Toronto
2 min

Answer the question

Rainbow Radio took a beating during last week’s CRTC public hearings by fumbling on questions related to diversity in its programming.



“Is the result, then, [that] the use of frequency is not going to be much different than what’s in the market? Where’s the diversity?” asked Andree Wylie, vice-chair of broadcasting for the federal regulatory agency.



“Mr Evanov, you’ve filed numerous theories on whether this will be a competitive format… is there an identifiable music format?” asked Wylie.



And Bill Evanov, president of Hits 103.5FM, which is behind the gay radio application, replied: “Music bridges various elements of the spoken word together.”



“[So] it won’t be a distinguishable music format?” asked Wylie, who appeared increasingly frustrated during the Feb 1 Toronto hearing.



“It will crossover many formats,” replied Evanov.



Obviously feeling the need to once again clarify, Wylie asked: “During the real peak hour, what will that peak drive time be?”



“That, and more,” replied Carmela Laurignano, who is general manager of the Rainbow Radio project.



The no-nonsense vice-chair of broadcasting at the CRTC didn’t take well to the roundabout answers she received from some Rainbow

Radio speakers.



Several times, she repeated questions. Supporters of Rainbow Radio and the bid for the short-range 93.5FM frequency were grilled on the station’s programming diversity, coverage, potential advertisers and projected impact.



What it boiled down to for Wylie was programming during “peak drive time” from 6am to 10am. That’s when most listeners tune-in, and that’s where the station will either make it or break it.



“We need some clarification,” said Wylie. “We want to know more about what your programming will be like and whether it will be diverse.



“[How is] the use of frequency not going to be much different than what’s in the market [already]?” asked Wylie.



“The spoken word element will distinguish this station,” they responded. “[With] issues and subjects specific to the gay community; parenting issues and dealing with things like hate crimes, general interest with a gay perspective.”



“There’s a great deal of homophobia out there,” said University of Toronto sociology professor Mariana Valverde, speaking of what she called the relentless heterosexism of the mass media. Valverde said it contributes to internalized homophobia, depression and suicide. (Valverde then left to teach a class, leaving Wylie unable to get answers to some of her queries.)



Wylie wanted facts and statistics. Rainbow Radio had many theories and estimates, but few solid numbers.



A statement that there are 365,000 gay men and lesbian in the downtown core was, it turned out, a guesstimate of between five and 20 percent of the population.



With the number of gay print publications already in existence, Wylie was concerned there’d be no ad money available for Rainbow Radio.



“Automatically budgets will shift,” said Evanov. “Money won’t come from one source, but a variety of sources.”



A survey to measure the support of 941 respondents in the Greater Toronto Area showed that 80 percent of the homos said they would listen to it, with 35 percent of the general population saying they would tune-in.



Public hearings end Fri, Feb 18, with a decision to be made in May 2000. Many applications for two Toronto frequencies, one AM and one FM, have been received.



Community supporters sitting in on the Rainbow Radio application included MPP George Smitherman, Xtra Associate Publisher Andrew Chang, Steven Solomon (who works at the Toronto District School Board) and activist Bonte Minnema.