Save JAZZ.FM vs. JAZZ.FM91: An Open Letter From Heather Bambrick

I've written about the situation at JAZZ.FM91 many times, and have discussed it at length on Toronto Mike'd with such guests as Heather Bambrick, Mark Wigmore, Dani Elwell, Jaymz Bee, Bill King and Molly Johnson. JAZZ.FM91 has recently ratcheted up the rhetoric with regards to SAVE JAZZ FM's efforts to bring governance and operational changes to JAZZ.FM91.

Below is a guest blog entry written by jazz musician and broadcaster Heather Bambrick in which she seeks to bring clarity to this conflict.

Over the past 24 hours, I have received several messages from people - most of whom I don't know, but who know me from the station - asking for clarification regarding the battle for support in the current Jazz FM situation.  With all of the correspondence being sent out by both sides, people want to know who the “good guys” are.

So, let me be clear, as a former employee, a musician, and a donor, I support SAVE JAZZ FM and their efforts to effect positive change.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • This is NOT a hostile takeover. Donor members are, in effect, “shareholders” who are entitled to have a say in the body that governs the station.  The current Board isn’t allowing them to do so.
  • SAVE JAZZ FM is NOT a corporate conglomerate or a group being funded by “deep pockets”.  They are a group of listeners and supporters who are simply concerned about the wellbeing of the station and want to affect positive change.
  • The current Board has quietly appointed three new Directors just two weeks before the deadline to hold its annual general meeting.  Members could have been asked to put forth nominees or at least vote on these new Board Directors before they took their seats at the table.  However, the current Board chose to do this without any consultation or communication with donor members.
  • Jazz FM achieved just over 50% of their last fundraising campaign goal, despite a two-day extension of the campaign.  That clearly points to a body of donors reluctant to support this station.
  • Many other arts organizations – including the TSO, Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, National Ballet of Canada, and Massey Hall - post their financials via their website, in an act of accountability to its supporters.  Jazz FM refuses to this and one has to wonder why. The fiscal year end was almost 6 months ago and there is still no sign of their financial statements.
  • In June of 2018, seven employees / contractors were fired due to financial concerns, according to the station.  Yet, in less than a year, nine new hosts have been hired. In light of the failure of the last campaign, one has to wonder how the previously cited financial concerns were alleviated allowing for the hiring of nine new hosts.
  • Several new programs have been announced, but that doesn’t address the termination of beloved hosts such as Walter Venafro, Jaymz Bee, Mark Wigmore, and others.  Similarly, the hiring of two new production staff doesn’t explain the termination of former morning show producer Billy Heaton.
  • In March of 2018, I joined twelve of my former colleagues in presenting a letter to the Board of Directors of Jazz FM outlining our concerns over a toxic work environment that included bullying and sexual harassment.  As of this writing, people about whom the allegations were made remain employed by the station, whereas each and every member of the group that brought forth the concerns was either terminated or resigned, unable to effectively function in the station’s continuing toxic work environment.
  • The toxic environment at Jazz FM continues to this day, as is evidenced not only in the mass firing of seven individuals as mentioned above, but also in the further resignations of five key employees / contractors over the past nine months, two of whom are currently involved in lawsuits against Jazz FM for various alleged violations on the part of the station.  Further anecdotal evidence by current employees paints a picture of a continued culture of fear and intimidation by senior management.
  • Toronto’s music community is becoming fragmented with many musicians refusing to offer their talent in support of Jazz FM in its current state, and others worrying that working for Jazz FM will affect their reputations amongst their colleagues.

This is not about creating new programming, Jazz safaris, or concert series.  This is about a Board and management that refuses to demonstrate transparency, accountability, or even accept responsibility for the ongoing serious problems at the station they are supposed to govern.  When those entrusted with the oversight and leadership of an organization refuse to lead, take action, take responsibility, or be forthcoming with their “stakeholders”, chronic negative elements remain and the organization is destined for failure.

I strongly encourage you to complete the BLUE PROXY sent to you by SAVE JAZZ FM and return it to them by mail or e-mail (savejazzfm@gmail.com).  And if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at heather@heatherbambrick.ca.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

heather

Heather Bambrick


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Comments (7 - click here to join in!)

bsmntdwllr73

This is an incredible well-written and most heartfelt piece of writing. I really
can't believe that JazzFM hasn't completely imploded at this point. Earlier
this morning I accidentally heard the start of Ross Porter's program and I couldn't
believe the Cojones on that guy when he boasted of his recent award for said
program. He also then went on to thank the (remaining) listenership for their
continued support. If you ask me, and please don't, those folks still voluntarily
donating their hard-earned Shekels to this aural trainwreck would be better off
throwing their cash into a waste basket and lightning it aflame. Or they can simply
donate it to a more worthy cause, such as myself, and I will be sure to put it to
very good use! I might even buy a few Jazz CDs with it. P.S., do they still even
make those things?!?

February 9, 2019 @ 10:06 AM

M

Is it true that this Ross Porter earns 300K /yr? If so, then yes Bsmnt73, this guy has the Cojones of a giant.

What about Danny Marks? Is his show in jeopardy? Love the Saturday Night Blues.

With so much of the same music up & down the dial, its great to hear diversity like Jazz & Classical. Hopefully, this will continue.

February 9, 2019 @ 12:52 PM

akj336

Thank you Heather Bambrick for clarifying for those who are trying to sort through what is correct and what is not. You have done so very well. How can any organization, particularly a registered charity treat their brilliant and dedicated staff and long supporting donors with such disregard. The fact that financial statements don't seem to be still available for a Aug 31, 2018 year end is puzzling. The station needs change now. So please support SAVE JAZZ FM.

February 10, 2019 @ 9:25 AM

Rick C in Oakville

After listening to her podcast with you Mike, having been only a casual Jazz listener, I am finding myself listening more. You can hear the passion she has for this, I hope she is successful in this resurrection.

February 12, 2019 @ 8:39 PM

Daniel Marks

Thank you M, for caring enough to inquire as to my Saturday Night show. I'd like to know what the future has in store for JAZZ FM. Some of us have tried to stay neutral. That's difficult when you have friends on either side of this horrid situation demanding that you publicly take a side. I tell people if they have a vote, please use it one way or the other. For the past 14 days, I've been the midday host. That's a lot of time in the building. The education is unprecedented, I'm learning how to be a radio host and learning, rediscovering how much I love all good music. I have reached out to those on all sides and pleaded for unity. I serve the music and the listener, as the "blues guy" on our jazz station for most of the years, I was not a witness to the daily culture except on those days when we had meetings of all staff. That time many years ago, Gentle Listener, everyone got along in harmony. When and how it all came apart is a mystery to me. We can only hope that after the vote, the station can heal. As it is, for most of us still in the building, the atmosphere feels calm. We're trying to get the best radio out and we function as a team. That's job one and only. We hope whoever takes the reins moving forward will do it with kindness.

February 14, 2019 @ 9:29 PM

akj336

So relieved at the outcome of the special general meeting today. It was sad to witness how issues relating to terminated staff was explained by the Board Chair. It was sadder to hear him say if he had to do it over, he would not change anything. That response was stunning. I wish Brian Hemming and the new board all the very best. It was so good to be able to tune into Dinner Jazz with John Devenish this evening after a five and a half month self imposed hiatus. I look forward to the return of the old programs.

February 15, 2019 @ 9:11 PM

Tom Edwards

I have been a listener and doner since the early 70's when i purchased my first sterio system. That's when I found CJRT. Well, I'm still here. I can't express how much I love all of the new programming. Keep up with the new altitude and direction. The radio is on all of my waking hour's and Soul Nation is more fun than is legal. Tom Edwards

June 20, 2019 @ 7:56 AM

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