SYDNEY, NS – Rob Jones knows something about faith and hope.
As a veteran pastor who pastored churches in his native England and Ontario before moving his family to Cape Breton eight years ago, Jones is not out of his element when it comes to encourage, support and guide those in need.
He also experienced a personal tragedy. Two and a half years ago, Jones’ wife Rebecca died aged 46, leaving the father of six to face the biggest challenges of his life. The eloquent and outgoing pastor credited his strong faith with helping him through the tough times that followed.
But Jones also had a pet project that he poured all his energy into. In 2016, two years after taking over as pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Sydney, Jones launched a Christian online streaming service he called Praise FM. His state-of-the-art studio is located in Davenport Street Church in Sydney’s Ashby district. At the time, he also had visions of expanding broadcasting through a true live radio station.
It took longer than expected.
His dream came true earlier this month when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) granted Praise FM a Class A radio license which gives the station a seven-year renewable operating certificate. .
Officially, it’s called Praise FM Cape Breton. His call letters are CICB and he can be found at 90.7 on the radio dial.
“Six years and $135,000 later, and we are finally a legitimate CRTC-certified faith-based radio station – we are proud to be the first such station on Cape Breton Island,” Jones said. , who added that the station would not be possible without the generous support of his church, community and partners.
“We have about 10 other churches working in partnership with us. The wider Christian community is involved, as is Munro Academy (a non-denominational Christian school with campuses in Sydney Mines and Balls Creek) as one of our partners. We are even discussing with them the possibility of doing a module on the media and inviting students to learn about Canadian broadcasting and have them spend time hosting our youth programs.
Jones initially asked the CRTC to operate a low-power station (50 watts), but the regulator warned against doing so given the topography of the area which would prevent the signal from reaching many parts of the city. Cape Breton Regional Municipality. So he applied for a full power service with a 3,000 watt transmitter.
A 70ft transmission tower has been erected near the last standing dome of the former CFB Sydney radar base which has been owned by New Dawn Enterprises, a non-profit community development organization, since the early 2000s. A powerful transmitter has been installed on the tower and the station, which went on the air on March 1, is capable of reaching more than 91,000 people in some 43,000 homes across the CBRM.
Although Jones experienced some frustration when it came to obtaining the required license from the CRTC, he now believes the timing for Praise FM couldn’t have been better. He cites rising social unrest, two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Eastern Europe as some of the reasons people are increasingly looking for hope.
“There are fundamental questions in life that we all face with the reality of suffering or death, so everyone is asking these fundamental questions. Why am I here? What is my goal ? What is the meaning of life? Is that all there is? Is there anything more than that? said Jones.
“These are natural questions for the human condition. So we stand for hope and with this station we want to encourage people to realize that life is not as dark and painful as it is often thought.
“It’s a good news station playing good music designed to uplift and encourage people. Obviously it is focused on God and our belief is that there is a God who cares about us. We really want to be a positive voice of hope in the community and encourage people to engage with their roots.
Although he acknowledges that fewer people now go to church than in the past, Jones said he believes there is still a strong underlying connection to spirituality in Cape Breton.
“I would say about 80 to 90 percent of Cape Bretoners have some sort of religious background, whether it’s through Catholicism or Protestant churches,” Jones said.
“There are churches all over Canada. Years ago about 75 percent of Canadians went to church about once a month and now we are down to about 12 percent, but there is still a real belief in God in Canada.
Jones also believes the new station will benefit many of Cape Breton’s seniors.
“We have a lot of isolations on this island,” he noted.
“We have a predominantly older community, so Praise FM can help them stay in touch with their church and with their community. It’s a great way to give them encouragement and hope.
Praise FM Cape Breton will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While the wee hours of the night and morning will primarily be filled with uplifting music, the daytime and evening schedules feature more diverse programming that includes an increasing amount locally produced content.
But Jones insists it’s not a one-man show.
“I couldn’t do it alone,” he exclaimed.
“It’s a Cape Breton founded and owned radio station, with Cape Bretoners broadcasting and developing the programs we host. We have a breakfast show, a noon worship show, a homecoming show, an end of the day show. We also broadcast services from other churches on Sundays and Mondays.
As for a crowded FM dial with plenty of options, Jones said he embraced diversity in music and thought.
“I think it’s great that we have the FM stations that we have and I listen to a lot of them. I believe diversity is good for everyone,” he said.
Other Praise FM hosts include Brian Edwards, Melvin Wheaton, Pierre Chiasson, Bill and Rosette Legge, Daniel Mackley and Nick Phillips. The station’s devotional host is Wilma Blois.
Praise FM broadcasts are also available through an online application. More information about the station can be found on its Facebook page and its own website.
The official inauguration of the station will take place on Saturday, April 16 at Faith Baptist Church.
– David Jala is a business reporter at the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter @CBPost_David.