA Radio Foundation purchased CKUA-AM-FM and its 15 FM rebroadcast transmitters from Alberta Educational Communications. The nominal purchase price was ten dollars. CKUA Radio Foundation would receive grants from the provincial government for a three year transition period. Licensed to August 31, 2000, CKUA would be allowed to sell up to 504 minutes of restricted advertising per week. The station would continue with its alternative format, and offer at least 6.5 hours per week of formal educational programming.


Chairman Gail Hinchliffe announced CKUA could now be heard around the world thanks to the internet.


Just weeks after celebrating its 70th anniversary, CKUA went silent at midnight, March 20. A new board of directors was hoping to return the station to the air. The CKUA network had operated on an annual budget of $2.8 million, and had been struggling to attract commercial sponsors and public donations since the cancellation of provincial funding.

The CKUA Radio Foundation board stepped down on April 14 and turned over control to a new board. Controversial chairman of the CKUA foundation, Gail Hinchliffe, was asked to resign. Three weeks after the station closed, the foundation was replaced by the Save Alberta Public Radio Society, led by musician Tommy Banks. Edmonton lawyer Bud Steen was the new chairman. Tommy Banks headed up the fundraising committee. Other directors included Orv Kope (former GM of CHAT Medicine Hat) and Terry Wickham (producer of folk festivals in the province).

After five weeks of silence, CKUA returned to the air on April 25 with staff volunteering for one month without pay. Jack Hagerman came out of retirement to act as operations manager. He joined CKUA in 1949 and retired in the 1980s.

In May, listeners supported CKUA to the tune of $1.1 million during a two week fundraising drive. That was double the goal. Some 16 staffers were hired back, taking pay cuts of ten to 15%.

On August 7, the Alberta government released a forensic accounting review finding that the former directors of the CKUA Radio Foundation had breached their fiduciary duty by receiving remuneration from CKUA without prior court approval.


16 months after a volunteer board rescued CKUA from the brink of collapse, the stations appeared to be in a mess again. CKUA was over budget, burdened with a $200,000 deficit. General manager Ken Davis resigned and six staff members were laid off. Ken Regan became CKUA’s new general manager. He had been involved with the stations for 12 years.

The CRTC approved the purchase of the radio division of ACCESS (CKUA-AM, CKUA-FM and its 15 rebroadcasters) for Ten Dollars by CKUA Radio Foundation. The Foundation received provincial grants for three years and was allowed to sell up to 504 minutes per week of restricted advertising. CKUA-FM thus became part of an independent foundation. The TV division of ACCESS was sold to CHUM Limited of Toronto.


CKUA Radio Foundation’s Group 3 Specialty (AM & FM simulcast) licence was renewed through August 2007.


CKUA celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Following a successful spring fundraiser, listener support reached 60% of the network’s revenue. The remainder of CKUA’s budget came from advertising and a fee-for-service contract to operate Alberta’s Emergency Public Warning System.


CKUA-AM and FM began broadcasting 24 hours a day.


CKUA-FM received approval to reduce the average effective radiated power of CKUA-FM-3 Medicine Hat from 100,000 watts to 63,000 watts (maximum power would remain 100,000 watts), switch to a directional antenna, and decrease effective antenna height from 221.5 metres to 219.5 metres.


At least nine people at CKUA were to lose their jobs after the station lost a key contract with the provincial government. CKUA had been managing Alberta’s Emergency Public Warning System for 17 years, a contract worth $700,000 a year to the station (15% of its operating budget). General manager Ken Regan said five people were already laid off and another four would lose their jobs in March.


Adam Fox became the new content director at CKUA. For the last eight years, he was station manager at CJAM Windsor.

CKUA was expecting to move from 105th Street and Jasper Avenue to 98th Street and Jasper Avenue, where it had been since 1955.

CKUA Radio moved into a new home. It purchased the restored historic Alberta Hotel for $12.5 million. The Alberta government put $5 million towards CKUA and the city matched the amount. The station began broadcasting from its new home October 15. The final cost, with the interior finishings, was expected to be about $17.2 million. CKUA would lease out two floors of commercial office space as well as a main floor bar and restaurant.


CKUA eliminated its news department, citing financial challenges. News Director Ian Gray and broadcast journalist Matt Nodge were let go. CKUA used BBC World News instead. CKUA was funded by the Alberta government until 1994. Then, with privatization, came commercials, corporate sponsorships and listener donations. Last October, the station moved into the refurbished Alberta Hotel which it purchased for $12.5 million. The provincial government and city of Edmonton, each put $5-million toward CKUA’s expenses. The final cost, with interior finishings, was expected to be about $17.2 million. Two floors of commercial space were to have been leased out plus a main floor bar and restaurant.

In February it was announced that the CKUA 580 signal would be shut down. An application would be filed with the CRTC to have the AM licence revoked.

Neil Lutes died at age 68. He had been chief engineer at the CKUARadio Network up until his retirement in 2009. Lutes was the initiator and architect of Alberta’s Emergency Public Warning System.

Francis (Frank) Joseph Dolphin died at age 84. He worked in radio at CHED, CKUA and at CBC-TV Edmonton where he was the legislative reporter.

On September 13, the CRTC approved an application to amend the licence for CKUA-FM by deleting its AM transmitter CKUA Edmonton.

November 21 marked the 86th anniversary of CKUA and it was also the final day for CKUA 580 to broadcast. CKUA-AM held (still does) the record for longest use of a frequency by a station in Canada. CKUA programming continued on the 16-transmitter FM network.


It was announced that CKUA would have a new Calgary storefront studio in the city’s National Music Centre come the fall of 2016. C.E.O. Ken Regan said donations from the Calgary Foundation to the music centre and CKUA, would allow the Alberta network to renew its involvement in the Calgary music scene.

On November 20, the CRTC approved the application by CKUA Radio Foundation to change the authorized contours of CKUA-FM-5 Peace River, by changing the transmitter class from C to B, decreasing the effective radiated power from 100,000 to 22,000 watts, and decreasing the effective height of antenna above average terrain from 167.5 to 155.7 metres.

On December 2, the CRTC approved the application by CKUA Radio Foundation to change the authorized contours of CKUA-FM-13 Drumheller, by decreasing the effective radiated power from 100,000 to 22,000 watts and by increasing the effective height of antenna above average terrain from 299 to 300.3 metres. CKUA Radio stated that the changes were necessary since they, coupled with a conversion to a solid state transmitter, would reduce CKUA-FM-13’s operating costs significantly and would maintain optimal signal coverage for the majority of the Drumheller listening audience.


On September 23, CKUA christened its new Calgary street level studios. Twenty per cent of the station’s programming originated from Calgary.


CKUA announcer Peter North left the station after 17 years, nine of those as music director.


Tommy Banks (81) passed away on January 25. He was host of “The Tommy Banks Show” on CBC Television from 1968 to 1983. In later years he served on the board of the CKUA Radio Network Foundation.

In May, CKUA received CRTC approval to increase ERP for CKUA-FM-13 Drumheller from 22,000 to 100,000 watts. Antenna height would be lowered.


Jack Hagerman (92) passed away on August 8. He began his radio career in 1946 at CFQC Saskatoon. In 1949 he joined CKUA and would go on to work with the station for more than 70 years, holding roles from host (as John Worthington), sports announcer, program manager, and by the mid-1950s station manager.

Monica Miller (64) died on August 11. Miller got her start with CKUA in 1977 as a library assistant. She went on to work with the station for four decades, holding roles including writer, assistant producer, arts coverage producer, and eventually host.

The story continues elsewhere…
Effective September 1st 2019, we will only be adding new material to these station histories in exceptional circumstances. Our intent to chronicle the early days of these radio and television stations has been achieved, and many new sources and technologies, from the CRTC website to Wikipedia, and others, are now regularly providing new information in these areas.

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