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More watts for gay radio: Proud FM gets its wish

Programmers say new hosts will be in place before Pride

After three years of static, Proud FM’s longtime desire for a stronger transmitter has been granted by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Increasing their signal from 50 to 128 watts, the station will be moving its transmitter from its current Yonge and Eglington location to one in the Yonge and Bloor area, resulting in a stronger sound in the downtown core.

More importantly, says programming director Bob Willette, the station is about to unveil a new set of on-air hosts to replace Shaun Proulx, Deb Pearce, Mark Wigmore and Patrick Marano, who were abruptly fired by station management on May 5.

“The search has been great,” says Willette, “We got well over a hundred applicants… some really interesting people.” The final choices, he says, are a mix of people from other media and internal promotions. “The plan is to have the full line-up in place for Pride,” he says, a move obviously hoping to woo back the more than 2,000 people that have signed on to a Facebook protest page against the station.

Both station management and the fired hosts are now silent on the issue — “It’s before the courts,” Willette says — but in an earlier interview with Xtra, Shaun Proulx explained his frustrations with management that led to the mass firings.

“Hosts were being asked to do some advertorial stuff that we’d never been asked to do before,” he said, including using talk time to plug products. “I have a bit of an issue with just being handed something and told to shut up and read it.”

Willette insists that Proud FM will continue to be the same station people have listened to for the last three years.

“We’re still going to provide a voice for community groups,” he says, “They’re why we’re here.”

And the afternoon show, he says, will still be a place for discussion.

“There’s no intention to turn it into a typical drive-home show like you’d hear on CHUM-FM,” Willette insists, “No offense to them but we provide a different product. It’s unique, it’s inclusive, it’s about and for the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community.”