CKWL-AM, The Wolf, Williams Lake
|Vista Broadcast Group Inc.
|Cariboo Central Interior Radio Inc.
Cariboo Broadcasters Ltd. officially opened CKCQ-1 Williams Lake in late May (or early June) with an open house and cocktail party. Williams Lake was located some 70 miles south of Quesnel where CKCQ (on-air since 1957), the base station was located. CKCQ manager Dennis Reid said the satellite station would have a permanent staff and would air two daily programs on a regular schedule. CKCQ-1 had a power of 250 watts. Known as “Cariboo Radio”, it was promoted as “Canada’s only full time privately operated radio network”. Audio quality between the stations was extremely “tinny” as the signal was relayed between the two stations via a narrow band telephone connection.
“Message Time”, designed to serve the outlying areas of the Cariboo, which had started at originating station CKCQ in Quesnel, continued to expand due to CKCQ-1’s coverage into the remote Chilcotin area west of Williams Lake. In the mid sixties, a court summons was delivered over the air, after receiving the judge’s approval. The subject heard it and showed up in court.
Quesnel native Denny Carr was the first air staff at CKCQ-1. For programs originating in Quesnel, engineer/announcer Ted Hopkins rigged up an equalizer at the Williams Lake transmitter, which improved the sound quality. Hopkins was prominent in civic affairs and later served as an Alderman.
Call letters of CKCQ-1 were changed to CKWL to allow the stations to operate separately from the Williams Lake studio. Bob Leckie moved from Quesnel as station and sales manager for the Williams Lake operation.
A broadcast quality studio transmitter link was established between Quesnel and Williams Lake, which vastly improved the audio between the two stations.
CKWL’s transmitter site flooded. Hopkins and Leckie managed to keep the station on the air by cutting the rafters in the transmitter building and hoisting the transmitter equipment about a metre up on blocks and rigging a clothes line wire to the top of the transmission tower.
On July 25, Cariboo Broadcasters Ltd. was authorized to change CKWL’s frequency from 1240 to 920 kHz and to increase power from 250 to 1,000 watts, and to operate from a new transmitter site.
An arson fire at the transmitter site caused the station to go off the air for three days.
Cariboo Radio added its third station CKBX, 100 Mile House at 1240 kHz with 1000 watts day/500 watts night to increase its coverage to the south (licenced December 15, 1970). The network now covered most of the urban population of the Cariboo area of British Columbia.
On October 7, original founder, Dennis Reid was given permission to sell Cariboo Broadcasters Ltd. (Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House) to Cariboo Broadcast Holdings Ltd. (John Boates, Bob Leckie, Gil McCall, Ken Wilson, his son Pat Reid and local businessmen).
On July 15 Cariboo Broadcasters Ltd. was given approval to swap the frequencies of sister stations CKCQ and CKWL, with CKCQ moving from 570 to 920 kHz. In addition, CKCQ would increase power from 1,000 to 10,000 watts (directional at night).
Bob Leckie received BCAB’s Broadcast Citizen of the Year.
CKWL moved to 570 KHz with 1,000 watts day/night to fill the frequency vacated by CKCQ Quesnel’s switch to 920.
Stan Davis and Ron East purchased Cariboo Broadcasters. It was renamed Cariboo Central Interior Radio Ltd. (CCI), which now included CJCI Prince George, B.C.
On Mar 28 the CRTC approved application by Cariboo Central Interior Radio Inc. to allow part time program origination from CJCI Prince George as well as from Quesnel and Williams Lake.
The CRTC approved application by Cariboo Central Interior Radio Inc. for authority to acquire the assets of CFFM-FM Williams Lake and its transmitter CFFM-FM-1 100 Mile House and the assets of CFFM-FM-2 Quesnel from Jim Pattison Industries Ltd.
Cariboo Central Interior Radio Inc. (CKCQ Quesnel, CKWL Williams Lake and CKBX 100 Mile House) agreed to purchase CFFM-FM and its rebroadcasters from Jim Pattison Industries. CFFM would change format from country to pop/rock/dance, with an overnight feed from Cariboo’s CIRX-FM Prince George. The AM stations would pick up the country format with an overnight feed from CJCI Prince George.
Original Cariboo Broadcasters founder Dennis Reid passed away July 7 in Prince George, B.C.
On May 7, Fred Weber, the other original founder of Cariboo Broadcasters passed away.
On October 4 at 8 a.m., CKWL changed from “Wild Country” to “The Wolf” – playing Modern Country and the Best Southern Rock.
In early August it was announced that Cariboo Central Interior Radio Inc., owners of CKBX 100 Mile House, CFLD Burns Lake, CJCI-FM and CIRX-FM Prince George, CKCQ-FM Quesnel, CFBV Smithers, CIVH Vanderhoof, CKWL and CFFM-FM Williams Lake and numerous re-broadcast stations in northern B.C. had been purchased by a Calgary group, headed by Margot Micallef. On September 1, The CRTC announced approval of the sale to 1126144 Alberta Ltd., a company affiliated with Vista Broadcast Group Inc.
On September 1, members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union representing announcers, news reporters, creative and clerical workers, went on strike to back wage and job security demands at Vista’s stations CKCQ-FM Quesnel, CKWL and CFFM-FM Williams Lake and CKBX 100 Mile House. The stations remained on the air with programming fed from Prince George and local content provided by management personnel. On October 5, the CEP announced that it had ratified a new contract, providing for wage increases totaling 8.25% over three years, plus improvements in layoff severance pay and guarantees concerning job security. Staff members returned to their jobs at the stations on October 9.
On August 31, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CKWL until March 31, 2012.
On March 20, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CKWL to August 31, 2012.
Gary Long, who had previously been program director at 94X in Prince George and assistant PD / mornings at 103.9 The Juice in Kelowna, headed to the Cariboo region of BC to take on the role of General Manager for The Rush and The Wolf in Quesnel, Williams Lake, and 100 Mile House.
It was announced that Vista President Terry Coles would move into retirement at the end of 2012 and immediately into a consulting role with the company. His successor would be CEO Margot Micallef who would handle the dual roles of President/CEO. Bryan Edwards moves to Senior VP of Business Development. Vista Kelowna General Manager/General Sales Manager Ross Hawse would become the Director Western Operations. Gary Russell, Vista’s Director of Systems and GM of Vista Prince George, would integrate Haliburton and Vista in Ontario as the Director of Integration and Operations, Vista East. Co-Founder/ Executive VP Paul Mann would add Senior VP of Sales and Training and Development to his duties. Assisting him would be Tracey Gard, the GM/GSM of the Cariboo Group of Vista stations, as Director Vista Sales, West and based in Courtenay. The former finance executive at Corus and Telemedia, Chris Lecomte joined Vista as Senior VP/CFO, based in Toronto.
On August 28, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence of CKWL to December 31, 2012.
The CRTC approved a change to the effective control of Vista Radio Ltd. from a control exercised by its board of directors to a control exercised by Westerkirk Capital Inc., a corporation controlled by Thomson Investments Limited. Vista Radio Ltd. was the licensee of radio programming undertakings located in British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
On December 21, the CRTC renewed CKWL’s licence to August 31, 2018.
Pete Montana was promoted at Vista Radio to General Manager/Program Director of the five station Cariboo Group, based at Williams Lake. He had been PD/morning host at 91.7 Coast FM Sechelt/Nanaimo. Former Cariboo GM Gary Long left the business.
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.