Perhaps CFNY's designation as \"The Spirit of Radio\" came to a close in the late '80s, but the end of CFNY \"as we knew it\" probably happened shortly after 1996.
The reason most radio sucks today is because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. That act essentially killed alternative radio in North America. Whereas before this legislation, alternative radio was a loosely held constellation of small- to medium-sized stations that could take the financial risk on offbeat music, this act encouraged radio execs everywhere to go big or go home. Now there are huge radio conglomerates like Clear Channel that depend on radio stations they own, especially in large markets, to generate huge amounts of revenue. And the only way to do that is play music that are known hits. The radio market is a single-driven market today - a new song has to debut big and that's more likely to happen if the group is well-known or well-supported by its music label. It no longer makes business sense to play music by an unknown band or one with a small following. Which poses a very important question for the future...How will there ever be new music produced if new bands can't get a break?
There were hints toward the end that CFNY was feeling financial pressure...remember the days about 1988 when the station was playing Bruce Hornsby, Milli Vanilli and even Michael Jackson until listener complaints brought back the usual playlist? (Nothing against those artists, they just weren't \"CFNY material\" and I don't think I have to explain that distinction to any of you.) In the early '90s there were even stations established on both sides of the border to protest the pressure to compromise music quality and focus on profit such as \"The Planet\" and \"The River\". But shortly after 1996, the party was over and the bean counters had won.
Some alternative stations responded to the Telecommunications Act by going completely underground. A good example is WOXY out of the Cincinnati area. They decided to go Internet only instead of compromising their vision. Take a listen sometime to WOXY's Vintage channel, besides Iceberg radio it's about as close to the vintage CFNY as we are likely to get.