pj on Wed, 14 Oct 1998 20:38:01 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Toronto City Report

Toronto Indepent Media

The Toronto independent media terrain is populated with a variety of
community newspapers and radio programming in many languages-- reflecting
one of the most racially diverse cities in the world.  The campus-based
radio stations CKLN (88.1FM at Ryerson Polytechnical, profiled below) and
CIUT (89.5FM, University of Toronto) are the downtown signals for aural
experimentation.  The benefits which regularly proceed from student-based
funding extend to these stations, and a variety of campus newspapers,
trying to fill student niches and draw in community support. 

On a larger scale, the space for glossy and somewhat left arts magazines
is nicely filled out by such efforts THiS Magazine, FUSE, and Mixmag, all
produced out of the sprawling warehouse of multi-media design production,
the 401 Richmond Building and all distributed internationally.  Funding
for the arts in the province has been under a systematic and full-scale
attack over the past three years, just one of the social, cultural, and
environmental treasures decimated by a conservative Tory government.  Even
for organizations only partially dependent on these grants, the government
has forced choices -- such as that of THiS magazine to strengthen its ties
with labour, or that of SHIFT Magazine to become a corporate driven
technology showplace with a strong web marketing angle.  A lively
grassroots community still supports the pink press dotting the terrain,
with Siren magazine, by, for and about lesbian culture publishing every
other month, and Xtra, a bi-weekly newspaper, with its base on the
country's most flamboyant queer neighborhood, Church Street.  There is
also a widely eclectic but sometimes bitingly vicious small press scene
which manifests different aspects of itself at three separate events each
year -- the CanZine Festival, hosted by Broken Pencil magazine (a zine
review published thrice yearly), or the fiercely independent punk-based
Cut'n'Paste Festival, and the Small Press Book Fair.  Publishers spiking
this vein include Gutter Press, Coach House Books, and Marginal

Several specific projects which began at the fringes of the underground
are gaining popularity.  There is a frequent pirate radio broadcast from
local raves and performance art gatherings or occasionally from Toronto
Island at 88.9FM.  In Parkdale, one of the city's poorest neighborhoods,
there is a new studio project called Phat Flava Radio, CPRK, which teaches
the art of mixing and broadcast to young people and is in the process of
building a community radio station from the ground up.  At the other end
of the city, there is a new community television station broadcasting from
pentium in the basement and an antenna on the roof of a co-op housing
project at the corner of Main St. and Gerrard, and which has been granted
a limited broadcasting license by the regulatory board, CRTC (Canadian
Radio and Telecommunications Commission).  Another exciting new
independent troupe is the Toronto Video Activist Collective (TVAC) who are
trying to document the intense political community activism and rising
police repression in the city.  (With over three times as many private
security guards as public police, and new moves to subcontract the
surveillance and control of major downtown intersections, TVAC should be
quite busy.  They can be contacted at tvac@tao.ca)

In order to get a better sense of the historical development of the scene
in Toronto, here are profiles of three different media projects, CKLN
Radio, InterAccess Media Arts Centre, and TAO Communications. 

CKLN continues to struggle to keep autonomous zone

CKLN FM is a community and campus based radio station and it is located in
Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto. It was started in 1970 as a
campus station by Ryerson's students. Undergoing many changes over the
years, it received a licence in 1983. Since then CKLN has broadcasted as a
community radio station for 24 hours a day. According to it's statement,
the mandate is to "be a forum for extensive cultural and historical
contextualization and development of musical, artistic and other cultural
expressions, along with socially progressive ideas which arise from
communities,constituencies, sectors and individuals who are socially,
politically and economically disadvantaged and whose access to public
communications and media is thereby limited. Specifically women, people of
colour, First Nations peoples, lesbians and gay men, working people, poor
people, disabled people-among others. 

In particular those within these communities who are the least publicly
represented and who are working for visionary and innovative social
changes are prioritized." Students and people from community can find
training to learn radio production and contribute to the station. It is
run by a few paid staff who work along with graduates from Ryerson,
students, community members and hundreds of volunteers.  CKLN is one of
the few autonomous and public spaces in the media in Toronto. 

Keeping this kind of space is always struggle. The CRTC (Canadian Radio
and Television Commission) is trying to homogenize FM and AM bands in
order to "protect Canadian content". 

CKLN has received grants from provincial governments and arts coucils.
.But these too have been cut through changes of local government policy.
CKLN is more than $100,000 in debt at the moment and now their main source
of revenue is depending on Ryerson's student's support through a fee levy. 
So overall, CKLN has been financed through grants, the levy, which is
$8.03 per year for each student, donation from individuals and community
organizations during the annual 'fundfest' and a small amount of
advertisement revenue which is drawn from local small business. 

Students have been supportive. CKLN will ask to increase student

Up to at least $12.03 through a referenda, but the station is unsure if
students will accept this or not.  It is now time for CKLN to find their
way to survive as community radio station within the community as well. 

CKLN continues to keep its autonomous zone.

more information can be seen at http://ckln.sac.ryerson.ca/ckln.html


InterAccess Electronic Media Art Centre contributes to local community

InterAccess is a non-profit electronic Media Art Centre in Toronto. It was
launched in 1982 and it aims to provide artists and the general public in
Toronto with an opportunity to explore the intersection of culture and
technology by facilitating the creation,exhibition,workshops, presentation
and discussion of electronic art forms and new communications media. It
offers exhibition opportunities exclusively for electronic media artworks
and events in its downtown gallery space and on it's web site, along with
on-going public dialogue and critique through presentations, user groups,
and informal forums within its local community. Also it provides a
production facility to artists with low costs to develop works in-house
for exhibition and distribution. As Toronto's Art & Robotics Group (ARG)
was founded at InterAccess, the centre has become a place for artists and
engineers of different backgrounds and engineer to work together. It's
archive and information about on-going projects can be seen at


Tao K'o Tao Fei Ch'ang Tao

TAO Communications, begun in late 1995, grew out of the immediatist
network in Toronto -- activists and hackers with common purpose.  As the
internet corporatized, TAO became more etheREAL and established a
labyrinthian and paradoxical web interface.  For example, "the Water
Project" is a research area surveying rising corporate oligarchies and
monopolies around the world.  As TAO has grown, telecommunications in
Canada have been deregulated by neo-Liberal design, leading to the
consolidation of smaller and local internet service providers and BBS
systems into the profitable flat shiny surface of the net. Down below the
water's surface, pebbles of linux users were, by slow accretion, creating
a new foundation of open source software.  The bits of code and ideas for
street theatre became the flow that the TAO-Toronto node grew upon. 
Politicization of form and content went into overdrive as activists
increasingly came under surveillance and attack.  The http fronts began
taking up less space than the inter-activIST communication... the main
linux server is now host to 200 lists and the co-operatively run
collective offers e-mail with PGP on a pay-what-you-can basis, helping
folks who need it most to get messages out. 

The donated hardware is transported about the city in a bike trailer when
need be.  Software is adapted out of the niches of hacktime
re-appropriated from corporate employers and envisioned by the needs of
hundreds of free-roaming organizers.  Often to its detriment, the server
and its administration, along with its research, publishing and political
organization, is accomplished with next to no money.  As per the login
screen, the whole project runs on love and electrons... and dumpster-dives
all the rest. TAO workers are Wobblies, socialists, anarchists, community
organizers.  ("Industrial" Workers of the World, local 560).  The union
drive was about defending public spaces, and reinforcing the idea that
labour is entitled to all that it creates.  The expanding membership is in
the process of articulating a ten point program, taking inspiration from
the Black Panthers and the Zapatistas. 

The main work continues to be in support of radical activist projects --
re-inforced communications for anti-poverty groups, and network news by
and for direct action groups, labour groups and student resistance
movements. At work and play since the Ontario-wide teacher's strike,
solidarity and popular education led to TAO disrupting classrooms (by
invitation or agitation) and then continual re-shaping of operating
processes. Projects on the coming waves include a completely open source
web-based e-mail server with easily available encryption, and a benefit CD
with potentially, a TAO installation of linux alongside music and spoken
word. There is also a distinct and active disdain for the millenialism
being pumped through the networks amongst the workers at TAO
Communications, which may translate into some interesting moments in the
coming year or so. You can keep in touch by visiting http://www.tao.ca/
But of course, none of this really matters, since the Tao K'o Tao Fei
Ch'ang Tao (tao that can be told is not the tao). 

the rise and fall of the media collective

These merry pranksters danced under and over the blight of billboards
which covered their land, correcting or clearing them as they went.  They
danced through the underground subway system, igniting a popular and
theatrical reclamation of public space on the 7am Tuesday suburban trains
downtown. They built legends of sunflower people, stiltwalkers, jugglers
and firebreathers to inspire resistance in children of all ages. Elusive,
nomadic immedia discards notions of intellectual property, so that
collective memes appear in infinite variation in zines and newspapers, on
stickers and billboards, flyposters and graffiti. The (im)media collective
self-organized workshops in roof-top gardening, silk-screening, urban
climbing, hacking, luddism, meditating and ranting -- continually
searching for and acting out liberation.  These were its strengths. 

Its weaknesses were less understood and analysed, likely because of the
way such memes are spread.  Placing societal power relations behind a
stage curtain hid the contradictions debated amongst the actors. The
players slipped into the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), and
occasionally slid a radical democratic message into staid liberal papers
such as the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, even experimenting with
ultra-capitalist populist media empires, like Moses Znaimer's CITY-TV. The
self-proclaimed alternative media continually appropriated the bad-ass
attitude of the media collective, often with the willing participation of
its actors, believing themselves capable of subverting anything. But
vaunted radical change did not directly proceed from the slogans.  The
billboards were replaced and the chalk washed away, leaving only the
images of themselves recycled on television. Those who counted these
images as success thrived on the increasing popularity, the rest quickly
tired of the substanceless iconography. The semioticians of (ad)liberation
did not get at the underlying materiality of Toronto conditions, and the
homelessness, unemployment and hunger is not much more bearable because of
the image play. Eventually, the symbols lost so much meaning that the
bottom dropped out, and the media collective floated in circuitous
introspection, fragmented along the old political, social, and economic
fault lines. 

On its second anniversary, as if such experiments can be said to have an
alpha and omega, the Death of the Media Collective was celebrated. The
struggle for creative self-emancipation continues in kaleideoscopic new
forms out from these collective lessons. Energies multiplied and
dissolved into such projects as existed previous, or grew out of the
experience -- Reclaim the Streets, Food Not Bombs, TAO Communications, the
Po-Po Collective and the 7a-11D festival, Post-Industrial Design, the
Revolutionary Anarchist Wimmin's Collective, Idiosyntactix, Act for
Disarmament, Critical Mass, and countless other zines and film showings. 

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