Wed | Sep 23, 2020

Don’t silence us! - Lobby wants Canadian prime minister to intervene in the sale of black radio station

Published:Saturday | August 8, 2020 | 12:00 AMNeil Armstrong/Gleaner Writer
Trudeau

A Toronto-based black lobby has called on Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to intervene in the pending sale of a local radio station which has served as an important voice for the African-Caribbean community.

The radio station – G98.7 FM – was operated by Intercity Broadcasting Network, a company founded by late Jamaican broadcaster and entrepreneur Fitzroy Gordon.

The licence to operate G98.7 on a frequency of 98.7 MHz (channel 254B1) was granted on June 9, 2011 and the station was launched in December of that year.

It was placed in “investigative receivership” last year June. Gordon died on April 30 last year, two years after he suffered a stroke. But in a release to the media recently, the Black Action Defense Committee says it is alarmed that“the Black community’s voice in culture, entertainment, relevant community news” could “change hands and leave the Black community within a week, without special government intervention to ensure that this Black community cultural asset remains in Black community hands”.

The group said the outstanding debts that triggered the court-ordered sale is, “a mere $5 million”.

VOICES WERE HEARD

It said, with community support, Caribbean African Radio Network Radio, an earlier name of the company, convinced the Stephen Harper-led government of the importance of the black community obtaining the last frequency on the Toronto broadcast spectrum through which black people could have their voices heard.Toronto resident, Dr Nikoli Attai, says the decision leaves the community at a disadvantage.

“A loss of the city’s main radio source of Caribbean entertainment is frightening, as it reminds us of the sad reality that black and Caribbean spaces are shrinking at an alarmingly high rate here in Toronto. Just like a loss of vital community and business space in Little Jamaica, due to gentrification, a loss of Caribbean radio means a loss of yet another avenue to express ourselves as Caribbean people.”

“This is the harsh reality of Canadian multiculturalism where cultures like ours are celebrated, but, in reality, there remains insufficient financial, institutional, political and other kinds of support for us so that we can truly feel a sense of belonging,”Dr Attai added.

Horace Dockery said the radio station has been a forum for members of the community to differently speak to each other.

“And then allow us to highlight what is important to us versus going through one of the mainstream medium and hope they will speak to the issues. The connection that I found that this particular station offered was significant as it relates to Canadian and Caribbean experience and keeping me and others informed as to what’s going on back home and the wider Caribbean and African community.”

He said a loss of that would be significant because it may be disbanded under new ownership.