Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stay tuned, seniors

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THERE are more than 20 FM radio stations in Winnipeg, virtually all of which play "classic" top 40 rock to the same demographic -- listeners aged 12 to 40. There are few exceptions: Groove FM, the pale replacement of Izzy Asper's original Cool Jazz; CBC Radio 1 and Radio 2, heavy on talk and classical music although perhaps not for long; and little 45-watt CJNU Nostalgia Radio, a volunteer-driven station that plays mostly big-band era jazz to seniors, considers '60s music contemporary and arguably is the only and, therefore, best jazz broadcaster in Winnipeg. Of all these FM signals, however, the one that is threatened is the unique station, CJNU. That it might be driven off air is a prospect which, in a famous formulation, seems "as dumb as a bag of hammers."

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission this week is holding hearings in Winnipeg from applicants who want to push CJUN off air so as to deliver more of the same hard and soft rock and to the same youthful demographic at frequency 104.7.

They can seek to do this because CJUN does not have a licence to broadcast, only an exemption for low-wattage radio stations. The 400-member co-op that powers CJUN has not sought a licence in large measure because, when it had one, it was required to operate on a commercial basis, not a volunteer basis, and failed. It became a success again when it returned to its volunteer roots. The friends of the station ask what's wrong with that. Nothing, obviously, and the CRTC should see that and reserve 104.7 for CJUN as an estimated 50,000 fans and followers desire.

As nostalgia radio goes, CJUN is in many ways as predictable as the rock stations that propose to push it out. Its play list is rife with standards --Moonlight Serenade, Sleepy Lagoon, My Heart Belongs to Daddy, I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo, Anything Goes, Stardust, Always, Tangerine, Standin on the Corner and on and on. But so what. Those were the top 40 hits of 60 years ago. They are no more or less hackneyed than modern playlists -- My Sharona, Hotel California, A Horse With No Name, I Wanna Know Where Love Is, Raise A Little Hell, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, American Woman, Don't Worry, Be Happy, My Heart Will Go On.

But the contemporary crowd gets to listen to its "classics" on numerous commercial stations, while the volunteer seniors have but one outlet. The CRTC should not silence the seniors, it should encourage that their model be embraced and emulated everywhere.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 5, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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