UMFM Spotlight : Alert! Radio

The UMFM Show Spotlight is a monthly column showcasing various programming on the University of Manitoba’s campus and community radio station. To recommend a show for spotlight, contact

Are you interested in engaging world issues from perspectives across the Canadian Left? How about learning about direct action initiatives for social change? If so, then Canadian Dimension Magazine has probably found a home on your nightstand. Yes, since 1963, the venerable publication has been a singular forum for thought, debate and action amongst political leftists. What you may not know, however, is that the publication has now extended its reach, off your nightstand and into the airwaves, via Alert! Radio.

“We got into radio only about four years ago as we became aware of the need to extend our readership to a younger generation,” says Cy Gonick, founder of Canadian Dimension and executive producer of Alert! Radio. “We just thought the best way to access that audience was through campus radio. And I think, so far, we’re succeeding quite well in doing that.”

Alert! Radio records in-studio at UMFM, and currently broadcasts weekly on 13 campus and community stations across the country. Much like its partner publication, Alert! Radio explores a wide array of issues — from social justice to politics to student concerns — often taking listeners all over the world in the process.

“We do interviews with people from all parts of the world that we’re interested in — places like Venezuela and Cuba, for instance,” Gonick says. “And a lot of the issues we deal with [on Alert! Radio] derive from issues and the authors we deal with in Canadian Dimension.”

What this means is that listeners tuning in can expect primarily talk-based programming with unmistakable activist underpinnings.

“We are an activist radio show, as we are an activist magazine. We are in, I would say, daily touch with activist leaders both in Canada and across the world,” says Gonick. “The radio show provides an opportunity for [activist leaders] to talk about what they are doing, the actions they are taking, and why they are taking them, in their own voice.”

But as the program’s tagline — “for people who want to change the world” — suggests, it is not simply about those struggling for change. Indeed, Alert! Radio strives to be an inspiration, and invitation to action, amongst listeners.

“A few weeks ago we did a show on something called The Toronto Assembly,” Gonick says, offering an example. “In it, action groups — anti-poverty, anti-globalization, and so on — came together to discuss how they can work together in the future, to actually form a permanent assembly of activists in Toronto. Our hope is that this idea, carried on our network of radio stations across the country, will inspire other activists, in other cities, to similar action”

One distinct advantage the radio medium has over the printed page is the opportunity to explore music. As such, each episode of Alert! Radio features a segment dubbed “Music is the Weapon,” (a nod to Nigerian musician/activist Fela Kuti) in which Mitch Podolak explores music as a mechanism for social change. For Podolak, the founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, it is an opportunity to bring his expansive musical expertise to bear, and Gonick cites a recent segment on “the stirring music of the Spanish Civil War” as but one example of the type of territory mined.

In addition to the contributions of Podolak, Alert! Radio also features program hosts Geoff Hughes and Chris Albi, each of whom Gonick describes as “considerably younger than myself, and bringing their own interests and fresh perspectives to the show.” In effect, the program is a collective effort, the sum of many distinct contributions. Yet, as Gonick points out, perhaps the most important contribution involved in Alert! Radio is the one you are inspired to undertake after tuning in.

Catch Alert! Radio on Thursdays at 10 a.m. on 101.5 UMFM.