What is the future for Radio Shalom, the only all Jewish radio station in North America that broadcasts from the 1650 AM frequency in Montreal? The fact it has survived for 10 years without any support from the organized Jewish community is in itself a miracle. Now founder Robert Levy has begun to wave the white flag. In a statement issued today, he said the time has come to end his commitment towards the radio station.
CJRS, branded as Radio Shalom Montreal, is a 24-hour non-profit radio station based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It broadcasts in French, English and Hebrew.
Radio Shalom broadcasts in several different languages, notably English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish. It has a number of interesting talk shows, particularly those hosted by Howie Silbiger and Stanley Asher. What I always appreciated about the station is not only can you listen to it live online, but they always maintained a nice archive of past shows.
Levy really gave it his best shot, but I must say the proper push was never really made to get the organized Jewish community completely on side. Yes, I know attempts were made, but think of the value of Federation CJA, the YM-YWHA and Montreal's plethora of Jewish organizations assuming a piece of the Radio Shalom pie? Each has large constituencies and radio is so direct.
Levy's announcement does not necessarily mean Radio Shalom will close. He is first and foremost proposing that a new president and board of directors be appointed. Is there such a group out there?
Levy spent years working towards getting the Canadian-radio Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to grant Radio Shalom a license. We know that is no easy task. According to a survey in July 2015 conducted by Charles Shahar, Federation CJA statistician, 84.6 percent of respondents said they were aware of the existence of Radio Shalom. As the report notes, “All in all, the awareness quotient of the community with regard to Radio Shalom is a very positive finding.”
While Radio Shalom is by no means bankrupt, it is going to start cutting some costs. As a result it will be forced to suspend the usual Saturday night and Sunday programming in order to keep its operating costs under control, and replace them with strictly music . As of January, information bulletins will also no longer be available on air.
The official statement reads: "In order to keep Radio Shalom and the voice it provides for the Montreal Jewish community alive and on the air, we need our Jewish community to work together to provide a recurrent and stable partnership that will assume responsibility of the radio’s administrative and financial needs. Moreover, if the Jewish community does not show an interest in Radio Shalom before January 31, 2016, negotiations will begin to permanently hand over the 1650 AM frequency to another community. The Canadian Jewish Voice will thus cease forever."
So is anyone willing to step up to the plate?
"As Radio Shalom seeks to recoup investments, the Jewish establishment must come forward in a very short time to avoid the disappearance of Jewish radio-- the only one in North America-- from the airwaves," Levy said in a statement sent to me. "Nevertheless, any rescue must continue our independence, and our insistence on not being a mouthpiece of the establishment."