Latest NewsUrgent CKUA Radio drive raises $850K in two days

Urgent CKUA Radio drive raises $850K in two days

CKUA Radio has had a strong start to an urgent fundraising campaign to keep the donor-funded station on the air.

An Alberta institution for the past 96 years and the country’s oldest public and educational broadcaster, the Edmonton station says its future is at risk “due to a perfect storm of rising inflationary pressures, limited government funding, the vacancy and devaluation of Edmonton’s downtown office real estate market, and post-pandemic realities.” 

CKUA says it needs to raise $3 million by the end of September.

“CKUA’s financial struggles are not happening due to a lack of success,” said CEO Marc Carnes. “In 2023, CKUA’s regular listening audience grew by 13% and more than 10% over the last five years. This has outpaced the commercial radio sector in Alberta and even the donor-supported public radio sector in the United States. Both advertising and fundraising revenues have been steady while many in the charitable sector and commercial advertising sectors struggle. CKUA is valued by Albertans and listeners from around the world! The state we find ourselves in is due to a perfect storm of factors that many households and businesses are facing.” 


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In addition to inflationary concerns, skyrocketing utility rates ($1M alone in 2023) and capital costs, the station says CKUA’s base – the historic Alberta Hotel on Jasper Avenue – is draining its reserves between post-pandemic office market vacancies and property devaluation. The station moved into the building in 2012 at an estimated cost of $17 million amidst the real estate acquisition and interior renovations.

The commercial real estate venture, seen as a way to diversify revenue, saw the City of Edmonton and province kick in matching contributions of $5M each, with the federal government contributing $500,000. CKUA assumed a $6M loan to complete the project. Since the pandemic, two tenants have left and the lead tenant filed for bankruptcy. With the property’s value now half what it was, the station is unable to sell given its loan repayment obligations. 

Since launching its Spring fundraising campaign on Friday afternoon, listeners have already donated more than $850,000.

Known for championing homegrown artists with 126 hours of locally-produced content airing every week, this isn’t the first time the station has been threatened with closure. Listeners previously rallied around the station in 1997 when it was decommissioned by the Alberta government and went off the air for five weeks due to internal fighting and poor financial management. It resumed broadcasting after a provincially-appointed board took over.

Carnes says its new fundraising plan is designed to grow and diversify revenue sources leading into the station’s centennial year in 2027. About 1.5% of CKUA’s annual operating revenues currently come from government sources.

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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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