Eight years after a successful application to the CRTC change their frequency from 790 AM to 840 AM, Newcap Broadcasting has given the green light for CFCW to move on up Edmonton’s radio dial this August. CFCW is currently ranked #6 and the 3rd most listened-to AM station in the market according to the Fall 2014 Numeris data report. This ranking is an impressive achievement when you consider it only includes only half their listeners, those in the greater Edmonton area and not the other half of their listeners in rural Alberta.
This isn’t CFCW’s first experience at moving up or down the dial in its 61 year old history.
In 1953, Camrose Broadcasting Co. Ltd. was granted a licence for a new AM station at Camrose, operating on 1230 kHz with a power of 250 watts. Camrose Broadcasting launched CFCW at 1:00 p.m. on November 2, 1954. The station operated with 250 watts of power on a frequency of 1230 kHz, covering the Wetaskiwin, Camrose and East Central section of Alberta within a 25 mile radius. The transmitter and single tower were located a mile and a half east of Camrose while the studios and offices were located in downtown Camrose.
The opening broadcast was a presentation of the story of CFCW’s listening area…the builders of the district, including the pioneers of the past and the service club members of past and present who helped mould the growth of the district. The station’s music format covered a full range, from heavy classics to hot boogie and hillbilly.
Tom Shandro was Managing Director of Camrose Broadcasting and Manager of CFCW. Hal Yerxa handled sales promotion and was production manager. He was already known to residents as “Uncle Hal” of the “Sunny Boy” program and for being MC at bingos and wrestling matches. He started in radio in Regina in 1936, was associated with the CBC in Toronto and later joined CJCA Edmonton as news editor. He was a former director of Central Alberta Broadcasting Co. (CKRD) Red Deer. Yerxa was a member of the Edmonton Stock Exchange, and was a partner in the brokerage firm of Yerxa & Mills, Ltd. in Edmonton.
By 1957, CFCW was an independent station with no network affiliation. It was owned by Camrose Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (Hal J. Yerxa 61.2%, R. C. Byers 5.0%, E. W. Schnell 5.0%, J. E. Stuart 5.0 and 24 other shareholders 23.8%). Hal Yerxa was president of the company and CFCW’s manager.
In 1960 CFCW became Canada’s first full-time country music station in October and received approval to increase power to 10,000 watts from 1,000 day and 250 at night, to change dial position from 1030 to 790 kHz, and to change the transmitter site. The board said the station needed the increase to expand its service to city and rural broadcast areas and to overcome increasing static interference from industrial establishments in the area.
In 1961, CFCW’s frequency changed from 1230 kHz to 790 kHz and power was raised from 1,000 watts to 10,000 watts.
On December 20, 1972, it increased its power from 10,000 to 50,000 watts and in 1979, CFCW Limited launched an FM station in Edmonton – CKRA-FM.
On June 23, 1989, the CRTC approved the transfer of effective control of CFCW to Newcap Broadcasting Ltd. NewCap was 100% owned and controlled by Newfoundland Capital Corp. Ltd. whose President and principal shareholder (43%) was Mr. Harry Steele. Mr. Yerxa, who founded CFCW Radio Ltd., stated that he has been seeking a purchaser for the stations for a couple of years, and that he considered that NewCap would ensure that the quality and level of local service would be maintained and enhanced in the years ahead.
Warren Holte, who was Vice-President and General Manager of CFCW Ltd., assumed the role of President under a five-year management contract and Mr. Yerxa became Chairman of the Board of Directors, which included representation from Edmonton, Camrose and Kamloops. At this time, CFCW had studios and offices at 4752 – 99th Street in Edmonton and at 6220 – 48th Avenue, Camrose.
On April 12, 1997, Hal Yerxa died at the age of 76. He was inducted into Alberta’s Country Music Hall of Fame in 1991. His eldest son, John Yerxa, would clear the CRTC hurdles himself in 2009 to start up his own radio station Hot 107 FM (CJNW) which he would sell to Harvard Broadcasting in December 2011.
On June 29, 2005, Newcap Alberta revealed its brand new 26,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art broadcast facility prominently situated within the West Edmonton Mall. The move brought together, under one roof, 790 CFCW, 96X, K-Rock and the Cat Country network studios, as well as the operations of Newcap Alberta. The two former headquarters of these stations were modest facilities, located off-the-beaten-track.
On November 14, 2008, the CRTC approved the change of frequency for CFCW – from 790 kHz to 840 kHz. The proposed change would restore night time coverage to listeners in north-central Alberta, which has been reduced by noise and interference over time.
In 2012, Jackie Rae Greening, who had the multitasks of being Program Director at CFCW Camrose, Station Manager at CFCW-FM and Station Manager at W 1440 (CKJR) Wetaskiwin, was promoted to the newly-created position of Newcap’s Manager, Edmonton Operations.
Dale Smith, after 47 and a-half years of doing news at CFCW, retired October 17. He started with the station May 1, 1967. Check out the current and past CFCW team members at: www.cfcw.com/index.asp?mn=14.
In 2014, six years after getting CRTC approval, station management announced that CFCW would move from 790 to 840 kHz in the summer of 2015.
We have no firm date set yet for the flip,” reports Brent Skelton. “It all depends on mother nature as our engineers can’t work out at the transmitter site if there’s any threat of thunderstorms or strong winds. We’re all hoping that by August we’ll be in our new home at 840 AM. Listeners throughout north central Alberta will love the clearer sound 24 hours a day.
So, sometime this August listen for CFCW to begin broadcasting a brighter sound over a much larger area, day and night on 840 AM instead of 790 AM. In the meantime, try your luck and play their “Let’s Make a Deal” contest held every weekday at 8:40am and win an 840 Pancake Flipper to keep or trade in for other prizes.
My thanks to the publisher of the http://www.broadcasting-history.ca website and to Bill Dulmage who posted much of CFCW’s historical information from this website that now appears here. And, thanks to CFCW’s Brent Shelton and Jackie Rae Greening who kindly agreed to review this post to make sure the facts are straight.