CJAM profanity policy threatens artistic merit

Illustrated by Qi Li Illustrated by Qi Li

Darryl Gallinger
NEWS EDITOR

Programmers at the University of Windsor’s campus-community radio station are speaking against a  new anti-profanity policy.

CJAM 99.1’s board implemented a new policy that bans all on-air profanity effective May 7, until further notice. Previously, profanity was permitted as long as listeners were given prior warning.

“It’s unprecedented,” Martin Deck, co-host of CJAM’s Wake the Town, said of the policy. He believes the station manager, Vernon Smith, should be defending the rights of programmers to play music with profanity if it has artistic merit.

“CJAM, as far as I know, is unique on the airwaves here in Windsor and Detroit. What it is, is total freedom to program. We play whatever we want, and we’re not following dictates from the management,” said Deck. “We choose the music that we play.”

“We’re not the only radio station in Canada. The CRTC governs all radio in Canada, including the CBC, which includes profanity. Why should we have more restrictions on us than the CBC? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

“I hope that it doesn’t have to be a permanent policy,” said Josh Kolm, president of CJAM’s board of directors. “Essentially, the reasoning behind it is that the CRTC has straight up … mandated that broadcasters are not allowed to broadcast any obscenities whatsoever. There’s been a couple of instances of volunteers pushing the limit.”

“The way that the CRTC handles complaints and any resulting disciplinary action is sort of vague and unwritten and unstated. Some stations, like the way CJAM has done it in the past … have their own policy,” Kolm explained. “Other stations choose to just play it safe and just go with what CRTC says and do no obscenity whatsoever.”

“When I was president … we were allowed to have swearing after 10 p.m. as long as we prefaced with a listener’s discretion,” said Theresa Leslie, former president of CJAM’s board of directors. “How I always envisioned it was, if you’re using it, and you can justify why you’re using that word, and you’re not just using it because you think it’s cool, then … there was no problem with that.”

Leslie noted that hard rock, metal and hip-hop music usually feature more profanity, and so radio hosts with programs featuring that genre usually held their shows after 10 p.m.

“I usually do all on-air … so it’s all new releases. So it is a little difficult because you don’t have time to listen to an entire song to make sure there aren’t profanities,” said Leslie, who hosts a show on CJAM.

Leslie believes that Smith and the current board of directors implemented the new policy to ensure they were “crossing all the t’s and dotting the i’s” of their CRTC broadcasting licence renewal and power increase applications.

In an e-mail to CJAM staff and volunteers, station manager Vernon Smith confirmed, “Here and now … policy is the policy and our two main jobs are protecting the license and acquiring a power increase.”

He added, “I was advised by the CRTC staffer yesterday that CJAM’s board decision was ‘very smart’ and that it will ‘greatly please the members’ by showing that CJAM has ‘acted responsibly.’ … It would appear that the board has astutely passed the right policy at the right time.”

The CRTC’s decision regarding CJAM’s power increase application will be finalized by Aug. 1. Smith has recently approached the board, asking that a Swearing Summit be held to discuss the profanity issues with all programmers.

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