Radio Station Group History
Golden West Broadcasting Ltd.
Southern Manitoba Broadcasting (SMB) launched its first radio station CFAM-AM in Altona, Manitoba, on March 13th 1957, with eleven employees. One of those employees was a young copy chief, Elmer Hildebrand, who later would own the station and guide the company to being one of Canada’s most respected chains of small market stations.
Abe Thiessen was CFAM’s first President, Manager and principal shareholder. It was known as Manitoba’s “Farm and Good Music Station”. Thiessen soon left, and after D.K. Friesen had served briefly as interim Manager, Dennis Barkman was appointed Manager.
CFAM increased power to 5000 watts. A significant audience began to develop in Winnipeg, 65 miles to the north.
SMB made its first venture into FM radio, opening CFMW in St. Norbert, Manitoba on December 1st. The station served Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba, and the call letters stood for Fine Music Winnipeg.
While the CFAM signal could be heard in Steinbach, Man, 75 miles to the northeast of Altona, and SMB had had a sales office there since 1959, signal quality began to deteriorate, and in 1964 SMB opened CHSM-AM, in Steinbach on March 13. It simulcast the programming of CFAM-AM in Altona.
CFMW-FM had been losing money in the Winnipeg market, and in 1965 the station was sold to the CBC. W. E. Kroeker, president of Southern Manitoba Broadcasting Co. Ltd., appointed Elmer Hildebrand station manager of CFAM and CHSM. He succeeded Dennis Barkman, who had acquired an interest in some British Columbia radio stations.
SMB began a policy of recruiting staff locally, rather than importing talent from other markets – who never stayed long anyway.
Continuing its policy of applying to provide broadcast services to serve smaller communities, SMB acquired a licence for a new AM station in Boissevan, Man. The new station, CJRB, would carry CFAM’s service, with local commercials, via a microwave system built by SMB to avoid the high costs associated with leasing Manitoba Telephones’ links. This resulted in SMB and later GWB developing a major business building microwave systems for other broadcasters in Canada, the Caribbean and South America.
CHSM Steinbach was authorized to originate its own programming, after having simulcast the CFAM service since its 1964 launch.
On December 20, Southern Manitoba Broadcasting acquired control of Frontier City Broadcasting Co. Ltd., and with it their stations in Swift Current (CKSW) and Shaunavon (CJSN). This was the beginning of the company’s expansion from Manitoba into Saskatchewan and Alberta, while staying with its policy of concentrating on ownership of small market stations. The company’s expansion beyond Manitoba prompted a name-change decision, and Southern Manitoba Broadcasting became Golden West Broadcasting (GWB)
Lyndon Friesen, who would later become Golden West’s Executive Vice-President and COO, joined CHSM Steinbach as a salesman. GWB acquired CHOO-AM in Ajax, Ontario, from Community Communications Ltd. On December 5th Palliser Broadcasting, which Elmer Hildebrand owned in partnership with former CFAM employee Reuben Hamm, launched CHRB-AM in High River Alberta. CHRB would later become part of GWB.
For the first but not the last time, Golden West was named by the Western Association of Broadcasters as Broadcaster of the Year.
Menno Friesen, a hockey-playing friend of Elmer Hildebrand’s, joined GWB as its Sales Manager, and later became Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for the entire enterprise, with a staff of 90.
In a unique move, the CRTC granted GWB permission to acquire financially-troubled CISV-AM in Winkler-Morden, Manitoba, despite the fact that the company’s CFAM was already serving this area from Altona. Golden West undertook to maintain a totally separate schedule, and the CRTC willingly endorsed the sale and acquisition. CISV was rebranded as CKMW (“MW” for Winkler-Morden).
When Moffat Broadcasting were seeking to sell off their radio stations, Golden West acquired CHAB-AM in Moose Jaw, along with CHAM-AM Hamilton and CFXL-AM Calgary. While the Hamilton and Calgary stations were sold a few years later, CHAB remained a part of the Golden West family.
Golden West sold CHOO Ajax, to Durham Radio Inc. They had decided to concentrate on the Prairie Provinces.
At around this time, Golden West made a major policy decision to shelve the wire services and to concentrate on having their news staffs spend 100% of their time and budgets on local news stories, yet another example of the unique nature of the Golden West organization.
It was also in this year that the Western Association of Broadcasters named Golden West as Broadcaster of the Decade.
Soo Line Broadcasting, a Saskatchewan company owned by Tom Lang, an old friend of Elmer Hildebrand, decided to sell their radio stations in Estevan and Weyburn, and CJSL-AM and CFSL-AM became the newest additions to GWB’s expanding station line-up.
Golden West sold its last remaining Ontario radio station, CHAM Hamilton, to Affinity Radio Group Inc. At around the same time, GWB made its first FM station acquisition in thirty years, buying CIMG Swift Current. The company then concluded that FM was now a viable option, and over the next few years would apply successfully for FM licenses in Steinbach, Winkler, Estevan, Moose Jaw, Kindersley, High River/Okotoks, Portage La Prairie and Weyburn.
Later in the year, Elmer Hildebrand was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.
Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. launched the first of its new FM stations, CILT-FM in Steinbach. The remainder would follow over the next seven years.
A policy evolved whereby, in markets where they owned both an AM and an FM station, Golden West would have the AM station concentrate on local affairs and farming, while the FM station would feature mostly country music. AM stations were much more costly to run, and perhaps might even lose money, but they would gain stature in the area, while the FM stations would be the money makers, and each market would be well-served as a result.
Dace Broadcasting, formerly Goose Lake Broadcasting, sold its stations in Rosetown (CJYM-AM) and Kindersley (CFYM-AM) to Golden West Broadcasting. With them came their Manager, Dennis Dyck, who had formerly worked with GWB’s CFAM in the 1960s.
Also in 2000, Elmer Hildebrand’s longtime friend Richard “Red” Hughes, of Delta Broadcasting, decided to retire, and sold CFRY-AM and CFRY-FM Portage La Prairie to GWB on September 1st.
Christian Contemporary Music was added to the Golden West programming mix on June 1st with the acquisition of a controlling interest in CHVN-FM Winnipeg from Wade Kehler and Willard Thiessen’s Christian Radio Manitoba Ltd. The under-capitalized station had been struggling, and was happy to be folded into the comfort of the Golden West family. CJPG-FM Portage La Prairie, which had been licensed by the CRTC the previous year, was launched by GW on May 4th.
Golden West was recognized by Deloitte, The National Post, CIBC and Queens University as one of Canada’s Fifty Best Managed Companies, a recognition that was repeated in the following year. Not coincidentally, this was the year in which President Elmer Hildebrand could announce with justifiable pride that 100% of Golden West shares were owned by his family and senior staff of the company.
The Golden West family tree extended its branches into Lethbridge, Alberta, for the first time, when the company acquired a second Christian music station, CJTS-FM, from Spirit Broadcasting, and changed its call-sign to CKVN. Also during this year, GW was successful with its competitive bid for a second FM licence for Moose Jaw, to be designated as CJAW-FM, and received approval for a new FM station in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. On September 19th CKRC-FM Weyburn signed on.
Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. received approval on August 2 to operate a new commercial FM station in High River/Okotoks. The company already owned CHRB-AM and CFXL-FM in the market. The new station, whose callsign would be CFXO-FM, would broadcast on a frequency of 99.7 MHz with an effective radiated power of 18,000 watts.
Golden West marked its fiftieth year in the Canadian broadcasting business.
CFXO-FM Sun Country 99.7 FM signed on the air October 30 at 7:00 a.m. Studios and offices were co-located with CHRB and CFXL at 11 – 5 Avenue S. E. in High River.
CJAW Moose Jaw began transmitting test signals in April. Golden West continued to demonstrate its plans for further growth, with applications for radio licences for Humboldt, Saskatchewan and Drumheller, Alberta being heard by the CRTC in May and June. In the spring, after two years filling the role, Lyndon Friesen was confirmed as President of Golden West. Elmer Hildebrand remained as Chairman.
On June 27, the CRTC approved the purchase of CFEQ-FM Winnipeg by Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. from Kesitah Inc. Golden West was controlled by Elmer Hildebrand Ltd., which in turn was controlled by Elmer Hildebrand.
On August 21, the CRTC licensed a new radio station, CHOO-FM to serve Drumheller, when it approved the application by Golden West Broadcasting Ltd.
By 2008, fifty-one years after the launch of founder station CFAM Altona, Golden West Broadcasting owned twenty-eight radio stations, and had over 350 employees.
CHOO 99.5 ("Drum FM") signed on the air with a Hot Adult Contemporary format on April 28.
Continuing their hunt for small markets to service, Golden West approached Norwesco Communications Ltd. and applied to purchase their station CKQV in Vermilion Bay in Northwestern Ontario. CKQV-FM 104.1 was featuring Contemporary Hits and Hot Adult music. The station had re-broadcasters in Dryden 104.5, Kenora 105.2 and Sioux Lookout 104.1.The CRTC approved the application on January 29th.
On March 29, the CRTC approved the application by 101142236 Saskatchewan Ltd. for authority to acquire, as part of a corporate reorganization, the assets of CHAB, CILG-FM and CJAW-FM Moose Jaw from Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. The Commission noted that the transaction approved in this decision was effected on 1 September 2009 through the transfer, from Golden West to 101142236 Saskatchewan, of all assets and liabilities relating to CHAB, CILG-FM and CJAW-FM. As a result of the transaction, 101142236 Saskatchewan would become the licensee of these undertakings. The corporate reorganization was for estate planning and did not affect the effective control of these undertakings, which continued to be exercised by Golden West through its wholly owned subsidiary 101142236 Saskatchewan.
On January 25th, Golden West received approval from the CRTC for a licence to operate a new English-language FM station in Estevan, Saskatchewan. The station would operate on 106.1 MHz. It was reported that the station call letters would be CHSE-FM.
Also on January 25th, the CRTC approved an application from Golden West for a new FM station in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, to operate on a frequency of 107.5 MHz.
On February 28th the CRTC approved the change to the ownership and effective control of Tiessen Media Inc. through the transfer of the shares of Jamie Tiessen in Tiessen Media Inc. to Goldwest Broadcasting Ltd., a corporation controlled by Elmer Hildebrand. Tiessen Media Inc. was the licensee of CFIT-FM, Airdrie, Alberta.
On March 25th, His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, declined a petition that had been received requesting that the award of the Humboldt licence to Golden West be referred back to the CRTC for reconsideration. The Governor in Council was "… not satisfied that the decision derogates from the attainment of the objectives of the Canadian broadcasting act."
On September 8th the CRTC authorized Golden West’s CFIT-FM Airdrie, Alberta, to change the station’s authorized contours by increasing the average effective radiated power (ERP) from 3,000 watts to 60,000 watts (maximum ERP from 6,000 watts to 100,000 watts with an effective height of antenna above average terrain of 40 metres). Golden West indicated that these changes vwould help the station realize its potential. In particular, the CRTC noted that "…..the potential listenership would increase from 30,814 to 49,255 persons in the 3 mV/m contour and from 87,982 to 894,133 persons in the 0.5 mV/m contour. This significant increase in population would be due to the 0.5 mV/m contour encompassing the city of Calgary".
On October 12th the new Golden West radio station CHBO-FM was launched in Humboldt Saskatchewan, branded as Bolt-FM.
On January 10th 2012, the CRTC approved an application by Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. (Golden West) for a broadcasting licence to operate an English-language FM radio programming undertaking in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The new station would operate at 107.9 MHz (channel 300B1) with an average effective radiated power (ERP) of 11,000 watts (maximum ERP of 20,000 watts with an effective height of antenna above average terrain of 70.2 metres).
On February 17th 2012 Golden West received CRTC approval for a broadcasting licence to operate an English-language, commercial FM radio programming undertaking in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. The new station would operate at 106.7 MHz (channel 294C1) with an effective radiated power of 100,000 watts (non-directional antenna with an effective height of antenna above average terrain of 73.7 metres).
The station would offer a Classic Rock music format and would broadcast a minimum of 126 hours of local programming in each broadcast week, including 5 hours and 47 minutes of news, 90% of which would be local news. Local programming would include local newscasts, weather, sports, surveillance material as well as coverage of the local arts community and community events.
Golden West noted that the station would complement its existing stations in the same locality, namely CFSL Weyburn, which offered a Country music format, and CKRC-FM Weyburn, which offered a Hot Adult Contemporary music format. The Commission considered that by realizing efficiencies and maximizing synergies among its existing radio stations in Weyburn, Golden West would be able to provide a viable third local radio service in that market.
Written by Pip Wedge – September, 2010
Updated by Pip Wedge - February, 2012
Golden West Radio Stations
(click on call letters for individual station histories)