Station offers few explanations for departure of popular hosts amid allegations by employees of harassment
Listeners to JAZZ.FM91 are dismayed by on-air changes at Canada’s only all-jazz radio station, as well as news of allegations of sexual misconduct, workplace harassment and mismanagement against former CEO and president Ross Porter and board members.
“It’s so disappointing, shocking that this is going on,” says long-time listener Deborah Abbott. She’s already cancelled her monthly donations of $120. “It’s very, very sad to see it all fall apart.”
Hosts at the station often referred to listeners as “members of the JAZZ.FM family,” but there have been no explanations on air about the recent departures of four long-time on-air personalities, nor the earlier departure last fall of station stalwarts, including the vice president of creative talent Dani Elwell, who doubled as an on-air host, or the departure in April of morning show host Garvia Bailey.
Elwell replied, saying, “Unfortunately this was not my choice. I wasn’t allowed to say goodbye with the show.”
Board member John Sadler declined a request from CBC Toronto for an interview with interim CEO Charles Cutts or anyone else connected with station management.
However, last Sunday, in an email to listeners, board chair David McGown and Cutts wrote that the station is facing challenges, and said JAZZ.FM is not immune to changes in “the fractured media landscape.”
Former employees allege harassment, mismanagement
But a letter obtained by CBC Toronto, dated March 16, 2017 from eight former and five current on-air staff at JAZZ.FM, tells a different story.
“We are a collective of past and present JAZZ.FM91 employees,” it begins.
Then the letter goes on to accuse a number of senior figures at the station of “ongoing workplace harassment, sexual harassment, bullying and general mismanagement of the station.”
The letter points the finger at Porter, along with Sharda Prashad, the vice president of finance and operations, former board chair Bernie Webber and board vice chair Renah Persofsky.
The signatories say that over the past five years they’ve witnessed “a steady erosion in the overall management” and a climate of fear and low morale.
None of allegations have been proven.
In the emailed letter, McGown and Cutts inform listeners that “Ross Porter recently stepped aside to spend more time with his family and in particular his wife, who is terminally ill.” The letter also says Porter will continue to provide programming and advice to the station for the coming year.
A sense of personal loss for listeners
On a Facebook page for JAZZ.FM listeners, many people describe feelings of personal loss, especially when they tuned in last week to find the morning show replaced by un–hosted music, interspersed with traffic reports and BBC newscasts.
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I live in the Vcr area and have listened to JAZZ FM for 7 yrs, and a donor for 5.
Not only has it been an awesome jazz station, but a major promoter of ‘everything jazz’ from the high school level & up, often having the world’s best personalities perform in their in-house theatre.
I and a dozen others were taken on a fantastic Toronto jazz tour by Jamez Bee…super host & one of many great on- air hosts.
Hopefully, 91 Jazz can come through this difficult period.
Sounds like what happened at Alberta’s CKUA. The board was paid outrageous salaries; the on air talent was paid minimum wage, and the station was shut down because of lack of funds. Eventually, the board was fired and the station revived. Sounds like this is what is happening here …