Axel Soos broadcasting from his dorm room. (Photo: Kelly Graham)

Dorm room becomes radio station

Student captains The Bay 97.3 pirate radio station

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Broadcasting schedule for The Bay. (Image: Axel Soos)

The Middle Bay residence at the University of King’s College is buzzing thanks to 18-year-old Axel Soos, a Foundation Year Program student, and the new radio broadcast antenna he had placed on its roof.

“Pirate radio is a very exciting idea to people”, Soos says. He launched The Bay 97.3, a student-run pirate radio station in early November. The idea came from a friend who was frustrated with the amount of regulations at CKDU 88.1, Dalhousie University’s radio station.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Soos says the people behind the Bay love CKDU. He describes the relationship between his station and the university radio stations as symbiotic. He says many people at CKDU have expressed their support for what he is doing. Soos also volunteers in the radio booth at King’s, which broadcasts through CKDU.

The Bay has quickly expanded since its launch.  “It’s turned into something quite bigger than I expected,” Soos says. It already has technicians, a board of directors and a packed programming schedule.

Soos is currently the funding project by himself. This includes purchasing broadcast hardware, a second computer monitor and software.

The Law

Soos is aware that what he is doing is illegal. He has investigated the process to apply for a license and says that it would take eight to ten months to complete. The school year would be over before the license was granted, he explains.

The Bay tries to cause as few problems as possible by making sure that its broadcast signal covers only the King’s campus, ensuring it won’t interfere with other signals and keeping broadcast content well within professional limits.

Industry Canada was contacted for comment on the legal ramifications of pirate broadcasting but did not reply. According to a CBC news report, “Broadcasting without a license carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and could result in jail time.”

After talking to radio technicians at King’s and Dalhousie, Soos says he isn’t afraid of repercussions because of the precautions he has taken. He plans to switch to Internet broadcasting if the radio station is forced to shut down.

“It’s a really cool experience”

According to Soos, volunteers have been easy to find because The Bay is offering an experience that no other station in the area can match since it is starting from scratch. This means that volunteers have the opportunity to create station jingles, short clips stations use to cut between shows and entire shows.

Example clips courtesy of The Bay:

King’s student Laura Thorne doesn’t think people use radios anymore. “It would be a lot more accessible online,” she says. “A lot more widespread.”

Soos says his listeners are adapting. “I literally have people going out buying radios just to listen and I have people gathering in their friends’ rooms just to listen”

“There is an inherent value in listening to things live”

Soos is planning on launching podcasts soon in the form of an archive on the station’s webpage, but says shows will not be put up until a day after they air so they don’t undermine the immediacy of the radio broadcast.

For Soos, The Bay is all about the community that is building around the station and what the station is giving back to the King’s community. The station recently threw a party that many residence students claim was the best of the year. It featured a giant pudding fight and a Justin Bieber piñata.

“It’s a cool way for students to express themselves. This is our mark on King’s” Erin MacKinnon says about Soos's radio station.

The university itself has no qualms with the radio station.

 “It’s a wonderful example of the kind of initiatives that happen at King’s,” Dean of residence Nicholas Hatt, says. “It’s run by students in its entirety, it was conceived by them and it’s supported by them.” 

The school has shown willingness in helping out in any way possible, including installing an antenna on the roof of Middle Bay residence.

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