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Free Content Campus frequencies: ‘Alternativeness’ and Canadian campus radio

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Campus radio falls under the ‘community’ sector of Canada’s broadcasting system alongside the public and commercial sectors. Campus radio evokes a notion of ‘alternativeness’ in order to indicate its role as a sector rooted in a local community and to define its programming as distinct from other stations. This article uses Underground Sounds, a campus radio show broadcast by McGill University’s CKUT-FM, to explore the construction of ‘alternativeness’ in campus radio programming. This ten-week analysis of Underground Sounds took place in early 2008 and focuses on the artists and songs featured, the interviews conducted by the show’s host and on-air discussion of the show’s role in relation to the Montreal music scene. The findings highlight how ‘alternativeness’ is conveyed but also demonstrate its limitations and boundaries. For instance, new albums and upcoming concert dates factor into setting the limits of ‘alternativeness’, as being of current relevance significantly increases the chances that an artist is programmed. However, programmed artists are predominately represented by independent labels and are often local bands without much financial support. The goal of this article is to consider how ‘alternativeness’ might be conceptualized in relation to campus radio and the programming of ‘local’ and ‘independent’ music.

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Keywords: Canadian broadcasting; Montreal; alternative media; campus radio; independent music; local music

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Concordia University

Publication date: 01 March 2015

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