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 (email@example.com). And if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.