Save another voice

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By Kenny Yum 

RyeSAC’s recent decision to vote down CKLN’s referendum proposal was a sad display of misguided public interest.

Last Tuesday, at a RyeSAC board meeting, an Eyeopener editor and Conrad Collaco, CKLN’s station manager, were asked to leave while the board — your student representatives — privately debated.  They voted in-camera to keep CKLN from asking you for more funding.  The levy increase would help CKLN pull itself out of debt.

Let’s make one thing clear from the top.  I don’t listen to CKLN regularly.  I have listened to in on occasion, but I am not an ardent supporter.

But I support their drive because their plight hits home.

This past summer, the Ontario Arts Council decided to cut funding from magazines that didn’t meet their standards of what art is.

Included in the list of publications that were to be dropped from the funding list was This Magazine, one of the few Canadian magazines that I buy.

This Magazine is one of my favourites because it steers away from mainstream ideas and, as a result from its grant and subscriber support, it does not subject itself to the pressures of corporate advertising.

It is decidedly left wing and anti-corporate, two stances that are lacking in magazines that are profit-driven.

The number of organizations that depend on grant or government support has dwindled in recent recession years — not because they have gained independence, rather, because funding has been pulled.

And as the phrases “deficit reduction” and “fiscal responsibility” made their way into our daily vocabulary, arts and culture became the first victims to government’s version of downsizing.  The reasoning was that if arts and the like did not serve a tangible purpose or provide a direct benefit, then money diverted to these areas was money wasted.

This Magazine, whose tag line is “Because everything is political,” didn’t seem to fit into the Arts Council’s mandate.  It also didn’t seem to fit into its agenda, as the magazine is a known critic of the provincial Tories and a supporter of organized labour.  The Council is chaired by Hal Jackman, an old Tory hand.

At the recent RyeSAC board meeting, the members questioned CKLN’s Collaco on whether o not the station really serves Ryerson students.  Members of the board sought to find the obvious — tangible, if you will — benefit the radio station has to our campus.  Your representatives didn’t think it was allowable for you to decide if you wanted to increase your student levy to the station.

They made the mistake of believing that saving you a few bucks would make them responsible governors.  They made the mistake of measuring CKLN’s worthy by the amount of Ryerson programming in their airtime.  They made the mistake of believing that withholding a referendum would not hurt a radio station that is an independent and alternative voice, and important to a media world that is hardly lacking in corporate uniformity.

With a few raised hands they derailed a public democratic process.  First, by conducting their debate in private.  And second, by not letting you, the students, decide if you want to support CKLN.

The station knows its shortfalls.  In its five-year plan, it says it will conduct more outreach and team up with campus groups, including RyeSAC, to be more accessible to students.  That is admirable.

This Magazine’s latest issue reported that the Ontario Arts Council jury ruled in the magazine’s favour, that full funding would be granted on new criteria that include literary journalism, essay and arts writing.  “The decision is a triumph of the peer jury system over inconsistent, autocratic board decrees,” the magazine wrote.

It is time that RyeSAC and CKLN sit down and hammer out a partnership:  one that would give CKLN the artistic editorial independence while giving the students more of a perceived voice.

Then it’s time for the students — not a bunch of civic-minded board members — to decide.

It know common sense will prevail.  Because common sense would show that organizations such as CKLN and This Magazine are vital to public discourse.  And a $6 fee increase is a small price to pay for that.

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