Saturday 11 September 2010

Cairns community radio, slammed with four new Federal investigations

Just when you thought Cairns community radio couldn't get any worse, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the regulatory body that governs broadcasting licences, has launched four new investigations.

The fresh investigations are on top of four previous investigations against the station in the last 12 months. Community radio in Cairns has been dogged with suggestions of impropriety, perversion, secrecy, locking the public out, and spending around $35,000 with their lawyers since November last year to terminate members.

In December 2009, the ACMA ordered the station to undertake substantial reform programme and highlighted a number of serious breaches.

The radio management were instructed to complete a series of "Agreed Measures" by December this year. To date, not one of the measures has either commenced or been completed.

They included simple tasks like publishing the committee minutes and newsletters on their website; developing guidelines how the general community can get involved in on-air programming; and commence technical upgrades to ensure the station is operating in accordance with it's required specifications.

Six months on, in July this year, another damming investigation found that 4CCR Cairns had again breached its licence condition, by failing to encourage community participation in the operations of the service.

The findings said that licensee was not encouraging the community to become involved in the operations of the service as it had policies that restricted membership.

It seemed they had ignored the earlier findings, and carried on, totally ignoring the body that provides its licence to broadcast.

The ACMA considers open membership to be critical to encouraging participation in the operations of a community broadcasting service.

Two of the new investigations launched late yesterday afternoon, focus on membership termination and a new member's application being refused. Another investigation launched is about failing to issue receipts for membership fees - a tactic to disallow members' participation at meetings, as they will not have proof of payment.

The last investigation, is a serious non-compliance matter, where all broadcasters have an legal obligation to provide their broadcasting codes of practice on request to any listener. However on the station's website, president Coutts has put a notice in bold red type, saying these are for "members only."

When the complaint first wrote a simple letter of request to the station in March, asking for a copy, president Coutts interfered in the request, that was directed to the secretary. Rod Coutts responded by saying...
  • "We are members of CBAA and our membership comes under those guidelines set by the CBAA, therefore the prganisation [sic] we represent agrees with the Objects of the CBAA and subscribes to the community broadcasting Codes of Practise (2008) which means that members only are entitled to a copy of the Code of Practise and Policy and Procedure documents."

The complainant again wrote to the station and requested that they comply with the law and supply a copy of the codes of practise, as they announce on air. 13 email messages went back and forth, and finally Rod Coutts wrote back and slammed the concerned member of the public...

  • "You challenge me unnecessarily Mr. Harvson. Do you not think that I as The President of this radio station know the Rules that govern us and that I would have confirmed with our authority as to whether I should forward to you our Codes of Practise and our Policy and Procedure documents.

    You are not a member and I do not see what interest you would have in those documents that have more relevance to our members than to the general public.

    We were not instructed to put the statement on the website by any authority but we did so for the benefit of our members."

Mr Coutts then threatened the writer with legal action...

  • "Any further e-mails from you will from on be directed to our solicitor as you clearly have an attitude which is less than desirable."

The ACMA was privy to the communication, and asked the complainant to write the request one last time, but direct the correspondence to the secretary, and also allow a 90-day response / compliance period. Nothing was forthcoming, and late yesterday afternoon, the ACMA launched a formal investigation into the matter... (see a graphic of letter above)

  • From: Alexander Ash, Australian Communications and Media Authority
    Date: 10 September 2010 10:16:17 AM AEST
    To: Jamie Harvson
    Subject: ACMA investigation into 4CCR

    The ACMA has decided to investigate your complaint that Cairns Community Broadcasting Inc, the licensee of 4CCR, is not operating in accordance with its licence conditions under the Community Radio Broadcasting Codes of Practice.

    Alex Ash
    Investigations Officer, Community Renewals and Investigations Section
    Tel 02 9334 7997

Such a breach shows the community radio's flagrant abuse of power by further shutting the community out of scrutiny. Supplying the Broadcasting Codes to any listener, is a fundamental role of a broadcaster. The fact that they will not supply such documents upon request, shows how they are unfit to be a broadcaster and take their licence obligations and duty seriously.

These four new investigations, come just two days before the organisation's AGM, that was hastily postponed when I exposed a number of serious breaches in preparation for the annual meeting that was to be held a month earlier on Monday August 30th, so most would not be aware of it. No written meeting notification was sent to members, nor nominations for the committee called for, and hundreds of proposed constitutional changes, have been kept secret to this very day.

The radical re-writing of the constitution, which includes throwing away membership termination appeals to the general membership, paying voluntary committee members, and giving the committee a two year term unchallenged, has caused Cairns Regional Councillor Linda Cooper to write to all members in advance of the meeting.

Linda Cooper, who has extensive background in media and radio, has been seriously concerned for a year about the organisation's financial secrecy, has asked for a halt to any changes at their Monday AGM.

"Given the issues I raised at the Special General Meeting held earlier this year, I thought it would be remiss of me not to raise these concerns again," Linda Cooper wrote in a letter today to members. "For those who attended the meeting, you will recall that I specifically had issues with the process of the meeting and whether certain amendments to the constitution were legally binding. As you would also know, there were in fact issues with due process and several of these amendments could not be enacted."

Linda Cooper says that due process is not being followed for this year's AGM, to be held on Monday the 13th of September, as no one has been supplied in writing, the proposed changes.

"I fear that the ongoing scrutinisation from the ACMA, will continue if this is not addressed," Cooper says. "This organisation is Federally-funded and needs to follow Constitutional guidelines to the letter.

At a February 22nd meeting of the membership, the only meeting held in the last year, Linda Cooper called a point of order to stop changes being made as legal process had not been followed. She was shouted and rudely verbally assaulted.

Monday's annual meeting, to be held upstairs at Brothers Leagues Club at 7pm, will be a debacle. Any attempt to make changes, will be clearly inappropriate and illegal, and the Office of Fair Trading will simply not accept them. It seems the $35,000-odd in legal charges they've expended over the last 10 months, has been a big waste of money.

It looks to be a circus, complete with clowns and money monkey with a grinder.


Livi Oregano said...

Circuses can be fun. But the taxpayer is paying for this one and not getting any enjoyment. Time they folded up the tent.

Ross Parisi said...

The time has come for the remaining 7 members of the Management Committee to intervene in this increasing charade and ask for Mr Coutts to step aside for the following reasons;

1. ACMA has once again launched 4 new investigations focusing on the abuse of authority;

2. Alleged misuse of public funding and possible misappropriation;

3. Allegations of impropriety, nepotism and maladministration have been made under Mr Coutts’ governance;

4. A community radio station needs to be inclusive and held in high respect whereas under Mr Coutts the radio station does not follow due process, is provocative, is secretive and has no regard for the law under which it operates;

5 Attempting to change the Constitution without following due process;

6. Constitutional changes include the provision for the Management Committee to pay office bearers without reference to the CCBI general membership.

I am calling on the Management Committee to defer the AGM until the above matters are investigated and any appropiate punitive action taken by Australian Government Authorities.

FUTHERMORE, I am calling on Mr Warren Entsch to launch an investigation into the alleged abuse of public funding and maladministration.

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

I have another question Mr Coutts. If 4CCR is for "Members Only", does that mean the radio waves ONLY enter those members radios, and nobody else can listen?
What an absolutely foolish and narcissistic action taken by Mr Coutts towards the people of Cairns, where his own personal agenda becomes the Charter for the radio station to adhere to.
After reading his RANT in capital letters, I have absolute proof that this man cannot read, cannot write, and therefore, does not have the authority to put a pen to paper, under ANY circumstances.
Mr Coutts has proven to us all that the running of community radio stations should be best left to those who actually have the knowledge.
There is no better person in Cairns than Ross Parisi to be the CEO of 4CCRFM.
Failing that, I would recommend Tony Hillier.
Whoever gets the job after these long awaited investigations are complete, PLEASE see to it that Mr Coutts receives a good tar and feathering before leaving the job.
The other community FM stations must be wetting their proverbial knickers with laughter watching this farce at 4CCR unfold.

Give us back our 4CCR said...

The self appointed station 'owner'/ President /Manager's solicitor buddies will be rubbing their hands with glee over their good fortune. It's now a matter of how long can they string this whole fiasco out. Apparently there must be buckets of money to pay them.

Groucho, Harpo & chico said...

For Sale - One slightly used and dog-eared copy of THE IDIOTS GUIDE TO RUNNING A COMMUNITY RADIO STATION FOR PERSONAL PROFIT, HUBRIS and PUBLIC INCOMPETENCE with special sections on:
How to provide your Lawyer with a Pension nest egg.
How to lie outrageously so often that people think you are for real.
How not to run a meeting without breaking almost every rule in the book.

This offer expires at 7pm on 13th Sept.

Greg Dwyer said...


With one election out the way for Australia it seems another is due to occur in Cairns for a community radio organisation with whom I was once honourably involved with.

However just as in George Orwell’s
classic tale Animal Farm, the need to improve what was there was seen as a real mobilisation for change and the pride in the organsiation saw a future with passionate involvement for all. The parrallel circumstances of the story appear to be playing out. That change in the organisation occurred and very rapidly just as the novel story had developed, the animals were quickly forced to suffer in fear and the pigs raced to the trough and made up their own laws and rules.

Flouting the outside influences that should have been watching more carefully. Just as in the book, the portent of the storm saw the destruction of all that was important in the original planning. (Symbolic that it is a windmill in the book, and it is a transmitter in our story, that suffers).

Oh yes the pigs have removed the threats, including those closest to them, particularly those that were working hardest towards a community goal and now with the eve of the election the autocratic head pig pretends to have an election with a new dawn... (by his rules at least) Orwell’s novel finishes with the outside world correcting the problem.... could we hope the same would occur here? Or will the tyranny of the head pig continue unabated until there is no more to be had from the trough? we shall see. ... then again Orwell also wrote 1984 who’s story line leaves heaps of room for future fear.

Ban D Coutts said...

Well well….well, Captain Mainwaring shouts a message to the shaken platoon, things are great, I’m great the stations great and ACMA endorse everything I say and do, come and watch me vote myself back and change the rules so I can have as much Government money as I want and can stay as long as I want, radio who cares about radio the more dumb and gutless my followers are the easier they are to control!

ACMA appear not to share the mad Captains views about 4CCR let alone endorse them!
On the eve of another postponed 4CCR meeting, ACMA launches more investigations into the strife riddled 4CCR.
No comment from the lips that never close to either the Cairns Post or Cairns Blog about what is going on………have you lost your bottle Captain Rod? Let the Captain confirm that he hasn’t taken any money from 4CCR!

PS love the moustache Rodney, suits you

Lady Macbeth said...

The darkest hour is just before dawn but when dawn does break all will be revealed.

Stumble he will but run away he cant as the gatekeepers of the Cairns Community have him in their sights.

Where there is smoke there is fire and the sticky fingers of those who plunder will entrap them.

The noose is forever tightening!

Tony Hillier said...

No-one should be surprised if Coutts cancels tomorrow's 4CCR AGM at the 11th hour. Megalomaniacs will do just about anything to retain power.

If he truly cares about the welfare of the station, Coutts will fall on his sword — otherwise 4CCR is in real danger of having its licence revoked. Currently it is playing by the rules of the oligarchy, and cocking a snook at the community radio charter.

Michael Hyams said...

Well, if we are going to get all Shakespearian, let me add....

The evil that men do lives after them etc.

exmember said...

Mr Coutts
All we want as a community is for a Community Radio that echoes the happenings of Cairns -without the spin of the Murdoch influenced media -we just want a radio for the people of Cairns -why are you standing in the way of this Mr Coutts? I am so sick of your ethno influenced programming and your exclusion of the real Cairns community -no-one will listen to 89.1 unless you include us all -or don't you care? but then again as long as the Govt body finances your programs why should you care??? It can't last while there are good people fighting to defend the rights of the wider community. Your comments over the last 12 months will come back to haunt you, mark my words!.

Quien Sabe said...

Macbeth..Act 5 Scene 5

A poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Michael Hyams said...

To advance the art ofLampooning forward a few centuries = "He's not the Messiah, he"s just a very naughty boy" Also, I bow to your superior knowledge Quien Sabe.

Queenie said...

I really like the idea of Tony Hillier as Manager of the new revitalised 89.1. If it survives on the airwaves long enough, that is.
Yep, get Warren E. on to them folk - now we've got the Loveable Loudmouth back, let him loose. On ACMA too - it's time they finished the papershuffling with Coutts, & ACTED, as they are paid to do, to end this ridiulously expensive abuse of the public purse.