An influx of new memberships at CKVS, the Voice of the Shuswap community radio station, has the board suspecting an attempted ‘takeover’ of the station by people opposed to the way the pandemic is being handled. (File photo)

Membership jump for Salmon Arm community radio station seen as possible takeover

Voice of the Shuswap membership spike suspected from people disturbed by handling of pandemic

Some people involved with Salmon Arm’s community radio station are calling recent events an attempted ‘takeover.’

For the past 10 years, a little arm-twisting prior to the AGM has been necessary to get people involved with CKVS, Voice of the Shuswap, but this year has been radically different.

“Unprecedented,” is how Warren Bell, president of the Voice of the Shuswap Broadcast Society board described the number of new memberships that have been coming in. He estimated the previous number of 120 or so members has about doubled.

“Suddenly we are into a situation where there are new members, many not known to us. Some of them from far away; I think the farthest away was a gent in Toronto,” Bell said.

He said some apparently don’t have a great deal of understanding of community radio but would like to become part of the board or be involved in the radio station nonetheless.

“It’s something that was very unusual.”

He said initially it wasn’t clear why the interest, and then the idea of a takeover emerged.

“Then we noticed some people we did know who were very opposed to the way the pandemic is being managed and often their opinions were quite harsh…”

Bell said some board members began to wonder if the intention of some of the people – not everyone, was to use the station as a platform; that they weren’t thinking about other issues, just the pandemic.

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He said a call was then put out to people who wanted the station to be a broad and inclusive place, so more memberships were generated from them.

Members of the current board, whose terms are staggered, include Bell, Ivan Idzan, Russ Paulsen, Jenny Carter, Stephen Lowry, Dan White and Richard Sevigny. Paulsen, Idzan and Sevigny’s terms are coming up for renewal at the AGM. As well, there are two empty seats on the nine-seat board. Ted Crouch, Janet Pattinson and Steve Corrie are nominees, making six nominees for five seats.

The deadline for members able to vote was midnight, Jan. 17. Nominations for the board are accepted up to two weeks prior to the Feb. 16 virtual AGM. 

One concern that arose, Bell said, was if people with a singular strong focus on one issue would take over the station, it would mean the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) would take a dim view.

“It’s completely outside our official mandate. They would very likely shut the station down, at least temporarily.”

Bell also said First United Church or First Community where the station is housed has a cordial relationship with the radio station board and has been very supportive of the board as it struggled to build the station.

“They have made it clear, values of inclusiveness and openness have to be respected…”

Bell said if the radio station became more narrow in its purpose it would likely be compelled to leave, as the lease has an expression of values.

Bell noted CKVS broadcasts community theatre, it interviews every candidate in political campaigns and broadcasts forums, it’s a place for young musicians to perform where they might not anywhere else.

“That’s the way the radio station has functioned since the beginning. We’re hoping the AGM will be a renewal of the values the station has always represented.”

The station was created to build community, not to divide the community, he pointed out.

“Overall this has turned into quite the exercise of trying to adjust to a new interest in the station,” Bell said. “We’re not sure that it’s about the Voice of the Shuswap.”

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