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License Revoked for Ryerson University Station CKLN

Canadian station CKLN has license revoked

While I’ve been fixated on the shutdown of college radio station KUSF in my own city of San Francisco, up in Toronto, Canada an equally serious situation is taking place at Ryerson University’s campus-community radio station CKLN. On January 28, 2011, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) revoked CKLN’s license and ordered the station to cease broadcasting by the end of day on February 12, 2011. According to a statement from the CRTC:

“The Commission began investigating CKLN-FM in July 2009 after receiving numerous complaints about the station’s governance structure, day-to-day management and operations, programming and ability to remain on air. At the time, the station experienced significant infighting and the volunteers, staff and management were locked out of the studio premises by the building manager. During the seven-month lockout, CKLN-FM broadcast an intermittent loop of programming without any ongoing community involvement or oversight by the licensee.

Once it resumed normal operations, CKLN Radio Inc. lacked any significant quality-control mechanism for its programming and there was little involvement from the Ryerson University student body despite its status as a campus radio station. It was also unable to meet some of the basic requirements of all licence holders, which include the submission of audible on-air tapes, program log and other records, and complete annual returns.”

A recent statement on the Ryerson University website even disavows its connection with the station, stating, “CKLN is an independent, community-based radio station that is directly licensed by the CRTC. It is not part of Ryerson University. Although CKLN is located in the Student Centre on campus and receives a majority of its funding from students in the form of a membership levy, it has been regulated by the CRTC since 1983 and manages its own affairs.”

Yet, CKLN still does have a connection to its home university, as the Broadcasting Decision in this case points out the specific role of campus and community radio stations in Canada, stating that:

“The [Broadcasting] Act declares that radio frequencies are public property. Moreover, community-based campus radio stations, as part of a distinct element of the broadcasting system, play a special role in serving their communities, including the students who provide the majority of their funding. Licensees therefore have the responsibility to broadcast in a manner that is consistent with the fundamental conditions of their licences and the Regulations.”

One commissioner, Louise Poirier, is against revoking CKLN’s license and officially presented a dissenting opinion, arguing that:

“…revoking CKLN-FM’s licence at this time creates a precedent that I cannot endorse. The regulatory measure that has been adopted is disproportionate to the fault. It would have been more transparent and more consistent with the Commission’s usual practices to issue a mandatory order accompanied by close monitoring of the licensee. This would have constituted fair treatment for CKLN-FM Toronto, which has served its community with credibility and passion since 1983 and which has always had its license renewed for full terms, thus leading to the conclusion that the Commission has never been significantly concerned with the licensee’s compliance with its regulatory obligations. At the hearing, the licensee clearly stated its firm intention to comply.

Hastily revoking a campus radio station licence in Toronto, Canada’s biggest market, will not send a positive signal to the campus radio community, which consists of organizations comprised mainly of volunteers, who unstintingly contribute time and energy to give their community a voice. This decision is consistent neither with the Commission’s usual practice nor with the spirit of Circular 444. In my opinion, based on the evidence before us, the decision to revoke the licence at this time is premature, disproportionate and inequitable.”

According to CKLN’s website, the station is managed by a small paid staff and their “…programming is produced almost entirely by a volunteer staff of over 200…[including] 50 [who] are current or former students of Ryerson University.” The station airs a mix of music and public affairs programs.

CKLN is fighting this decision and is asking supporters to send letters to the CRTC, sign an online petition, and attend a Town Hall meeting tomorrow night (Wednesday, February 9). A Facebook page also includes updates about the efforts. Even though CRTC admits to its own “chaotic history,” on their website they argue that “things have been on the mend” and that the revoking the license could mean the end to a campus-community radio station on their frequency. According to the online petition in support of saving CRTC,

“CKLN is the heart of our community. It has represented a multitude of communities throughout its history, communities that have been traditionally marginalized and ignored by the mainstream media. It is a major player in the distribution of alternative news and information, and has been the genesis of hundreds of careers from local artists to music lovers, comedians to dancers. CKLN is vital to our community, and without its presence on air we lose not only a rich history of our city, but future opportunities and culture – which ultimately enriches our city and nation, culturally and monetarily…”

Although the CRTC has stated its commitment to musical diversity and to community radio, it’s unclear if they will retreat from this strong statement against the ongoing troubles at CKLN.

On a semi-related note, back in December 2009 when we reported on the trend of universities selling off their student radio station licenses, we mentioned the financial woes and subsequent eviction of another campus-community station CKMS. After many ups and downs, it moved from its home campus of University of Waterloo (although is still affiliated with the school). CKMS (aka Sound FM) is now run as a programmers’ cooperative and is housed in Waterloo at Maxwell’s Music House.

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4 Responses to License Revoked for Ryerson University Station CKLN

  1. Paul Riismandel February 8, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    I don’t know how I missed the news of CKLN’s internal strife. It’s really a sad story of how these various factions allowed their actions to squander this once-valuable community resource.

    I don’t know any of the players, nor do I have a position on the current management, but I’m pretty surprised at the level of apparent incompetence demonstrated by the current board of directors with regard to the operation of the station (see For better or worse, the CRTC is more stringent and faster acting than the FCC. Were this a US station I doubt action would have been taken by the FCC. At the same time, I can see how it’s hard to justify the station is currently broadcasting in the public interest when it can’t even seem to air a regular schedule of programming, nevermind file its required paperwork correctly and on time.

    This is an extreme example of the circumstances we’ve seen all too often in the history of community radio, when factions and political infighting obscures the fundamental purpose of producing quality programming. I have seen far too many “activists” and “reformers” who are willing to take severe and destructive actions in order to correct some perceived transgression–often ideological in nature–made by a station or particular hosts. Yet, from what I’ve read, this almost seems like the reformers got what they wanted–the run of the station–but ended up also not having the ability to actually run it.

    Sad, sad, sad.

  2. DRM February 9, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    The Torontoist article is misleading and one-sided. CKLN does have a regular schedule. The problem is it did not for several months in 2009 due to the previous board melting down and fighting among itself until ultimately the landlord locked everyone out. That’s when regular programing disappeared.

    The station was essentially off the air until the fall after the election of a new Board of Directors but that Board was saddled by debts left by the old Board and then found itself bushwacked by an expensive lawsuit. These two factors deprived the Board of the funds needed to hire a station manager. The new Board made mistakes (such as the screwup with the written logs in early 2010) but most of the complaints the CRTC had were about the earlier crisis. Meanwhile, the former Board didn’t give up and made a barrage of complaints to the CRTC under their own names and under pseudonyms and one of them taped all of CKLN’s content looking for swearing so if there 2 or 3 incidents in a month where a hip hop song wasn’t bleeped there would be several complaints to the CRTC where at most stations, most college stations especially, such incidents would pass unnoticed.

  3. Shelley Robinson February 9, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Hey there,

    Thanks for getting this story out. I work for the National Campus and Community Radio Association (, which represents more than 80 c/c stations across Canada. CKLN are members.

    There certainly were problems at the station and at one point, after more than 25 years of serving their community and no problems with CRTC compliance, in-fighting and poor management led to the station being in non-compliance.

    But I can also tell you from working with the current board, that since they got elected in October of 2009 they *have* been working diligently to get things back on track, including: renegotiating agreements with the student union about their levy and with the landlord regarding their space, bringing back volunteers who had been dismissed during the troubles, recruiting new student volunteers, retraining 170 old and new volunteers about CRTC regulations and implementing new policies about profanity, getting back to a full and regular programming schedule, fundraising more than $50,000 from the community, reporting monthly to the CRTC and filing all their old and current returns, creating new program logs and getting new equipment to ensure the quality of their digital audio logs, holding regular (and open to the public) Board meetings, paying off all back debts and starting the process of hiring a station manager. And all this was done by volunteers!

    Commissioner Poirier also mentioned in her dissent that, as far as she can tell, this is the first time the CRTC has revoked a license without first using intermediary steps like mandatory orders, where the station must answer to a court if it remains non-compliant.

    It’s true that CKLN is not perfect — any station run by more than 150 volunteers with a mandate of presenting diverse music and voices will never be perfect. But they were well along the road back and this revocation doesn’t serve anyone.

  4. Xit February 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Claiming the Torontoist article is “one sided” is nonsense. The article simply quotes from the actual ruling which is pretty straight forward. Are we supposed to believe that your accounts are “fair and balanced”? Doesn’t read that way. The claim that there were no previous orders issued does not jibe with the actual “one sided” ruling which states that the CRTC did in fact issue orders in 2009 which were not followed. Were you under the impression those were helpful suggestions? And they even got a 6 month extension and still didn’t clean up their act. When the CRTC gives you orders just follow them, and they didn’t. What did they think was going to happen? It takes more than a few swear words to lose a license. There has to be some serious and consistent incompetence which is exactly what this looks like.

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