Monday, September 7, 2009

CKLN gets new lease on life: Summer board elections end power struggle over Ryerson radio

by Hilary Barlow

After a year and a half of infighting between the rival boards of Ryerson’s CKLN radio station, a resolution is finally on the horizon. Staff and community members of the station elected a new board of directors on July 24. Last Friday, board members received via email a lease agreement cementing the board’s authority from the Ryerson Students’ Union and the Palin Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation that runs the Ryerson Student Centre.

“Our aim is to be on the air, by the very latest, next month,” said Ron Nelson, former host of Friday Night Reggaemania on CKLN and now a board member representing volunteer staff.

Nelson expects to sign the lease agreement, which he called solid and professional, today.

“I think there will end up being a restoration of many of the shows, but there is a process we will go through to re-interview all volunteers,” he said.

Control of CKLN has been a matter of dispute since December 2007, when program director Tim May suddenly resigned from his post. Board member Tony Barnes was appointed as a replacement, in what some saw as a violation of bylaws since the position was not advertised.

At an emergency meeting in February 2008, staff and community members voted to impeach the board, which the board did not acknowledge. When over 30 volunteer workers of the station were dismissed without warning soon after, they promptly staged protests outside the station and launched an online opposition campaign.

Added to the leadership debate is a history of funding issues. The Ryerson Students’ Union bailed out CKLN on $100,000 of unpaid taxes in 2003, and the radio station sued the union and the university for withheld levy money in February this year.

Then-president of RSU Muhammad Ali Jabbar said that the union couldn’t resume funding the station until the leadership issue was sorted out, since the union was unsure of whom to pay. Representatives of RSU and the Palin Foundation expressed their confidence that the leadership conundrum has finally been settled, and said the rest is up to CKLN and its new board.

“Going forward, it is our hope that the issues around governance have been resolved by the members of CKLN, and that CKLN will continue to play a vital role in both the Ryerson Student Centre and the community at large,” said Chris McNeil, chair of the Ryerson Student Centre.

Joeita Gupta, one of the volunteer staff who was booted last February, said she looks forward to the re-establishment of the station, which she sees as an important counter to mainstream media in Toronto.

“There are a lot of people rooting for the station and we’ve made quite a bit of progress,” said Gupta, a U of T student who sits on Governing Council and is a vice-president of the Association of Part-time Students. Gupta was in attendance at the July 24 election and cited the 150-plus turnout as evidence that CKLN still has supporters and listeners in the community.

“Even after a year of infighting, even after a year of division […] there are people out there who care about the station, people who want to see it back on the air,” she said.

This article was published on Sep 7, 2009 in the News section. © 2009 The Varsity.

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