When Proud FM was launched in 2007, it was touted as the world’s first commercial radio station aimed at the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, even while its weak signal could barely make it to the Gardiner Expressway. Now, Proud FM’s longtime plans for a stronger transmitter are finally being realized: the Evanov Radio Group’s subsidiary Dufferin Communications applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on March 5 to boost their station’s signal from 50 to 128 watts, increasing not so much the range of its signal but definitely its strength in the downtown core.
“The aim has always been to make the station viable,” says Michael Kilbride, Evanov Radio Group's VP of finance. He says the station has yet to become profitable and advertisers have always been reluctant to buy into a station “that will attract listeners for about six minutes until they turn the dial because the signal won’t go through the walls.”
“I’ve been listening to the station since their first test broadcast,” says Proud FM fan Klaus Vreeken, 48. “While driving along Wellesley Street East, I sometimes get a feed from CBC Radio 2 in Peterborough or even this station in Woodstock.” Vreeken posted the first comment on the CRTC webpage for Dufferin Communications’ application (#2010-0107-3), complaining that having an “antenna with so little power was either bad engineering or a form of homophobia. The sooner this is fixed, the better.”
The CRTC won't comment on individual cases before it but says the typical procedure is to invite public comment (in this case, until April 9) before consulting with Industry Canada on how the increased signal will impact other stations and delivering a verdict in a few months. Kilbride expects little opposition from major radio outlets like CHUM-FM. “If we were going for 5000 watts, maybe,” he says, “but 128? We’re like a lightbulb.”
The Evanov VP acknowledges critics who have argued that Proud FM’s growth is just “a back-door policy” towards acquiring more FM real estate, but he says Evanov has “no plans to switch formats,” seeing Proud as a “heritage” station that will build a loyal audience.
Vreeken, for one, hopes Proud FM gets its way. “It’s been frustrating, but I’ll be very delighted if the signal gets approved.”