What happened to radio at Ryerson?

In Business & Technology18 Comments

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Comment by Jeff Lagerquist

Campus radio at Ryerson has been nothing but a dismal saga of mismanagement and incompetence, and it looks like that’s not about to change any time soon.

I feel like I have earned the right to be that blunt.

Community radio was a big part of my formative years as a young journalist, even before I applied to Ryerson’s journalism program nearly four years ago.

I was a news host at Erin Radio, a tiny FM station in Erin, Ont. that could barely broadcast out of its own shadow. The prospect of becoming a part of the once legendary CKLN FM, a place where CBC Metro Morning host Matt Galloway got his start on the air, put a spring into my step when I walked down Gould Street for the first time on a campus tour.

I remember meeting Ron Nelson on the second floor of the SCC in 2009. Nelson had been with the station since 1983 and served as chair of CKLN’s board of directors. He gave me a quick tour and handed me a volunteer application.

More disturbing than the lack of students in the office and studios were some of the questions on the application. One of the first asked if I had been a part of the previous board that had been voted out by CKLN members.

I had no idea that the station was rife with infighting and allegations of financial corruption. The strange application question referred to the ousting of program director Tony Barnes and then station manager Mike Phillips.

Toronto police were regularly summoned to membership meetings, and the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) withheld $100,000 in student levy funding. CKLN counter-sued for $500,000. The staff was laid off, and the locks were changed. With no programmers manning the boards, a loop of pre-recorded shows played from early March to October of 2009 in gross violation of Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) guidelines.

The station was empty and locked when I returned with a completed volunteer application. I was discouraged, but eventually I found solace inside The Eyeopener office just a few steps down the hall.

My first story for The Eyeopener’s news section was published next to a piece about my former employer, Erin Radio, applying for CKLN’s 88.1 FM frequency. I would come to read and write a number of stories documenting the downfall of radio at Ryerson in the pages of The Eyeopener.

In March 2011, CKLN hired Jacky Tunistra Harrison as the station manager after the position lay vacant for 18 months. Harrison was tasked with revitalizing the ailing station.

My friend and classmate Charles Vanegas, now sports editor at The Eyeopener, and I were encouraged by the prospect of new management and jumped at the opportunity to host a twice-weekly campus news program.

CKLN ceased broadcasting on the 88.1 FM frequency on April 15 at 6:45 p.m. Several attempts to appeal the CRTC decision failed under Harrison’s management. Long stretches of dead air were the norm as CKLN continued to stream on the Internet.

The station’s lease agreement with the Palin Foundation, which governs the SCC, was terminated.

Equipment and resources disappeared from the second floor of the SCC. Most of the station’s vinyl archive was sold to the public. None of the money reached the Ryerson students that contributed to CKLN for 28 years.

Today, Radio Ryerson, managed by Harrision, is looking to cling to

$10.35 from every student by applying for an AM broadcast license after failing to convince the CRTC that it deserves to be on the FM dial.

Realistically, how many students listene to AM radio when an abundance of digital content is available through every smartphone, tablet, and computer? Radio Ryerson is pursuing an antiquated medium for no other reason than to get your hard earned tuition dollars.

Ryerson is a school known for being on the cutting edge of journalism, broadcasting, and digital media.

We deserve better than this.


  1. Yes Jeff, the same RSU crony gatekeepers, who allowed you to broadcast in time slots no one else wanted, are running the “new” regime. And in the unlikely event they get that AM license, guess who will be back on air lickety-split? : The perennial management’s bosum buddy, and for-profit concert promoter, Ron Nelson plus a carefully picked group of old CKLN’ers filling in the bulk of the schedule. Most of them are biding their time at the place off-campus that became the beneficiary of a lot of that lost CKLN equipment you mention, a deal that Tuinstra Harrison herself arranged.

    Just a minor correction to your article. Erin Radio did not apply for CKLN license. The CRTC granted Erin the right to use 88.1 FM in a contained area OUTSIDE of the official technical and geographic boundaries of CKLN’s license. CKLN put a formal objection in and negotiated something in private with Erin. CKLN’s concern was probably on behalf of Ron Nelson in that CKLN alleged that Erin’s new 88.1 FM fringe signal might interfere with reception of CKLN in Brampton. This happened to be a location in which Nelson and other CKLN “volunteers” were doing a lot of club promotions. So, all the shenanigans were about money all along.
    You’ve only scratched the surface.

  2. Well, the eyeopener prints in outdated media- as well as being online, so its not so very different. Eyeopener also has a levy….. but people support independent media in this town, or they used to.

  3. This is the same question that I ask about papers like this one – where is my money going and for what? Does Jeff Lagerquist honestly think that this is quality journalism?! Does the Eyeopener?! I have zero (ZERO) CKLN affiliations and all I get from this is that it’s a badly written smear piece on people I don’t know by someone who clearly didn’t have it together enough to succeed at volunteering someplace. Boring and bad writing to boot.

    1. Your writing is so evocative that I can almost hear you stamping your little feet in outrage at Jeff’s comments. Good for you guy with “zero (ZERO) CKLN affiliations”. I’m so glad you emphasized that because otherwise I would have sworn your comment was just a lame attempt by an insider to unfairly demean and smear Jeff Lagerquist solely because he dared tell the truth about a situation that should be of concern to Ryerson students.

  4. I believe that this piece in the Eyeopener is a poorly argued opinion on the radio situation at Ryerson. This piece spends gratuitous time on the previous CKLN management which has no association with the current students and volunteers. In this tumultuous journey through the CKLN history there are only 5 paragraphs dedicated to the current situation. The discussion of the 10.35$ levy is poorly argued because in last years attempts with the FM application, over 80% of the student body agreed to pay that money in support of the emerging station. I’ve been to volunteer sessions and the new site will feature content on other platforms such as web streaming similar to that of Spiritlive as well as potential digital interactive content through smartphone technology and the likes.
    The final two paragraphs envoke deep negative sentiment with a poor argument to why the reader should agree with this piece.

    1. Amanda, the article states, and I will remind you too, that Jacky Tuinstra Harrison was both CKLN’s station manager (before she was a Ryerson student) and is now, as if by divine providence, the station manager of New Ryerson Radio. So there IS an association, and there are probably more that no one is allowed to know about.

  5. What bothered me most was when I heard the RSU bought some of the equipment from CKLN after the already off the air station had moved to Regent Park.

    So the RSU bought the equipment originally paid for by student levies with our continuing student levies for a radio station that hasn’t existed for 2 years! They continue to make us pay for a station that doesn’t exist.

    We paid for that equipment twice!

    Where has all our levy money gone and why is the RSU not acting in the interest of us students?

    There needs to be an independent forensic audit of the RSU the past 5 years and who has received all the money we as student have paid in levies and what was done with the millions they have collected.

    1. Hi Everybody,

      It is important to clear up a few things.If you need to follow up with me, use the email at the end of this post.

      Radio Ryerson DID NOT get a levy payment in 2012 or 2013. The vote for the 2011 funds was for the 2011 funds. We have a mixed revenue model that includes alternate funding. Any future radio projects at Ryerson will also require a mixed-revenue model to succeed.

      CKLN lost its License in January of 2011. They filed an appeal. I was hired in the first week of March 2011- AFTER the loss- to handle that appeal. Sadly, that appeal actually never happened as the court refused to hear it mere weeks after I arrived. The station closed down. My employment with CKLN lasted five months.

      I had actually been a Chang School student in 2008/2009 and returned in 2011.

      The RSU never bought a thing from CKLN. Ryerson very briefly held a transmitter/antennae that couldn’t be taken down without great cost. Thereafter CKLN’s old transmitter was actually purchased by another broadcaster.

      CKLN’s gear was taken to Regent Park or sold piece by piece in a public sale to a bunch of people. To be fair folks, that stuff was really, really old. The new online stream “The Scope at Ryerson” has really minimal equipment because we have been sharing with other departments, which has been GREAT. We have three computers & a mini mixer we JUST BOUGHT In 2013.

      The students retained a small number of Canadian CDs.

      You can check the appeal document on the public record and RSU audited statements are all accessible online or by request.

      If you are concerned or have questions I am on campus every day. I like to show people the process and planning it takes to make radio.

      Please get in touch for the facts: This is OUR chance for students to have a real over-the-air broadcast experience.

      Come volunteer with us: it is a lot more fun than this is, I promise.

      Jacky Tuinstra Harrison

  6. I’m shocked Lagerquist forgot to mention that when he has a morning show on CKLN he prompted a complaint to the CRTC because he thought quality programming consisted of swearing on air.

  7. Amanda, your comment that “…over 80% of the student body agreed to pay that money in support of the emerging station…” is flat wrong. Barely more than 10% of the student body even bothered to vote, and 20% of them didn’t want to pay for it.
    The only way that future inflation adjusted money can be taken from Ryerson students in perpetuity is if this new entity can be granted some kind of CRTC broadcasting license. I agree with Jeff- the whole enterprise is a cynical money grab. Do you guys really need $300K a year to do internet podcasts?

  8. Maybe “crikey” should be upfront about who he is and his role in the CKLN mess and about his attempts to stop Ryerson from getting a new station?

  9. “Crikey” sounds like a very bitter man who is so committed to his personal vendetta that he has to invent extremely stupid scenarios so that he can cling to his agenda. The idea that a reggae DJ who already has a gig on an 8,500 Watt commercial FM station would give that up to join a community AM radio station or that concert promoters are waiting in the wings – to join an AM station – is beyond moronic. It says a lot about “Crikey”‘s personal fixation and vindictiveness but not much else.

    1. Interesting how both Mark and Funkadelic spelled “crickey” as “Crikey”. What are the chances of that? There’s a very motivated person with multiple internet personality disorder commenting here, I suspect. Alright…now…deny.

      1. The chances are quite high since Funkadelic’s post comes before mine meaning it was the last thing I read before writing my comment. Nice attempt to sidestep the point I made which is that your theory about music promoters biding their time for the chance to get on AM is ridiculous and that you seem to be clinging to a personal vendetta and obsession. Thanks for conceding the point with your silence.

  10. “person with multiple internet personality disorder commenting here,”

    Well, welcome to the internet!

  11. If you want to know what happened to CKLN, just read the CRTC transcripts of the hearing and you will see how the RSU and the executive of the day killed it off. Thee was even the suggestion of ” payola ” .

    1. Not that I disagree with your second posting, but why would the RSU want to “kill off” CKLN if they were encouraging OCAP’s long term and historic influence over the station?

      Reading the transcripts, and CRTC official statements prior to the hearing, the RSU took bold and desperate steps to grab the station under cover of a crisis they themselves had fomented. They hoped a devastating shock and awe campaign to regain CKLN could be accomplished without the CRTC noticing or caring. They (and the collaborators they “trusted” at CKLN including OCAP execs) hopelessly miscalculated. CKLN officials assured interested parties that the CRTC would “just (conduct) a ‘show cause’ hearing” and simply issue a “wrist slapping”. Instead, it turned into a full-on revocation. I don’t know of ANYONE involved that really thought it would go THAT far, including RSU president Toby Whitfield who sat alongside the hapless CKLN representatives at the two day grilling.
      Undoubtedly the RSU supported and funded the subsequent bid for appeal that failed. After the station was finally without a license for sure the RSU was boxed into a corner and had to scuttle CKLN, only to immediately set up CKLN clone “New Ryerson Radio” funded by CKLN’s money, and re-hired CKLN’s station manager Tuinstra Harrison to run it. Status quo.

  12. Also if you want some insight into the CKLN fiasco. look at the connection between the RSU and OCAP ( the anarchist movement here in Toronto ) and specifically , Mark Brill from OCAP. Very revealing …..

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