A different kind of station: Radio Southern Manitoba and the reformulation of Mennonite identity, 1957-1977

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Wiebe, Jeremy Robert
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In 1957 the Southern Manitoba Broadcasting Company launched radio station CFAM in Altona, Manitoba. The privately owned outlet emerged from the province’s Mennonite community at a moment when its people were negotiating the powerful forces of social, economic, and cultural change that were transforming North American rural life. This study describes the origins of what became known as Radio Southern Manitoba and its development into a regional cultural institution as it cultivated a broad audience over its first two decades on the air. The primary focus of this analysis is Radio Southern Manitoba’s role in the Mennonite community, and its influence in the cultural reformulation that transmuted Mennonite group identity in the latter half of the twentieth century. Through an examination of the activities and materials pertaining to the production of the radio broadcast, and a limited consideration of sources describing its consumption, this thesis explores how the broadcaster reflected and attempted to shape the culture and practices of its Mennonite audience segment. It finds that through an unconventional mix of farm programming, classical and semi-classical music, religious broadcasts, and community services, CFAM (and its later sister stations) encouraged a version of Mennonite identity deemed acceptable by members of this ethno-religious group as it shifted from being a relatively isolated people to subjects in a pluralistic, modern society.
history, radio, Mennonite, CFAM, southern Manitoba, identity, music, religion, ethnicity, community