Tofino’s airwaves are experiencing a rather extended lull.
Tuff City Radio , which usually broadcasts at CHMZ 90.1 FM, has been off the air since Feb. 15, 2018.
Station manager Cameron Dennison released a statement to Tofino business owners on March 20, 2018 that said the transmission was shut off because McBride Communications failed to pay its landlord, the CBC, for use of the tower space located on Barr Mountain.
“I learned in early January that CBC had not been paid for over eight years by McBride Communications. CBC issued several warnings to McBride Communications, which I was not made aware,” Dennison wrote in his statement.
Currently, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) license for Tuff City Radio is owned by Matthew McBride. McBride also owns the CRTC license to Ucluelet’s community radio station, Ukee Radio CIMM 99.5 FM.
“I really, really love [Tuff City Radio]. It’s a bummer. I was going into my fourth year. Everything was starting to take off and now it’s shut down because this guy didn’t pay his bill,” Dennison told the Westerly News over the phone.
Dennison said in his statement that negotiations and even communications with CBC are impossible as his name is not on the CRTC license.
Cameron Dennison, Tuff City Radio station manager
Local musician Geoff Johnson worked for McBride from 2008 to 2013 when it was broadcast as Long Beach Radio.
“Similar things have happened before,” said Johnson.
“In my time, there was a fiber optic line that ran from the radio station to where the broadcast equipment is that we also had to pay a service charge to Telus. For, I assume it was years or months, the bill wasn’t paid and we got knocked off the air because of it.”
Johnson, who was a morning show host and station manager, quit Long Beach Radio after McBride failed to pay him for six consecutive weeks.
“He owed me $9,800. I wasn’t paid until I served him papers,” said Johnson.
Dennison told the Westerly he has submitted a letter of intent to McBride Communications to purchase the licenses for both Tuff City Radio and Ukee Radio.
Before Johnson left the station in June 2013, he also considered purchasing the stations from McBride.
“I asked him to give me a number for what he thought the radio stations were worth when I quit and he said something kind of ignorant that implied half a million dollars,” said Johnson. “I really hope that’s not the situation now. It’s those kind of numbers you can’t negotiate.”
“I want Cam to own it. I want it all to make sense. Community radio is valuable for the community. I don’t want to see it go dark for two years, which is realistically how long a process like this could take,” Johnson said.
Dennison said he is in the process of raising funds for the purchase.
Jamie Osborne manages Ukee Radio.
“As far as Ukee Radio is concerned, we are not affected because we are separate entities. We’ve always had a good relationship with McBride. Once Ukee was able to take over and have it’s own radio station, we were able to flourish,” said Osborne.
Johnson added that writing a letter to the CRTC might help concerned listeners get their radio station back.
“Letters have some power. [The CRTC] looks for that sort of thing,” said Johnson.
The Westerly reached out to McBride on two occasions, but he was unavailable for comment.