By PAUL MCELROY
Salt Spring Island’s nascent volunteer radio station has been caught up in Meta’s battle with the Canadian government over publishing rights and compensation, even though it is not yet broadcasting nor a news-focused organization.
Salt Spring’s CHIR.fm, a fledgling, web-based community station, was kicked off Facebook last weekend when it tried to place an announcement for its weekly fundraising sale of vinyl records and second-hand CDs.
“It’s crazy,” said Damian Inwood, society president and driving force behind the station. “We don’t even do any news at present, as we’ve been focused on raising money for transmitting equipment. So there’s nothing for Meta or Google or whoever to use. At the moment we’re mainly a music station, except on Saturdays in the summer when we broadcast live from Salt Spring’s market.”
The CHiR.fm Facebook page has been frozen, with no posts visible to anyone in Canada.
“In response to Canadian government legislation, news content can’t be viewed in Canada,” read a message left by Meta.
The Gulf Islands Driftwood’s Facebook page has also been rendered useless by Meta. As the Driftwood is a member of News Media Canada, which represents the news media industry in Canada, that action was expected, according to publisher Nancy Johnson.
The federal government passed Bill C-18 in June. It aims to force Google and Meta to negotiate with news publishers to compensate them for linking to their content. Facebook has responded by blocking “news content” in Canada.
The Salt Spring Island radio station was granted a licence to broadcast by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission in 2022. Gulf Islands Community Radio Society, a registered non-profit, hopes to launch CHiR.fm on 107.7 FM by the end of the year and build a substantial radio listenership on the islands.
“It’s taken us eight years to get to this point,” said Inwood, 73, a retired journalist. “We’ve been raising the necessary funds, around $50,000, to buy the equipment we need to get on the air. We depend on the sale of the thousands of LPs and CDs that people on the island have donated and it’s a huge blow not to be able to let the public know where we are through Salt Spring Facebook pages.”
“We’ve had massive support from local businesses and enthusiastic islanders,” added Inwood. “So it’s a crying shame we’ve been arbitrarily blocked by Facebook for something we have absolutely no control over.”
Inwood said he’s looking into an apparent appeal process with Meta.