The Hay River Broadcasting Society and CKHR 107.3 FM temporarily halted over-the-air broadcasts last week while equipment is relocated.
The society says there’s a silver lining: an opportunity to develop its radio and television presence and try new things following the relocation. CKHR has shifted online until further notice.
Station manager Mark Lundbek hopes the online stream will attract people who would normally be out of FM range.
“We have a huge opportunity to bring Hay River and our part of the North to the nation,” Lundbek said.
While relocation takes place, the broadcasters are seeking residents’ feedback about what they want from Hay River’s community radio and television stations.
“We’re exploring a bunch of areas and asking some professionals in the community to give us their thoughts,” said Peter Magill, vice-president of the Hay River Broadcasting Society.
“We’re finding out how we can best move forward to serve as many of the people in Hay River as we can.”
The move came about after society members heard the Mackenzie Place highrise – which suffered a major fire in March 2019 – was to have its power disconnected this month.
Magill said the decision to move equipment out of the building, first reported by the CBC, was made on the weekend of October 17.
He said arrangements could have been made to pay bills directly to Northland Utilities, the power distributor, and keep electricity connected on the building’s 17th floor – but that would have benefited only the television station.
Northland Utilities told Cabin Radio power is still on at the complex, but said by email the building owner “is in arrears with Northland Utilities.”
“We’re mindful of the situation and have been working with the owner and remaining tenants over the last several weeks on a suitable solution so that disconnection can be avoided,” said Ross Stanley, manager of Northland Utilities in Hay River.
Analog antennae for the television society remain on the roof of the highrise, according to Magill. A crew will remove the equipment as society members did not consider it safe to do so themselves.
Expanding community involvement
Finding a new home may be difficult.
Mackenzie Place is the highest building in the town, a key consideration when placing broadcast equipment as higher transmitters reach more people.
The search is ongoing. How long the relocation may take is unknown.
Lundbek feels the community radio station has become important to Hay River during the pandemic, especially residents without internet access.
“I’ve been taking calls and comforting the community as much as I can,” he said.
Lundbek and Magill encouraged more volunteers to step forward, saying the community broadcaster had a commitment to provide educational opportunities.
“This isn’t about the people that are in the station, this is about the community,” said Lundbek.
“The station … was given to the community so we could educate people in broadcasting.
“It’s just something, I think, that will never not be needed. People need to be informed.”