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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