Commercial Radio Blood Money Sacrificially Spilt on Community Broadcasters

The Community Radio Fund of Canada distributed a million dollars in grants to community radio broadcasters across the country early this November in their latest funding endeavour, Radiometres. Your local community radio broadcast facility, Trent Radio (CFFF 92.7 FM), received a grant of $20 000 that will go toward their “Local Content Project.” Other Radiometres projects of interest include CFRC Kingston’s “Independent Music Archiving Project,” CFUV Victoria’s new “Community News & Affairs Director,” CFRU Guelph’s “Eduradio,” CHMA Sackville’s “The Word Project,” CiTR Vancouver’s “Programming Quality Initiative,” and CHRW Western’s web revitalization project. Many of these grants represent fun new projects and positions, while others represent more modest goals of sustainability and stability.

What is this radio fund?

The Community Radio Fund of Canada was founded in November of 2007 as a not-for-profit grant-funding organization for campus and community radio stations. It was made up from the three largest campus and community radio organizations: the National Campus Community Radio Association, Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada (ARC du Canada) and the Association des radiodiffuseurs communautaires du Québec (ARCQ). While the organizational structure and the composition of the board of directors has changed since the CRFC’s early days, representatives from the NCCRA, ARC, and ARCQ still maintain seats on the CRFC’s board.

The CRTC provides the CRFC with funding from Canadian Content Development contributions. This means that when large media conglomerates want to merge, take over, or buy out smaller media interests, they have to pay into the CRFC. Some donations from commercial contributors are voluntary, including $400 000 (of a total of $840 000 paid) donated by Cogeco upon the transfer of ownership of several Quebecois radio stations from Corus to Cogeco in 2010. Astral Media Radio is by far the largest contributor, with $1 766 695 in contributions to date. The CRFC’s first two funding programs were initialized in 2007 when Astral acquired Standard Radio Inc., contributing $1 400 000 to the fund.

What is Radiometres?

“With Radiometres comes the idea of measurement. Beyond simply funding activities, the CRFC encourages broadcasters to evaluate their current needs, determine specific long-term goals, and more importantly, put in place tools to measure their progress,” says CRFC President John Harris Stevenson. Stevenson also emphasizes the importance of community self representation when it comes to supporting community radio projects.

What is Trent Radio doing?

Trent Radio has received grant money from the CRFC before, taking advantage of their Youth Internship Program to hire a Summer Event Intern Correspondent for the past two summers. Now Trent Radio has taken advantage of Radiometres to implement their “Local Content Project” (LCP). According to Trent Radio’s grant application, the LCP will seek to “establish and activate regularised and improved methods to better gather, promote and promulgate music and spoken word materials supporting local artists and the aural arts across the community.” This means that Trent Radio will hire a Local Content Project Manager to ensure the music archives are up-to-date and locally focused. The LCPM will start in January of 2013.

The Local Music Project Manager will be responsible for reconciling the current local music archive Radio Free Peterborough with Trent Radio’s Local Audio Collection and Spoken Word Archive, gathering local artists’ works for inclusion in the newly organised archive, running a weekly radio programme featuring interviews and performances by local artists, creating an accessible system for programmers to access the local music archive, and finally, publishing a “Local Music Archives Guidebook.”

What is CFRC doing?

Kingston’s CFRC out of Queens has a similar project called the “Independent Music Archiving Project.” This project seeks to “support the recording, distribution, cataloguing, and archiving of local music artists,” according to their grant project description. This grant is a much needed boost for the struggling public broadcaster.

The business manager of CFRC was recently fired by Queens’ student union, The Alma Mater Society. The 90-year-old station (the oldest community station in the world) had its governance taken over by the AMS in 2003. With this change, the AMS gained the final say in the station’s governance. This left Radio-Queens University (the broadcast licence holder) and CFRC with an “Advisory Board” that was limited to making non-binding recommendations. In 2010 the CRTC changed the terms of licence for campus/community radio stations to ensure that licence holders operate as an independent body. As a result, the AMS and RQU are transitioning back to RQU governance before CFRC has to renew its licence in 2014.

Since coming under the control of the AMS, “CFRC has run yearly deficits of between $15,000 and $20,000.” This year, the AMS asked CFRC to redraft their budget in order to reduce the $18 917 deficit. When CFRC was unable to do so, the AMS took matters into their own hands and replaced their business manager with a 15 hour per week volunteer position based on a 40% commission for advertisements acquired. 60% of CFRC’s budget is spent on salaries, so the elimination of one position does make a difference.

The decision has been widely criticized in Kingston for being ethically and financially unsound. Ethically, because the AMS did not consult with the RQU or CFRC when redrafting and passing their budget. Financially, because several thousand dollars of ad revenue are already expected to be lost, according to the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (CFS local 27), who weighed in on the issue. CFRC estimates the lost revenue to be $7000 and said in a public statement on their blog that: “The AMS budget increases projected ad revenues by $3000 while terminating the full-time employee responsible for generating advertising.” The Queens Journal has been reporting on this since October and is heavily critical of the AMS decision, saying in one article, “[h]ad they [the AMS] been more transparent about the process, potential long-term repercussions for the business relations of the station could have been minimized.” Local paper The Kingstonist reported: “eliminating the radio station’s only revenue-generating staff position during a financial crunch must top the list of mind-boggling CFRC stories.”

In the face of a massive deficit and an over-bearing student union, CRFC is still able to, in the words of an old radio slogan, ‘Fuck it, Forget it, and Forge ahead.’ CFRC is planning to raise the student fee it receives from $5.08 to $7.50, despite resistance from the Ontario Progressive Campus Conservative Association, a student group that helps students de-fund student groups. CFRC hosted a meeting in October to inform and consult with their membership about the direction of CFRC’s development. Although technical training has ceased due to the remaining staff members’ increased workload, the staff continue to facilitate programming. And with the “Independent Music Archiving Project,” CFRC is indeed forging ahead.

What are they doing at CFUV?

CFUV staff are no strangers to Canadian Radio Fund of Canada grants. Before receiving a Radiometres grant for the “Community News & Affairs Director,” the CFUV Women’s Radio Collective received a grant through the Youth Internship Program to create a Women’s Radio Collective Coordinator:

“The Women’s Collective Coordinator’s job is to assist in the recruitment, training, and empowerment of female volunteers. They organize monthly meetings within the Women’s Collective, and produce the weekly hour-long public affairs program Women on Air.”

There is a well used newsroom in the CFUV studios, located in the basement of the Student Union Building at the University of Victoria. With the newly created position, CFUV will be able to train and recruit radio reporters, as well as report even more local Victoria news and events. The Community News and Affairs Director will also hold workshops in news reporting and audio recording for third-language speakers in Victoria.

What are they doing at CFRU?

Radio home of Vish Khanna (CBC Radio 3) and radio artist Mannlicher Carcano, CFRU out of Guelph is pioneering a series called “Eduradio.” With the $20 000 Radiometres grant, CFRU is going to hire a Production Assistant that will aid students in making for-credit educational radio broadcasts. The Production Assistant will also help other campus media groups turn various media projects into radio. The final phase of “Eduradio” is a radio daycamp that will facilitate workshops on media literacy and alternative media for youths in high school and University.

CFRU currently has a Spoken Word Programming Assistant (a position funded by CRFC’s Radio Talent Development Project), who encourages and facilitates news and other spoken word programming. CHMA in Sackville, NS has received a Radiometres grant for a similar purpose: to hire two program coordinators in order to facilitate and encourage more local spoken word content at the station.

What is CiTR doing?

Nardwuar The Human Serviette’s radio home will be creating two positions and developing a new digital archiving system. The new employees will train programmers on a computerized tracking system that will allow the station to be compliant with CRTC tracking requirements. CiTR also wants to increase spoken word programming.

And CHRW out of Western?

Western’s campus/community radio broadcaster wants to revitalize their web presence. In their Radiometres project “Radio Western Website Program Director & Assistant Website Program Director,” the radio station wants to develop a web and social media strategy to broaden their audience. In short, they want to revamp their new website and make it interesting and accessible, but in doing so they are making a statement about the future of community based media the meaning of broadcasting in the age of social media. The use of web-based content is relatively new to many stations, and it will be interesting to see what Radio Western does with it.

And the others?

Most of the Radiometres projects seem to represent great new opportunities for well-established community stations, but some of the money is going to much needed infrastructural reinforcement. Projects like CFYT in Dawson City’s “Year-round Station Manager” are mere building blocks in a longer process of stability. Other foundational projects include CFRT in Iqualuit’s “Renaissance de CFRT 107.3 FM Nunavut” where the grant will fund efforts to recruit, train, and retain volunteers and to bolster Francophone content. This focus on volunteer training and retention is also being done by Vancouver’s radio co-op CFRO as a part of their project “People Power: Reinvigorating Volunteerism at Co-op Radio.” CHYZ in Quebec City and CICK in Smithers, BC are also using their grant money to facilitate volunteerism.

The main themes of other projects include the promotion and development of French language programming, third language programming and spoken word programming, revitalization of community news, archiving of local music, development of web strategies, improvement of volunteers’ experiences, skills development, and general content production.

From the corporate mergers that concentrate media ownership is coming a beautiful revitalization of grassroots, community media development.

About Anthony P. Gulston 36 Articles
Redheaded radio writer that specializes in events coverage, underwater journalism and media news. Listen to his reggae radio program, the Anth co dub-Station on Trent Radio, read his blog, read his work in Absynthe or follow him on Twitter.