ABOUT THE SECTOR
The Association des radiodiffuseurs communautaires du Québec (“ARCQ”), l’Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada (“ARCC”), and the National Campus and Community Radio Association/Association nationale des radios étudiantes et communautaires (“NCRA/ANREC”) are the three associations that are not-for-profit organizations committed to non-profit, community-owned, and locally-reflective radio and online broadcasting. Together, we represent 84% of Canada’s licensed community radio broadcasters.
WHAT IS COMMUNITY RADIO IN CANADA
Community radio is about volunteerism, social engagement, independent music, learning by doing, community capacity building, citizen journalism and more. Here’s a quick sketch of Campus/Community radio, in all our diversity.
Total watts of broadcasting power: 192,000+
Staff: 700 (Full-time equivalent)
Volunteer force: over 10,000 working an estimated 45,000 hours per week
Our volunteers are the cultural pioneers and opinion leaders of their local communities. Close to one-half of these volunteers are students and student leaders, they are opinion-makers, newsmakers, and trend-setters in their communities, and future leaders of Canadian culture and society. As well, the majority of these volunteers nationwide are artists, political and social activists, and members of multiple civil society organizations and grassroots movements.
Programming languages: at least 65 — English, French, Macedonian, Polish, Slovakian, Arabic, Hindi, Croatian, Serbian, Mandarin, Spanish, Cantonese, Somali, Polish, Italian, Ukrainian, Ethiopian, Hindi, Punjabi, Pakistani, Hungarian, Assyrian, Eritrean, German, Vietnamese, Romanian, Japanese, Korean, Klahoose, Portuguese, Amharic, Khmer, Polish, Kurdish, Azeri, Armenian, Tagalog, Turkish, Mandarin, Finnish, Swedish, Russian, Berber, Tamil, Haitian Creole, Bosnian, Bengali, Farsi, Somali, Eritrean, Cree, Hän, Algonquin, Nepalese, Tigrinya, Greek, Ethiopian, Eesti, Gaelic, Urdu, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Mi’kmaq
Estimated population within the signal range of NCRA members: 23,771,000 Canadians, or over 75% of Canada’s population. Combined with the french language association, this number is close to 90%
Our members are as diverse as the communities they serve and respond to local realities/needs in their programming, their staffing, community development work, and their services and fundraising. There is no typical community-based radio station – all our members are exceptional!
Each dollar invested in Community Radio goes immeasurably farther in our community than money invested in other parts of the broadcasting sector, and a far greater portion of that investment will stay in the community where it is invested, since our volunteer base is comprised of community-minded, grassroots, engaged citizens who participate in the local economy and use creative solutions to stretch their operating dollars.
Much of this economic impact is not reflected on traditional balance sheets. For example, a large portion of the advertising on c/c stations is targeted and priced for local independent businesses and non-profit organizations and as such may also be discounted, played for free as a public service announcement or exchanged for goods and services in-kind.
Community-based radio stations are community-owned, democratically-governed, non-share not-for-profit corporations; therefore they are not subject to acquisition/relocation, they are structurally bound to the communities that they serve.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT NEEDS
With the rise of disinformation on social media platforms, the dissemination of verifiable information, and journalistic integrity are more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for trusted sources of factual content on full display. Canadians depend on the news to learn how to keep themselves and their families safe and informed, regardless if it’s health, environmental or social emergencies. Unfortunately, misinformation is being widely spread throughout social media channels, putting a greater onus on traditional media to reach Canadians with factual information.
Disseminating Reliable, Local Information in All Communities
As public and private broadcasters increase their focus on major urban centers and newspapers cease to operate at an alarming rate, regional and rural markets which are home to more than 30% of Candians are in critical need of support. Community radio is in a unique position to fill that void today and for the foreseeable future. The disinformation fostered by social media and an increasing reliance on questionable web-based information sources can only be offset by investing in local news and information provided by community-based broadcasters.
During the pandemic, campus and community radio stations have been at the forefront of providing public health information to Canadians. For example, stations continue to have phone interviews with key leaders such as chief medical officers, doctors, mayors and more to keep listeners informed. The stations allow listeners to hear directly from trusted sources of information in order to stay safe, informed and healthy. During the pandemic, community radio saw an increase in listeners of as much as 16%.
Unfortunately, the pandemic caused many businesses to cut their advertising budgets and therefore cut campaigns short with local stations. Advertising continues to be the largest source of income for stations that are primarily run by volunteers due to their small budgets. The sudden drop in revenues caused some stations to lay off staff and rely more on volunteers to continue serving communities. Without a supportive base of volunteers, it is likely many stations would have had to close their doors and stop broadcasting important information. The pandemic has also severely impacted the volunteer base at stations across the country.
As not-for-profit entities, any investments in community radio represent a direct investment in the creation and promotion of Canadian content. As community radio is the training ground for future broadcasters, operational support for these stations will support the entire broadcasting sector. So far, as many as 180 of these stations have functioned without any government support for their operational needs. This recommendation would represent a significant step forward and would dramatically impact the health and viability of these broadcasters whose importance has only grown in recent years.
Fostering Community-Based Journalism
Our sector commends the government for its Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) which supports the creation of journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada. Community and campus radio stations have served these communities for decades and the LJI has had a strong impact on local stations and our democracy.
However, current funding provided through the LJI is insufficient to adequately support the increasing need of the Canadian population. Since 2008, more than 451 news operations have closed in 324 communities across Canada. This year the LJI has allowed for the hiring of 38 journalists in underserved communities across Canada.
As we see local news and information eroded on a regular basis, the void is being filled by increasingly unreliable sources of information and promoted by social media algorithms that have been demonstrated to have a negative impact on our society and democracy writ large. The void in local news and information has resulted in a full third of US citizens who believe their election was stolen, horse medication flies off global shelves as an antidote to COVID because of one statement by an uninformed US president, and a grand total of about a dozen accounts are responsible for more than 80% of the vaccine disinformation available on social media.
Each of the groups that administer the LJI has the capacity to dramatically expand the number of journalists hired with the appropriate resources. This expansion would have a material impact on communities and their ability to make informed decisions.
Additional funds need to be placed into three areas. (1) Placement of (at least one) paid journalist in all communities deemed to be news deserts or in a state of news poverty.. (2) Centralized administrative support unit to govern and nurture independent content development (toward locally reflective news leads). (3) Enhanced resources toward promotion, marketing and technology for effective distribution of news.
LJI-produced news is creative commons, and could easily be used as part of the national broadcasters news sources.
With the three areas above addressed, the government will be better able to support community-based journalism and help to create more in-depth and up-to-date local news to keep communities informed. Canadians have relied on local outlets to learn about COVID-19 outbreaks and get updates from local public health officials. Increased funding in the three priority areas will help Canadians stay up-to-date with the latest information from their communities and not just the broad strokes nationally.
The Government of Canada uses the services of a single Agency of Record (AOR) to develop media plans and purchase media space for government advertising. An AOR enables the government to get better value by leveraging the collective buying power of departments. Centralizing these services also enables better integration, oversight, control and reporting.2 Therefore, when the Government of Canada launches different advertising campaigns, such as those seen during COVID-19 to keep Canadians informed, they use the AOR to complete the advertising purchases with different media outlets.
Unfortunately, campus and community radio stations continue to be left out of advertising purchases by the government’s AOR, despite serving a sizable portion of the population in over 65 different languages. Advertising tends, instead, to be delivered to large national media corporations and the CBC. We believe that minority communities deserve to be informed by their government, and those rural communities would also tend to benefit more from government messages if campus and community stations were included in the AOR’s plans. For many Canadians, major media outlets are not a source of information either because they don’t operate in their area or they don’t operate in their language. For the Government of Canada to reach all Canadians, it should require its AOR to advertise with campus and community stations. This will also help to bolster station operations and promote Canadian news and content.
- Interactive Map of Community Radio In Canada
- Listener Numbers
- History of NCRA/ANREC
- Famous Alumni of the NCRA/ANREC
Contact Us for more information or if you have questions.