CJUS for the rest of us: Bring back campus radio

By in Opinions

Did you know the University of Saskatchewan used to have its own radio station? While that may be hard to believe nowadays, it’s true — and the argument to bring it back is more relevant than ever.

Just over 50 years ago, the U of S’ own radio station — CJUS-FM — hit the airwaves. It operated in various forms starting in 1965, bringing both national and local student-hosted content until September 1985, when it signed off amidst defunding by the U of S board of governors. It was revived briefly in 2005 for the Internet, but this seems to have been short-lived.

campus-radio-supplied-university-archives-and-special-collections
DJs spinning the wheels of steel in the old CJUS studio.

When it comes to bringing back things we’ve already tried and given up on, it’s always an uphill battle. Still,  bringing radio back to the U of S would be a great idea.

Despite what you might think, campus radio is still relatively common and popular across the country. Universities in Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton all still have their own stations, so it’s not like the concept is covered in cobwebs.

The end of CJUS led to the creation of the Community Radio Society of Saskatoon, which went on to found CFCR in 1991. That station, originally started and hosted by many former CJUS veterans, continues to prosper in Saskatoon to this day. Obviously, the services that the campus radio station provided to listeners were sorely missed when taken away.

Likewise, a good deal of content that CFCR provides to this day is connected to the U of S in some way. The U of S Students’ Union has its own weekly program, and many shows are hosted by U of S students. While this could be seen as evidence that CFCR already performs the function that a proposed campus radio station could, I think to argue that would be missing the point.

A campus radio station would exist explicitly for the purpose of providing student content and giving those at the U of S the opportunity to provide programming to their peers. CFCR doesn’t exist to cater to one demographic and a radio station on campus could provide music, news and cultural programming that would otherwise have a minimal audience on more mainstream radio.

There’s also the professional experience aspect to consider. The U of S doesn’t have any kind of journalism program or training. As it stands, the closest thing to that would be volunteering or working for the Sheaf. For people who want training or experience in radio and broadcasting, a campus radio station would be an invaluable opportunity to try their hand in the field.

Those kinds of students — ones with radio ambitions and interests — are in no short supply. In addition to hosting CFCR shows, plenty of U of S students listen to and even host their own podcasts. Surely the opportunity to get greater exposure would be a coup for wannabe radio personalities.

The downsides are there — with cost being the most obvious — but it’s not like those expenses can’t be managed. After all, cheap advertising to an audience of university kids is a pretty ripe plum. Besides, creating a radio station for students to learn with would still be cheaper than paying a faculty to teach them how.

The return of radio to the U of S campus could be a really healthy addition to the lives of students and a chance for new voices to get their say and gain exposure. The opportunities for diverse content and greater representation of students should not be written off. Reviving CJUS would open plenty of doors and we should really consider it.

Zach Tennent / Opinions Editor

Photo: U of S, University Archives & Special Collections, Photograph Collection, A-8787. Photographer: Gibson