The importance of campus radio

UMFM station manager Jared McKetiak (left) and program director Michael Elves (right). As of 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23 UMFM 101.5 has received $20,592.60 in pledges! Help them close in on their goal of 24K by Friday evening!

The University of Manitoba’s official radio station, UMFM 101.5, is running their second annual Pledge-O-Rama fund drive from Oct. 18-25, and they need your support. UMFM broadcasts a wide range of music and talk-radio programming, the overwhelming majority of which is curated and hosted by volunteers.

In 2012’s inaugural Pledge-O-Rama event, UMFM board of directors set their goal at $20,000; however, due to the charity of listeners, they managed to gross over $30,000. The station’s target this year is  $24,000, which amounts to 15 per cent of their total annual operating budget, and as of Wednesday at 10 p.m. roughly $21,000 in pledges had already poured in over the phones.

Faces of radio 101.5

The phone lines opened last Friday evening on UMFM program director Michael Elves’ variety show Free Range, which airs Fridays at 6:30, and will remain open until the end of his show this coming Friday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. “Last year I got to celebrate the fact that we vastly exceeded our target, and—fingers crossed—I’ll be able to cap things off this year with a bit of a celebration on air,” Elves told the Manitoban.

Elves, a U of M grad and former arts editor of the Manitoban, is a man of many hats. “Basically anything that is on air, I am responsible for: the music that gets played, the top programming, the volunteers that do the programming – that’s my bailiwick,” said Elves.

Mike is one of the two full-time staff at UMFM. Following the completion of his master’s degree in political science, Elves was hired and joined station manager Jared McKetiak in October of 2005. Eight years on, his passion for community broadcasting and the strong working relationship between he and McKetiak is palpable.

Photo of John K. Samson recording in UMFM studios by: Beibei Lu

Photo of John K. Samson recording in UMFM studios by: Beibei Lu

“We do call ourselves campus and community radio; we try to embody those two different approaches,” said Elves.

What differentiates independent campus radio stations like UMFM from their industry counterparts is the lack of reliance on commercially-generated revenue. “[Our budget] primarily comes from student fees, and we are certainly thankful for the continued support of the students here on campus, but obviously student enrolment can fluctuate – the value of five dollars 15 years ago versus the value of five dollars now, [paired with] the escalating prices of technology, has kind of eradicated some of that value.”

The nature of the advertisements played on UMFM is that they are, for the most part, for local businesses “like the West End Cultural Centre and the Park Theatre,” said Elves.

“We’re not a commercially-driven radio; we’re also not hit-driven. You’re going to hear a much wider variety,” said Elves. “Our playlist is very diverse on any given week whereas a lot of commercial radios cycle through a very limited playlist on any given week, and we, in a lot of senses, break some artists that eventually do become commercial.”

The station encountered some financial issues in the early 1980s that led it to close its doors for a time. However, in 1998 it reopened, this time in a new studio. Its current station manager, Jared McKetiak, studied computer science in university, but eventually found his way onto the airwaves and has been with UMFM since 2000.

Under McKetiak and Elves’ direction, as well that of the vast amount of volunteer staff producing content on a weekly basis, the hope is that UMFM will raise enough money to continue providing the campus and community with quality independent programming into the future.

Your pledges can be made over the phone (204-474-6610), in person (Room 308, University Centre) or online at