Thursday 11 November 2010

Community radio chief leaves suddenly due to "health"

President of Cairns community radio 4CCR, has left the besieged station suddenly.

Rodney Coutts has left the station "indefinitely."

"He has gone and is very ill," a female said yesterday who is believed to be the station's treasurer, Mimille Alvero.

A further call to Ron Hallam at the radio station confirmed that Rod Coutts had gone.

"We're having a meeting this evening to sort out what to do next," Hallam said. "Members would get a letter explaining what was going on."

The radio station, that broadcasts on 89.1 FM, has been subject to numerous breaches of their broadcasting licence over the last 12 months,

In the last year Rod Coutts, who was elected president in September 2009, has bought the community radio into shocking disrepute, attracting the ire of the Australian Communications and Broadcasting Authority, who launched eight complaints, believed to be a record. The ACMA are thought to be on the verge of restricting or removing their broadcasting licence. In December 2009 and July this year, the ACMA dished out breaches and Agreed Measures they demanded be attended to, however by the mid-year report, none of the 15 items were progressed.

A number of those pushing for reform of the community radio, say that Rodney Coutts is the central reason why the station is in such disarray with the community being blocked from involvement. They say his departure is the best thing that could happen.

"Draw whatever conclusion you like but this may be the opening we have been waiting for," former presenter Michael Hyams said. Hyams was one of at least 25 members banned from membership in the last 12 months.

Others were less than complimentary, saying the community station is best rid of Coutts, that he had ruined the radio in the space of one year.

"The captain deserves everything that is dished out to him, the fool," said one. Another told CairnsBlog that it wouldn't last under Coutts' leadership. "The miserable git got what he wanted, and in all honestly what he deserves."

At the AGM in September, there was a $160,000 difference in the annual accounts, with nearly $100,000 of unexplained expenditure. Coutts authorised over $25,000 in legal fees to ward off new membership applications he refused and called "trouble-makers". It is believed that most of this money was used to secretly pay money to Coutts, and volunteers who were voluntarily elected onto the committee, including his girlfriend, Mimil Alvero, who was also the other signatory to the cheque account as treasurer. Repeated requests by members to see details of the $100,000, were stalled and refused.

The bungled September AGM was a heated and disjointed affair, that planned to approve a new constitution with hundreds of changes no member was allowed to see, however it was ditched following outcry from members and the wider community. It was the second attempt to make the changes within the year. The ACMA demanded that Coutts remove the proposed Constitution that was placed on the website three months ago, and presented as a legitimate and current document. The widespread changes further restricted member applications, and stripped appeal rights.

If Rodney Coutts has permanently left Cairns community radio, his legacy will be one of shame and destruction. He has left a valuable community resource in tatters and within a year, fluttered away $150,000 of it's reserves, that was meant to be used for infrastructure upgrades. The community will be left asking many questions, as to how this could happen. Regulatory authorities like the ACMA and the Office of fair Trading that governs incorporated Associations, including local politicians, have failed to intervene.

The organisation set up to overturn the regime under Rod Coutts, will continue for openness and transparency. Friends of 4CCR led by former Mulgrave councillor Ross Parisi, is determined to see the station returned to the people.

Did Coutts fall or was he pushed? Maybe he preempted what is likely to more severe penalties from the ACMA expected in December.

In an ironic twist, Cairns community radio, which prior to 2009 never featured in the local media survey results, came up slightly on the radar and recorded a minor audience. This would easily be put down to the attention and adverse publicity 89.1FM has received.


spangled lady said...

So it seems that Mr Coutt's birds have come home to roost.
As I understand it a very well-qualified management committee was elected in 2009 and Mr Coutts with his egotistical attitude and devious ways got rid of these well-intentioned people who disagreed with both his management style and desire to be paid as a manager and to also carry out the duties of President. No-one can run an organisation such as FM89.1 solo! Mr Coutts not only alienated members but managed to deprive about 20 presenters of their hobby. Some of these had worked with the station for years giving freely of their time and energy -Mr Coutts managed to deprive them of this for his own selfish reasons.
I know that some misguided folk out there who still support this man think he was hard done by -he was not and because of his obscession with being in control of every facit of the organisation he is now unwell.
This probably spells the end of a valuable community organisation and the tax payers money -remember this is our money given to the Cairns community ($110,000)and remains unaccounted for.
To those who will blame others for this fiasco I ask -"Why did you not support those who were on the side of justice?" Mr Coutts and his cohorts were the only ones wanting money -the rest wanted a communty radio station that showcased the best of Cairns.
What is going to happen now??

Elizabeth Hyams said...

So, he has avoided the Sword of Damocles. Has he taken the Station's car with him, and maybe the cheque book. As a member, these things are very worrying.My husband and I spent an incalculable amount of Pensioners" cash to travel from Clifton Beach to Raintrees twice a week for 4 years, to do what we thought was our DUTY as concerned volunteers. "Volunteer" Coutts swans` around in his Station bought car, and for all any of us know if still doing so. The suggestion made by two current presenters on the phone over thepast day or so made barely veiled allegations that Coutts' incapacity was the result of the "pressure" he has had to bear from opposing groups. I am personally sorry for the man if he is ill, but I am not going to stand by and let his cronies blame others. Oh, and in passing, how` has the station got away breaking the law by operating without a Secretary since the AGM. The ,list of unanswered questions is mile long,and growing

Shane Wilson said...

All correct Spangled Lady……and to quote the great Marcus Smith and Coutts supporter “it could have been done better”

To use the comparison Greg Dwyer used from Animal Farm….it would seem the head pig, has left the building and or Cairns Community Radio, what of the other “Coutts” pigs? More to go one would think!

It could have been done better, what a joke, still community radio in Australia is largely a joke with more stations run like 4CCR.

There are Community Radio “Gems” but they are very much a rare occurrence.

Well Mr Smith you and Coutts and the team of weak supporters have now had 12 months at the helm and what a mess you have!

4CCR stands a good chance of license change or loss given the continued ACMA beaches.

Money saved for capital upgrades simply wasted on paying supposed volunteers, the head pig Captain Coutts, and legal expenses from Coutts own private witch hunts.

Appalling program quality….even after public exposure (albeit bad) 4CCR can only manage 400 listeners out of a population of some 140,000 in a recent survey.

None of the saved money has been spent on the Mt Yarrabah facility, and with the changes in land at Mt Yarrabah, 4CCR as a commercial site owner will incur Government rental fees in the order of $200, 000 a year. A point Coutts has never considered or done anything about, and then we have the overall state of the Mt Yarrabah 4CCR transmitter site……nothing done in the last 12 months!

Marcus Smith email....
""Good luck, my goal now I'm back here in Cairns is to make this community station radio even better then ever before!No time for gossip, only facts work for me.

The wonderful volunteer presenters at the station are doing a great job! As a presenter, we now have more people then ever listening to the station! Wed Jan 20, 03:59:00 AM"""

Well Smith facts work better for me too YOU AINT DONE BETTER!
Easy to bag people who have done somthing isn't it?

And still after all this….. All the Coutts supporters can do is blame other people.

The suggestion that Coutts has buckled due to pressure….PLEASE! I have seen personally how this evil insecure little man operates….Lets have a complete list of money spent over the last 18 months.

If Coutts has nothing to hide, let’s see how our taxes have been spent at 4CCR, that is now the only important thing, Government wasted money!! at a time when all of Cairns is doing it tough.

The Goverment needs to look at tighter and stronger controls or better still send Government money for broadcasting to the ABC and SBS.

Coutts compared 4CCR to ship in his orignal bubbly blurbs (which I am sure Mike M has)
Do we have now the SS 4CCR running into rocks and sinking and the bloody great Captain the first to jump ship?

Ross Parisi said...

The reason/s for Mr Coutts sudden departure and uncertainty of a return date doe snot surprise the Friends of 4CCR. As to his ailment I am unsure because as usual Mr Coutts play his cards close to his chest, even at times his shaddow not knowing his manouvers.

Nonetheless, upon my office desk lays the Friends' rescue plan to return the station back to the people of Cairns and restore its once held integrity.

I would like to assure members of Cairns FM that the Friends will operate an inclusive operation with proper and transparent management structures in place.

In the meantime time the Friends while recognising our professional differences between ourselves and Mr Coutts, we nevertheless wish him a speedy recovery.

Michael Hyams said...

At the risk of seeming to make the Blog the spokesperson for the Hyams family, let me take this opportunity to put on record the indignities to which I have been subjected by Coutts and his misguided supportes since he was handed the reins, but in doing so may I echo the conciliatory comments of all other commentators who have expressed concern for his physical well being:

1. Shorthly after he became Manager/President, he dragged me into hia office after I had completed my Friday AM programme, and proceeded to tell me a tissue of lies about firstly Judi Corcoran, whom he alleged had misaoppropriated some $300 from the Station funds to buy a desk for herself, secondly about Shane Wilson who he vilified, and said hew had sacked. This would have been legally impossible as Shane was a contractor. Since then he has steadfastk refused all attempts to get him to retract these lies, and apologise to the people concerned. It was when this situation developed that I refused to continue to present my programme.

2. Late in 2009 I visited the offices with a view to being shown the minutes. I was made to wait 45minutes whilst he finished his luch, and summoned his hemchman, Peiter Blaauw by phone, to hold his hand. During the next half an hour I was subjected to what I can only describle as the "Third Degree" (a transcript is available) simply because I wished to see the minutes. Eventually one copy of one set of minutes was provided, and put in front of me. I was told I was forbidden to take notes ( Believe me) I had little chance to digest any of the contents of the minutes before they were statched away, but not before I caught sight of an item that said I had resigned. Coutts agreed this` was in error, anf said that it would be corrected at the next5 Management meeting and minuted accordingly. It took so long for this to happen that in the meantime I wasw advised by mail that my membership was to be cancelled, on spurious grounds the source of which I know not. I refused the offer to "appear" before the Committee to contest the matter, but so no point in subjecting myself to ridicule by my accusers, to achieve nothing. I applied to be allowed to appeal under Section 21 of the Constitution, which requires the calling of a SGM, with an impartial adjudicator. The reply was that my request had beenn passed to their Lawyers, where as far as I know it still sits, being used as a coffee cup coaster. In 18 months I have heard nothing.

3. I applied, and paid for membership for 2011, shortly after the new financial year began. This has been ignored.My fees have not ben returned, nor the pro-rata fees for 2009. Coutts, and his then Secretary have had numerous emailede reminders on all these matters, all of which had been ignored.

So, how would you feel. Would you give up and put it all down to experience, or just say it had all become too hard. No Sir, not me. I will continue to fight, with the help and backing of "The Friends" to have these indignities redressed.With the help and backing of "The Friends", who are ready and able to restore the position of Community Spirit for 89.1, destroyed by Coutts, right will prevail against an incompetent so called manager, and his team. We would all like to see the minutes in which the current Hon.Officers and Committee member were correcvtly elected. Sorry to have taken you away from your daily tasks for so long, but these indignities needed to be catalogued and spelt out foy anyone who wants Community Radio in Cairns to rediscover its real worth and not be a private members club

spangled lady said...

I really think we all need to take a step back and look at the big picture of what has happened to this community facility -cos that's what it is -the station belongs to all of us and we have all paid for it with our taxes. Forget the petty squabbles and let's look at the situation dispassionately. Has public money been misappropriated? if so call in the Fraud Squad and let them sort it out! is there a lawyer in Cairns willing to take this on?

Michael Hyams said...

What you say and what you suggest has been the virtual framework of what the Friends of 4CCR have been trying to achieve since it was founded. The one thing we have been unable to acquire is the resource needed to find Legal Representation. Members have been unable to access the necessary information to discover where all the money has disappeared to. This is not, as you suggest, just a local spat between conlicting interests. You may well be right, the Fraud Squad', intervention may well be needede. Why do you not come out from behind your Pseudonym and help us

Michael Hyams said...

What you say and what you suggest has been the virtual framework of what the Friends of 4CCR have been trying to achieve since it was founded. The one thing we have been unable to acquire is the resource needed to find Legal Representation. Members have been unable to access the necessary information to discover where all the money has disappeared to. This is not, as you suggest, just a local spat between conlicting interests. You may well be right, the Fraud Squad', intervention may well be needede. Why do you not come out from behind your Pseudonym and help us