Roundhouse FM takes a hyper-local approach to attract Vancouverites


A different kind of radio


Live Programming began testing at 11:30 Pacific time Thursday morning

Don Shafer chats with host Minelle Mahtani (left) program director Tracey Friesen (centre) at Roundhouse Radio headquarters. The new station takes to the airwaves Thursday from its east Vancouver studios.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen , PNG
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By John Mackie,
Vancouver Sun
October 14, 2015

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Don Shafer has run some of the most successful commercial radio stations in Canada, including CFOX and Rock 101 in Vancouver, and CHUM-FM and Q107 in Toronto.

But he’s always harboured a deep, dark secret: an admiration for the CBC.

“CBC stations are almost always the No. 1 station in almost every market across Canada,” he said.

“CBC does some terrific programming. Forget all the arguments about funding and where the money goes and how much money they need. Forget that for a moment and just appreciate the creative, quality work that goes into that product.

“They do a great job, and clearly, because they’ve put so much into their product, the audiences followed.”

Shafer is using the CBC as the model for his new commercial station, Roundhouse Radio. And he hopes to attract some of the CBC’s audience, as well.

Roundhouse Radio launches Thursday at 98.3 FM out of a storefront location at 714 Alexander Street in Japantown.

The big draw on opening day will be a live performance by Sarah McLachlan from the Roundhouse studio at noon. Dan Mangan will follow with a live show at noon Friday.

McLachlan and Mangan will be performing on a daily show featuring local broadcast legend Terry David Mulligan. But most of the programming will be “spoken word” — the format will be 80 per cent talk, 20 per cent music.

Hosts include former mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe in a morning show called Our City; Rhona Raskin doing a show called Love and Lust; and Samantha Parton of Be Good Tanyas fame doing a “free-form” all-night show that mixes “classic songs, electronica, blues, experimental jazz and everything in between.”

In a departure from most stations, Roundhouse will be completely focused on the city of Vancouver. In fact, the “low power” FM station’s signal won’t be strong enough to pick up in many of the suburbs. (But anyone can listen at

The “hyper-local” angle was the main pitch in the 1,000-page application Shafer submitted to the CRTC in 2013. The station was approved in 2014.

“Most radio stations, in my opinion, have to flatten their content to make it generic enough for the whole Lower Mainland,” Shafer said.

“Where we don’t. We’re just talking about what’s happening in Strathcona, or what’s happening in the east end or the West End, what’s happening in those 22 neighbourhoods (in Vancouver).”

It sounds like the kind of thing you’d hear from somebody at Co-op Radio or CITR. In fact, Roundhouse Radio may be a bit like both.

“We’re doing something a little bit different,” he said. “It will sound like NPR-meets-CBC-meets-college radio. And that’s just a different conversational (approach), more open dialogue. Not compressed, not narrowed or limited. I’m jazzed about it.”

Roundhouse’s new approach begins with its location, which is near the Downtown Eastside.

“It’s one of the poorest (neighbourhoods), and it’s got one of the highest crime rates,” he said.

“But I think it’s the best place for us to be. How can we talk about the city, if we don’t know what’s going on? How can I ask you to be part of our radio station if we’re not in it, and we’re not part of it?

“We’ve got everything going on in this neighbourhood, it’s a microcosm of everything that happens in an urban city. It’s the best and the worst. There’s some wonderful people, there’s some great residents. We’ve got lots of social housing, and we’ve got million-dollar condos.

Read More HERE

Roundhouse Radio Website



  1. I’ve been listening. So far they haven’t opened up the phone lines so that old white men can beak off against Trudeau and Mulcair. What’s up with that? 😉

  2. Hyper-local CBC, remember? Only time the Mother Corp does open lines is Cross Country Checkup. I like what I hear so far. Caught the 8AM hour, and it was very pollished and professional. Only two criticisms are the lack of traffic reports, and the cross-talk between Kirk and Kerry Marshall during the newscast. Otherwise, pretty darn good for day one!

  3. I’ve been wondering what Roundhouse was going to be all about, and after listening since yesterday, I say ‘Brilliant’. Why? Last time I looked CBC radio one has the numbers, not just in Vancouver but in most cities across the country. Makes sense to me to challenge the mother corporation and I believe Don Shafer knows how to accomplish that feat. I say Winner! Am looking forward to Monday and Kirk LaPointe

  4. Difficult to pick up (OTA) in east Vancouver. Chilliwack’s 98.3 overwhelms the signal in the Boundary to Renfrew area. Mind you that is in a vehicle.

  5. Yes, Ken you have a nice car, we get it. I have a broken clock radio, and Roundhouse is just the only FM station I can pick up in East Vancouver.

  6. Ken I believe this station is meant to be listened to on-line for the most part. Download the tune-in radio app to your phone and you can listen to it anywhere even in the car.

  7. I can’t believe how negative and jealous people on the other site are of this new startup, Roundhouse Radio.

    One poster says Roundhouse has a “two person” news department ?

    Complete bullshit, if you ask me !

    With Marcella Bernardo, Kerry Marshall, and Martin Strong apparently in the Roundhouse lineup, along with two additional junior reporters, that is a very impressive amount of journalistic firepower, in terms of news talent, plus about 60 years of combined practical journalism experience.

    Regarding the weak signal in East Vancouver, “welcome to East Van, expect no mercy.”

    The internet streaming needs to be perceived as the key signal, just as important as the terrestrial.


  8. I’ve been looking over this feedback and appreciate the comments.
    Yes, we are an LPFM and our signal is pretty much a Vancouver centric signal, just like our programming. As for news, we have 7 people along with 3 producers to assist our hosts. Total staff is 32 with an emphasis on air, on line and street. It’s really early days and we have lots to learn!

  9. Not sure what happened tonight. Roundhouse promoted election coverage from 6-11PM. At 9:45 they were still in election mode. Five minutes later and its back to the test loop. Technical issues?!

  10. Actually (CFROman) I have a 16-year-old car with a basic radio. On Monday the 983 signal was dramatically stronger, booming in at the location where I could not pick it up previously. I kept listening as I headed east along Highway 1. I ran into some fading around Kensington and then the signal remained strong until I rounded the Gaglardi curve. By the time I reached Brunette the Chilliwack signal was cutting in and by the time I reached the Port Mann Bridge there was no Roundhouse to be heard.

  11. Hey Mr. Shafer:

    Once again, congrats on what you are doing with Roundhouse. Let the negative, old white man’s jury from the Red Robinson luncheon have no impact on your affairs.

    None have started their own radio station, to my knowledge, so how would they know how to assist you ?

    I see that you have been unfairly criticized for being “too opulent”, “having too many staff” or not enough (news) staff, your signal sucks, doesn’t go far enough for the critics, or that you have started a radio station merely to be snapped up by a corporate giant. LOL

    I hope that you succeed and make the critics crap in their pants !


    Ted Cruz (waiting for Donald Trump to drop out of the race)

  12. Hello Roundhouse: tuned in the morning show this week—-excellent! Kirk L. is informed, engaging, credible. Soooooo good to hear Kerry Marshall doing what great News readers do—creatively write and execute (CKNW, are you listening?).

    I could care less how many people staff a Newsroom—give me the great ‘writers and readers’ like Marshall, McCubbin, Layton (Edmonton), Bazoonis and leave the ‘NW mumblers and stumblers to learn the craft before they get to a major market.

  13. Im not sure what some posters are so angry about. Old white guys are entitled to an opinion just like the young green guys. So far so good. My only complaint is the lack of signal strength. I start out listening to NW and when Mcomb starts yapping to his kindergarten class of production crew about riveting topics like do you eat your red smarties first I hit band selection and presto 98.3 . If that doesnt sound good then a second press and 88.1 CBC comes in everywhere

  14. 983 has become my second or third button to press on the car radio once I’m inside Gaglardi on my Highway 1 commute. I’m not yet clear on the news times. A couple of times I’ve switched on the hour expecting to hear news and it’s not there. Is it on a schedule? With tighter segments Kirk Lapointe might be good competition for Rick Cluff.


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