Radio100@CKUT: Women in radio

Broadcasting the day after International Women’s Day, the second show of the Radio100 residency features the roles that women have had throughout the development of radio technology and content. During the first half of the show, Alain Dufour (SQCRA president) shares with Anja Borck (MOEB director) and Mariana Mejía Ahrens (Centennial Program Coordinator) his research on the historical background of women’s work in radio, from scientific endeavors to community activism. For the second half of the show, we feature a panel discussion with three CKUT content coordinators.

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Early in the pre-production process of defining what kind of content we wanted to transmit during our CKUT residency, the team thought it would be a good idea to reach out to a broader network of radio history and culture experts. Since we were planning on organizing each show’s content around a specific theme, seeking experts that could give our listeners a better understanding of specific topics within the field of radio technology and content seemed like a great fit for our broadcast goals.

Deciding the theme for our second show was easy due to a simple scheduling fact: the show was meant to air the day after International Women’s Day. With that in mind, we set ourselves to create a show that would feature the impact that women have had in the development of radio as inventors, researchers, academics, show presenters and content creators. Alain had already been working hard on tracing the historic accomplishments of women during his centennial related research, and successfully identified key local and international figures worth noting. But what about the current role of women in radio? Could we find an expert to talk about gender issues in the context of radio history? Could we offer a space that included diverse voices during our broadcasts?

We started by reaching out to female experts who work in academic research about the history of radio. Due to communication and scheduling challenges, we were not able to confirm the participation of any guests and we were running out of time to prepare our broadcast. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The team had not realized that most of the people leading the centennial residency at CKUT were women involved as active content creators, producers and coordinators at a thriving local radio station. What better way to celebrate the impact of women in radio history than by featuring women who currently work in radio!

We had met Tamara Filyavich, Arts and Culture Coordinator, and Mariam Salaymeh, McGill Events and Outreach Coordinator, early on during the planning meetings of the Centennial residency. Naturally we approached them first with the idea of including them in our March 9th broadcast and were overjoyed when they were willing and excited to be a part of it. Tamara then suggested adding the participation of her CKUT colleague and News Coordinator, Gaushika Mahadevan. Our search for panelists was complete and we were thrilled in anticipation to having a full studio the day of our second broadcast.



Now that the main questions of “who to invite to our panel?” had been answered, we continued planning the content of the second broadcast similarly to our first. Alain had again laid out the show plan in a spreadsheet with a minute by minute breakdown of all the sections to be included in the broadcast.

As we had done the week before, a couple hours before we went on the air, the Centennial team (Alain, Anja and Mariana) met in a coffee shop to go over the show plan together. We felt a bit more confident about the experience after completing our first show the previous week. Some additional music would give us some option to adjust if the talk of the panel discussion would go on too long during the second half of the broadcast.

The day of the show, the feeling in the studio was lively and exciting. The first half followed closely the segment timing from the week before, where Alain shared his research about historical female figures in radio. The Centennial team was happy to share the studio with our CKUT colleagues, who joined us a bit before the beginning of the show for a short briefing about the timing planned and what to expect during the panel segment.

Knowing that you lose a sense of time when talking without following a script, we kept our questions to our panelists short and direct. There was again the clear awareness to be live on air. When radio started in 1919, content was always live, immediately listened to by the audience at home and gone forever. How little had changed in the concept of radio! People in interviews must have felt even more strange than we did because the experience was unprecedented. The CKUT team in the studio was much more at ease in this setting than the Centennial team, a bit of an unusual twist. And yes, time rushed through the hour. Producing a live interview requests discipline in talking. Another skill that we would improve on as we produced and delivered the content in the remaining broadcasts.

Luckily, it being 2020 and with the technology available today, the broadcast was again recorded and made available online. As you can hear in the recording of the show, the panel discussion in the second half of the show touched on important topics like the importance of representation of minority voices in the airwaves and community building efforts that are fostered by community radio stations.

Towards the end of the discussion, we realized that all women in the studio, both the ones representing the Centennial and CKUT, are first generation immigrants. Taking airwave space took courage for all of us, as we used the mic to add our voices to a conversation beyond mainstream radio, not just as women, but as immigrants as well.