Latest NewsUniversity of Ottawa students vote to defund CHUO-FM

University of Ottawa students vote to defund CHUO-FM

89.1 CHUO-FM, the University of Ottawa’s campus and community radio station, has been defunded after a majority of students voted to end the $4.99 per student levy collected on its behalf.

The university first won a licence for the bilingual station in 1991, taking root as a club dating back to the mid-1980s, initially cable-casting its programming in addition to being heard via closed circuit in the university residences.

In an appeal to students earlier this month, following the university’s approval of the referendum question to end the student levy, Acting Station Manager Grant Stein wrote in an open letter that the question threatened to “tear down decades of institutional knowledge and collective student and community-focused artistry.”

He maintains the radio station being included in the referendum was rooted in student union politics.

“Students should also be aware that the UOSU Board member who submitted the initial referendum question about defunding the radio station had never asked a question about CHUO at any UOSU Committee or Board meeting. Moreover, the Board Member had not emailed a single question to CHUO, nor had spoken to our Board. The same Board member didn’t even have the interest to visit the station and meet with the staff, students and contributors before seeking to defund it,” wrote Stein.

“Legal wrangling and poor governance have overshadowed principles of transparency, accountability and fairness that students should expect. We want to have a dialogue with UOSU, we want to understand why CHUO has found itself in the crosshairs of UOSU. We have always respected our agreement with the Student’s Union. We have a lot to offer: our doors are open and we welcome you to speak about the future of your radio station,” he continued.

CHUO-FM was one of 10 referendum items the students’ union put directly to students for a vote, with the student population also voting to end funding to university think tank, Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG). The move reduces the basic student union fee by more than 11%.

As of publication, CHUO-FM management had not responded to a request for comment.

Broadcaster and former station volunteer Adrian Harewood was among those who took to social media to decry the vote outcome, calling it “a huge blow to the Ottawa community.”

I was so fortunate back in the mid 1990s to be a volunteer at CHUO-FM,” he wrote. “I was a contributor to the current affairs program “Black on Black,”which 30 years later is still going strong. Like so many, I owe my career in journalism to my time at community radio.”

Speed of decision surprising: NCRA

Barry Rooke, Executive Director of the National Campus & Community Radio Association (NCRA) told Broadcast Dialogue that student processes vary school to school, but that the association was taken aback by the abruptness of the referendum.

“We are surprised by the speed at which the decision to create a ballot and put CHUO on the chopping block without consultation or the opportunity for CHUO to defend themselves based on a minimal number of people (both getting on the ballot, as well as a campaign before the vote),” said Rooke. “We know each university and student association has its processes, and UOttawa has a very low threshold for questions.”

Rooke said, for example, that McGill University’s CKUT-FM has a mandatory fee referendum every five years – the last in 2021, in which the station was successful.

The Student Choice Initiative also negatively impacted the bottom line of 19 campus & community stations in Ontario in 2019-20, before being declared illegal.

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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessen
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email -

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