Photo: Andre Widjaja

There is still a shot at saving Toronto’s community radio station CKLN, which is in the midst of getting its broadcasting license taken away by the CRTC. Whether it’s a long shot or a sure one is unclear. But it’s there.

This was the once piece of hope that a packed room of people in Toronto’s Metro Hall on Wednesday, February 9th were hanging on to. Due to the public concern toward the uncertain future of urban radio in the city, a “town hall” meeting was put together on Wednesday night by the good folks at Manifesto.

It was a chance for people in the hip-hop community to voice their concerns, ideas and solutions regarding the current place of urban music on Canada’s airwaves, and to discuss what can be done to keep CKLN on the air.

Rappers, singers, producers, DJ’s, students and councillors alike showed up with a burning passion to save a piece of their music and their culture.

CKLN was a hot topic throughout the whole night. Most attendees at Metro Hall on John St. were in agreement that the station is a crucial entity in the community and that they would not let it go without a fight. The station is a currently waiting for a decision by the CRCTC that will determine their future, or lack of.

For city councillor Adam Vaughan, CKLN played a significant role in his career. Before he took on the political stage, Vaughan was a journalist who graduated from the Radio and Broadcast program at Ryerson University. His first job was at CKLN.

On Wednesday night, he stressed the importance of keeping the station alive.

“It’s not just the place where hip-hop music found its first place in the country. It’s not just the first place to broadcast African music. It’s not just the first place to broadcast Latin music,” he said. “It is also the place where a significant number of people who would’ve never had the opportunity to find an audience – found an audience.”

He also encouraged everyone to look for alternatives rather than just waiting for a response by the CRTC.

“This frequency is your voice,” he said. “If you surrender, you make yourself silent.”

CKLN’s chair of the board, Ron Nelson, urged the audience to write letters to the CRTC and to sign a petition to save the station. Recently, the CRTC imposed a policy to put a cap on people’s Internet usage. The outrage resulted in a petition signed by hundreds of thousands of angry users. The uproar has forced the CRTC to review the policy.

This seems to be what CKLN is hoping for.

Nelson was also pressed by audience members to release the names of the people responsible for getting the station in hot water. Although he released no names, he did admit that he failed to complete administrative logs for the CRTC – one of the violations the station is accused for.

As for the situation at Flow 93 which was shut down in the sale to CTV, it was suggested this shut-down was strictly a business move.

“We got laid off,” said Ty Harper, a former co-host of OTA Live. “It’s commercial radio. It happens all the time.”

Although programs such as OTA Live and Soca Therapy were the top shows in their time slots, they failed to attract advertisers. Therefore in the end, many of these specialty shows that played urban music were taken off the air.

“When people think about black music, there’s always this stigma,” Harper said. “Advertisers carry that mentality in terms of how they approach black radio. You have to change the mindset of the advertisers about their idea of what black music or what the audience represents,” he said.

Toronto emcee and producer Rich Kidd called this stigma, “black magic”.

When it came turn to talking about the future, members of the audience became deeply involved in the conversation. One by one, passionate people approached the microphone to voice their sadness, anger, optimism and ideas on how to move forward. Many people agreed that the stations needed to do more market research for advertisers.

“In the states, they do Popeye’s commercials, hair weave commercials,” said Rich Kidd. “They identify with the community they’re trying to advertise to.”

“What is the value of hip-hop talent in Canada?” one audience member asked.

She criticized Flow for never taking the opportunity to do the research. She said advertisers want to see the specifics. They want to know which brands the listeners used.

At the end of the night, the mood in the room was more at ease. There was a sense of unity and optimism for the future. No matter what happens to CKLN, the music and the culture will never be silenced.

Sign the petition at: https://www.ckln.fm/

Andre Widjaja for The Come Up Show.