CHUO loses its campus radio funding at the University of Ottawa
After the University of Ottawa ends funding for their campus radio, CFMU weighs in on the importance of community radio for McMaster and community
CHUO had been on the air in Ottawa since their licensing in 1991, broadcasting before then over closed circuit on university campus and in the residence buildings. As Canada’s first independent bilingual station, CHUO hosts a variety of shows and provides many language and cultural communities with information and entertainment in Ottawa. However, with the recent referendum, the future of the station could be in jeopardy.
With a record high voter turnout of 7.7 percent, students were asked to vote on 10 referendum questions in addition to the University of Ottawa’s Students Union’s byelection. One of the questions posed to students: “Do you support stopping the $4.99/year inflation-adjusted levy collected on behalf of the external organization CHUO 89.1 FM?”
69.7 per cent of those who voted moved in favour of ending the levy, which will result in a loss of funding to the CHUO approximating $360,000-380,000 or about 80 per cent of their total operating budget. With this blow to the station, acting manager Grant Stein explained that while it remains to be seen if the station will close, if it remains in operation, it will be a different one than before.
In an open letter to the University of Ottawa's independent student news outlet, the Fulcrum, Stein expressed his concerns over the legality of the decision in accordance with the UOSU constitution. He claims that the bylaws were manipulated and have led to an unfair result.
Barry Rooke, the executive director for the National Campus and Community Radio Association, wrote in an op-ed that local radio in Canada is vital for connecting local communities as they are able to focus on more regional stories and the people behind them.
“The defunding of even one station is a blow to the rich tapestry of local content that binds our communities,” said Rooke.
The loss of the programs on these stations that encourage diversity and provide reliable news is a problem today more so after Meta's removal of local Canadian news content from their social media platforms.
At McMaster University, CFMU 93.3 has been broadcasting since 1978 and is Canada’s third oldest campus radio station. Priding themselves on providing independent broadcasting, they say that they are unafraid to cover risky subjects that need attention and are completely listener supported.
Jamie Tennant, who is the current programming director at the CFMU and has been with the station since 1999, said in an interview that the necessity of a campus radio station has been questioned to the CFMU before.
Tennant spoke on the troubles the CFMU has faced by those who do not see the purpose for a campus radio station.
“In every instance we have managed to show them the value. . .of what CFMU brings to the table in terms of programming, in terms of student opportunities. . .and we have made an effort and continue to do so that we are meeting students where they are, not just as an FM radio station,” said Tenant.
Despite this ability to showcase the value of the station, the CFMU has faced budget cuts in the past.
“Several years ago we took a cut to our fee and we accepted it, we were like, that's fair to students, we can try to reorganize and continue forward and we did,” said Tennant.
Tenant noted that the station has worked closely with the MSU and has their support through the help CFMU offers to other MSU clubs and organizations.
Tenant explained that unlike commercial stations, campus radio is unburdened by the necessity to earn money for corporate sponsors. The freedom to broadcast content that they want to air allows them to deliver a localized focus that can lack from a mainstream for-profit station.
“There is a certain thing that community radio — campus radio — can do that other platforms can’t,” said Tenant.
Adrienne Coddett, host of CHUO’s Black on Black, echoed this statement.
"This type of radio serves the needs of a very important niche community that unfortunately sometimes don't get seen or heard through mainstream radio," stated Coddett.
As staff at CHUO look to find an avenue to continue broadcasting, the upcoming UOSU elections in February 2024 present the possibility to reevaluate the decision made on Oct. 13. As any student at the University of Ottawa is able to propose a referendum question, the future of CHUO is up to those students who recognize and value its contribution to the community.