Recent posts online may have bolstered board members’ suspicions that a sudden doubling of memberships at the community radio station in Salmon Arm could be due to an attempted ‘takeover’ by people upset by government handling of the pandemic.
After the Observer published an article Jan. 19 on the unprecedented membership spike, a changed version of the story soon showed up online in ‘BC Interior Freedom Fighters’ and ‘Canadian Vaccine Deaths and Adverse Reactions,’ both channels on the messaging app Telegram.
On the latter channel, the words ‘possible takeover’ in the headline were underlined in red. The first paragraph in the article itself was replaced with another paragraph stating: “Freedom Fighters in the Shuswap taking action and looking to take over the community radio and has the Ol’ Boys rattled,” complete with a laugh emoji and a raised fist emoji generally used to signify solidarity. The changed article was linked to the real article on the Salmon Arm Observer website.
Warren Bell, president of the CKVS Voice of the Shuswap board, said the number of new memberships reached more than 200 by the midnight Jan. 17 deadline, bringing total memberships close to 350 – a tripling from the previous 10 years.
Board members had noticed an influx of new memberships earlier on, some from other provinces, Bell said.
“Then we noticed some people we did know who were very opposed to the way the pandemic is being managed and often their opinions were quite harsh…”
At that point the board put out a call to people who wanted to keep the radio station non-partisan, open and inclusive. He said that request brought in memberships as well.
In the interview for the Jan. 19 article, Bell said the radio station cannot be turned into a platform for a narrow perspective as it would not be able to keep its licence with the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), plus it would not meet the values of inclusiveness and openness included in its lease with First United Church, or First Community.
The radio station’s AGM is scheduled for Feb. 16 on Zoom. Bell said it was necessary for the board to extend its Zoom capabilities to allow up to 500 people online instead of the small number who usually show up.
“We’re thinking hard about how to be fair to everybody but to protect the station from being seconded to a narrow perspective of the public discourse,” he said.
The cutoff for nominations to the board will be two weeks prior to the AGM.
“For a little community radio station almost begging for people to join the board in the past, this is a tsunami – we’re overwhelmed,” Bell said.
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