By Kim Goldberg
September 2, 2013
NANAIMO, BC—There’s a storm a brewin’ at Nanaimo’s CHLY radio. And the latest salvo was fired this afternoon by the Changes Radio show—one of the station’s oldest and most venerated programs.
The programming team for the Changes Radio show, which has been heard on Tuesday mornings at 11:00 am for more than a decade, released this statement two hours ago:
Changes Radio Team Refusing to Broadcast from CHLY Studio
“The team that has produced the Changes Radio program on Nanaimo’s campus/community radio station CHLY (101.7 FM) for almost 12 years wishes to announce that we will not continue to broadcast our show from the CHLY studio as long as the atmosphere at the studio remains toxic and threatening. We are unwilling to subject our interview guests to the possibility that they may be escorted off the premises by the RCMP. We ourselves are unwilling to be subjected to the unpredictable behaviour of the current ‘management’ and Board.”
The announcement, sent by email to the CHLY board of directors and simultaneously posted to social media, follows on the heels of a spate of harassment complaints and altercations between management and programmers. The hostile environment has seen programmers and volunteers threatened, bullied, harassed, banned, removed by RCMP, and their shows pulled off the air in mid-broadcast. [UPDATE: On September 4, 2013, CHLY programmers issued a press release accusing staff of fiscal and legal mismanagement.]
One cannot help but think back to the tumultuous power struggles at Pacifica Radio in the 1990s, culminating with Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now being pulled off the air in 2001, and Goodman herself thrown out of the studio when she showed up for work one morning.
These actions at CHLY Radio, some of which have been captured on video by volunteers and supporters, have been initiated and executed by two members of the Radio Malaspina Society: Greg Boulter and Jesse Schroeder, who claim their job titles are Executive Director and Program Director, respectively. And the pair appears to have the support of the current Board of Directors of the Radio Malaspina Society.
However, many of the volunteer programmers at CHLY contest the legitimacy of the pair’s authority (as well as the board’s) and claim that no democratic process or valid hiring procedure was followed in bestowing these appointments.
The most aggressive behavior to date has been management’s continuing attempts to ban popular show host Dave O Rama and to keep his show The Lovecast off the air.
During last Saturday’s Lovecast, O Rama was harassed, threatened, and ultimately removed from the radio station by police while his show was still in progress—all at the behest of management.
The audio recording of the entire altercation and eviction can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/daveorama/police-throw-dave-o-rama-off
O Rama plans to return to the studio with supporters this Saturday, September 7, to air The Lovecast in its usual time slot of 4:00-7:00 pm. [UPDATE: O Rama and other programmers arrived at the station on Saturday, September 7, to discover their keys no longer open the door. Read about the lockout here.]
The reason for this antipathy towards O Rama and his Lovecast allegedly stems from an incident in early August when O Rama continued to air his scheduled show instead of replacing it with a live feed from a car show in Parksville.
after management was unable to get the car show feed to work properly. [Correction: It was the live feed from the Victoria Ska Fest the previous month that management was unable to transmit properly to O Rama’s Lovecast.] [Addition: O Rama says the real reason he has been targeted is because he advocated repeatedly on behalf of harassed programmers, and he challenged the station’s former Program Manager to act on the harassment complaints as well as concerns about the station’s administration and financial safeguards.]
But judging by the comments left on CHLY’s public facebook group, a growing number of CHLY programmers feel that the real problem began back in March when the station began leasing the historic Globe Hotel on Front Street with plans for vast expansion of the station’s activities.
(The station’s current broadcast studio, where the harassment and evictions have been occurring, is still operating from the basement of the Queen’s Hotel a few blocks away on Victoria Crescent where the station has been located for many years.)
Programmers commenting on CHLY’s public Facebook page are describing the current regime as “a power grab” and “state of seige” by “rogue entities”, “sociopaths”, and “provocateurs”. At the very least, it’s a case in which the endorphin-rush of expansion has outpaced respect for the principles of egalitarianism on which community/campus radio is founded.
The grandiose plans of expanding CHLY’s functions to include multi-media production, a performance space, live streaming of video, a bar, restaurant, meeting place, apartments… are all very laudable and visionary.
Such a facility could have been (and perhaps still can be) a model for grassroots community organizing and community media everywhere, the legacy of the Occupy Movement, seizing control of the means of production and distribution of the media and of culture itself.
But such a dream will never succeed if it is pursued through anti-democratic activities and tyrannical process. For the end does not justify the means. Rather, the means become the end.
Copyright © 2013, Kim Goldberg
Kim Goldberg has written extensively on media ownership and alternative media in Canada. She is a winner of the Goodwin’s Award for Excellence in Alternative Journalism and the author of six books including two on community-access cable television in Canada. Her reporting has appeared in Vancouver Sun, Georgia Straight, Macleans, This Magazine, The Progressive, and numerous other periodicals. She is a co-host of the hour-long Urban Poetry Café periodically heard on the Changes Radio show on CHLY Radio.