By RON FANFAIR
The Caribbean and African Radio Network (CARN) has been given the green light to proceed with broadcast tests on 98.7 FM.
The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) granted CARN a temporary license in April 2006 on condition that the applicant locate a spot on the busy FM dial which they did – or thought they did with the 98.7 spot – until the CBC objected on the grounds that it was too close to its 99.1 signal and could cause interference.
Frustrated that they could not use the only remaining frequency on the FM dial that could reach their target audience, CARN president Fitzroy Gordon approached the federal government for help.
“We had a license that the CRTC withdrew because we could not reach an agreement with the CBC which I approached on several occasions,” Gordon said. “They kept telling me it was government policy and the rule that a frequency so close to any incumbent broadcaster could not be used by a new broadcaster.
“I later found out that was not the case but, before that, I approached the federal government for help last year, then in March of this year, I led a delegation to Ottawa to meet with the PM (Stephen Harper) who listened to us and told us he believed that we have the population for a radio station. The PM arranged for me to meet with Tony Clement (Minister of Industry) in Toronto and a couple of weeks later, we got a letter from the feds approving our use of 98.7 for test broadcasts.”
Gordon and his team showed their appreciation to the federal government last Sunday at a reception attended by Black community and religious leaders, local artists, Clement and Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney.
“It’s a dream come true today, but this is only one step on the road and we would not have the full victory for this community and for this station in the GTA until CARN is on the air 24/7 and we all hope this will be soon,” said Kenney. “This is something that has got to happen because we spend tens of millions of tax dollars on programs to help young people at risk and combat racism.
“I do believe that if and when CARN is on the air that it would do more to reach young people where they live, and speak to them in a language that resonates with them…This process has not been easy and there have been a lot of powerful forces who have not wanted this CRTC license to go to air on this signal. There will continue to be a lot of resistance and there are many challenges yet to come.”
Kenney however made it clear that he cannot guarantee that a new government will choose CARN over the CBC.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said his party will try to remove the ruling Conservatives in a no-confidence vote this week over its economic recovery plans. All three opposition parties will have to vote against the Tories to topple the government and force Canada’s fourth election in five years.
“As long as this government is in place, we will be there to do everything we can within the law to give this station a fighting chance to get on the air 24/7,” Kenney added.
Gordon said the test broadcasts, that will include music and a few announcements, will begin next week for the station which, he expects, will reach listeners from Hamilton in the west to Oshawa in the east and from Aurora in the north to Lakeshore in the south.
He expects the station, which will provide programming that includes R & B, reggae, soca, jazz and gospel music, news, sports broadcasts and talk shows designed to address issues in Canada’s Black community, will go on the air sometime in 2010.
“We are clear about our plan as to what we will carry and who our target audience is,” said Gordon. “It’s for that reason that I have lined up investors who trust what we are doing and will not get involved in what programming we should carry. I have told the CRTC that this station cannot be changed from Black and Caribbean programming and we intend to stick to that.”
Gordon said the station’s headquarters will be set up in mid-town close to a subway for accessibility.