Radio Glebe: broadcasting classic hits from a basement studio

By Paco Dvoi

Doug McKeen

Doug McKeen stands in front of his collection of tunes that makes Radio Glebe a possibility.
Photo: Paco Dvoi

“Ever since I was a teen I have always been interested in both radio and music,” explains Doug McKeen. He is a retiree with thousands of vinyl records and CDs, decades of listening experience and, thanks to a bit of technology, his very own Internet radio station. McKeen is living his radio-broadcasting dream from the comfort of his Third Avenue home. Welcome to Radio Glebe! A modem, a few routers and three Mac Mini compact computers have transformed a corner of Doug’s basement into an international music station. “The music is housed on the Minis, and all programming and music selection is done via excellent software that I use for both live DJ work, such as the annual block party, and Radio Glebe. The entire operation is automated and works all by itself.”

Doug McKeen has operated Radio Glebe for close to three years. He mainly plays favourites that he has tried and tested as a live DJ over many years. The programming includes pop hits from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, specially selected tracks from more recent decades, as well as jazz, country and local music. “I play music from everywhere,” he says. “Local talent, such as Sneezy Waters and Reverend Ernie Cox, gets a special airing on Radio Glebe, but only if it meets my unwritten and variable moods. It is quite un-democratic but I consider myself to be a benevolent dictator. All suggestions are very much welcome but it is my decision.”

As this is Internet radio, listeners tune in from all over the world. Differences in time need to be considered. “Preparing a morning show for Ottawa would mean an afternoon show in Europe and an evening show in other areas. With that in mind, there is no set format based on time.”

Radio Glebe offers continuous music without advertising. It is a non-commercial radio station. This allows Doug to simplify his administrative responsibilities. “I pay a single annual fee to SOCAN [Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada],” he says, “and since the station is online I am not required to have anything to do with the CRTC [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission]. I am not required to report what I am playing, unless requested to do so. If I were required to meet the complex rules that are applicable to on-air broadcasters, I would turn off the station.”

Considering that the music is pre-programmed and plays without interruption, it may sound as though very little work is required to keep Radio Glebe functioning smoothly. McKeen explains that it is otherwise: “According to my wife, Claudia, I spend too much time working at Radio Glebe. Especially when a technical problem occurs, it can be hours, if not days that need to be spent resolving the problem. If all is going well, I spend time adding or removing songs from the playlists, reviewing any new music that arrives, listening to BBC Radio 2 in Britain to find amazing tunes to add to the playlist, or creating MP3s out of my large collection of 78s, 45s and 33 records. It all takes time, but it’s time well spent.”

The station does not receive any financial support. Covering basic operational costs leaves no budget for promotion. “Advertising of the station would cost money,” says music-lover McKeen “As it is a hobby, I find that the majority of the money that I can make available goes toward the technical side of the station. In addition there is the cost of reliable and consistent Internet service. Finally, to be able to serve a large number of listeners, we have to pay for a server that is presently located in New Jersey. Not much money is left over and we have not made any requests to the listeners to assist in the operation. We are presently considering that within the redesign of the website.”

When asked what changes or improvements Radio Glebe could benefit from, this broadcaster is quick to mention the help of other people. “Volunteers would allow me to add more community to the programming and operation. DJs would be good to give an improved touch and feel to the presentation.” He also has technical considerations. “I would like to add a second channel, or more, that would offer variants to Radio Glebe.”

Doug McKeen certainly appreciates feedback from the community. “I welcome anyone who would like to make any suggestions or criticism of what I am offering. It is only with input that I can make wanted or needed changes.”

To tune in to Radio Glebe, visit www.radioglebe.com and click on the main image.

Paco Dvoi is a local folk/rock singer-songwriter who enjoys writing non-fiction.

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