Submitted by Kootenay Co-op Radio
On March 17, Kootenay Co-op Radio made the difficult decision to close its doors to the 80-plus volunteers who pass through its Nelson studios every week. And with the closure, the 20-year-old community radio station’s staff and volunteers have responded energetically to keep on the air with fresh and relevant programming during these unusual times — all without coming into the station.
The big news is that KCR is expanding the coverage and frequency of its flagship public affairs program, Kootenay Morning. This one-hour program will now be aired Monday, Wednesday and Friday, live at 8 a.m. with a same-day repeat at 5 p.m. There’s also a “best of” compilation shared on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m.
COVID-19 and other local coverage will be supplemented by current content from trusted local, national, and international sources. Volunteers are also increasingly active with specific local updates to the KCR Facebook page.
“Community radio and local media are needed now more than ever,” says KCR board chair Jeff Flood. “Our volunteers immediately recognized the opportunity to be a helpful and supportive community voice — on the airwaves and online.”
Flood also notes that KCR is connected to the BC Emergency Alert system, which allows government officials to issue public safety alerts as necessary.
“Kootenay Morning is now focused on news that listeners can use in these turbulent times, as well as stories of our neighbours who are also navigating these waters,” says KCR operations manager Rob Andrew.
Recent shows featured extended phone interviews with Nelson Mayor John Dooley, director of emergency management Len MacCharles, Jenny Robinson of Nelson CARES, and Selkirk College psychology instructor Todd Kettner, who talked about managing stress and isolation. Andrew notes that KCR has an extensive line-up of experts and informed voices booked for the days and weeks ahead.
The decision to restrict station access has disrupted the in-studio broadcast of more than 50 different shows. But volunteer programmers are rising to that challenge.
“Eighty per cent of our programmers are working to record their shows remotely,” says Andrew. “Hosts are jumping into audio editing software to keep their regular shows coming, with an ear to the times we’re in.”
KCR knows its sponsors are facing unprecedented challenges, including many forced to limit public access.
“We’re encouraging them to share special updates with listeners on-air,” says Amélie Saquet, KCR’s sponsorship co-ordinator. “Their businesses are evolving and they need support, like everyone.”
Flood notes that KCR depends on its listeners for roughly one-third of its annual budget. “We know a number of people in the Kootenays are losing jobs and income. We would encourage any listeners able to consider financial support for community institutions — for KCR and many others. All non-profits are feeling the effects of this disruption.”
Over its 20-year history, it’s estimated that more than 1,000 different local residents have hosted shows on the station, which can be heard from Castlegar to Kaslo, on the East Shore, and up the Slocan Valley to Silverton and New Denver.
In addition to sharing meaningful news and information, KCR’s famously eclectic mix of music and spoken word programming continues to be a welcome voice in homes across the West Kootenay.