Public radio broadcasting from the campus of Queen's University began in the autumn of 1922, 90 years ago, on experimental station 9BT and then, from 1923, on CFRC. That makes Queen's Radio older than the BBC, much older than the CBC, and by far the oldest surviving campus station in Canada. In fact, Queen's Radio has one of the longest continuing histories in radio, close behind the record of the Marconi Company and of KDKA in Pittsburgh. The original idea of some students and two professors in the Department of Electrical Engineering was to convey the action of Queen's Tricolor football games to alumni all across Ontario, because in those days that was possible, even at low transmitting power. In the early days, Queen's radiotelephone was picked up as far away as South Carolina, Chicago and Minnesota!
Because Kingston sits in a sort of cup at the base of the Canadian Shield, radio signals do not come in from Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto, and Queen's Radio was pretty much the only Canadian station receivable down "in the radio shadow of the Canadian Shield". When CFRC began to reach out to the local community, it became Kingston's listening post on the rest of Canada and helped to bind the townspeople to Queen's in a new and different way.
Currently, CFRC's mandate is to provide innovative and alternative radio programming that enriches and challenges the academic and cultural life of the university and Kingston communities. It also provides Queen's students (all members of the Alma Mater Society), the CFRC Radio Club and the outlying community with the opportunity to participate in our operation, to gain skills and experience in the collective running of a public radio broadcasting station whose programming and practices are not constrained by advertisers and demands for profit.
This on-line exhibit covers CFRC's history from 1922 to today, with a focus on programming, equipment and photos from the early years. Click through the decades on the sidebar to explore the station's long and distinguished broadcasting history.
CFRC would like to thank Queen's University Archives for providing historical documents, and publishing this exhibit. Thanks also to the photographers credited. This exhibit was curated and written by Derek Redmond and Arthur Zimmerman, with assistance from Andrea McPherson.
Photos of buildings and artifacts by Derek Redmond, 2012. Text adapted from "In the Shadow of the Shield" (1991) by Arthur Zimmerman, and audio clips excerpted from "The Queen's Radio Oral History Project" (1983) by Arthur Zimmerman; see The Eighties for details.