Budget cuts have forced LGBT radio station Proud FM to leave the Church-Wellesley Village and to lay off three staff members.
On Nov 28, the station bid adieu to its offices at 65 Wellesley St. Since then, they have also laid off staff members Chris Howson, Danielle Loncar and Jordan Witherspoon.
Bob Willette, the program director at Proud FM, tells Xtra that management decided to move the remaining production to Evanov Radio Group’s — Proud FM’s parent company — headquarters in Etobicoke and eliminate three positions as cost-cutting measures.
Willette is emphatic that layoffs were for financial reasons and were not a reflection on the staff members’ talents. Howson, Loncar, both on-air hosts, and Witherspoon, the promotions coordinator, did not respond to Xtra’s requests for comment. Willette says they will not be replacing the two hosts and instead will be increasing the number of radio features on-air.
Pearse Murray, who does the weekend morning show, is a volunteer and will continue to be heard on-air. Richard Ryder, a paid employee, will continue to host Proud FM’s afternoon show. The station has laid off a number of staff members over the years, with some hosts returning after being let go, including Ryder and Loncar.
On Feb 6, 2012, Proud FM’s administrative staff moved from their Village location to Etobicoke because of high rental costs. At the time, Willette told Xtra that although the rents were high, they felt it was crucial to remain in the Village and be visible among the downtown LGBT community.
“Media consumption and consolidation changes everything,” Willette says now. “So the industry has to change its approach on how to make really entertaining, engaging and, importantly, profitable radio.” He adds that the move to Evanov’s Radio Group’s headquarters allows them to take advantage of the resources there and to remain Proud FM.
Three of the Evanov Radio Group’s other Toronto stations — Z103.5, multilingual AM 530 and Jewel 88.5 — are also housed in Etobicoke.
In late 2012, the CRTC turned down Proud FM’s application for a stronger radio signal, a move many thought would have helped the struggling station.
“We are really trying to find a frequency or distribution method that will allow many more people to hear Proud FM,” Willette says, noting that the station streams online, on an app and on Bell Fibe services. But, he says, the power of their FM signal has been the company’s biggest challenge.
Willette says that the Evanov Radio Group remains committed to serving the LGBT community and that there are no plans to change the programming format or orientation. They are also launching a new LGBT-focused radio station, AM 980 Radio Fierté, based in Montreal.