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Ryerson is fighting for the rights to 88.1FM and are among many that are applying for the former frequency, which was once the campus radio station, CKLN, until it lost its licence back in January. From left to right: Char Loro, student representative on the Board of Directors for Ryerson University Radio Inc. and third-year student; Lori Beckstead, Ryerson University associate chair of the School of Radio And Television Arts; Sanan Abdulraheem, student representative on the board and fourth-year student.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

CKLN is off the airwaves, but it doesn't mean Ryerson University campus community radio is dead yet.

After a 27-year run, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) pulled 88.1 CKLN's broadcast license this past January, citing non-compliance with its regulations. The CRTC is accepting applications until Monday from anyone who wants to replace CKLN and broadcast from the city's core.

A group called New Ryerson Radio is applying for the 88.1 FM license, and it's vowing to be completely different from CKLN. The former occupant was plagued by accusations of mismanagement and failure to comply with CRTC rules.

"We want to come forward with a new proposal that shows we are not going to make the same mistakes, that we have a much stronger governance structure in place, that we have a much stronger commitment from Ryerson itself to be part of this," said Lori Beckstead, who has been drafting New Ryerson Radio's application.

She added she didn't want to reveal programming details out of concern she could give competitors an advantage. She did say she was aiming to secure more support for New Ryerson Radio from the university's administration, pointing out CKLN had been "separate" even though it was a campus radio station.

"I think it's important for this to be seen as a completely new endeavour, rather than what some people may perceive as CKLN trying to come back from the grave."

New Ryerson Radio is not the only one vying for 88.1. The CRTC has received bids from two other commercial stations, though CKLN has confirmed it will not be reapplying, making it the first time this spot on the radio dial has been freely available in 27 years.

The other contenders are Trust Communications Ministries, which operates a Christian radio station in Barrie, Ont., and Dufferin Communications Inc., the corporation behind 103.9 PROUD, CIRR-FM, a station that serves a LGBT audience.

The fight for the frequency will determine whether 88.1 will be community-based or commercial.

There's a "big philosophical difference" between the two, said Kathryn O'Hara, a journalism professor at Carleton University. Unlike commercial radio, community radio isn't driven by profit. It's run by volunteers, bringing in different perspectives, she said, than what's offered by the mainstream.

Ms. Beckstead said there's a greater need for campus community radio because there are only two such stations: one at the University of Toronto and the other at York University.

"When you compare that to how many commercial radio stations there are …It's a bit of a non-starter to say, 'Look, we've already got a couple, so why bother?'"

The trend isn't limited to Toronto. According to the CRTC, in 2010 there were 286 community radio stations in Canada, including stations that serve a wider community, and those that broadcast to a campus. There were 800 commercial stations.

Carmela Laurignano, who is handling the CRTC application for PROUD, said the station would give up its current frequency at 103.9 if it gets 88.1, allowing another group access.

"In fairness, [both students and the LGBTQ communities]deserve a service … However, the LGBTQ community has far [fewer]options than the mainstream students," Ms. Laurignano said. And despite PROUD's commercial status, it's still broadcasting to a community, she said.

Some Ryerson students feel they should have the opportunity to develop their skills on-air.

"I am looking at maybe radio as my future," said Aven Hoffarth, a second-year radio and television arts student. "And I can't have the experience on the FM waves before I graduate ... that our students can't practise what they're learning in class seems a little crazy to me."

Regardless of whether the CRTC chooses a campus community station or a commercial station to fill 88.1, Ms. O'Hara said there will always be a place for community radio.

"You're keeping a tradition alive, and it's kind of like a little home fire burning."