Campus radio stations in Ottawa — and across the province — are trying to determine how to survive if the Ontario government moves forward with its plan to slash the student fees that fund them.
Under the "student choice initiative" announced in January by the Progressive Conservatives, post-secondary institutions would have to give students the choice to opt out of fees for programs or services the government deems to be non-essential.
Newspapers and campus radio stations, such as Carleton University's CKCU and the University of Ottawa's CHUO, may lose funding once this cost-cutting option is introduced to students.
Most campus radio stations get about 75 to 80 per cent of funding from student fees, said Barry Rooke, the executive director of the National Campus and Community Radio Association, an organization that represents stations across the country.
"It's overall just a very scary thought," he told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Monday.
"[The stations] might become rotating playlists, [they] might become music blocks, which then pulls away from the character of what the station is actually."
Alternatives to the mainstream
Rooke says campus radio stations are meant to serve as an alternative to commercial and public radio — a space where people can tune in to hear their favourite reggae or Tamil program, or hard punk rock show.
In many schools, students already have the option to opt out of funding certain on-campus organizations, he said. They can visit the group — such as the school newspaper— and ask for their money back, or learn more about an organization during their visit and decide not to, he said.
Many students, he added, are not aware of the services and organizations would be considered non-essential — services that could be at risk of shutting down without funding.
It will impact close to half of campus stations across the country. - Source
In order to meet the base fees and operating costs, the stations may have to cut staff that are essential in preserving the quality of the stations, Rooke said.
"The quality will definitely drop, the amount of programming and voices that go on the air will definitely drop, and there'll be a lot less opportunities for people to participate within the stations themselves," he said.
"I think it's a degradation of the sector. It's looking like it will impact close to half of campus stations across the country," he added.
"That will make a big impact when it comes to the media atmosphere in the entire country."