I have something a little bit unusual to share this week – instead of a music pick, I am putting forth what some may call A Rant. Nicole’s post about the situation at CKLN has got me thinking about community radio. It’s still not totally clear to me exactly what’s going on at the Ryerson station, but what is obvious not just there but everywhere is that the relevance of community radio is being questioned, mostly by students at universities, who are the ones who most often provide crucial funding to these stations.
Here’s how it works: Universities give campus/community radio stations a big chunk of the money they need to operate, and some (or all) of that money is gathered by charging students a fee – usually around $4 a semester – which in exchange gives the students membership privileges at the station, meaning they can use its resources and become volunteer hosts and programmers. Some universities have been giving students the option to opt out of these fees, and it seems like many students are keen to save a few bucks by withholding money from a service which they feel isn’t relevant, useful, or interesting. In a world where you can carry around 80,000 songs in your back pocket, get newsfeeds from the most reliable (or most obscure) sources around the world, and read highly entertaining, informative blogs, why would you bother tuning into a bunch of amateurs who are just learning when to press the On Air button, or even more so, why would you want to become one of them?
Okay, I too have been a broke student. I’ve re-used teabags, felt overjoyed at finding a nice pen on the sidewalk, gotten friends to cut my hair, and worn sweaters until they were more hole than clothing. I know saving bucks is important, and no one wants to feel like they’re throwing them down the (radio) tubes. I’ve also been a volunteer at a community radio station for close to ten years now, and I think I come from a pretty good position to talk about why community radio is worth supporting. So without further ado, here are my REASONS WHY COMMUNITY RADIO IS WORTH ONE LESS LATTE A SEMESTER.
1) Community radio creates a space for community and media engagement, not a product to be sold.