CHRW origins date from 1959 when student politicians suggested that a student-run radio station would be a good idea. However, it was not until 1971 that radio at Western started to get going when a group of students began broadcasting for six hours every Sunday night on CFPL-AM 980. This encouraged the University Students’ Council (USC) to give financial support for a closed-circuit station to be set up first in Somerville House and later at the new (at that time) University Community Centre. Interest in the station waned between 1974 and January 1978, at which time the old carrier current and cable frequencies were established. The station ceased to exist as 1978 began. At one point Radio Western was also broadcast as a weekly show on 95.9FM in London.
In March 1979 the USC held a referendum asking students if they would support a radio station. The referendum passed by a 4-to-1 margin. The new Radio Western (with call letters CHRW) spent the summer of 1979 getting ready. Two people were hired full time. Pat Nagle (Now Area Manager for CBC North) came on board as the first station manager and Roy Blake was put in charge of building the station from the ground up as the technical director. A call for volunteers went out in September as classes began. The volunteers spent hours hooking up equipment and getting the left-over stacks of records (from the previous radio station) sorted out. Finally, on Monday, January 14, 1980 at 8:00 am, the new Radio Western made its first broadcast with little or no fanfare. The station continued to broadcast until midnight each day until April 30, 1980 after which the station shut down for the months of May, June, July and August. Finally, on September 2, 1980, CHRW went back on the air, where it has been ever since.
In those early days, CHRW was only available on closed-circuit at various points on campus. It was also available on London Cable and McLean Hunter Cable (at two different frequencies). Behind the scenes, Pat Nagle was putting together a proposal to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to grant CHRW a full-fledged FM license. CHRW was granted a low power (50 watts) community-based campus radio station license in June 1981 for broadcasts on public airwaves. The frequency was set at 94.7 FM.
CHRW began test broadcasting at 94.7 FM on Friday, October 16. However, the official date of the power increase to 50 watts took place at noon, on Saturday, October 31. Pat Nagle, the man who got CHRW to where it was at that point, began things that day at noon with a small speech about what CHRW had to offer the community. Ten minutes later, CHRW's chief announcer, John Quain, took over the controls and played CHRW 94.7 FM's first song -- "On the Air" by Peter Gabriel. A few minutes later came CHRW's first request -- "Urgent" by Foreigner. When John Quain politely told the caller that was not the type of music CHRW played, the caller then suggested "Sister Europe" by the Psychedelic Furs. Quain was more than happy to play that, and 94.7 FM was on its way. Later that afternoon, the schedule continued with a Mustang tradition - live Saturday afternoon football.
The power increase to 3000 watts was granted and implemented in October 1990, allowing coverage of the surrounding area from Chatham to Woodstock. The official date of the power increase was October 31, 1990, exactly 9 years after our move to 94.7 FM. In November 2003, then Station Manager Mario Circelli’s plan to implement a further power increase to the present 6000 watts, a change of frequency to 94.9 FM and transmitter location change to 1 London Place came to fruition. The station is now heard northeast to the edge of Waterloo and down Highway 24 to Lake Erie.
CHRW is one of Canada's highest rated Community-based-Campus Radio stations having won the Canadian Music Industry Campus Radio Station Award in 1995 and 2001, the 2000 Fred Sgambati Award for University Sports coverage (the only campus station to do so, and the 2013 National Campus/Community Radio Association's CKLN-FM Community Development Award. CHRW is the founder of the London Music Archives and co-founder of the Jack Richardson Music Awards. Past Alumni include Kevin Newman (Anchor - Global National), Avis Favro (Medical Reporter - CTV), Adrienne Arsenault (CBC Middle East Bureau Chief), Dan Shulman (ESPN), Elliotte Friedman (CFL on CBC & Hockey Night In Canada), John McKenna (Executive Producer - CHCH News Hamilton), Jennifer Palisoc (Reporter - Global Toronto / former Weekend Anchor - A-Channel London) and currently more than 250 volunteers participate in CHRW - through on-air and/or involvement in the local music scene.
This history of CHRW was written by Steve Kopp – host of The Beat Goes On/History of Us for the last 24 years - resident CHRW layabout who, it is becoming apparent, will never bloody well leave.