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Rock radio undergoes format change to classic hits in Chilliwack

Classic hits will be the new format of a brand-new radio station for Chilliwack, 89.5 The Drive.
Feedback from Chilliwack listeners is the reason for the launch of new radio station

Chilliwack radio listeners said they wanted "more hits" and that's what they're going to to get.

Classic hits will be the new format of a brand-new radio station for Chilliwack, 89.5 The Drive.

The new station replaces rock station 89.5 The Hawk, in a bold format change driven by demographics, and an attempt to draw in more women listeners.

Rebranding was underway in flurry of activity Friday in the Chilliwack Business Centre headquarters by The Drive staff and Fabmar Communications, with a raft of new signage and marketing materials.

"We're trying to offer something that would appeal to an even mix of male and female listeners," said 89.5 The Drive station manager Kevin Gemmell.

They've been working on the change for months, but kept it a secret from almost everyone, until last week.

"What we've done for the past four years is still important," Gemmell said, referring to efforts to build and retain a loyal and local listening audience with 89.5 The Hawk.

They started out playing a mix of classic and new rock with The Hawk, but discovered that listeners wanted even more classic rock in the mix.

"The support was strong but what we found was that it really plateaued in terms of potential," said Gemmell.

Hundreds of phone surveys later, over the past five months, and they were told that no radio station was playing what the listeners really wanted.

In fact, one music style was being requested over all others.

"Listeners said they wanted to hear more of the hits, specifically, more classic hits," said Gemmell. "We listened to what they had to say and we have created a completely new and different radio station for Chilliwack."

The Drive's new PR materials feature images of classic hit-makers like Elton John and Madonna.

During the announcement on-air at 10 a.m. they said anyone who liked the Hawk until now will be happy to know many of those classic artists will also be found on the The Drive's new line-up.

Asked if the changeover was driven by the inevitable competition with the only other local radio station in town, Star 98.3 FM, Gemmell acknowledged the competition, but insisted the real goal was ensuring local listeners are tuning in to a local radio station, and not losing momentum to Vancouver stations.

"Local radio always needs to be the first choice for Chilliwack," he said.

The station that has been designed "by Chilliwack FOR Chilliwack" can be found online at

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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