Radio station's management under scrutiny

AMS Board of Directors tabled a motion to change CFRC’s management structure.
AMS Board of Directors tabled a motion to change CFRC’s management structure.
Photo: 

A motion passed at AMS Board of Directors last night postponed discussions on the management restructuring of Queen’s radio station CFRC.

CFRC Operations Officer Kristiana Clemens said proposed restructuring would result in a deterioration of programming content and loss of revenue for the station.

“We are not going to be able to recruit and train new volunteers, and we are not going to be able to have grants to fund as many special projects,” she said. “Those opportunities will decline because … at the management level [we won’t have] as experienced and qualified staff to carry out those tasks effectively.”

Currently CFRC has three equal managerial positions that are available to full-time or part-time students and can be held for multiple years. If management is restructured, these three positions will become available only to full-time students for a one-year term.

There would be a newly-created head manager position which would assume the responsibilities of the business manager, while overseeing and assisting the three new assistant management positions for spoken word programming, music programming and music resources.

Currently, 60 per cent of CFRC revenue comes from non-AMS sources, like grants while 40 per cent come from student fees, including a $4.93 mandatory AMS fee.

The AMS provides CFRC with an additional 10 per cent in the form of deficit coverage.

CFRC is budgeted to run a $10,000 deficit this year. Clemens said this could double in future years if the current management system is restructured.

She said this will also mean workloads will shift and grants won’t be written as efficiently.

The spoken word programming manager is currently the only management position occupied by a full-time Queen’s student. Former students occupy the other two positions.

The possibility of management restructuring was brought to the front of the AMS Board of Directors’ after CFRC proposed an AMS review of their management structure in order to create a fourth management position.

In a letter dated Oct. 25 of last year, Board of Directors Chair Mitch Piper informed the CFRC Advisory Board of the first mention of a potential restructuring process for the radio station.

Since Clemens began working at CFRC three years ago, she said she’s seen two student managers quit their academic programs to continue working at the station, while two others quit to focus on their academics.

Two CFRC managers aren’t enrolled at Queen’s currently.

“Student-managers are putting in 40 to 60 hours a week here, and still trying to manage a full course load,” Clemens said. “They rely on the non-student managers to pick up the slack.”

CFRC is fighting for a structure that’s based on an informed consultation with the students and community members who use their services, Clemens said.

“If the AMS Board proposal had come from these stakeholders, of course CFRC would be in support of the changes,” Clemens wrote in an email to the Journal. “The reality is that this decision was made by people who have no radio experience whatsoever.”

Piper, ArtSci ’11, said discussions will be tabled until March 1. He said the reasoning behind the restructuring was to bring accountability to CFRC as an AMS service and align it with other AMS services.

“We believe it’s very important to have one person who is accountable for the operational aspects of the service, and having that head manager position and then those assistant manager positions makes that accountability very clear,” he said.

It’s the AMS’ responsibility to hire and pay CFRC employees, as well as to make up for the station’s deficit, he said.

CFRC is currently overseen by the AMS, but the station’s broadcasting licence is provided by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and held by Radio Queen’s University, a non-profit corporation.

“The CRTC expects community radio broadcasters to operate as independent non-profit organizations with involvement at the governance level by the University, the student government, volunteers and community members involved with the station,” she said. “This decision is affecting those options at CFRC.”

Shelley Robinson executive director of the National Campus and Community Radio Association, which CFRC is a member of, wrote a letter to the AMS Board of Directors on Wednesday expressing the organization’s concerns about management restructuring.

“CFRC-FM is a broader community resource, and needs to maintain independent control over its operations, finances, management, and facilities to fulfill its mandate as well as meet its regulatory requirements,” Robinson wrote.

Robinson told the Journal yesterday that she had yet to hear back from the AMS Board.

AMS Media Services Director Dan Szczepanek said a similar managerial structure has been in place since 2003, when Queen’s transferred oversight of CFRC to the AMS.

CFRC has been exempt from standard AMS yearly turnover rates of staff since 2008, allowing employees to re-apply for their positions after one year for a maximum of three years.

Policy was followed and was proved unworkable for maintaining station operations, he said. As a result, CFRC and the AMS worked together from 2005 to 2010 to implement gradual changes, including exemptions to hiring and employment policies imposed on other AMS services.

“One of the changes made now is to revoke that clause to get it aligned with other AMS media services,” Szczepanek, ArtSci ’11, said.

Szcepanek also acts as the AMS’s liason with Queen’s TV, Yearbook and Design Services and the Journal.

He added that the decision came after an intensive review of CFRC exemptions from AMS management policies.

“[The AMS Board of Directors] questioned why they existed,” he said. “Some existed because they need to exist for the benefit of the station, but in other cases we found that [they] weren’t necessary.”

Szczepanek said he doesn’t think restructuring management will impact editorial decisions for the radio station.

“There is a distinction in job descriptions and contracts,” he said. “We have seen that in other media services, we have different people handling different things.”

Szczepanek said he’s confident that students hired for the positions will be able to balance their jobs with school based on management positions at other AMS media services.

“I’ve seen first hand how crazy the media services can be,” he said. “My experience [with them] shows you can have exceptional [students] in these roles.”

Irina Skvortsova has worked as CFRC’s business manager for two years. As a former Queen’s student, she said her position would be impractical for a full-time student only occupying the position for a one-year term.

“It takes at least one year to learn how to do the job,” she said. “What they`ve proposed would mean every student hired after one year will be completely overwhelmed and will never be able to do their job.”

According to Skvortsova, the responsibilities of the newly-created head manager position would create an ethical dilemma for the station. “Because my goal as business manager is to secure money and revenue, the head manager position could potentially affect programming,” she said. “That is where we are crossing a line of editorial content.”

— With files from Meaghan Wray

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.