By Nick Bernard
Before Canoe FM went on the air in 2003, Don Cameron, Dave Sovereign, and Jack Hewitt were faced with the daunting task of building an entire radio station from the ground up. With help from the community, they managed to raise the $100,000 they needed to purchase the equipment to get them up and running. At that time, it was all hand-me-down machinery that had spent years in service elsewhere, repurposed to fit within a little old house that was, at one time, a hospital.
Now, through the enduring generosity of the community, Canoe FM has been steadily improving itself, piece by piece. Gone are the stacks of CDs and tape decks, replaced by streamlined computer programs with all the music stored in an easy-to-retrieve digital format; An entirely new space was created from an old office, transforming into the Malcolm MacLean Radio Hall, with its characteristic mural and space for cafe-style seating, and the entire suite of audio equipment within it.
Canoe FM’s new board chairperson is Paul Vorvis. He’s been a Canoe FM volunteer since 2015. He spent three years as an on-air host before joining the board of directors. He says one of the most recent improvements Canoe FM has made has been the bolstering of its presence in the podcasting world.
“We realized probably four or five years ago that the radio industry was changing,” he said, making reference to streaming apps like Spotify. “Listening habits were changing, and we also knew that people were getting streaming devices in their home.”
To mediate this, Canoe FM currently hosts a number of podcasts, including Planet Haliburton, Medical Matters, Spotlight On Local Business, and Vorvis’ own Time Warp. Listeners can also pick up gardening tips from Master Gardener, and engage their imaginations with Tales from the Big Canoe and Thereby Hangs The Tale.
Vorvis says the listener location information gathered by the podcasts’ analytics has been interesting, showing that Canoe FM has even gone global.
“I know Barry [Willhelm]’s Medical Matters, for example, he had downloads from all over the world,” he said. “I’ve had downloads from Australia, [the former Soviet republics], Brazil … Ireland, and Germany.”
“We also find the snowbirds that go down to Florida and still listen to Canoe FM,” he said. “They move out to BC, they still listen to Canoe FM. It’s really nice to reach out to that community.”
Vorvis said that it’s through the proceeds from popular programs like Radio Bingo that Canoe FM has been able to fund larger technological undertakings as well. By having the funds to upgrade its transmitting equipment, the radio station hopes to boost its coverage within its own signal range, filling in gaps where the station should be heard where it previously wasn’t, usually because of difficult topography.
“We know that there’s dead spots in the community that we’re just not reaching,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of analysis work to find out, you know, should we change our antenna configurations? Should we get repeaters?”
Vorvis reiterated that Canoe FM’s main focus will always be on the community. Part of the reason he joined Canoe FM, and moved to Haliburton on the whole, is that despite its size, it still has a vibrant culture attached to it, through things like the arts, media, and theatre. It’s with that perspective that Vorvis is approaching his role as board chairperson.
“For me, and for the board as well, and for the station management, it’s about building on what we have here and trying to make it just that much better. It’s such a great community from that point of view.”
You can hear Your Haliburton Morning with Paul Vorvis every Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. He also hosts Time Warp, which can be heard wherever you get your podcasts.
Hear Canoe FM around the clock on the dial at 100.9, or stream online through your home streaming device at their website at www.canoefm.com