CKLN’s website, as of this evening.
Ryerson-based (but not Ryerson-run) campus-community radio station CKLN, 88.1 FM, has been granted a stay on the CRTC’s recent decision to revoke its broadcasting license, meaning the station will remain on the air until a federal judge can determine whether or not CKLN has grounds to appeal the CRTC’s ruling. CKLN staff expect that the stay will enable them to continue operating until at least April.
Under the federal Broadcasting Act, a CRTC decision can only be appealed with the permission of the Federal Court of Appeal. CKLN has not yet been given that permission, but the stay will keep them up and running until the court decides whether to grant it or not.
“We are thrilled and relieved by the decision which means that the diverse voices that make up our community radio station will continue to be heard for now,” said CKLN board vice-chair Andrew Lehrer, in a statement.
The CRTC’s decision to revoke CKLN’s license came after years of alleged non-compliance with CRTC regulations by the station. CKLN failed to file its annual financial returns on time, and then filed them incorrectly. The station also failed to provide logs and tapes of its programming when requested. These are both fundamental conditions of keeping a broadcasting license in Canada.
“Pretty well, in this day and age, there’s no excuse not to be able to deliver,” said Ken Stowar, station manager at CIUT, the University of Toronto’s campus-community radio station. CIUT has had compliance issues in the past, but now uses a computerized logging system with four layers of redundancy.
Lauren Speers, a longtime volunteer at CKLN, known to listeners as D.J. Chocolate, and also a law student at Osgoode Hall, is chairing the station’s legal defense committee. She points out that the lapses identified by the CRTC were committed by prior generations of administrators at the station.
“Our loggers had not been proper for years,” she said. “But the problem is that nobody knew, because [the CRTC] didn’t ask us for anything.”
“Unfortunately there’s no such thing as guilty with an explanation for regulatory offenses.” CKLN has recently installed new logging equipment.
The station receives the majority of its funding from a levy collected from students by Ryerson University, and then disbursed to CKLN by the Ryerson Students’ Union. (This year’s levy will be $10.09 per student.)
RSU president Toby Whitfield, who holds a seat on the CKLN board, said any discussion of changes to the station’s funding model would have to include university administrators. “I think we’re definitely waiting to see how things play out,” he said.
“One thing that we have definitely said in the past is that there’s a need to engage more students at the radio station.” Low student involvement has been an issue at the station, and was a factor in the CRTC’s ruling. Whitfield thinks the current board has shown a willingness to be more inclusive.
During the time it was failing to comply with the CRTC’s requirements, the station was wrapped up in a bitter internal feud—the specifics of which are too convoluted to recount here in detail. The broad strokes of the infighting survive in the archives of the Ryerson’s independent student newspaper, the Eyeopener.
In February 2008, according to a September 2008 article in the Eyeopener, the station’s membership voted to impeach most of its board, fire CKLN’s interim station manager, Mike Phillips, and also dismiss its program director, Tony Barnes. Neither Phillips nor Barnes nor the impeached board members recognized the vote as legitimate. Phillips and Barnes kept their jobs, and hired a lawyer.
In May 2008, Phillips abruptly fired more than twenty-five volunteers. At the end of July, some of the station’s membership elected a new board, but the old board hadn’t yet relinquished its power. As a result, CKLN had two competing boards of directors. At some point during all of this, the Ryerson Students’ Union began withholding the student levy until it could be sure it was dealing with a legitimate board.
From March until October 2009, the station’s studios in Ryerson’s Student Campus Centre were locked by the Palin Foundation, which manages that building. Staff and volunteers didn’t have access to the station during this time, and an audio loop of a jazz show was played in lieu of live programming.
The station has been involved in several court cases over the past few years. One, brought by members of one of its deposed boards, is still in process at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Current CKLN board members have said that the legal fees resulting from this court battle have made it difficult for them to hire full-time professional management staff. At the moment, the station is run by its board, none of whom are paid for their work.
In the CRTC hearing on December 8 that led to the revocation, members of the CKLN board blamed the station’s regulatory lapses on their predecessors, but owned up to the station’s checkered past.
“We are not using the fact that we were not the board that sat at the time those things happened,” CKLN board chair Ron Nelson is quoted as saying in the transcript from that meeting. “We are here to take responsibility, and we will live with whatever decision the Commission makes.”