By Angela Brown
Since the Mike Harris government cut $1.3-million in grants to CJRT back in 1996, the home of Ryerson’s Open College programming has had to make some major changes.
The latest victims of those changes was felt most deeply in September when CJRT laid off its freelance hosts and cancelled six of its programs: Absolutely Folk, The Blues Hour, Music Without Borders, Swing Shift, Sunday at the Opera and Records in Review.
“Were they paying their way? Were they covering their costs? No,” says Alex Baran, CJRT’s program director.
Before the Saturday morning programming cuts were made, a CJRT survey found strong listener support for jazz programming than for classical programming. Baran says support for specialty programming such as folk, blues and world music was even weaker.
In the station’s annual report for the year ending last March, CJRT’s audience ratings have increased by more than 30 per cent over last year’s, Baran said he didn’t believe listeners of the cancelled shows had much influence on those increases.
“It’s the smallness that’s the difficulty,” Baran said, “You can’t build and maintain and operate a radio station with tiny audiences.”
Baran said these programs were dropped strictly for financial reasons, not for a lack of listeners.
Baran also responded to charges made by The Toronto Star reporter Peter Goddard in a Sept. 30 article that alleged CJRT was influenced by a National Post survey that showed 40 per cent of the Post’s readers preferred classical and jazz music. And since the National Post was one of CJRT’s advertisers and was planning to feature the station in real-time audio on its Web site, it would be in CJRT’ best interest to switch to an all jazz/classical format.
“Absolutely not,” Baran said. “We’ve got our own research, there is no influence at all on the programming from the National Post, just as there is no influence on their editorial position and CJRT’s. That is absolutely fictitious.”