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.