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Whistler Beats’ application denied

Shaw intends to reapply for radio licence

Local dance and electronic music fans will have to wait a little longer for their Whistler Beats.

Wes Shaw’s proposed English-language FM radio station for the Whistler area has been denied a broadcasting licence by the CRTC following a non-appearing hearing in Gatineau, Quebec last June. Shaw, founder of nightlife Web site, applied for the licence in February 2003.

The proposed station’s programming was to be an extension of nightlife-focused, with an emphasis on electronic dance music of all genres, including house, breakbeats, drum ’n’ bass, techno, trance, jungle and ragga-beats. The station would showcase content from local DJs and music producers and bands.

Shaw also envisioned approximately 30 per cent of the programming to be spoken word content, including weather and snow reports, information on recreational and entertainment activities, live coverage of sporting events, interviews with local athletes and musical artists, and call-in programs.

The bulk of the programming would be pre-recorded material, allowing the station to be operated by three volunteers, including Shaw.

Shaw was granted technical acceptance by Industry Canada to broadcast a low-power commercial radio on FM 103.5, call letters CIWB (no connection to Whistler-Blackcomb) in April 2004, and was scheduled for the June hearing with the CRTC.

In the meantime the station’s application was advertised and was subject to community intervention, receiving 35 in support and two in opposition.

Opposed to the station were Russ Wagg, general manager of Whistler-based Visitor Radio, and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), a 600 member-strong professional industry association of privately owned broadcasters, included in which is Squamish-based Mountain FM, heard at 102.1 FM in Whistler.

According to the CRTC’s decision report issued Sept. 16, 2004, Mr. Wagg was concerned that another radio station would not be able to survive in the Whistler market and did not believe that Whistler Beats would be able to attract an appropriate number of volunteers to run it.

The CAB put forth the view that "low-power radio undertakings should provide niche-focused services such as tourist and weather information, or ethnic and other services that would be of direct and local relevance."

The CAB also criticized Shaw’s plan to operate the station with volunteers, stating: "the Commission’s licensing policy for low-power radio should not serve as a ‘back door’ entry into the system for applicants wishing to operate conventional radio undertakings but not willing to shoulder the regulatory obligations that accompany such a licence."

Shaw maintained that the musical direction of the station would not be competitive with the mainstream and Top 40 music currently broadcast in the area, adding that the intended programming "would reflect a new style of radio in Canada that has been available in European countries for years."

The CRTC determined that Shaw’s programming would, as proposed, add diversity to the programming available in Whistler. In the end, however, the Commission was unconvinced the station would be able to "fulfil its commitment" to the proposed 30 per cent level of spoken word content in an 18-hour broadcast day with a staff of volunteer programmers, and denied the application.

Shaw says he intends to reapply with a proposal that includes paid staff.

A major setback, but apparently, the heart of Whistler Beats is still beating.