Transportation: the lost DNV Committee

Published: The Global Canadian  (pdf)
June 9, 2018
750 words

DNVThe single biggest issue for many District of North Vancouver residents is traffic. Any discussion about local politics quickly turns to complaints about the two overcrowded bridges, the inevitable impact of increased population density, and the near legendary “gridlock” on Lynn Valley Road.

As we speak the District and Province are spending millions of dollars to build new traffic interchanges at the the bottom of the Cut, Translink is planning to add a new B-Line bus from Phibbs Exchange to Dundarave, and traffic patterns, bike lanes, and sidewalks are being changed around each of the new “Town Centres.” But if transportation is such a critical subject, why has the District disbanded their Transportation Consultation Committee? The one committee that allowed ordinary residents to work directly with District transportation planners? Continue reading “Transportation: the lost DNV Committee”

Will the new parks bylaw prove to be a ‘gigantic hammer’?

Published: The Global Canadian
April 1, 2018
714 words

Barry Rocks OnThe District of North Vancouver is preparing to adopt a new Parks Regulation Bylaw, the first update since 1961. The new Bylaw is nearly four times the size of the old one, growing from four pages to fifteen, and promises “public safety through regulation.” During last week’s Council Workshop District staff explained that the new Bylaw is needed to give them “teeth” to enforce and regulate the use of District parks, but promised that rules would only be enforced some of the time, for some activities, by some people. Teenage partiers are a particular target for the new Bylaw’s enforcement.

Much of the new Bylaw is devoted to either prohibiting or regulating almost anything that you might want to do in a public park. It governs where and when people can play “organized sports,” cook a burger, rent a kayak, or cycle, and prohibits residents from erecting a “memorial or other object” commemorating a family pet. The Bylaw includes a list of more than dozen commercial activities that will require permits and fees. As well as film shoots and dogwalking, the Bylaw now designates bus tours, exercise classes, “providing instruction,” and even walking tours as regulated activities. Continue reading “Will the new parks bylaw prove to be a ‘gigantic hammer’?”

A Dog With No Name

Published: Black Cat White Dog News (PDF)
March 2013
775 words

See the lovely dog riding beside me in my truck? Do you know her name? I don’t.  I had just finished loading six dogs into my truck after an hour and a half on the trails.  This happy girl became an extra passenger.

I met her as she wandered down Millstream Road in West Vancouver, following her favorite mail carrier.  He even knew where she lived, so I tried to take her home, but the house was locked, and no-one answered the door.

Finally I dropped her off at the West Vancouver SPCA.  All in all this little girl cost me an hour or more of my time, a side trip from the British Properties down to Park Royal, and her owners the time and expense of recovering her.  Plus who knows how much worry when they found that she was gone. All for the sake of a five dollar name tag.

As a commercial dog walker I’m handling dogs all of the time.  And like most other walkers, I also wind up taking care of lost dogs on a regular basis.  Whether it’s the time of day, or the truck, or just a positive doggy “vibe”, you can bet that the dog that’s been wandering your neighbourhood all afternoon will come up to me and say “Hi! I’m lost! Please take me home!” And truly, I’m delighted to do it, but first I have to know who she is and how to find her owners.

If you own a dog it needs a collar.  A collar that’s around his or her neck, and fastened securely.  And on that collar you need a name tag, with the puppy name, and the phone number to call when I find her. Yes your dog has the proper municipal license tag, and possibly a rabies tag as well. He or she is likely micro-chipped  and tattooed to boot, but none of these are much use to me, or to most people who might meet your dog on the street.  What we really want is your phone number so that we can bring Rover home.

Now, about that collar.  It has to be on the dog.  All the time.  Yes, I know that Fluffy likes to lounge about sans collar at home, but he’s just not organized enough to put it back on before leaving.

I’ll repeat: the collar has to be on the dog. All the time. Just because your dog is at home – even if he or she is inside the house, with the doors locked and the alarm set – you should still assume that a Great Escape is imminent, and leave the collar on.

Having your dog escape is not a reflection on you, or your worth as a dog owner.   Sooner or later every dog finds a reason to wander off, chase a squirrel, check out the neighbor’s garbage.  It’s a dog thing, like shedding, and drooling, and snatching that piece of toast of the kitchen table when your back is turned.

Our poster girl? She wasn’t wearing a collar or tags, but she was wearing a electric fence “shock” collar.  Was it turned off? Were the batteries dead? Was she just happy to ignore it as she dashed off of her property?  I have no idea, but it didn’t slow her down.

Nine times out of ten when we find a lost dog it’s slipped away from home – through the back door, under the fence – you would be amazed how many ways a dog can escape.  Trust me. My own dog has been known to sneak out of the house and go play in Princess Park.

As an owner your obligation is to expect it, and be prepared.  It’s good to check your fences and fix holes.   It’s good to teach your dog recall, and encourage her to respect boundaries.  But it’s also good to plan for the worst – just the way you would with a young child. The dogs that we find are only a block or less from home,  and half the time the dog owner is at home too, but there’s no way we can know that.

The first step is always to look for a name tag, and call the owner. So do yourself, your dogs, and your local dog walkers a big favour and add a tag saying “My Name is Fang, and my phone number is 555-1212.”

Special hint: If your dog does get lost while you’re hiking the North Shore trails you can ask any commercial dog walker for help – we’ll spread the word to everyone walking that day to keep an eye out.

Community Radio in Canada

Published: Radio World International
January 2004
1700 words

Les Szabo at Co-op RadioIf the two hundred plus community radio stations in Canada have anything in common, it has to be the name “McCurdy”. It is difficult to walk into a community radio studio and not find at least one thing painted in McCurdy blue – either the “classic” light blue, or the newer dark blue.

Why McCurdy? Usually it comes down to two factors – the old McCurdy products were built like Mack trucks and were able to withstand years of volunteer use and sometimes sketchy maintenance. More importantly though, at the time that community radio in Canada was growing rapidly – throughout the eighties – a lot of large broadcasters were upgrading their studios, and McCurdy consoles, pedestals, and racks could be had for very little money.

Community radio in Canada exists in an environment that is quite different from the U.S. During the decades when the FCC made it impossible for community broadcasters to license a lower power station, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was actively encouraging new and different forms of non-commercial broadcasting. Since the time when the first community radio broadcasters were licensed in the seventies, the CRTC has consistently considered community radio to be an essential part of the broadcast system, offering a distinct alternative to both commercial radio and the government funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

More recently, at the time when the FCC was struggling with the idea of LPFM and third channel adjacencies, the CRTC was (at the urging of community broadcasters) bringing in “Developmental FM” Licenses. These licenses required a bare minimum of paperwork and equipment, and were designed to allow small communities to launch a community radio station as easily as possible. Developmental FM stations are limited to five watts, but are free of most regulation. The aim is to get new stations established easily and cheaply, and allow them to concentrate on building community support over the first few years.

Five watts does not sound like much, but it is an inexpensive way to get started and will typically cover a small town well enough to build an audience where none existed. At the end of the developmental period – typically four years – the new station is expected to apply for a full community radio license and move up to a higher power level.

Community radio in Canada actually encompasses a number of different kinds of licenses. A standalone station, not affiliated with an educational institution, will be licensed as a “Community” radio station. A station located on a University campus will typically be licensed as “Campus based Community”. “Developmental” licenses can come in either of these flavors.

Native broadcasters have yet another category of license to suit the specific needs of their communities, and there is yet another license type for “Instructional” stations attached to broadcast schools.

The differences between “Community” and “Campus based Community radio stations are less than would be imagined. The primary difference is that “Community” stations are allowed to broadcast more advertising than “Campus based Community” stations. Yes, non-commercial radio stations in Canada are allowed to sell and broadcast advertising, although the number of minutes per hour is limited. During the seventies and eighties stations faced the same sort of underwriting restrictions as American non-commercial broadcasters, but those were eventually dropped.

Unlike the U.S., where “College” radio is distinctly different from “Community” radio, all non-commercial radio stations in Canada have a similar philosophy and style. Both “Community” and Campus based Community” stations are required to open their doors to their local community. It is not considered good form to only allow students access to the airwaves, and in fact the regulations governing Campus based stations are explicit that they serve the entire listening community, not just the campus. It is also required that “Campus based” radio stations have a separate Board of Directors which includes both campus and non-campus representatives.

The other distinct feature of almost every “Community” or “Campus based Community” station is a heavy multicultural component. It is normal for established stations to broadcast in ten or twenty languages to as many cultural or ethnic groups. CKCU Radio in Ottawa for instance has weekly programs for the Jewish, Indian, Filipino, Afghani , Somali, Haitien, African, Persian, and Vietnamese communities. Many of these programs date from the early days of the station and play a critical role in their local communities.

Multicultural programs also play a critical role in the funding of community radio in Canada. Because community radio often offers the only media source in their mother tongue, multicultural communities are often major financial supporters of their local station. Unlike the U.S., where many community broadcasters can access funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) or the PTFP program, there is virtually no funding available to community broadcasters in Canada. The only broadcaster funded by the Canadian government is the CBC.

As a result community broadcasters rely most heavily on two income sources – student levies (for Campus based stations) and listener donations. Despite being allowed to sell advertising, the reality is that ad sales seldom bring in enough income to cover the costs associated with selling and producing spots.

The annual levy that students pay to support Campus based stations ranges from low of 40 cents to a high that approaches thirty dollars. Even though these are a fraction of the amounts that students pay for athletic fees or other “services”, there is always a fear that an incoming student government may choose to turn off the tap.

Although stations like CKCU or Vancouver Co-op Radio have been conducting annual funding drives for a couple of decades, station fund raising is still relatively unsophisticated. There is no equivalent to the Development Exchange Inc. (DEI) in Canada, and there is very little use of direct mail by community broadcasters. Consequently the most successful funding drives in Canada seldom exceed $100,000 annually, even in large cities.

Budgets at Canadian community radio stations are quite a bit smaller than in the U.S., with most stations operating on less than $200,000 a year, and only a couple of stations exceeding $300,000. Capital budgets tend to be very tight, and maintenance of equipment can be less rigorous than anyone would prefer. Equipment is invariably used until it is well past its prime. CD players for instance will typically spend two years in On-Air, then move to the Production studios, then to the music library.

The small budgets also are reflected in the low staffing levels. Many stations have only one or two full time staff, and it is unusual to see stations with the four or five FTE staffing that CPB would require in order to qualify for a Community Service Grant. This, coupled with traditionally low salaries, tends to lead to burnout and a high turnover. The tendency is for community radio staff to be young and inexperienced. Once employees gain skills and knowledge they almost always leave the sector for “real” jobs.

From an engineering standpoint community radio in Canada presents some interesting challenges. The people starting new stations are invariably beginners who are more concerned with serving their community than learning the ins and outs of frequency searches and HAAT. A good deal of our time (and a good deal of the content on our website http://www.community-media.com) is spent explaining basic concepts to community groups and individuals, helping them to understand what equipment they need (as opposed to what the salesman wants to sell them), and helping them to learn enough of the jargon to understand what is happening around them.

We consider ourselves lucky to have a few suppliers who understand that volunteer programmed community radio is not the same as commercial radio, and who will try to suggest equipment and products that are suitable. That means no automation system, no fancy “studio furniture”, and a focus on ease of use and durability.

We also keep close track of consulting Engineers who will work with community broadcasters on ten and fifty watt engineering briefs, and who understand the meager budgets of these stations.

As part of our work we also produce and distribute radio series to these community broadcasters. Once again the lack of a CPB or PTFP means that station facilities are quite limited. Outside of the francophone sector there are no satellite down links, so programming is almost universally distributed on compact disc. Thankfully the use of cassette tape from program distribution is almost dead.

Internet distribution is starting to become more common, but many stations are hampered by old computer equipment, poor Internet connections, or simply the skills and organizational support to take programming from the ‘Net to the Control Room. Again, most of these problems a refection of low budgets.

Some will argue that the low budgets help to keep community radio stations focused exclusively on community service. Big egos are discouraged, as are the opportunists who only want to make a buck. The result is an ever growing network of stations that without exception place community service before profit.

Even the major commercial broadcasters seem to understand the role of community radio in Canada. Instead of considering them a threat, companies like Rogers and Standard Broadcasting seem to understand that community broadcasters serve a lot of marginal communities (in dollar terms) that the bigs guys would rather not deal with.

Instead of fighting the community radio sector, the major – and many not so major – broadcasters actively support community radio. Standard Broadcasting for instance has for many years financed the annual Standard Radio Awards of Excellence in community radio broadcasting, and CORUS Entertainment, owner of more than fifty radio stations, as well as cable television properties, has underwritten the Dig Your Roots project, which discovers new bands in Canada and presents live concerts broadcast via the ‘Net. Both of these projects are coordinated by the National Campus and Community Radio Association. (NCRA).

Even though stations may struggle with poor funding and aging equipment, it’s still fair to say that community radio in Canada plays a vital role, and will continue to see steady growth for many years to come.r

Bio: Barry Rueger has been working in community radio for more than twenty years. His company Community-Media.com offers training and consultation to broadcasters in Canada, the U.S., and abroad.

http://www.community-media.com

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
http://www.crtc.gc.ca/

National Campus and Community Radio Association
http://www.ncra.ca/