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91.3 FM Drumheller and Hanna service disruption

News

To our dear 91.3 FM listeners, donors, partners and friends:

This letter is difficult to write. I am writing to advise you of an upcoming disruption to your listening service.

A little over two years ago, we notified listeners about Bell Media’s intentions to decommission their Hand Hills tower, where your local transmitter is located. Following those communications and subsequent meetings in Drumheller and Hanna with several listeners and community members, we met some individuals who helped us formulate a plan to save the tower and leave your CKUA service uninterrupted.

After two years of negotiations, I am sorry to say that we were unable to resolve the distinct needs of the four different parties involved in the deal. As a result, Bell has informed us that they will be moving ahead with their plans to decommission the tower. As of this date, I cannot confirm when the relocation must be finished, however it will likely take place late this spring/early summer.

Those familiar with Hand Hills know that it is the highest point in the region, making it an ideal location for a 500′ tall tower given the area’s unique geography. Additionally, its distance from populated areas means that we can run a high-power, 100Kw transmitter to create the greatest possible reach.

Without this tower, we must find an alternate solution.

It is our responsibility to make judicious use of every donor dollar we receive from the CKUA community. In this instance, the business case does not warrant purchasing and repairing the current 60-year-old Hand Hills tower or building and operating a new one in the same location.

After surveying the region and considering various options, we determined that the best option is to lease space and locate a new transmitter on one of the smaller towers near Drumheller.

It comes at a cost, however. Without an identically tall and well-placed tower such as the one in Hand Hills to accommodate the unique geography of the region, the reach of the signal once our transmitter is moved will be significantly reduced. Unfortunately, this means that our listeners further afield from Drumheller will lose their FM signal.

As of this writing, I cannot confirm what part of the region will be impacted. We need to go through the process of securing a tower and purchasing the appropriate equipment for that location. Once that is complete, we will have a better understanding of how powerful a signal we can transmit and approximately how far it will reach. Once we have more information about what this will look like, we will share it with you.

This decision wasn’t easy. CKUA has prided itself on serving this part of Alberta for over 93 years through terrestrial radio. With this news, I realize the long drives on country roads will be quieter. It is yet another example of how changing media and technology impacts small towns and hamlets everywhere.

However, I am somewhat comforted with the knowledge that the SuperNet runs through this part of Alberta. Streaming is increasingly reliable in the home. Smart speakers are becoming more affordable and widespread, and saying something as simple as, “Hey Google, turn on CKUA Radio” is possible. For those on the go, CKUA has a mobile app, and increasingly affordable large mobile data packages are starting to catch up with the rest of the world. While these digital tools don’t make up for the ease and universal reliability of terrestrial radio, they offer many ways to stay connected to CKUA today that didn’t exist a few years ago.

This news is by no means goodbye. While our footprint will be smaller, your frequency will remain. And we will continue to tell stories about the region – stories about locally grown artists and venues and those who stopped in along the way and fell in love with its people and its splendour.

Thank you for listening and thank you for your understanding.

Marc Carnes
CEO, CKUA Radio Network

CKUA makes every attempt to appropriately communicate important notices to all impacted listeners, donors, and other stakeholders. If you are in the Drumheller/Hanna region and we have inadvertently missed you, please send us a note to feedback@ckua.com.