Eight years ago this month, a group of enthusiasts, gathered in the Penticton Museum’s meeting room to set the ball rolling on creating a community radio station.
Bit by bit, that dream grew over the years. Broadcasting over the FM airwaves is still a little ways off — though it’s getting very close — but the Peach City Community Radio Society hit a high point on New Year’s Day when CFUZ held an open house, inviting the public in to share their first live streaming broadcast over the internet from the new broadcast studio.
“It’s a huge undertaking and it’s taken us a lot longer than we thought,” said Jackie Del Rizzo, president of the Peach City Community Radio Society.
The New Year’s event was the first big test of the systems, in advance of starting FM broadcasting later this year.
“Today is exactly what we wanted it to be. It’s making a big deal about this next step and the work people have been doing to get us here,” said Del Rizzo. “We are basically looking for the arrival of our transmitter, which we saved up for and picked out; it’s like picking out your new car. We’ve also got everything we need to put up our tower and antenna.”
It was a chance for everyone to get a look inside the studio and see how it all worked, including myself. I found myself going live with DJ Dave Del Rizzo and fellow Western News reporter Dustin Godfrey as Dave interviewed me while I interviewed him about the strides community radio has made.
Dave, currently a director of the society and a former president, started by thanking the paper for its ongoing support of the community radio concept.
“It’s been eight years, and I have to thank you, specifically you. We’ve spoken a lot of times on the phone and you’ve written a lot of column inches about Peach City Radio,” said Del Rizzo. “I really appreciate the exposure the Penticton Western News has given our organization and allowed us that vehicle to reach out to people when we weren’t broadcasting yet.”
Having been one of the first members of the society at that meeting all those years ago, I had to admit I was excited to see CFUZ in a full studio, broadcasting live and getting ready to take the last step to on-air broadcasting.
“I know I’m pretty excited, this has been a long time coming,” I said.
Dave said it’s an important distinction between streaming live and broadcasting live. Along with getting the equipment ready for broadcast, they also need to get their on-air personalities prepped.
“When we hit the ground running later this year, they’re not going to be as nervous. When I started doing this, we were making podcasts. and the first four or five episodes, we were nervous as heck,” said Del Rizzo. “It is really difficult, but once you get over that, it becomes second nature. Now I can talk to you on a microphone, knowing that there could be fives or 10s of people listening out there … that’s just a little radio joke.”
Jackie said getting people involved is as, or more, important than getting the equipment in place.
“We need more people, more people who come to our training sessions, more people who go into the studio and practice and get their shows going and cultivate their radio sound,” said Jackie. “It’s great that we have all our infrastructure here, but if we don’t have people to fill the hours, it’s not going to be very much of a community radio station.”
Dave explains the purpose of community radio is just that, radio that is not just local, but gives the public a chance to create their own programming for the community.
“We encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a part of this, what we are building here, to come down and get involved,” said Dave. “It’s become a little family. We really enjoy working together and we enjoy each other’s company. That’s really important. When people volunteer, they like to volunteer in an environment which makes them feel happy and gives them some reward.
“We’ve tried to develop that sort of environment, a very welcoming and very diverse environment.”
The first step to getting involved is to attend one of the CFUZ Radio 101 sessions, which Dave said will be happening monthly. That’s where interested people can learn about interested parties, and how to apply to join the ranks.
Besides producing programming, there is lots to do to help CFUZ grow, from knocking on doors to raise funds, helping out with community events, reaching out to local bands to grow the music library, producing public service announcements and more.
“A lot of sweat equity has been put into this. It’s a fantastic feeling that today we are able to share this with everyone,” said Dave. “It’s been a process and we are really glad the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.”
For more about CFUZ,visit peachcityradio.org.