Yearning for an African and Caribbean radio station

For several decades, some members of the African and Caribbean communities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) have been yearning for a radio station that catered for their needs and reflected their aspirations.

At least three times, it seemed that some concrete progress was being made in achieving that objective: for a long period there was regularly scheduled Caribbean programming on Chin Radio’s FM 100.7, animated by the seasoned media professional Jai Ojah-Maharaj; then there was the birth of Flow, a radio station operated by businessman Denham Jolly; and, more recently, businessman Fitzroy Gordon launched his own station G98.7.

The first two of those ventures flourished, but are no longer on the air. It has been whispered over the years that the time-slot previously occupied by Ojah-Maharaj has been sold at quite profitable rates and that Flow was also sold at a handsome price.

The third venture started with great fanfare, but is now reported to be in danger of losing its license in the next few days.

Why is this pattern of frustrated yearning repeating itself over and over?

Rather than attempting to answer that question, usually reliable journalistic sources are instead painting a grim picture of doom and gloom for the fate of G87.8. They are citing a persistent litany on non-compliance with the terms of the license issued for the station in 2011 by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the independent public authority in charge of regulating and supervising Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications.

The tone of the official CRTC documentation being quoted in the following extract is so harsh that those sources are predicting that come August 31, 2017 G87.7’s license will expire without any hope of renewal:

“Given the number of instances of apparent non-compliance and the instances of non-compliances noted in Broadcasting Decision 2014-574, the Commission could conclude that the licensee has demonstrated that it does not understand its regulatory obligations. Because of this, coupled with the fact that the Commission has already required corrective measures by the licensee during the current license term, with which the licensee does not appear to have complied, the Commission has concerns regarding the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner.”

Those instances include multiple cases of non-compliance with the statutory administrative and financial reporting to the CTRC. But, surprisingly, they also specifically relate to the required percentage of African and Caribbean programming and of “world beat and international” content.

In the circumstances, one wonders why Mr. Gordon’s company has been unwilling or unable to comply with the terms and conditions of its license. Are there financial constraints that stem from the absence of or the significant decrease in advertising revenue?

Are the African and Caribbean business communities so limited in their resources that they cannot provide more advertising to the “only Afro-Caribbean radio station in the GTA”? Or are they unconvinced that it is a good investment? Or is it that the station is simply feeling the pinch of the generalized drop in advertising revenue prevailing in the whole country?

Furthermore, is it true that the African and Caribbean communities in the GTA are dissatisfied with the quality, content and other aspects of the operations of G98.7?

Some of us are apparently confident in answering yes to that question. And some are even suggesting that few tears will be shed if G98.7 falls by the wayside.

Let us not go there. Let us save our doubts for the more fundamental issues. Let our doubting Thomases answer two simple questions.

Do our African and Caribbean communities in the GTA really need a dedicated radio station?

Are we willing to pay for it?