A long-time advertiser on JAZZ.FM91 has pulled its sponsorship dollars as the not-for-profit, listener-supported Toronto radio station continues to grapple with the fallout of a workplace investigation into allegations of bullying and sexual harassment by its former CEO and president, Ross Porter.
Bay Bloor Radio, one of the station’s most prominent supporters, ordered its ads pulled from the Saturday morning show hosted by Mr. Porter after The Globe and Mail first reported news of the probe and the subsequent change in Mr. Porter’s role three weeks ago. The high-end audio-visual-component retailer recently decided to entirely pause its advertising on the station.
An individual familiar with the Bay Bloor Radio sales contract pegged its annual value at about $70,000.
The move comes as Mr. Porter continues to play a prominent role for JAZZ.FM91, including representing the station at a recent industry awards gala in New York City.
“We’re uncomfortable with what we’ve heard and what we’ve read,” said Mark Mandlsohn, the president of Bay Bloor Radio, in an interview with The Globe on Thursday. He noted that his company usually suspends most of its advertising in the summer, but he is undecided as to whether it will return to JAZZ.FM91 as usual in the fall. “At this stage, honestly, I’m uncomfortable having my name associated with this kind of thing.”
Last month, after a third-party investigation spurred by complaints from more than a dozen former and current staff, Mr. Porter stepped down and was given the title of president emeritus. He told The Globe that the changes were unrelated to the investigation, and that he wanted to spend more time with his ailing wife and army-veteran son.
He appeared at the New York Festivals Radio Gala, held at the Manhattan Penthouse last week, to accept two awards on behalf of the station.
The move by Bay Bloor Radio comes as JAZZ.FM91 is being hammered by listeners for firing a number of high-profile hosts two weeks ago, which the station’s interim CEO, Charles Cutts, said in a letter to donors was necessitated by changes in the media landscape and the unexpected, burdensome cost of the workplace investigation.
That explanation didn’t sit well with some supporters. Paul Brown, a long-time listener in Waterloo, Ont., who described the station as the soundtrack to his life and that of his wife, told The Globe that he was “pretty insulted” by the letter from Mr. Cutts.
Mr. Brown noted that the station had fired the hosts and some other staff members mere days after achieving its goal during the recent spring fund drive. “It’s totally unfair to be told, ‘We’ve made our financial goal, but we don’t have enough money to continue.’ ”
Evelyn Charters, a donor who says she contributed several thousand dollars to the station each year, said she was “heartsick” at the changes, especially at the loss of Jaymz Bee, a popular on-air personality who frequently organized and played host to the station’s fundraising music tours known as Jazz Safaris.
Mr. Cutts did not respond to questions about Mr. Porter’s visit to New York, including the matter of who paid for the trip. He also did not respond to a request for comment about the loss of another board member, Brian Robertson, who had only joined the board in April.
Last week, the station began a public-relations campaign that includes glowing statements of support from jazz stars Sophie Milman and Amanda Martinez, and songwriter and vocalist Marc Jordan, on its website and social-media channels.
In an e-mail to The Globe, Ms. Milman said she issued the statement because the station “has played, and continues to play, a pivotal role in the community and in the lives and careers of artists like me. I thought it was important for listeners and donors to keep that in mind despite the station’s current challenges.” She did not respond to a request for comment on whether her statement was intended to be an expression of support for Mr. Porter.
Attempts to reach Ms. Martinez and Mr. Jordan for comment were unsuccessful, but Mr. Jordan had paid tribute to Mr. Porter during a concert at Hugh’s Room on the night Mr. Porter’s change in roles was announced. Mr. Jordan’s words of praise were later used in a letter from the station to some high-end donors.