As discussions continue between the AMS and CFRC, our panelists debate whether the AMS Board of Directors’ actions have been justified.
Mitch Piper, ArtSci ’11
Chair of AMS Board of Directors
On Feb. 9 the AMS Board of Directors passed a motion to table the proposed CFRC management structure changes. The changes would see the creation of a fourth manager position at the station. They’d also ensure students remain central to the management structure.
Concerns that the AMS Board doesn’t understand the complexity of national broadcast regulations or the unique services provided by CFRC are without merit.
The AMS Board of Directors, and particularly the media services director that sits on Board, are actively involved in CFRC decisions throughout the year. The Board exists to provide oversight for all AMS services at arm’s length in consultation with their management and directors where relevant. It’s also mandated to make changes that reflect not only the needs of a particular service, but the needs of all students.
The consideration of an additional manager position was originally requested by the current CFRC management. The tabling of this motion affords the Board the opportunity to investigate the complexities of the legal relationship between the AMS and CFRC in order to find the best legal and practical solution moving forward.
The AMS is unique among student governments and prides itself in its ability to run successful services under student management. From the Publishing and Copy Centre, to the Queen’s Pub to the AMS as a whole, students are solely responsible for the organization’s operations.
While the Board recognizes that CFRC has several distinctions, it’s similar in that it has a history of strong student managers who have performed exceptionally well when afforded the opportunity.
The current regulations set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which govern all radio broadcast licences across Canada, state that broadcast licences must be held by corporations separate from the student government. They also state that the board of directors of these corporations must be comprised of a balanced number of student, community and university administration representatives.
At Queen’s, this broadcast licence is held by a separate corporation named Radio Queen’s University. However, effective management control has been vested in the AMS since the University transferred CFRC operations to the student government in 2003. It’s under the provisions of this transfer agreement that the AMS has exercised authority in hiring managers, staff and volunteers at CFRC who are all subject to AMS policy.
The AMS is committed to ensuring that CFRC is in compliance with all CRTC regulations and relevant laws in time for the station’s licence renewal in 2014. The AMS Board understands that the status quo is not effectively meeting the needs of both the station and the AMS as a whole.
As the Board reviews the details of this relationship, it will move forward in a way that respects the CRTC’s regulations, CFRC’s management needs and the values of AMS constituents.
In fact, that’s why CFRC originally requested that an additional manager position be considered by the AMS Board.
Ultimately, the responsibility for overseeing the AMS’s relationship with CFRC falls within the purview of the AMS Board of Directors. Both CFRC and the AMS agree that the proposal put forward three weeks ago needs to be re-evaluated.
But both groups also recognize that the structure of the current relationship isn’t sustainable. We’re committed to finding a solution that is in the best interest of both corporations.
Mitch Piper is chair of the AMS Board of Directors.
Andy Lehrer, ArtSci ’00
AMS Board of Directors ’98 to ’00
Recent moves by the AMS Board of Directors could lead to the eventual loss of CFRC’s broadcast license.
The Kingston community radio station has been under scrutiny since an Oct. 25 letter from Board chair Mitch Piper to CFRC’s Advisory board. The letter informed the station that it may be forced to restructure its management.
Part of the proposed restructuring would require all CFRC managers to be full-time students, with positions limited to a single year. The station currently employs several part-time students and graduates for multiple years.
But while the AMS says it’s a change that would bring the CFRC’s management structure in line with other AMS services, it fails to acknowledge the specific challenges involved with running a radio station. It also fails to consider standards imposed by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the body that regulates broadcast services in Canada.
I’m aware of these challenges because I’ve faced them first hand at Ryerson University’s community radio station, CKLN. I joined CKLN after the station had been off the air for several months due to internal problems. Out of necessity, we attempted to manage the station on a part-time, volunteer basis.
The reality is that we were simply unable to keep up with CRTC requirements. With part-time staff, we couldn’t properly monitor everything that went on the air.
Last year, CKLN’s licence to broadcast in Canada was revoked.
I’m worried the same thing could happen to Kingston’s CFRC if it undergoes the management restructuring proposed by the AMS.
CFRC wasn’t always an AMS service. As a member of the AMS Board of Directors in spring 2000, I voted in favour of a motion to strike a committee that would look at transferring control of CFRC from the University to the AMS. This motion started the process that made CFRC an AMS service in 2003.
Now it’s time for the AMS to work with CFRC.
Managing a campus community radio station isn’t easy. The learning curve is simply too steep and the work involved is too extensive to be done either on a part-time basis or by staff hired for single-year terms.
The results of screwing up at CFRC wouldn’t be limited to one bad year. The consequence would be losing the radio station’s licence and thus denying future students the opportunities it affords.
At the very least, the general manager or equivalent at any radio station needs to be full-time and preferably permanent.
The AMS itself recognizes the need for continuity at some levels of management — that’s why the society has permanent positions such as the general manager and controller.
Consider the drawbacks for the AMS if you eliminated permanent staff and replaced them with part-time or even full-time hires, to be appointed annually.
CFRC isn’t exclusively a campus service. It’s granted a campus community licence from the CRTC, meaning that the greater community are also stakeholders and should be consulted.
While roughly 40 per cent of CFRC’s budget comes from student fees, approximately 60 per cent comes from non-AMS sources like donations and grants.
Rather than attempting to treat CFRC like any other service and impose on it the same management model that’s used for services like the Queen’s Pub or the Publishing and Copy Centre, I strongly urge the AMS to consult stakeholders. Involve them in identifying the needs of the station, examine the best practices at other campus-community radio stations and emulate the best management structures you find there.
Otherwise, they risk being remembered as the Board that set in motion CFRC’s demise.
Andy Lehrer was a member of the AMS Board of Directors from 1998 to 2000. He is chair of the Socialist Party of Ontario.
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