Inside 102.7 CKMS: The Timeless Tune Of Independent Radio

The photo above isn’t Rob McKenna, but luckily we have our own in-house studio so we could stage this picture.

People these days are quick to assert that radio is a thing of the past. At 102.7 CKMS however, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Take one look at the roster of programmers on their website and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

CKMS began as a student operated radio station in 1977 – the third of its kind in Ontario – and has remained true to its local roots. 

Since losing student funding in 2008, they have re-configured themselves to be self-sufficient and community operated, depending only on membership dues and crossed fingers.

Although we live in a golden age of media technology, one where medium paradigms seasonally rise and fall, and connectivity is just one click away, this burgeoning group of FM broadcast fanatics are keeping pace with these changes.

Longtime DJ, Rob McKenna – one of the board members at the station – happened to fall into his own position out of a necessity to keep the station alive.

“I do all the new programmer training, finance, the setup of all the different user accounts,” he said. 

“I’ve been doing the finance for about a-year-and-a-half,” he added. “Since one of the members who used to ended up leaving for Toronto and the old president just disappeared.” 

“Nobody had access to the station’s bank accounts, [so] I had to approach the bank and give them proof that we were now in control of CKMS.”

Though McKenna has only recently taken on these responsibilities, a lot has been accomplished in a short period of time.

“We’ve been working on getting grants,” he said. “And with the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant we just received, the video system that is in the station now is pushing us forward.” 

“Go online, watch Ryan Seacrest do his interviews,” he urged. “Our system is on that level.”

McKenna has noticed a recent uptick in the amount of programmers interested in broadcasting on CKMS.

“Since we’ve implemented video, I find the program schedule is getting packed,” he said. “I’ve been having a hard time taking in all the new programmers, which is a good problem.” 

“We’ve even had podcast-exclusive programs from Toronto aired on FM. They could just connect online and have their podcasts on the radio.”

This July, a documentary on 102.7 — Radio Waterloo — premiered at the Deep Cut film festival in Kitchener, and it just so happened to be produced and edited by Rob himself.

“I forget how many hours of footage I had, something around 40 hours,” he said. 

“There was an old station computer with some videos of former DJs doing their programs in the Bauer warehouse, so I took all of that and decided to put out feelers, see what I could find,” he added. 

The beauty of radio is how timeless it has proven to be. But one wonders how you can have a future if you don’t know your past?

“There wasn’t much of a known history on our station as far as our website was concerned. I knew little bits here and there, how CKMS and CKWR were one and then split; how CKWR was the first community station in Canada,” he explained. 

If you’re interested in becoming a programmer or learning more about the history of CKMS, you can visit their website and watch the Radio Waterloo documentary online.