“Studing the servents of the Waterversity of Uniloo and Uniloo Lutheran Waterversity, this is Wadio Raterloo.”
– Radio Waterloo station ID, circa 1969
In 1964, Peter Calvert and Paul Gerster of the Ad Hoc University of Waterloo Student Broadcasting Society met to officially discuss the idea of a weekly, student-run show on the Kitchener AM station CKKW. CKKW reserved the right to “exercise discretion in material to be presented and the matter of such presentation,” and forbade and rock-and-roll or “backroom ballads”. On October 24 at 10:05 PM, the show went to air for the first time. Its success led to the formation of the UW Radio Broadcasting Club, which approached the University of Waterloo for help in obtaining a broadcasting license. Unfortunately, the University declined this request due to lack of funds.
In 1968, after being turned down several times by the University, the club turned to the Federation of Students for partial funding. The Federation agreed to assist in setting up a closed-circuit system based out of the Campus Centre to set up an AM broadcasting station.
The next year, the UW Broadcasting Club changed became Radio Waterloo. They had a budgt of $7000 and featured programming from both UW and Waterloo Lutheran University (now known as Wilfrid Laurier University). Bruce Steel (who later found fame at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) became the full-time station manager. In the fall of 1969, having outgrown its Campus Centre lodgings, Radio Waterloo moved to the Bauer Warehouse near the rolling cornfields and mysterious dirt mounds of UW’s North Campus.
In 1970, the Secretary of State ruled that provincial institutions, including universities, cannot hold broadcasting licenses. This ruined Radio Waterloo’s plans for an FM station. Instead, Radio Waterloo began broadcasting on cable FM via Grand River Cable. On the morning of November 17, just before 10:00 AM, Radio Waterloo’s broadcast hit the wires at 94.1 MHz.
Community Radio: The Birth of CKWR
In the spring of 1971, the Federation of Students closed down Radio Waterloo. After a week of confrontation, the Federation agreed to reopen the station with a quarter of its original budget. In April of the same year, Radio Waterloo member David Gillick produced a report entitled “Radio Waterloo – An Effective Communications Medium” describing the station’s history, mission, and future potential as a voice of the community. He argued that a nonprofit community radio station “would fill the void left by commercial broadcasters.” With a grant from the Canadian government’s Opportunities for Youth program, a group called Wired World was formed by Radio Waterloo to implement the station. The nine-member group investigated the potential of a low-power FM broadcasting system and presented it to the Federation of Students. They were once again turned down.
With no funding from the University, Wired World broke away from Radio Waterloo to continue their research independently. In 1973, the group obtained a licence and launched as Canada’s first English language community broadcaster, CKWR-FM. One year later, Radio Waterloo was resurrected by Wired World and relaunched with two studios, a news booth, and Trak Four (a four-track recording studio). Radio Waterloo added a stereo broadcast the very next year.
In January of 1976, the CTRC introduced a new policy on cable FM which shut down Radio Waterloo until it obtained a license to broadcast on either carrier current or FM. Fortunately, the CRTC reversed its decision in March of the same year.
On the Air: CKMS-FM
In January of 1977, having applied for call letters, Radio Waterloo submitted an application for an FM license, which was granted in June. Following a few weeks of delays, CKMS went on the air for the first time at 94.5 MHz with a signal strength of 50W, making it Ontario’s third campus FM station.
The following year in May, a group of writers and actors begain considering ideas for a radio theatre project. By June, the first episode of a ten-part serial called Sarah Goes to College went to air. It was followed by several other programs over the next few years ranging from tales from summer camp to science fiction epics. The final series, Percy Pulsar, Space Accountant, aired in 1981.
In February 1979, Radio Waterloo opened an on-campus news room in the Campus Centre. It was a mini-studio equipped with a direct line to the main station and made it much easier for interested students to get involved with production. By October, the station’s antenna had moved from the Arts Library on campus to the studios at the Bauer Warehouse.
In October of 1983, the last issue of the FM Times is released due to budget constraints. The long-running print guide to Radio Waterloo featured music and movie reviews as well as columns addressing social justice issues, alternative press, and pop culture.
Radio Waterloo celebrates its fifteenth anniversary with an increased broadcast power of 250 watts and a frequency change to 100.3 MHz. On October 15, 1992 the station powered down the old 94.5 MHz transmitter for the last time.
No longer funded by UW students, CKMS goes fully independent in 2008, and in March 2017, CKMS again switched frequencies to 102.7 FM (to accommodate the growth of CKRZ Six Nations on 100.3FM).