Vancouver Co-operative Radio, CFRO, 102.7FM, must appear at a public hearing next month if it wants to retain its broadcasting licence. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will hold the hearing on February 26 at the Empire Landmark Hotel.
In a December 29 e-mail sent to Co-op radio programmers, program coordinator Leela Chinniah wrote that the CRTC did a "spot check" last year. The federal broadcast regulator concluded that Co-op radio, which relies on more than 350 volunteer programmers, was "low on our Canadian content", according to Chinniah's e-mail.
Co-op radio is located at 110–360 Columbia Street, in the Downtown Eastside. It broadcasts a variety of locally produced arts and music programs, as well as shows in more than a dozen languages. The Downtown Eastside station also carries many alternative programs not heard anywhere else in Greater Vancouver, including Voice of Palestine, Wake Up With Co-Op!, Democracy Now!, and The Lesbian Show.
In 2004, the CRTC renewed Co-op radio's licence for a four-year term rather than the maximum seven -year term after finding that it had kept incomplete logger tapes for the week of November 17 to 23, 2002.
The CRTC ordered Co-op radio to appear at next month's hearing after the regulator calculated that Co-op radio broadcast 32.8 percent Canadian content in the category of "general music" during the week November 5 to 11, 2006. The station is required to broadcast 35 percent Canadian content in this category.
In documents filed with the CRTC, Co-op radio stated that regular jazz, blues, world beat, and gospel music wasn't played on November 11, 2006, which may have been due to the Remembrance Day weekend. A volunteer played general music instead, according to the station.
"It is unfortunate that the Commission's resources only allowed for one spot check during our 4-year license term," the station stated to the CRTC in one document. "As such, the week that was chosen for the spot check did not accurately reflect our regular programming."
The station also claimed that the regulator did not consider "spoken word poetry pieces" and "sound art pieces" to be Canadian content even though they were "entirely Canadian productions".
"And, since this means because we have been in contravention of the Radio Regulations for 2 consecutive license terms, the CRTC is asking that we appear for a public hearing this time (usually license renewals happen through paper correspondence only)," Chinniah wrote in her e-mail to programmers. "This is somewhat of a big deal. It will require the station to put more resources into the license renewal process."
She urged recipients of the e-mail to contact four individuals or organizations that support Co-op radio's programming to get them to file written interventions with the CRTC before its January 23 deadline.
Co-op radio informed the CRTC in one document that less than 10 percent of its programming focuses on the category of "general music". Almost half (47.5 percent) of its airtime is allocated to locally produced spoken-word programming. Another 37 percent is music that doesn't fall into the CRTC category of "general music".
"So there is a disproportionate amount of focus on the Canadian Content of this relatively small portion of our programming," the station stated.
Co-op radio has a budget of less than $200,000 and employs five part-time staff, according to its filings with the CRTC.