Thirteen years after conceiving the idea to set up a radio station catering primarily to the Greater Toronto Area’s Black and Caribbean community, Fitzroy Gordon and his Intercity Broadcasting Network (IBN) have been granted a commercial radio license.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued the license last week to the group to broadcast programming on the 98.7 FM frequency.
The station is mandated to broadcast weekly a minimum of 340 hours of news and at least 50 per cent of all musical selections.
“This is a great moment and it means that our people in the community can now look forward to the kind of programming they have longed for,” said Jamaican-born Gordon. “This will be a station that will provide news, entertainment, talk shows, social commentary and sports that the mainstream media have ignored. We are about setting a standard and becoming a powerful source of information and also an educational tool for our young people.”
Gordon is the majority owner of IBN that includes three other partners whose names would be revealed at a later date.
“All I can say now is that IBN is 85 per cent owned by individuals who were born in the Caribbean and our programming will reflect our Black and West Indian communities,” he said. “We are the home of Black and Caribbean radio and we will target mainstream as well as advertisers in our community, including the church which has been very supportive of our endeavour.”
Gordon said he and his group will soon begin the process of identifying a building and recruiting staff.
“We prefer to be either downtown or mid-town and the first priority for us is to get advertising, promotional and marketing staff,” he said.
After making an unsuccessful attempt in 2002 for a license, Gordon made another application six years ago. The CRTC granted the group, known as the Caribbean and African Radio Network (CARN) at the time, with 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 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (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, Gordon lobbied the federal government for help.
He said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, Treasury Board president Tony Clement and key Industry Canada staff played an important role in helping IBN secure the license.
“Battling the powerful CBC was extremely challenging, but we were determined and I am proud to celebrate this achievement as a victory for the underdog,” Gordon added.
He expects the station to launch its full programming schedule sometime around Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, IBN could start broadcasting a music-only rotation next month if it secures a temporary studio.
Initially, the station will reach listeners from Niagara in the west to Ajax in the east and from Aurora in the north to Lakeshore in the south.
The license expires on August 31, 2017.