CRTC to reconsider Cabin Radio's application to get on Yellowknife's FM airwaves

Cabin Radio's editor, Ollie Williams, at Cabin Radio's newsroom in Yellowknife. Cabin Radio has been trying to get an FM license for years.   (Sidney Cohen/CBC - image credit)
Cabin Radio's editor, Ollie Williams, at Cabin Radio's newsroom in Yellowknife. Cabin Radio has been trying to get an FM license for years. (Sidney Cohen/CBC - image credit)

Canada's broadcast and telecommunications regulator says it will open a new process to look into Cabin Radio's application to get on Yellowknife's FM airwaves.

The news comes after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission concluded last year that N.W.T.'s capital city can't support another commercial radio station.

The CRTC has also put out a call out for FM license applications for radio stations that would serve Yellowknife. 

Cabin Radio has been pushing for years to get on Yellowknife's FM airwaves.

Ollie Williams, Cabin Radio's editor and part-owner, said the CRTC's decision is a step in the right direction. 

"It's progress for us, it allows us to see a path forward," he said.

The news organization first applied for a broadcasting license in 2019.

After its license application was denied, Cabin Radio asked the Federal Court of Appeal, for a judicial review of that decision. Those proceedings are still ongoing, according to Cabin Radio. 

Cabin Radio also filed another application with the CRTC last May, which they say is stronger.

'Change of circumstances' 

In its notice of consultation published Thursday, the CRTC said it determined it should issue a call for radio licenses "in light of the change in circumstances."

"Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires in the Northwest Territories have highlighted the importance of having increased access to radio content in the North," it said. 

The CRTC will review all the applications submitted to them, and then will select the successful application based on Yellowknife's needs as well as the "broadcasting system as a whole."

In an emailed statement, the CRTC said that would make their decision based on, "The public record, including comments from interested parties and updated data on the Yellowknife market."

Another factor that will play a role in the evaluation of the applications include the manner in which the applicant reflects the local community, the CRTC said. 

Williams said that their audience has been strongly pushing for them to get on FM.

"We've had so many letters of support. Expressions of support. Just thousands of people saying we would like Cabin Radio to be on FM. This is why we've been pushing for this and pushing for this," he said.

"You can't underestimate the value of having a community behind you, and we're really proud that we have that." 

Ollie said that being on FM would also have helped during last year's wildfires.

"Rather than constantly refreshing a website they could have just been listening to that information," said Ollie.

"Through the night at the time all the way through the evening first thing the next morning we would have been there on FM," he said.

Ellen Desmond, commissioner for Atlantic Canada and Nunavut wrote a dissenting opinion on the CRTC's decision.

"I do not agree that it is procedurally fair to process this second application at this time," she wrote.

The deadline for applications is May 13.