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Evanov eyes troubled CKLN

Proud FM proprietor inducted into Broadcast Hall of Fame

Bill Evanov, president and CEO of Evanov Radio Group, says he'll nab the CKLN broadcast licence for Proud FM if it becomes available. Credit: Xtra files

Bill Evanov, founder and CEO of Evanov Communications Inc, the owner of Toronto gay-and-lesbian-themed radio station Proud FM, was inducted into the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame on Thursday, March 10.

The Evanov group operates 11 radio stations in various Canadian cities between Winnipeg and Halifax. The broadcaster says his award is not only an honour for him personally but the start of bigger plans for the four-year-old gay radio station.

“We’re very pleased and excited,” Evanov told Xtra before the awards gala. “During Canada Music Week, my induction will make a good promo for Proud FM… It’s good for me, good for the company.”

Proud FM has had a rocky history, beginning with a misstart back in 1999 when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission denied its application in favour of urban hip-hop station Flow. Proud FM finally went on air in April 2007, but its first few years have seen numerous management and staff changes.

“No matter what kind of station you put on the air, the first couple years are turmoil,” says Evanov. “It’s got a long way to go but it’s doing okay. We hit a break-even point and are no longer losing money as we were the first couple years.”

Last June, the CRTC approved the station’s request to increase its signal strength, a move Evanov says will come “very soon.”

On Jan 28, the CRTC revoked the broadcast licence of Ryerson University’s campus radio station, CKLN, citing “breach of numerous regulations and conditions of licence.”

“There was nobody really in control running it properly,” Evanov says, and while he stresses that there’ll be court appeals and government delays and much competition, he plans to nab Ryerson’s slot.

“If that frequency becomes available, we’ll apply for it and the basis for our application will be a gay station,” says Evanov.

He says he hopes to swap Proud FM’s weak and staticky signal for CKLN’s strong, city-wide reach.

“If the signal only serves the campus area, that should be enough for them,” he says. “We’re determined to keep Proud FM gay, and we’re still trying to improve the signal.”

Evanov is also a board member of the Ontario Association of Broadcasters. Asked about the recent controversy involving the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council’s demand that member stations not the version of a Dire Straits song with the word “faggot” in the lyrics, Evanov says, “I don’t have a problem with what was done… You just can’t say anything. I wouldn’t want, say, a Holocaust denier on the air. I think you’ve got to have respect for any group you’re talking about. If you speak with good sense and respect for people, there’s never an issue. That’s all it takes.”

Evanov got his start with the multicultural CHIN in 1967. With his own company, he says, he’s devoted to preserving unique radio formats.

“Even our top-40 station has a very strong dance element to it that nobody else does,” he says. “We’re not cookie-cutter, and we don’t do the mainstream formats that the big guys all do.”

Media giants like Rogers and Astral, says Evanov, “are gobbling up everything in the big markets.We’re one of the last few independents in the country.

“Last month, CTV took control of Flow, making Proud FM one of the last independent radio stations in Toronto.

“We’re dedicated to Proud FM’s format,” Evanov concludes. “There’s a market for it in Toronto and an even bigger one online.” With the transmitter move and hopes for a new signal altogether, he says the station will thrive. “The bigger you are, the better your chances of making more money.”