Corporate sponsorship at the University of Winnipeg

Energy 106 decal on steps to CKUW stirs controversy


The morning of Wednesday, Sept. 10 marked a sudden change of scenery at the University of Winnipeg. Students were met with a giant decal advertising local top 40 radio station Energy 106 on the staircase leading up to CKUW, the University’s not-for-profit, volunteer driven campus radio station.

Opposition to the advertisement’s placement was extremely vocal on campus and on social media. 

“It just doesn’t seem right,” Kevin Braun, a fourth-year student, says.

Ryan Poirier, a third-year student, says the decal placement felt like the media conglomerate was trumping the smaller station. 

“For them to come here and place advertisement [in CKUW’s space] seems a little ridiculous,” Poirier says.

“For an institution that so often enjoys bragging about how forward thinking and progressive it is, this is just another terrible cliché of the corporatization of education,” Victoria King, a CKUW volunteer, says on Facebook.

The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) also sent their disapproval in an email to the University. 

“It represents a sudden and puzzling leap in the scope and intent to commercialize our campus, which is moving in a direction clearly opposite from what students have asked of us,” UWSA president Rorie Mcleod Arnould writes.

Within 24 hours the decal was gone.

Jeremy Read, the University’s Senior Executive Officer and Advisor to the President, admits the ad placement was a mistake on the University’s part.

“I don’t think the response from students or the CKUW was unreasonable,” Read says. “There was a misstep here. I think we acknowledged that and rectified it very quickly.”

Read says the controversy surrounding the ad placement was an important learning experience for the University, and will influence how they handle business partnerships in the future. 

“I think it’s good for students to say, ‘You can’t just throw this at us. We want the University to be thoughtful about this. Speak to us about it. Let’s figure this out in the right way,’” Read says.

“We need to have these conversations among students and the University, to sort through these kinds of values.”

Energy 106, which popped onto the FM dial in 2011, is owned by Evanov Communications, a Toronto based media corporation with radio stations in a dozen Canadian cities. Energy 106 did not return The Uniter’s calls.

Read admits corporate sponsorships are a new venture for the University and hopes the school will be more strategic in their business partnerships in the future. 

“When businesses want to partner with us,” he says, “I want them to know this isn’t just ad hoc. There’s going to be some form of academic engagement, student engagement, or some form of community service that’s expected of them, the same way we expect it of ourselves.”

The Evanov Communications website says they remain a positive force in promoting independent radio in Canada among major media chains and super-sized broadcasters.

Published in Volume 69, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 24, 2014)

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