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Ethnic radio station CKJS – longtime home to the Jewish Radio Hour, caters to a vast underserved audience

ckjs logo edited 1By MYRON LOVE CKJS, the FM radio station that is undoubtedly best known in our Jewish community as the “forever” host of the long-running Jewish Radio Hour, occupies a unique place among Winnipeg radio stations. It is the only station in this region that is mandated to provide ethnic and religious programming.

“In much larger cities such as Toronto or Montreal, there are a large number of ethnic stations to cater to specific ethnic communities,” says CKJS Program Director Gido Gigliotti. “This is not the case in Winnipeg. “
The station was founded in1974 by Casimir Stanczykowski – who already operated a multicultural station in Montreal – and broadcast at 810 AM on the dial.
Gigliotti, the program manager since 2011, joined the staff of the ethnic station in 1984 – right out of high school. He began as a sound engineer and gradually worked his way up.
“We are currently the only HD station on the radio here,” Gigliotti notes.
In the early days, the dominant programming heard on the station was German, Gigliotti recalls. “We had a large German-speaking audience back then.”
Today though, not surprisingly, the dominant programming is aimed at our city’s Filipino population. Whereas, the weekday early morning show used to be in German, these days it is in a mix Tagalog and English. There is also a daily Filipino show in late afternoon and into the supper hour and more Filipino programming on the weekend.

Christian programming though still remains an important part of the daily week day broadcast along with Sunday mornings. Other regular weekday spots are given over to the Ukrainian and Hindi/Punjabi communities as well as a half hour German language program late in the evening.

On weekends, listeners can catch programs in a variety of east Asian and European languages.
One constant over the years though has been the Jewish Radio Hour. Gigliotti has fond memories of the late Noach Witman, the Jewish Radio Hour’s colourful founder and long time producer and host. His was one of the first shows on the then new station almost 70 years ago.
“Mr. Witman was a very nice man,” Gigliotti recalls. “He used to invite me home for lunch once a week. And he would frequently bring in sandwiches from Oscar’s for our crew. He was a regular at Oscar’s.”
Witman’s passing in 2000, naturally left the Jewish radio Hour’s future in some doubt. Gigliotti recalls that Sid Halpern stepped forward to ensure that the show continued. He recruited others in the community – volunteers such as Rochelle Zucker and Archie Kraut and others to takes turns hosting the show and allowing it to continue.
Gigliotti cites the Jewish Radio Hour and the need for volunteers to staff it as the norm for most of the station’s programming. “We have a small staff who help with some of our regular daily programming,” he points out. “For the most part though, our programs are volunteer-driven.”
He also notes that, as with most other radio shows, ad revenue is important. “We try to get sponsors for the smaller specialty shows to help cover costs,” he says. “The larger daily shows do attract general companies such as car dealerships.”
He singles out in particular the Vickar Group of Companies that support the Filipino programming. “Larry Vickar is also one of the sponsors of the Jewish Radio Hour,” he adds.

Twice in recent years. CKJS has changed hands. In 2007, Gigliotti reports, the station was purchased by Newcap Radio which resold the station to Evanov Communications, operator of 16 stations – in a variety of formats, in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and the Toronto region.
The station moved to the FM band at 92.7 last September.
No matter who owns the station though, Gigliotti notes, the mandate remains unchanged – to present multiethnic programming in 16 different languages.

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