One year after its campus-radio station, CKLN, imploded, Ryerson goes before the CRTC to explain why the university deserves another chance on the air.
Twenty minutes before making the case for a new Ryerson radio station to a board of federal broadcasting regulators yesterday, the university’s president, Sheldon Levy, was shopping for motorcycles over the phone.
“I’ve got lots of them—but I need a new one,” he told me while we were standing outside the meeting room at the Allstream Centre, where the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission was halfway through its sixth day of hearings.
Most of yesterday’s hearing was dedicated to finding a new licensee for 88.1 FM, made available when Ryerson-funded CKLN was shut down in 2011 after in-fighting among staff and volunteers caused the station to fall out of compliance with its terms of license. Despite the fact 21 other groups are vying to be the new occupant of the frequency, Radio Ryerson’s applicant team were all smiles, high fives, and dreaming of motorcycles before their presentation got underway.
“We’re feeling that we have a very good case, so we have a sense of confidence,” Levy said. “But not overly confident.”
Part of that confidence stems from Radio Ryerson’s belief that Toronto’s airwaves don’t need what the other applicants are offering, like a blues station supported by Dan Aykroyd or an all-business talk station. What Toronto needs, Siobhan Ozege asserted, is more community radio.
“We are one of the most underserved markets in the country for campus community radio stations. Montreal has three, Vancouver has three, Ottawa has three,” says Ozege, a Ryerson graduate student focused on broadcasting policy and one of the speakers at Monday’s hearing.
Unlike private or public broadcasters, campus and community stations are mandated to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve by being largely volunteer-run and appealing to non-commercial interests like local news and more adventurous music programming than private broadcasters.
“Look at the diversity of voices in the city—who is really representing community interests in Toronto? It’s just CIUT,” adds Ozege.
Legal counsel for Radio Ryerson came pro-bono through Grant Buchanan, a partner at law firm McCarthy Tetrault. He told the commissioners his prestigious law firm got involved because they believed Ryerson was “deserving of another try.”
In a two-hour session, the CRTC commissioners mainly interrogated Radio Ryerson’s proposed new governance structure—which ensures more participation from students and university administration, something CKLN lacked.
“The university was essentially locked out, and not able to intervene and stop [the station] from imploding on itself,” Ozege explained to me before the presentation.
The fate of 88.1 FM may not be known for several months, but if they win, Radio Ryerson will be ready. They already have a transmitter on top of First Canadian Place, a fully equipped broadcasting studio, and guaranteed funding from student levies. All they need now is another try.