Celebrating 4 decades of CBC Radio on P.E.I.

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Celebrating 4 decades of CBC Radio on P.E.I.

CBC Radio is celebrating a milestone birthday.

It was 40 years ago, March 7, 1977, when P.E.I. finally got its own CBC radio programming with local shows made on the Island, for the Island.

The radio station produced three daily programs, then called Information Morning, Radio Noon and Island Afternoon.

"The first morning was pandemonium," said Barry Vessey, who was the operator for the new morning show. "Nobody really knew what they were doing. None of us had a lot of experience."

Vessey had been hired just a week before to help make sure all the equipment was working properly.

He stayed in his job 32 years, retiring in 2009. On that first program he was joined by host Susan Soucoup, news reader Whit Carter and sportscaster Gordon McAlpine.

Different home back then

The radio station was in a different location then, on Jordan Crescent, where temporary studios and offices had been set up.

The familiar building on University Avenue held the TV studios, which would soon be expanded to house radio as well.

In the meantime, pre-email, the separate studios made for a complicated system to get the news on the air.

"The newscast was actually written at our TV building, and they hired students, runners they called them, to bring the (scripts) over for Whit to read in the mornings," said Vessey. "It was a whole different world."

FM confusion

It was a very different time for listeners as well. The station debuted on the FM dial, the first local CBC station in the country to not use the more common AM band at that time.

That took a while for audiences to get used to.

"We did have quite a struggle for a long time," said Vessey. "People heard about what we were doing but didn't know where to find us. In our promotions for a while, we were giving away radios and trying to actually educate people as to what the FM band was."

Once everyone got that sorted out, CBC radio became a mainstay on the Island, consistently one of the highest-rated stations for the national broadcaster.

"CBC P.E.I. has been fortunate to have a very loyal audience over the past 40 years and we are looking forward to telling the stories of P.E.I. in the years to come," said Jim Ferguson, senior manager for the Island.

"One thing for certain is change. The recent announcements from Bruce and Boomer speaks to that, but one thing we never take for granted is our great relationship with our audience. As a team, we are all excited by what the future holds."

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