The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA) will soon be expanding.
The media group currently includes the website Windspeaker.com and a pair of radio stations, Edmonton-based CFWE-FM and CJWE 88.1 FM, located in Calgary. They are collectively known as Windspeaker Radio.
And starting Feb. 1, a third radio station, titled The Raven, CIWE-89.3 on the FM dial, will launch operations.
AMMSA founder and CEO Bert Crowfoot said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed The Raven.
“We were going to launch it in April (last year),” Crowfoot said. “We kind of put it on the backburner. But now we’ve decided we’ve reached the point where we want to launch it.”
AMMSA’s first radio station, CFWE-FM has been in operation since 1987. It serves much of northern Alberta, but can be streamed from the cfweradio.ca website.
And then, it was four years ago that AMMSA was granted a pair of other licenses from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to commence two other new radio stations.
Crowfoot said the decision was made at that time to focus on building up just one station, CJWE 88.1 FM, which was launched in June 2018. It serves Calgary and much of southern Alberta. It can be streamed from cjwe.ca
There was some sense of urgency, however, to get The Raven up and going this year. That’s because AMMSA officials had until June of this year to launch the radio station or risk losing the license they had been granted by the CRTC.
Though The Raven will go live on Feb. 1 at 6 a.m., AMMSA began a three-week testing phase for the station on Monday.
That’s when a switch on a 100,000 watt transmitter located on a facility in a rural field about 40 kilometres north of Spruce Grove, Alta. was turned on. The station will reach between 100- to 150- kilometres around Edmonton. A website and app are under development where the station will be streamed, and that will be announced soon.
Crowfoot explained the testing phase consists of playing a loop of music on the 89.3 frequency. Regular announcements are also made identifying the radio station.
Anybody who discovers interference on the frequency is requested to get in touch with AMMSA at 780-455-2700 or Toll Free at 1-800-661-5469.
Crowfoot said Jeremy Harpe, the program director for Windspeaker Radio, was the one who actually flicked the testing switch on Monday.
“I said ‘Jeremy, this honour is yours,’” Crowfoot said. “He’s the one who has been working his butt off to get everything together, to set up the music, to set up interviews.”
Crowfoot said kicking off The Raven testing on Monday was a memorable moment in AMMSA’s history.
He likened it to the time back in March 1983 when he witnessed the first print edition of Windspeaker come off the presses and the moment two-and-a-half years ago when he himself flipped the switch to launch CJWE 88.1 FM.
Like Crowfoot, Harpe is also understandably pleased that The Raven will officially be on the air in a few weeks.
“Our whole (AMMSA) family is so excited,” Harpe said. “The sense of pride in our office is so amazing.”
While CFWE and CJWE are country music stations, including classic country, The Raven will include blues, hip hop, classic rock and pop music.
“How I described it when applying for our license was everything but country,” Crowfoot said. “Not everybody loves country music. This gives an opportunity for them to listen to other genres.”
Like AMMSA’s two other stations, The Raven will feature Indigenous musical artists, Indigenous language programming—Cree, Dene, Nakoda Sioux and Michif, news and events, as well as Indigenous culture.
The Raven will kickstart its programming Feb. 1 with four consecutive songs from legendary Indigenous musicians.
“There’s a lot of thought that goes into who the first artist will be and what the first song will be,” Crowfoot said.
The Raven will feature block programming. For example, there will be three nights of blues music per week. That includes blues music from Indigenous artists.
“While we’ll cater to Indigenous people, this station is for everyone,” Harpe said.
Crowfoot echoed this sentiment.
“We have a lot of listeners that aren’t Indigenous,” he said, adding many non-Indigenous people are extremely interested in some of the radio shows featuring language programming.