Cornwall ON – So now that the 2011 Kinsman Cornwall Lift Off festivities are over it’s time to do a recap. As many of you have either heard or read we covered the issue of predatory radio practices by Corus radio for publicly funded events in our region a few weeks ago. LINK The story drew a record 137 comments.
It’s not that what Corus did was bad, wrong, or evil. They are a large successful business that needs to make money to survive like any other. There are some tremendously talented people who work at Corus like Jamie Carr that any station would be happy to employ.
The issue at the root of Lift Off is their “volunteer board” who elected to give some very strong and favorable conditions to that one company over most others in the area. When you scrape back the veneer a bit you start to see trends from loyal Corus advertisers on the board; to their music director who would put his own band in a great slot nearly every year, to people like Candy Pollard who should not in my opinion be in any position to make the decisions she does based on her historic decisions when it comes to how media are treated.
The entire goal of the board of the Non-Profit should be to attract people to the event and Cornwall and promote our region. The balloons are great; music is wonderful, but the only big addition to this year’s event was Seniors Bingo. Not such a big draw.
Events now compete for tourism dollars. Lift Off is the same weekend as Bluesfest in Ottawa. That means for people to come to Cornwall from Ottawa for example they have to reject everything going on there. Add in country fairs, Montreal’s many festivals and events, and even some neat events just over the border and you can see that it’s a huge challenge.
Last year Lift Off received a $75,000 grant from the Province which went to having a larger stage. That stage had HUGE Corus banners. Did Corus pay anything for that? I know we were a tiny sponsor. We got a bunch of passes and some minor signage in exchange for promoting the event which we did a super job of. We were lucky as there were some great media that didn’t have that opportunity even. We were not allowed to interview the musicians and Rob Seguin actually tried to evict me from the grounds because I had my camera; the one I report with on my person! It was the reason why I personally did not attend this year as I was tipped that this was to be a repeat performance.
Again, it’s never a single act, but the accumulation that paints the picture. This year the target audience was 55,000 attendance. With perfect weather and no announced or visible hitches as well as entrance reduced by 33% Lift Off according to a Standard Free Holder story drew only 30,000. And the article did not state whether that was paid or not. Drawing half your target under perfect conditions is not a success. Kevin Wilson giving the raspberry on Corus radio Sunday didn’t really have anything to give a raspberry about.
The Lift Off team also did a very odd thing bringing their board members and some city councilors on stage to present a cheque for $30,000 which the Lift Off team essentially threatened that if the city hadn’t loaned them the money the event may not have occurred this year. That was quite odd as it simply focused on the fact this this group of volunteers had to go hat and dagger in hand and demand $30,000 from the city in the first place??
Now Lift Off is a great event and a valuable promotional tool that the city supports extensively in services and funding.
The purpose of this story is simply to look at what needs to change to make sure that Lift Off grows and not disappears which nobody would want.
For Lift Off to be successful it needs proper management via team or even perhaps create a partner ship with the Chamber of Commerce, Team Cornwall, and the city itself. With two presidents resigning in one year and the extremely poor performance of the “volunteers” obviously change needs to occur. There’s no reason for Lift Off to not be more successful as long as the main goals are adhered to and why on earth wouldn’t an event like this want all the assistance and support it could get from the community?
There’s also the issue of transparency? What happened to all of the monies from 2010 which had record financial support? Why was Lift Off abandoned by its sponsors this year? IS something being covered up? Since when does a non-profit refuse to show its books and answer basic questions? I know my queries have been refused by Lift Off to date. For example how much did Lift Off spend on actual advertising and marketing? How much did Corus receive in hard cash? The only outside media we’ve seen or heard of has been the Corus TV station in Kingston and the Corus radio station in Montreal. Were these paid ads too?
Again; if Corus wants to run this event and the city thinks its a good idea let Corus write the cheques. It’s quite another when the musical talent chosen is based on their radio format. Randy Travis is playing Malone NY. I have a hunch he’d have drawn a larger crowd at Lift Off and no offense is intended to Malone.
No Hip Hop; no Blue, no Jazz, no support or promotion for the local bands either. The main stage music started late afternoon. Why not have local bands perform during the days? And why not have a blurb about them on the Lift Off website instead of just their names without a link to their websites even? And why not pay them?
I’ll post part of Chair Judi Auger’s response in our first story. Which is why I feel she should resign immediately. Her job as chair of Lift Off mandated her to support Lift Off, not Corus radio as her quote bizarely states.
Kinsmen Cornwall Lift-Off does have a partnership with Corus Entertainment who has offered unprecedented support to this festival since its inception. Over the past five years alone, Corus Entertainment has provided the festival with over a half million dollars of in-kind marketing support and thousands more in cash donations. The specific details of our agreements with any of our sponsors and community partners are strictly confidential.Secondly, Corus Radio does not receiving funding of any sort from any level of Government. On the other hand Corus Entertainment pays millions of dollars to the Government and Government regulated bodies for broadcasting licenses, SOCAN and FACTOR fees, etc.
Corus Entertainment does not receiving funding of any kind from the community. All revenues are generated via paid advertising. With that said, in 2010 Corus Entertainment’s Cornwall brands contributed more than $925,000.00 in charitable donations to Cornwall and area including cash donations and in-kind marketing and support services. Corus Entertainment gives back to our community.
Thank you for this opportunity to reply to your questions.
Judi AugerKinsmen Cornwall Lift-Off 2011 – Board Chair
There are so many opportunities to make Lift Off better which is the good news, but that won’t happen until this board has been house cleaned. Any of the board members that supported giving exclusivity to any one company should not be back.
Lift Off needs to be transparent and it needs to open the doors if it really wants to get major corporate support.
And most boards are volunteer based, especially for events and such. I’m on a board myself and there is no pay involved. The City of Cornwall, Kinsmen, and other partners simply need to demand accountability for their support.
We can do better. Hopefully we have all learned a lesson and this will change for Lift Off next year and Waterfest and Winterfest this year.
As of press time nobody from Lift Off has replied to our offer to post in this story. Our offer is still open. They can post below or email us at email@example.com or reach me at 613 361 1755
Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News
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