Tune into 94.5 on the FM dial some Saturday this month, and you may be able to hear something brand new to Penticton’s airwaves.
That’s the frequency for the Peach City Radio Society’s broadcasts from the Penticton museum, the first on-air trial for the group that is trying to bring a new voice to the community. The initial broadcast was on June 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but they will be back in that time slot each Saturday through June.
“I think it is time for Penticton to get something like this,” said Cameron Baughen, president of the society. “We have lots of events here that people may not be aware of. We have a lot of different musical artists … people that are from here that are doing music that people don’t even know about. This will hopefully be a portal for them to get more recognition for what they are doing.”
For the first day, they offered a range of programming, reflecting the diverse interests of the volunteer broadcasters already involved. Wally Hild kicked the day off, playing classic rock tunes, followed by John Hodson, who switched over to country hits from both local and international stars.
“We were lucky to have his worship Dan Ashton as our first speaker and we were lucky to have (Okanagan Coquihalla MP) Dan Albas come in as well,” said Baughen, explaining the wealth of programming they were trying to offer, including a documentary-style interview by the Penticton Western’s Bruce Walkinshaw, with an immigrant to Canada who became a city councillor, John Vassilaki.
“That’s good spoken word,” Baughen said, noting that while the CBC might carry something like that, it would be unusual for a local station to play such a piece.
The signal is crisp and clear in the downtown Penticton area. And though the range of the small 10-watt transmitter they are using is small, museum curator Peter Ord reported being able to pick the station up as far out as the Red Rooster development on the way to Summerland.
“We’re probably spending less than $5,000. If they were trying to do this back in the day, they could never do this. The technology has changed. Now we can run an entire radio station off a computer,” said Baughen. “A lot of people in their homes now can produce radio content, and this would be the kind of vehicle to allow them to distribute it.”
Indeed, the entire exhibit in the museum right now wraps around that theme, exploring how communications has changed for Penticton. The exhibit Medium & Message: the early history of broadcasting & telecommunication in Penticton will be at the museum from through to July 31. The exhibit features the history of telegraphy, telephone and TV broadcasting in Penticton, illustrating it with artifacts highlighting the technology and design from the early 1900s to 1960, drawing from the museum’s own collection and temporary donations from supporters.
There will also be a panel discussion Thursday afternoon, bring together veterans of Penticton’s radio scene to recount the people, places and events that mark the community’ broadcasting history.
For the Peach City Radio Society, though, this is just the beginning.
“This is a good first step and we are going to develop a business plan to see where we go from here,” said Baughen. “We have been approaching groups to see where we might be located, which is a huge first step. Fundraising is a huge step as well, because we are going to need money to get this off the ground.”
“As part of the event, they are looking for donations to help the radio society move on to the point where they will be able to broadcast on a regular schedule. Through all of June, people can donate to the society through the museum and receive a tax receipt in turn.
“We’re looking at a pretty large community without a community radio station. Nelson has one, Rossland has one — lots of small communities are building this infrastructure,” said Baughen.
“If it wasn’t fun, no one would do it, because they (the broadcasters) are all volunteers. It is really enjoyable to share your love of music or your love of ideas with other people.”