Ontario Campus Radio Stations Push Back with Petition Against PC’s Student Choice Initiative
The Ontario Government’s recently announced Student Choice Initiative has campus radio stations and newspapers across the province scrambling at the idea of losing staff members and services. Under the new initiative, students will have the ability to opt-out of any fees considered non-essential by the PC Government. The University of Windsor’s campus-community station, CJAM FM, has received $5 per full-time undergraduate student per semester since students democratically approved the fee in 1983. The student funding represents between 60-70% of CJAM’s annual budget. “If campus media is deemed non-essential it will be the beginning of the end for campus newspapers and radio across the province,” explains CJAM Station Manager Brady Holek. “Along with the services we provide, students will no longer be able to gain experience and skills that lead to job opportunities in broadcasting, journalism, and the music industry.”
More than 15 campus radio stations, 150 staff members, and 3,500 volunteers across Ontario will be affected by these changes. “If we lose even a portion of our funding, we will lose jobs. Currently we have two full-time and one part-time employee. The opportunities we offer students will be put on hold as we try and maintain basic federal compliancy as a radio station,” says Holek. CJAM and stations across Ontario have released a petition today to deem campus radio an essential fee under the Student Choice Initiative. Copies of the petition can be found at CJAM FM, Green Bean Café, and Dr. Disc records. A printable version is also available on the CJAM website.
CJAM FM has connected with many campus programs and services over the past five years. “We work with students from departments including Nursing, STEM, Sports Management, Digital Journalism, and Communications Media and Film,” notes Program Director Carley Schweitzer. “We also work with campus and Ontario organizations like Pro Bono Students Canada, the Womxn’s Center, OPIRG, and The Lance to create dynamic, interesting programs. We strive to provide views from across the political spectrum and spend our time trying to promote information programming that features dialogue and discussion.”
Many broadcasters have had experiences at campus radio that have changed the course of their careers and lives. “I cut my teeth on student radio at CJAM at the University of Windsor. It was an enormous tool for my development as a broadcaster and a play-by-play announcer,” says voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Joe Bowen. “I really hope that in Windsor they will see their way clear to make sure that the student radio station CJAM is funded and kept going. It’s a great stepping stone for a lot of would-be broadcasters and a great tool to learn your craft.”
CJAMs 2018 Board of Directors President Brittany Webster found employment with Bell Media shortly after graduating last year. “I knew I wanted to work in news, but my anxiety over going live on air was making me question if it was really the career for me.,” she says. “Through one of my courses, we were given the assignment to host a half-hour live news segment with CJAM. I went on to host a weekly-half hour show the following summer. CJAM gave me the experience and the confidence to move across the country to work as a news reporter for Bell Media. CJAM gave me the references I needed for my resume, and the encouraging environment I needed to get my feet wet in live broadcasting. CJAM was everything I needed; I just wish I’d discovered it before I was more than halfway though university!”
The University of Windsor is also under financial pressure with the government announcing a 10% tuition rate reduction alongside the Student Choice Initiative.
Station Manager Holek notes, “If you give students the option to save money right as they are paying tuition, a lot of them will take it, especially first year students who may have never even been to the campus before. I realize students do not have a lot of money to begin with, but it places organizations like us in bi-annual uncertainty. It will cause massive cutbacks for campus media across Ontario, and many students will realize too late that they have lost opportunities not only on campus but after graduation.”
“This will also represent a major blow to the music industry across Ontario,” says Holek. “Campus radio stations have been breaking new and local artists for decades, and many independent record labels will have a much harder time getting their music heard. We add over 50 albums a week to our new music library.”
CJAM FM recently celebrated 35 years on the FM dial in November 2018.
People can fill out the Campus Radio Petition to show their support.