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CIUT-FM Faces Transmitter Crisis

Radio station hoping listener support will help restore its broadcast reach.

A local radio station’s most critical piece of equipment has failed: four days ago, CIUT-FM‘s 27-year-old transmitter died, and the station is now struggling to reach its usual scope of listeners. Station manager Ken Stowar calls the event “catastrophic.”

The University of Toronto-owned station has found a stop-gap solution, hooking up an amp to an antenna. But the backup device, called an “aural exciter,” has a signal strength of only 150 watts—when you compare that to the old transmitter’s 15,000, you’ll understand why the station’s broadcast reach has been dramatically reduced. CIUT is now being received only by some listeners in Toronto, but its licensed coverage area stretches from Barrie to Buffalo, and from Kitchener to Cobourg.

The sole viable, long-term option, Stowar says, is buying a new transmitter—and they start at about $120,000.

So the not-for-profit, charitable organization is seeking help from listeners. Donations are already pouring in, some as big as $500.

Stowar is confident that CIUT will reach its goal of $160,000 through listener donations: “It’s realistic. It takes effort. It takes extremely good messaging to make it happen.” That amount of money, he says, would buy the small-scale station a transmitter powerful enough to compete with those of all other radio broadcasters in the city—something the previous one, at 27 years old the last of its kind operating in the city of Toronto, simply could not do.

If donations alone don’t bring in enough, the station might have to take out a bank loan to cover the cost of the new equipment—which, Stowar says, would be a shame, because CIUT achieved debt-free status just last December. “I would love to avoid doing that, because so much hard work has gone into being debt free.”