Latest NewsUCB Canada marks 20 years with launch of national streaming channel

UCB Canada marks 20 years with launch of national streaming channel

UCB Canada is celebrating 20 years on-air with the launch of a national streaming channel.

National Promotions Director John Connor said the streaming channel is a response to requests from listeners who currently live outside the reach of one of the radio group’s 12 local stations in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“We were getting requests, particularly from subscribers of our “Daily Encouragement” and those that tune in online via smart speaker,” Connor told Broadcast Dialogue. “If they live in Red Deer, their closest station might be in Medicine Hat or Fort McMurray and they would be getting ads from those stations, so we started getting requests for something that was reflective for people living anywhere.”

UCB recently soft-launched the new online stream, featuring a morning show originating from its Belleville, ON station, and middays from Windsor, opening up opportunities for national advertisers.

“What’s exciting about that is we’re looking for national sponsors now that aren’t just wanting to buy in one or two areas, but colleges and universities, and other businesses more interested in this, the idea being that we create content that people anywhere can enjoy,” said Connor.

UCB Canada board members, staff and listeners gathered on Oct. 20 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the broadcast ministry with a gala event in Belleville where it launched its first station, CKJJ-FM, in 2003. The radio group’s frequencies now span three provinces, establishing it as the largest Christian radio ministry in Canada. Several new FM signals are due to sign on in 2024, including a spring launch in Saskatoon and fall debut in Kelowna.

Connor attributes the stations’ success to being able to speak to listeners’ hearts.

“Instead of talking to what’s going on just in that one area, we focus on family-friendly, positive, uplifting content,” explained Connor. “We speak more locally to the heart. Our whole thing is to push people towards hope. You get enough difficulty in life out there, tune in to what we’re sharing and enjoy our shows, enjoy having a friend you can listen to music with.” 

That programming is supplemented by “community connection” interviews, reflecting the local markets UCB operates in.

Connor, who toured with interdenominational Christian training organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM), prior to joining UCB seven years ago, says the listener-supported group of stations has survived despite the odds.

(l-r) UCB National Promotions Director John Connor, CHRI Promotions Director Care Baldwin, CHRI Community Relations Director Lydia Paulino, WGTS Morning Show Host Jerry Woods at ‘Momentum’ in Orlando, FL.

“Somehow and some way this group did,” said Connor. “By the skin of their teeth honestly, we’re no different than anybody else. Our CEO James Hunt, who has been with us about 15 years now…one of his biggest mantras was to unite Christian broadcasters in Canada. It’s in our DNA to reach out and serve other stations and we still work hard at that.”

That includes lobbying at events like Momentum, the Christian music broadcasters conference in the U.S., to let Contemporary Christian music acts know they have an audience in Canada. Connor had t-shirts printed for Canadian stations at this year’s event with the message “You got Canadian listeners, eh?”

Mediabase doesn’t track Contemporary Christian music yet in Canada and so we don’t really have any solid reporting and because of that, we’re on nobody’s radar when it comes to record companies, so I’ve made it part of my goal to change that,” said Connor. “The hope is that we don’t have to put tens of thousands of dollars into taking the risk of having a concert or tour because the promoters aren’t even considering coming up to Canada. It’s hard to build a bridge between the listening audience and the music.”

“We’re all about making connections and trying to help others,” added Connor, who noted that has more recently extended to sharing information with other stations to keep up with requirements of the MAPL system, with production details hard-fought in certain instances for some of the grassroots Canadian Christian singles stations are currently playing.

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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessen
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email -

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