What's Happening at JAZZ.FM91?

What the heck is happening at JAZZ.FM91? The first sign something wasn't right was when Dani Elwell left last year. She was Vice President, Creative and host of #NIGHTLAB, but suddenly she was gone without an explanation. And yes, I've asked her to appear on Toronto Mike'd and I'm hopeful that will happen later this year.

Then, there was an investigation into the behaviour of Ross Porter, the station’s CEO and president, which was spurred by a letter written by a group of former and current employees. Porter is now out as CEO and president, but remains on the air as host of a Saturday morning show on the station. His voice is also used for on-air identification breaks.

Then, there was the sudden dismissal of Garvia Bailey, who hosted the morning show. Mark Wigmore took over as morning show host, but now he's been let go. He was also the senior arts editor responsible for the station’s arts coverage. Also terminated are weekend hosts Walter Venafro and David Basskin, David Wall, the director of community outreach and education, and Jaymz Bee, who had been at the station for 16 years.

All of this coincides with a shakeup of the board. JAZZ.FM91 is a public broadcaster supported entirely by corporate and private donations and by limited commercial revenue. Its licence from the CRTC prohibits it from running commercials for more than four minutes an hour.

Yesterday, they aired dead air in the morning and couldn't time their BBC news updates correctly. The station appears to be in disarray, with no official comment from the board.

So what's next for CJRT? Don't the donors have a right to know what's up? Does anyone know what's happening?


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Comments (27 - click here to join in!)

Irv

Perhaps Ross & Jazz FM have decided to assist aspiring radio, TV and business students with a real life example of "how not to do things".

I'm more interested when men are going to start taking responsibility for their peers actions around sexual harassment & bullying.

June 20, 2018 @ 9:15 AM

bsmntdwllr73

This station has been going downhill for years. It tries too hard to be all things to all types
of jazz fans and I don't think that this is a winning formula for long-term growth and success.
But what the hell do I know, I couldn't even successfully manage some Sea Monkeys or grow
a Chia Pet to completion!! A lot of good people have lost their jobs or were forced to leave for reasons
not yet fully explained. The allegations against Ross Porter alone should be enough
to at least temporarily scrub his aural presence from the station (for now). I love jazz, but
the sad truth is that this station wouldn't be able to succeed without its not-for-profit
status, as it doesn't appear to be very accountable to its Banana Republic-esque board, well-heeled
donors, under-served listeners, or potentially-mistreated former staffers.

June 20, 2018 @ 4:33 PM

Handsome Rob

What about Ben from Y108? Where's the update on him?
Get him in for some TM convo.

June 20, 2018 @ 5:19 PM

Poindexter

WE WANT DANI ELWELL!!!
sorry for yelling

June 20, 2018 @ 7:34 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Poindexter

It's looking like she'll visit in late July.

June 20, 2018 @ 9:54 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Handsome Rob

Ben was let go in mid-May.

June 20, 2018 @ 9:55 PM

jane harbury

I am terribly sad at the loss of all the wonderful folks who are no longer @ Jazz.FM91 - I am also sad for all those left trying to carry on.

June 22, 2018 @ 8:32 AM

Marla Lukofsky

Mike'd is correct. For me the sequence of decline happened with the absence of Dani Elwell who was one of the reasons why I started to listen to the station. Actually before that I felt a lack of female jazz vocalists on the air and thought that was super strange. I know there's those who prefer only instrumentals but TOO BAD. Jazz includes vocalists and stylists. They are the reason why most of us sing jazz. Next thing I noticed was odd music on Jazz FM that could have been the hillbilly station, no offense to hillbillies. I'm sure you're good people and deserve your own music to be played but not on Jazz FM. Some selections were so strange that I'd keep checking my radio settings to make sure I had it on Jazz FM and of course I had. I knew something was very wrong at 91.1. Next, my favorite morning voice, Garvia Bailey, was no longer speaking to me as I drank my coffee. "Oh Oh. This doesn't sound like Kansas anymore." There was no notice of a holiday. There was nothing. Just some other voice talking at me in the A.M. Hey, what's this? I'm hearing a female jazz voice right now on 91.1. Marlena Shaw 'On The Street Where You Live'. Finally! Back to what's at hand. Something's clearly wrong at Jazz FM, a place that once was home for my auditory senses.

June 22, 2018 @ 10:33 AM

bsmntdwllr73

Marla Lukofsky
Tastefully disagree, but while you are totally right about the reduction in a female presence
on the station, I'm one of those people who much prefers instrumental jazz to those song
stylists. More willing to hear the same old songs repeated Ad nauseam without lyrics.

June 22, 2018 @ 10:41 AM

Denise Leslie

I always thought that Mark W and Garvia Bailey should have swapped jobs. She should have remained the Arts Editor, he should have taken the seat as morning host a long time ago. She came across to me as ill-prepared most mornings and I personally found the umming, stammering and stuttering hugely distracting! Didn’t anyone else notice this? It drove me crazy. Then if I heard her present a report of some kind she was like a different person. Solid, self assured and beyond capable. But now like so many other very talented female contributors to the station, she’s gone.

I was absolutely shocked and saddened to hear of the recent layoffs and then what the cause of it all was. Quite relieved to hear that Brad Barker had kept his spot however (and Glenn Woodcock!). The 5+8 women who’d written the letter must have had quite an ordeal during their time employed by the station for such talented folks to be let go and I feel for them. I have heard rumblings that it was a toxic work environment for women especially. How bloody awful. I mean come on. I do hope they sort things out quickly and SOON. The station was and is something for Toronto to be very proud of. I hope it doesn’t go the way of other formerly wonderful Toronto jewels that used to make me so proud. Ontario Place and the Forum come to mind.

June 22, 2018 @ 9:21 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

The CBC just wrote about this: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/jazz-fm91-listeners-stunned-at-changes-allegations-of-misconduct-at-beloved-radio-station-1.4719169

It includes this quote of an email from Dani Elwell. "Unfortunately this was not my choice. I wasn't allowed to say goodbye with the show."

June 23, 2018 @ 9:06 AM

bsmntdwllr73

Happy to report or maybe not, that at least one person accused of troubling allegations is still
allowed to keep on doing their job: Ross Porter!! Not exactly news, but this morning on JazzFM
there is a newly recorded episode of his "Music to Listen to Jazz" program currently underway.
Not sure if it is another edition from his farmhouse, but the last few weeks he'd been replaced
first with fundraising and then an encore broadcast of an earlier show. Wonder what dirt he
has on the board higher-ups that allows him to continuing being there thus far? Might be
because he is the one with the connections/relationships and despite the accusations, without
his help in some capacity, the station would be in even more serious trouble. Just an uneducated
guess.

June 23, 2018 @ 9:28 AM

Mark Eisenman

Interesting.
One tip, jazz fans.
Talk to some of your favourite jazz musicians.

June 23, 2018 @ 1:57 PM

Mark Eisenman

The facts speak for themselves.
Canadian Red Cross (another charity)
Operating Budget $313,000,000
CEO Conrad Sauve, pay $321,299
Follow the money.

June 23, 2018 @ 2:08 PM

Lynn McDonald

Am I correct in remembering that back in the day, hosts on CJRT did their own programming? I sensed someone else holding the reins at Jazz FM. CJRT hosts like Ted OReillyand Larry Green were paid poorly and worked diligently. I feel that Jazz FM programming is either spot on with supporting its own Toronto players to extreme middle of the road commercial material. A real crap shoot. The incredible talent whom I hire for my small jazz series rarely get AirPlay they so richly deserve.
That’s where CKLN came in. Ryerson always had good jazz shows back then, Wally Dawson etc . Perhaps 91.1 has corporate constraints.
It is disillusioning to feel blurred boundaries and bad behaviour is so all pervasive. We trust these voices in our homes and on our drives.

June 24, 2018 @ 5:58 AM

JJ

As long as they don't take away Danny Marks & his BluzFM on Saturday. If that happens, they it will surely be a tragedy.

June 24, 2018 @ 1:52 PM

Bill Curry

I wrote an email last week to interim CEO Charles Cutts to inform the board of the damage they're doing to CJRT.

I received a response from Fundraising Director Jennifer Bryan, who informed me: "Please note that Garvia made personal decision to leave the station. We recognize the wonderful contribution she made to the station and wish her the best in her future endeavors."

Wow. They've sure got a funny way of recognizing people's contributions.

The fact that we haven't heard a word from Garvia or any of the other "disappeared" talent makes it clear that there's probably either been a settlement or people are too scared to speak out. Probably both.

I wasn't expecting a genuine mea culpa, but Ms. Bryan's response is pathetic. Typical PR BS—without a trace of irony.

Cutts' letter to listeners (explaining the departures) was also a joke—somehow equating Rogers' publishing layoffs to the dismissals of Wigmore et al. It's pretty clear who's responsible for the toxic environment. The station's silence and the fact that Ross P. is still on the air is positively tone deaf. The fact that he was pulling down $300K is also pretty galling. Now you know where your hard-earned contributions went.

It's time for everyone to speak up with their wallet. If you're a perpetual donor, cancel your contribution until we get an honest accounting of what's gone on.

I for one, won't be donating another cent.


June 24, 2018 @ 5:16 PM

Larry

As a long time donor - going back to the CJRT days with Ted O’Reilly & Joe Lewis - I find the lack communication from the “new” board frustrating and unacceptable. One minute we’re advised that it was a “successful” fund raising campaign. The next minute we’re told harsh economic realities have forced multiple firings. (If these firings were “without cause” it would mean a significant payout for severances. In essence money raised in the last campaign went for neither jazz nor the arts). At present - for example, early morning & Saturday afternoon - it’s essentially Spotify with commercials. In response to my inquiries as to whether this short or long term...not reply. In addition to being perpetual donors we’ve also been on five international (and countless Toronto) Safaris with Jaymz. We’d almost signed up for the London Safari in November but with Jaymz gone, no way! With donors who’ve already paid for Italy and London get a refund? Our money will go to other arts organizations.

June 24, 2018 @ 6:31 PM

bsmntdwllr73

Hopefully JazzFM will soon be reduced to operating out of a brunt-out telephone booth
in Parkdale!!. No longer classy enough to brag about broadcasting from Liberty Village. Also,
can't believe how much money from the station's somewhat meagre budget previously went
straight into Ross Porter's trousers! He'd better have some of those shiny 'acorns' stored away, in
case judgment Day ever comes home to roost regarding those numerous allegations!!!

June 25, 2018 @ 1:34 PM

Rob.Fogle

I started listening to CJRT in the early 1960's when Ted O'Reilly was the one & only voice of jazz there.I have been a periodic contributor to the station over all of those years.Since the new pres/ceo arrived,I've watched broadcasters who knew something about this great music get "relieved" of their positions.Bill King,Doug Watson & Larry Green to name just three, & of course Ted who had diffculty working there under the new conditions, soon retired. Now the current batch of djs are "gone" but Mr.Porter is still on air.He has brought about some innovations,both good & bad to the station but,until the pending charges are settled,the honourable thing to do would be to step aside from his show. I,myself, did a jazz radio show at another station for 27 years,& I'm quite familiar with politics.This station let all approximately 60 non-paid broadcasters go essentially overnight because they decided to make "some changes".It's time that the contributing public to JazzFm were brought out of the dark. To repeat under the present sexual climate many individuals with far lesser charges pending have resigned their positions or at least stepped aside until they are settled.Wakeup Mr.Porter.If these charges are proven incorrect you can then return to your glory,& laugh at the accusers. Do your ever think that this will ever happen?

June 26, 2018 @ 9:43 AM

bsmntdwllr73

Nice to see that jazz trombonist Russ Little (brother of the once famous impressionist Rich)
is stepping up with a brief message of support on JazzFm's home page, Not sure what I'd
currently like to learn more about at this moment: That long-promised Moses Znaimer
Globe and Mail takedown, or a more in-depth explanation about Ross Porter's supposed
reign of terror at that beyond-past-its-heyday jazz station? Very tough call. SERIOUSLY.

July 3, 2018 @ 11:48 AM

Bob Marches

Been speaking with many of my jazz musician friends in the region. To put it simple, Porter was acting like a mafia Don. You played his game, or you were screwed. Some of the stories are disgusting. While Porter was living the high life, he conned listeners into donations that kept him living so far beyond hard working musicians ... Hard to believe. Never listen to the station anymore, will never donate. The sooner it's gone the better. Maybe something new can emerge.

July 11, 2018 @ 4:39 PM

bsmntdwllr73

We need to hear/read more stories about this subject. Too bad we're not living in the twenties or
thirties anymore, 'cause then this tale would be front and centre in all the papers and on the radio
news programs! Let's round up a multi-cultural, multi-gendered posse, gather our pitchforks and
torches and go get ourselves some frontier justice. Or Frankenstein-esque, whichever's nastier!
Who's with me? Anyone....anyone...? Ah, so I guess it's up to me then!!

July 12, 2018 @ 9:58 AM

Nancy

Larry and Bob got it right. The board functions like an "olds boys" club...extremely old school and totally dysfunctional. From my personal observation of Ross Porter, I see Mr. Porter rides in style to and from venues, texting while the musicians play and appears annoyed should he be called upon to interact with donors in attendance. The "internal" investigation is nothing short of a farce. As a fan of "Jaymz", I can also say from personal experience that his contribution to the station was definitely worth more than he received in salary and perks. "Jaymz" promotes, buys the CDs, supports and LISTENS to the artists that so desperately need exposures and audiences. I have seen "Mr. Optimistic" ensure everyone is included the musical experience...didn't matter whether the donor was 22 or 82, he treated everyone with respect. I will not be donating to Jazz.FM in the future. I cannot support a station that has such total disregard for their employees, both woman and men.

July 12, 2018 @ 4:14 PM

Joanne cummer

Very disappointing ~ jazz 91.1 has been a constant in our lives 24~7 for years. It was one of those rays of ‘feelgood’ In your day even when everything else wasn’t going well. I realized that something was ‘off’ over the past weeks and after reading the comments section here & the G&M investigating piece I just feel disheartened. We are living through a time when good causes,heroes are so important ~ I always regarded 91.1 as one of them. Also agree with comments questioning some of the content available lately ~ as a longtime lover of ‘good jazz’ you automatically tweak to ‘that’s not good’. if Brad Barker leaves I will too.

It’sbeen a long treat but sadly I told my husband, why do all the really good things over time have to end?

July 14, 2018 @ 6:00 PM

bsmntdwllr73

...Because bloody Ross Porter and his overfed ego were allowed to overflow unchecked for
nearly a decade and a half, that's why!! The station's complete unwillingness to acknowledge the
current turmoi (on-air)l is while quite understandable, the 2018 inverse equivalent of James Stewart's very invisible rabbit friend from that early '50s flick "Harvey"!! Any clued-in listener can see the chaos,
but the PWTB act like there isn't a problem. Hopefully the coffers quickly run dry and a forced
reboot is quickly implemented. complete with a more stable and relatively ego-free leadership.

July 15, 2018 @ 1:57 PM

bsmntdwllr73

Above should have read as PTB (powers that be).

July 15, 2018 @ 2:25 PM

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