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Transmitter Tales: Your CKUA donation goes around the world


Your donation directly supports all the parts that make CKUA a working machine. From humble paper clips to announcer paycheques to our mighty transmitters, you keep it all going! A lot must happen to bring the music, and other enriching arts and culture content to the airwaves every day. You’re a part of every bit of it.

But wait, what about the radio signal itself? It’s thanks to you that the signal exists and if there’s no signal, there’s no CKUA to enjoy. And this crucial little stream of electrons goes a long way, literally. In fact, we could say your donation goes to outer space and back, all day long.

Let’s back up a bit. As we all know, CKUA keeps us listeners close and connected, regardless of where we live.

But how exactly does that work? Well, it involves serious distances. We’ll set online streaming aside for the moment and concentrate on our terrestrial signal – the one Albertans receive when they turn on their radio. Did you know that the signal has to travel the equivalent of twice the earth’s circumference before it hits your radio?

Whether a show originates in our Calgary or Edmonton studios, the audio signal goes on quite the adventure before it reaches you.

Let’s say, for example, that Lisa Wilton is telling a story on Traffic Jams. The words leave her mouth and immediately start a high-speed journey. They travel over fibre-optic cable to Mississauga, Ontario – about 3,500 kms away. There a satellite uplink plant beams them up into outer space, to a satellite named Anik-F2. Anik-F2 sits in a geostationary orbit 36,000 km above our planet (geostationary meaning it orbits alongside earth so it’s always above the same spot.)

A local radio station’s broadcast centre and transmitter are usually located in the same town. CKUA’s radio signal, however, reaches across almost the entire province. Nearly 90% of Albertans can turn their radio dial and hear Leo’s latest reggae jam on Journeys or a beautiful choral piece on Raising Voices. That’s 300 communities, thanks to 16 towers and transmitters from Fort McMurray to Lethbridge.

From the satellite the signal is sent back to land, to each of CKUA’s transmitter sites. The transmitters send it out and presto, there is Lisa’s warm voice on your radio. The most impressive part? This trip from Alberta to Ontario to outer space and back only takes 3 to 4 seconds.

Fun fact: beyond any technical issues, the greatest danger to our signal making it safely is thunderstorms. Luckily this doesn’t happen very often. Snow on the satellite dish can also pose problems if there’s a good storm and the white stuff sticks. Thank goodness we have transmitter monitors to go and broom it off.

Without our transmitters, the CKUA radio signal would be lost and your radio silent. The cost of operating these crucial (and large) pieces of infrastructure each year is about $750,000. The total technical cost to keep you connected with CKUA and your fellow listeners is over $1,200,000 per year (about 18.5% of our annual operating budget of $6.48M.)

As you can see, your support of CKUA is very important. It goes a long way – across the province, across the world and even into outer space and back. Not quite across the universe, but close!

Helpful links:

How far does your CKUA donation go? (we know the graphics are the same, it’s fine)

Celeigh Cardinal’s CKUA Story

Donate today!

Tuning In to the CKUA Community by Grant Stovel

How to donate online to CKUA! (we can’t take calls right now)

‘Keep Calm and CKUA On’ – A fundraising message by Marc Carnes