CKNW, owned by William Rea Jr., received a license to operate at 250 watts on 1230 kHz on April 1, 1944. The transmitter was to be placed on Richmond’s Lulu Island. Daily broadcasts, originally from New Westminster’s Hotel Windsor, commenced on August 15, 1944. The station was unique in that it ran hourly news broadcasts between 6 am and midnight, and twenty-four hour broadcasting commenced in 1947.
In 1945, the provincial government certified Local 23757 of the Radio Station Employees Union as the sole bargaining agent between management and employees of CKNW, as well as of several other stations.
1948 brought several changes to the station. CKNW received permission to operate an FM station in Vancouver and was approved to operate at 1000 watts of power and move to 1320 kHz. During severe flooding, CKNW stayed on air throughout the disaster by raising its transmitter eight feet off the ground. This was not the station’s only encounter with natural disasters, and in 1962 it claimed to be the only station north of California to remain on-air overnight during Typhoon Frieda.
In 1950, CKNW opened a Vancouver studio at the Alexandra Ballroom, and on the same night, the main studios were officially opened in New Westminster. Three years later, CKNW branded itself as the top station in both Vancouver and New Westminster.
In 1954, the station was forced to relocate to the “Danceland” Dance Hall on Alexandra Street in Vancouver after fire destroyed much of the studio and equipment, although the station returned to the air an hour later.
The station was sold in 1956 to Frank Griffiths and the Ballard family, and two years later moved to 980 AM, at which time CKNW boasted 301,188 daily listeners.
In 1967, the station moved studios from 227 Columbia Street to 8th Avenue and McBride Boulevard, but in 1969 moved again to a former grocery store building on McBride. A further move took place in 1996 to Vancouver’s Pacific Centre on Georgia Street.
In 2007, the station was disciplined by the CRTC for rebroadcasting a feed from sister station CINW Montreal that revealed the location of students hiding from the Dawson College gunman. It was ruled that the attacker may have had accomplices elsewhere in the country.