Monday, September 15, 2008

Letter of Support from Vancouver Co-op Radio CFRO

To the acting Board and Staff of CKLN,

Vancouver Co-operative Radio, CFRO, 102.7FM is one of Canada's oldest community radio stations. We were founded in 1974 as a volunteer-run, listener-supported radio station. With over 30 years of functioning in a co-operative model providing alternative perspectives and music to our listeners, we have provided Canada with a model for sustainability in our sector. We base our core values on shared governance and a responsibility to bring under-represented voices and stories to the airwaves.

We are writing to express our concern over the current situation at CKLN. We have reviewed on-line materials from the CKLN website and the "Take Back Our Radio Station" blog. We understand that several volunteers have been expelled from the station without any apparent process or reason. Specifically, volunteers were given a one-sentence letter stating that their services were no longer required and were kept out of the radio station through the use of hired security guards. We have also learned about the firing of staff member Kristin Schwartz shortly after her return from maternity leave. From the information we have been given, there was no just cause for this dismissal and no disciplinary process preceding the dismissal. We have tried to contact Mike Phillips in an effort to find out your views and rationale for the actions that have been taken. Unfortunately, we did not receive a response. As such, we write this letter with the information we have gathered. We feel it is our responsibility to contact you, as fellow community radio producers, to express our concerns and appeal to you to follow your own internal policies for fair process around programming and staffing decisions.

Co-op Radio and CKLN share a lot in common. We both share a long history of covering progressive politics and providing training and airtime to marginalized members of our communities. Like you, our programming is produced entirely by volunteers and we have policies and procedures to follow when dealing with programming concerns. These internally-created processes ensure that volunteers are treated fairly and that there is due process for any decisions being made. From the information we have gathered, there is no evidence that CKLN staff used due process in their decision to expel approximately 30 volunteers from programming. In fact, there is no information about the reasons for these dismissals. As a community radio station, we feel it is imperative to follow internal procedures and guidelines when making decisions.

Similarly, staff members must be given a fair process prior to any disciplinary action. The fact that a long-time staff member was fired without reason shortly after returning from a maternity leave leads us to believe that there is a lack of organization at CKLN and that decisions are being made for personal rather than professional reasons. These are unacceptable working conditions.

We have also learned that there was a Special General Meeting of the membership in which there were concerns raised about the current leadership. While we understand that there is some debate about the legality of this meeting, the spirit of this process clearly shows that a significant portion of your membership are not satisfied with the direction the station is currently heading. Regardless of whether or not the meeting was legal, it seems evident that a Board and Staff who value the input of their members are required to act in response to this meeting. Rather than focusing on the details of legality, it would be more productive for you to focus on the spirit of the concerns being raised and begin responding to them.

Without the support of volunteers, staff and the community, we cannot do what we do. Community radio cannot operate on the efforts of a handful of people. It takes the on-going hard work of volunteer programmers, board and committee members and staff to keep the station running in a sustainable way. We are concerned that your recent actions will ultimately result in the destruction of your radio station.

The community radio sector faces many challenges in our country. We want to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in our sector. We want to ensure that the voices, stories and sounds not heard in the mainstream media continue to have a place on our airwaves. As such, we intend to air re-broadcasts of some of your suspended programming while these programs await their return to live broadcast on CKLN.

We urge you to keep your promise of performance to your listeners. We appeal to your responsibility to the campus and community radio sector to keep under-represented and marginalized voices and perspectives alive. We urge you to reconsider your recent decisions around volunteer and staff dismissals. We appeal to your responsibility to your membership and listen to their requests. For the sake of community radio, we sincerely hope you are able to consider these requests seriously.

Our community will continue to follow the situation at CKLN in anticipation of a swift and just resolution.

The Board and Staff of Vancouver Co-operative Radio, CFRO, 102.7FM

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