Community Radio Documentary a ‘Fascinating Tale’

Aug 17, 2018 by Martin de Groot, Waterloo Region (Ont.) Record

“Green Tree Frogs” performing live on the radio.


Last month I mentioned the world première of “Radio Waterloo,” a documentary that tells the story of “the advent of community radio in Canada as told by the people who struggled to create it.”

I missed this once-only public screening, which was part of the Deep Cut Film Festival in Kitchener. But I finally got a chance to see “Radio Waterloo” this week, and talk with its creator, Rob McKenna.

The film is now available for anyone to stream, free of charge on YouTube through

It’s a lengthy piece — almost two hours. It was late in the evening and I was feeling drowsy when I started watching. But it grabbed my attention immediately, and held it through to the end.

“Radio Waterloo” tells an intriguing story that includes the origins of both CKWR FM 98.5, the first English language community radio station in Canada, and CKMS 107.3, which began as the third student-run radio station in Ontario.

The roots of these projects story go back to the 1960s, when a group of university students formed a “broadcasting club.” One of the offshoots was Radio Waterloo, which at one point served both U of W and WLU, which was then still Waterloo Lutheran University.

The idea of producing a documentary emerged after McKenna, a veteran DJ and newish board member of CKMS, found a filing cabinet full of archival footage related to the station.

As he went through the material — more than 40 hours of it — he started doing interviews with people from near and far who have played key roles in its development over time.

With its reputation for innovation and for starting things, it makes sense that Waterloo was in the forefront of the development of community and campus radio in Canada.

The mystery is how and why, after such a promising beginning brimming with possibilities, we keep dropping the ball on these and other projects like them.



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