With the flick of a switch, Toronto’s newest radio station hit the airwaves last Monday less than two hours after founder, president and chief executive officer Fitzroy Gordon unveiled the new name, branding and management team.
G98.7 (CKFG-FM) will broadcast a music-only play-list for the next three weeks to fulfill Industry Canada-mandated signal frequency testing before full programming begins in early November.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued a commercial radio license last June to Gordon and his Intercity Broadcasting Network (IBN) group. The station is mandated to broadcast weekly a minimum of 340 hours of news and at least 50 per cent of all musical selections.
“This is a great day,” Gordon told Share hours after the switch was flipped. “It was very emotional when we did a test run for two weeks a few months ago. I am now feeling a sense of pride as I can see clearly now the sunshine because that switch is not going to be turned off again.”
Gordon, IBN’s majority owner, said the station’s new 7,000-square feet headquarters in Don Mills, which is being refurbished, will be ready in time for the October 30 ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony at which the other two partners will be revealed.
“All I can say now is that they both have a passion for what we are doing and have stepped up with the funds we needed to get this thing off the ground,” Gordon said. “Acquiring a radio station is quite expensive. The two-week test run alone cost close to $500,000 and we have already spent nearly $700,000.”
The executive team comprises vice-president and chief financial officer Delford Blythe, program director Wayne Williams, music director Roger Dey, director of news, current affairs and community programs Jai Ojah-Maharaj, production manager Andrew Craig, general sales manager Adriana Steele, marketing & promotions manager Lindsay O’Connor, communications director Aisha Wickham-Thomas and administration director Joan Pierre. Greg Lowe is the chief engineer.
Gordon promised the new station will fill a void.
“For a city as diverse as Toronto not to have a commercial radio station dedicated full-time to delivering Black and Caribbean music, news and talk programming was very disappointing,” he said. “That was what inspired me to go out and push for this station. I want to leave a legacy for my people that they can be proud of and if I am going to do that, I have to stay the course. I am not getting into this thing to make money, sell the station and go away. This is for the Black and Caribbean population here and my leadership will ensure that this station remains in the hands of our people.”
Businessman Denham Jolly made history a decade ago, becoming the first Black to own a radio station in Canada when Flow 93.5 FM was launched in February 2001. CTV purchased the station earlier this year.
Gordon pledged he will not veer away from the station’s mandate to present Black programming.
“Even though we will be targeting mainstream advertisers, we will not change course from what we promise,” he said. “In terms of music, we are offering them something unique, comprising R & B, soul, gospel, reggae, funk and jazz. As far as I am concerned, this music is mainstream and this is how it’s going to be packaged.
“I also expect Black businesses in the community to support the station and I have already told my sales staff to exercise flexibility and make the rates as reason as possible for them.”
The new station has a seven-member sales staff.
It took Gordon three attempts to secure a license for the station whose transmitters are atop First Canadian Place.
After making an unsuccessful attempt in 2002 for a license, Gordon launched another application six years ago. The CRTC granted the group, known as the Caribbean and African Radio Network (CARN) at the time, a temporary license in April 2006 on condition that the applicant locate a spot on the busy FM dial which they did – or thought they did with the 98.7 spot – until the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) objected on the grounds that it was too close to its 99.1 signal and could cause interference.
Frustrated that they could not use the only remaining frequency on the FM dial that could reach their target audience, Gordon lobbied the federal government for help.
The station will reach listeners from Niagara in the west to Ajax in the east and from Aurora in the north to Lakeshore in the south.