Radio & Sprott Shaw College: From Education to Airwaves

In the early 20th century, radio emerged as the internet of its time, connecting people and communities in unprecedented ways. One visionary who recognized its potential was the co-founder of Sprott Shaw College, Robert James Sprott— often regarded as British Columbia’s Bill Gates. Sprott seized the opportunity presented by radio and in 1922, he and Bruce Arundel established BC’s first radio station, CJCE. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the radio receiver became a focal point of everyday life, with receiving set numbers rising to 862,109 nationwide. This marked the beginning of a radio revolution that would bring news and music to the airwaves and make radio the most popular medium for entertainment and information in BC and Canada.

Vintage radio equipment at Sprott Shaw College.

The Legendary Broadcaster Duo

Jack Cullen and Ernie Rose, both graduates of Sprott Shaw College, were a dynamic duo that revolutionized the world of radio. Cullen had a passion for music and his charming persona made him a renowned figure in the industry. He was able to capture a legendary bootleg performance by Frank Sinatra, which later became a classic performance. To learn more about Cullen, check out the extended story of his career here. Cullen’s recent passing at the age of 80 marked the end of an era.

Rose, a technician at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, developed a gadget using war surplus radar components that helped BC enter the TV era in 1974. It was a noteworthy accomplishment for a young man that had first hoped to land a job as a radio operator aboard luxury cruise ships leaving the Port of Vancouver. Rose not only helped the broadcast company enter the world of TV, but he later began building his own TV station in Vancouver. Just as Cullen, he became a legend in the industry of radio and television.

A class studying radio technologies at Sprott Shaw College.

BC History: The C-FUN Ltd Radio Station

In 1922, CKMO was launched, but it was quickly sold by Vancouver College to Radio C-FUN Ltd. in 1955. Its motto, “Life happens; we talk about it,” was rooted by Sprott when he recognized the potential of this platform to attract people and invite them to engage in deeper conversations about life.

From rock in 1960, to easy-listening music in 1967, and all-news programming in 1969—CFUN had adapted to the tastes and needs of its listeners over decades. CFUN also reported on some of the most significant events of the 20th and 21st centuries, such as the storm of economic recessions, the trials of two World Wars, and the hardships of the Great Depression, all of which led to Sprott Shaw College’s dedication to providing valuable programs such as the retraining of military personnel post-World War II. This shows how CFUN’s legacy is not only in its music and news, but also in its contribution to Vancouver’s community and identity.

Over the years, CFUN remained resolute, overcoming changes in ownership and show formats. After all those years, CFUN remained relevant thanks to the teams’ dedication to continuing the legacy of RJ Sprott. When RJ Sprott died in 1943, his wife Anna Ethel Sprott, assumed the role of president and supported numerous causes, serving as a role model of active and accountable citizenship that would inspire generations of male and female leaders to come. There are many other stories of Sprott Shaw graduates from around British Columbia that established innovation in the history of cable TV and print journalism. We invite you to read more about these stories at CHQB and BC Radio History.

To learn more about Sprott Shaw’s BC history, please visit our page History | Sprott Shaw College

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Interested in taking a program at Sprott Shaw? 

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