CJSW referendum brings out yes and no campaigns

By Riley Hill

During this year’s election, students will be asked to raise the $5.00 CJSW levy by an extra dollar per semester. The campus radio station wants the money to pursue their plans for growth, but one University of Calgary student argues undergrads shouldn’t foot the bill.

CJSW wants to rebuild its website so live shows are automatically converted into podcasts. This would create a new online archive, with shows ready to stream when people want to listen.

“We see a huge opportunity in delivering our content to a wider audience in a more accessible way,” CJSW station manager Myke Atkinson said.

But with new content comes new problems. To make the podcasts accessible, the website would need upgrades. Once that’s done, someone needs to maintain all the new data. Volunteers can help, but the station would have to hire a full-time staff member to manage what Atkinson called their new web department.

“Someone will be hired to manage that volunteer group within the station and maintain the web side of the station,” he said.

This is what CJSW wants to do with the levy increase. They want to improve their website and they need a new staff member to do it. And as the campus radio station, they see students as a reasonable place to ask for support.

“We are the No.1 campus radio station in Canada. By a number of measures, we’re the best,” Atkinson said. “This small investment from all of the students will make a huge impact on the station.”

Second-year political science student Don MacLeod doesn’t see it this way. He started a “no” campaign to oppose the levy increase.

If CJSW wants to grow, he thinks they shouldn’t be asking students for funding.

“[CJSW] is allowed to go out and get funding from various non-profits and charities that exist,” MacLeod said. “Why are the students being asked to pay when there are other organizations to provide exactly what CJSW wants funding for?”

CJSW already receives significant grant funding from the types of organizations MacLeod mentioned. Last year, they took in $142,751.

MacLeod thinks they can do better.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s that much to ask [CJSW] to go out there and to ask for a little bit more,” he said.

MacLeod said the station should ask their listeners for donations if the money they get from grants is not enough.

CJSW did raise $208,867 during their funding drive last year. This was the most successful fund drive of any campus radio station in Canada. CJSR from the University of Alberta did second best, with just over $104,000.

But MacLeod thinks if CJSW cannot fundraise enough to pay for their growth, they should scrap the plans.

“If this service is truly such a great benefit that the entire student body should be asked to pay for it, then surely it shouldn’t be that much to ask for a dollar or two more from listeners,” he said.

Because most CJSW listeners are in the community, not on campus, MacLeod said he thinks students should only pay for “absolutely base-level stuff” at the radio station.

“To put a person in a room with a mic in front of them — I’m OK with paying for that,” he said. “What I’m not OK with is paying for these extras.”

Atkinson said CJSW needs more than just the basics if they’re to get grant funding or contributions from listeners.

“Giving someone a microphone and letting them just talk, that doesn’t make good radio. That doesn’t bring $200,000 in from the community, or $140,000 in grant funding,” Atkinson said. “In order to achieve those things, we have to make good radio.”

The last referendum to increase CJSW’s levy was in 2007.

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