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Saskatoon Community Radio CFCR 90.5 FM: Viva alternative radio!

Published on April 20, 2021

darby sutherland hosting thrice inside saskatoon community radio station

CFCR 90.5 FM is Saskatoon’s community radio station. I know what you’re thinking “Radio? It’s 2021! Have you heard of Spotify?,” and I have, I love Spotify! But hear me out. Community radio is pretty cool!

In a world of streaming, top 40 and algorithms, is there anything purer than listening to someone else’s curated playlist? Or a themed show where the host must dig through the history of music to find songs that fit the theme week after week? Or a show where the hosts talk about what board games they are playing and how they feel about them? CFCR has these shows and more.

a man's hand on a song list sheet at the saskatoon community radio station
Brian Gibbons – co-host of a weekly open music program, Thrice Removed – writing the night’s playlist

Some Saskatoon community radio history

CFCR first hit the airwaves in 1991. The station was a community reaction to losing the University of Saskatchewan’s station CHSK-FM in 1985. All it took to get the station off the ground was a group of people doing a ton of work and a couple of miracles. Now, 30 years later, CFCR has more than 600 members with nearly 200 of those members volunteering as on-air hosts.

I have been volunteering with CFCR for 10 years as an on-air host! I started volunteering as a young, lost University student. While trying to figure out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be, it was so nice to have a baseline identifier. I might not be as smart as that person or have the porcelain skin of that person, but do they hop on the radio once a week and play their favourite songs? I bet they don’t.

Man and woman recording a show inside Saskatoon community radio station
Darby Sutherland and Brian Gibbons in the studio at CFCR hosting Thrice Removed, a weekly open music program

Volunteering at CFCR 90.5 FM

As I have grown older, I have started appreciating the station for different reasons. A few years into volunteering at CFCR I was given the great opportunity to train new radio hosts. They were to be hosts of music shows, spoken word shows and multicultural programs and I have totally fallen in love with the way that CFCR creates communities.

If you are a young local musician, you can start volunteering with the station and instantly be connected to a network of local musicians and music lovers. You have a platform to play your music and can hang your concert posters in the studio so other hosts can shout out your show.

Darby Sutherland and past co-host Sam Schneider dig through CFCR’s music library 2014

A community of diverse radio people in Saskatoon

The weekend programming is largely multicultural. These programs are sometimes sponsored by community organizations that encourage new Canadians to host the shows. Hosting allows them to showcase their culture and connect with people from their countries of origin, as well as people in their new home of Saskatoon. Since the multicultural programs are broadcast in different languages, new Canadians can move to this prairie city and hear someone speaking their language on the radio and feel even more connected to their new community.

I find it magical that there is still a community of diverse people working to keep community radio alive in cities like Saskatoon. Community radio stations such as CFCR are often run on donations. I would be remiss if I ended this article without shouting out the work that the small team at CFCR World Headquarters does to keep the station on the air including leading the annual fundraising drive.

Viva alternative radio!

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The Author
Darby Sutherland is a renaissance girl in a specialist’s world. Catch her hosting her weekly radio show on CFCR 90.5 FM, taking photos of her food at your favourite restaurant, or DJing your third cousin’s wedding. Now you see her, now you don’t.