Erin Radio returns home; officials vow to improve community presence

On Jan. 5 Erin Radio began broadcasting from the village of Erin for the first time since last May.

“We’re happy to see it back in the community again and operating,” said Larry Peters, Centre Wellington Community Radio board member and former chair of Erin Community Radio.

Two years ago Centre Wellington Community Radio, which operates the Grand 92.9 in Fergus, stepped in to help Erin Radio get back on its feet after the station experienced organizational difficulties, mostly from financial issues.

“They were experiencing a problem in revenues,” said Peters. “So they realized that the Centre Wellington Radio was a good model and wanted to have our help and expertise in making some changes that would help the radio station.”

Centre Wellington Community Radio members  joined two Erin board members to make up the Erin Radio board of directors, Peters said. They gave the station a “facelift,” played different music and sold more advertising.

“We knew the folks at the Grand, at Centre Wellington Radio, quite well and it seemed to us logical that if they were able to come in and give us a hand, we’d get past some of the difficulties we were experiencing, most of them financial,” explained Jay Mowat, Erin Radio treasurer.

By May of last year, the costs to keep the station in Erin became too great. So,Erin Radio set up a space in the Grand 92.9 studio in Fergus, said Peters.

“Erin radio kept broadcasting to the town of Erin, that didn’t make any difference and they weren’t broadcasting the Grand into Erin,” Mowat said. “It was still Erin radio.”

Over the two years of affiliation with Centre Wellington Community Radio, Erin Radio accumulated high quality equipment that was the foundation of its new studio space in the Erin United Church, Mowat said.

The goal of the amalgamated board was to set up a repeater in Orangeville so the station could gain more advertising potential and more revenue.  However, in November the CRTC denied the station’s request.

“Really, at the end of the day, without a broader base of advertising pool, which would have been Orangeville, it still struggled financially,” Peters explained.

After the CTRC decision, the board, with Mowat and a group from Erin, decided the village should take back control of Erin Radio, Peters said. The Centre Wellington members of the board stepped down to make room for new board members from the Erin community.

The new board includes: chair Ronia Michael, treasurer Mowat, music director Phil Taylor, fundraising co-ordinator Ray Young, sales co-ordinator David MacDonald and producer Rob Dodds.

Peters said the stations parted on friendly terms and the former board gave advice to Erin Radio to keep costs down.

One example was to use an internet line instead of a Bell broadcast line to send the signal to the transmitter on the Erin water tower. This can reduce the cost by about $200 a month with no reduction in quality, said Peters.

Mowat said the Erin station is picking up this strategy, and others, to ensure it can make a valiant go of it this time around.

“We’re going to approach it on a smaller and less expensive scale so we’ve got a way of running the station for much less money than we did in the past,” Mowat said.

“Just in terms of the way we decided to run our expenses, the location we’re broadcasting out of, we can keep our costs down to a very small amount, even much less than the previous group had in mind.”

Volunteers will run Erin Radio. There aren’t many shows scheduled right now and the station is predominantly automated with station IDs and inserts, but Mowat said the goal is to gain more variety.

There is an interviewer scheduled to begin broadcasting in the near future, who will be talking to local businesses, and there are hosts lined up for other shows.

Mowat said many hosts will likely package their shows themselves and send a single sound file to the station for broadcast.

“We’ve never had trouble finding volunteers,” he said. “And I don’t think we’ll have a problem now.”

The station’s current home is on the second floor of the Erin United Church on Main Street, Mowat said.

The studio is 15-feet square, compared to the four rooms in the old space, and Mowat said the station won’t need a lot of advertising  revenue to keep it running.

“There’s not a lot of building, not a lot of cost,” he said.

Mowat said he thinks the station has a place in Erin’s future.

“Erin Radio, at the end of the day, is stronger now than it was two years ago because of the Centre Wellington group,” he said.

“A year from now we’ll be doing a lot more community events, there’ll be a presence at the fall fair, a lot of the business improvement area events we’ll do live remotes at; we’ll be doing a lot of community programing, using local voices.”