I started volunteering at CKMS in 1994, and I've continued to be a part of the station since then. I like to think that my skills improved during that period; the "She-Devils On Heels" chat show was an exceptional program, I think, and my "Repeater" old-time radio retrospective program was -- at the very least -- entertaining.
But now the Federation of Students has voted for a referendum: do students want to stop paying the $5.50 fee to keep the station running? If they vote no, CKMS will have to shut down; they will no longer be able to afford to operate.
Even back when I was a student, it was obvious that most of the student body DID NOT like CKMS. They thought it was amateurish and esoteric, which it tended to be. There were some excellent shows on the air, but for the most part it was pretty masturbatory, and sometimes downright awful.
So it's no surprise that a vocal "shut down CKMS" group arises every few years: these people hate the "alternative" designation of the station, they complain it doesn't represent students as a whole; they say it's difficult to pick up on the radio and that it isn't visible enough.
Strangely, about five years ago, these sorts of complaints prompted a radical reorganization of the station. A new Station Manager was hired and a hierarchy was developed. The fundamentals of CKMS changed as it began to slouch out of obscurity and into a new professionalism.
You see, previously it sort of hid away...the previous staff members were aware of their tenuous position, and they did not want to compromise. The new members of the staff want very much to raise the station's profile -- that's why they were hired -- but all of us knew the danger: if more students were aware of CKMS, more of them WOULD NOT LIKE IT.
Because CKMS' mandate from the CRTC is to be a telecommunications alternative. They can't be a station that plays popular music. It also doesn't help that the station is largely volunteer, and that the people most interested in it tend to be community members instead of students. And it REALLY doesn't help that there are some really bad programs on the air.
When I was on the board of directors, we faced a very serious situation where -- once again, but moreso -- an attempt was made to take over the station (in our case by changing the voting procedure). A mix of potentially well-meaning people and at least one person desperately obsessed with political procedure staged an odd sort of coup. The rest of us -- who were there because we wanted the station to succeed -- sat there dumbfounded as we were told "the students don't like you, you don't represent them, you're not visible enough." But that was the POINT of the new management: to get more students involved, to raise the station's profile, to ultimately GROW.
So now that the referendum is approaching -- headed partially by a former board member, who we always suspected was in it for a purpose of his own -- the students will decide whether or not the station continues.
I'm of two minds about this: if the students don't like it, obviously no amount of good-will will get them involved. They have been invited in, but unless they adhere to the CRTC's "alternative programming" designation they will not be able to change things. And the majority of students are not interested in alternative programming.
So they have a right, as a group, to make this decision.
But you see, when I was a student, I paid for a LOT of stuff I didn't care about. I paid money every year for an expanded Student Life Centre, even though I knew it wouldn't be finished until after I left. My fees went towards all sorts of things that I wasn't involved in. The entire Physical Activities Complex could have fallen into a pit and I wouldn't have noticed...but the University spent a ton of my money promoting squash and hockey and swimming...
I viewed my University career as being part of a community. I didn't get involved very often, but I was still happy that stuff was going on even if I WASN'T INVOLVED IN IT. That's what communities are like, and that's what you pay for. It's vibrancy. It's choice.
So I've never understood this idea that "if I don't take part in it, I won't support it in any way." I think that's selfish. A university, in my opinion, should not take that attitude. It leads to stagnation, defunding, and total dullness.
If CKMS' funding is cut off, I'll understand the reasoning behind it. But it doesn't bode well. It means that people are only looking after their own interests. The world won't end because of that but it will still make me sad.