Wednesday 16 February 2011

7th breach for Cairns community radio, ACMA takes no action

In early 2009, Cairns community Radio, 4CCR 89.1FM received it's first of a long list of breaches from the regulatory authority, the ACMA. There was a mass-resignation of the committee in August 2009, and since then, the committee has gone through at least 18 different people.

The last president, Rod Coutts, vanished with no explanation in January, with $92,000 unexplained in the Association's annual accounts.

CairnsBlog has been relentless in following the events and turmoil around this tragic community organisation, that has in the past been recipient to around $150,000 annually from government grants. During last year along, five breaches were handed down to the community radio. Today the Australian Communications and Media Authority have again found that Cairns radio 4CCR has breaches the broadcasting Codes of Practice.

They found that breached the Community Radio Broadcasting Codes of Practice 2008 by not providing members of the public with copies of policy and procedure documents, and not adequately responding to the community member’s request.

"In response to the finding, 4CCR is redeveloping its policies and procedures so documents are freely available to all members of its community," the ACMA said. However this is of little relief to those who have been fighting for openness and transparency at the station. In fact,. this is the same ruling that the ACMA has come two on many previous occasions, saying that the committee is "redeveloping its policies and procedures."

Of course those who have campaigned for radical change, including Cairns Regional Councillor Linda Cooper and Di Forsyth, have seen no progress towards this in the last 16 months.

The ACMA said 4CCR is also implementing training packages to ensure its members are aware of their responsibilities under the codes.

"This process is being undertaken in conjunction with a range of agreed measures implemented in December 2009 when 4CCR’s licence was renewed," the ACMA said in their ruling. The agreed measures included spending significant money of structure upgrade to the broadcast transmission site, located at Mt Yarrabah, South of Cairns. Estimates for this alone suggest it would be around $90,000.

Other directives from the ACMA included to put up all committee minutes onto their website. This has never happened. Several public meetings, including an AGM and a special general meeting, were cancelled at the last minute last year by Rod Coutts, who, many believe, was running the station for his own benefit.
Those who have been observing the station's demise have seen the station's public funds of $320,000 be whittled away by around $200,000 during 2010, with no public accountability. $35,000 alone was spent with Tom Stevens at Steven Bovey Lawyers, to ward off new membership applications.

"The ACMA considers that 4CCR is demonstrating a commitment to meeting its obligations under the codes and that the current management committee is working to address these operational issues. While the ACMA will take no further action at this time, it will continue to monitor 4CCR’s adoption of the agreed measures."

Of course this latest decision makes a mockery of the regulatory body after a long and sustained disregard for open community involvement by the Cairns community. 4CCR should be a valuable and assessable community asset for everyone to use and benefit from, sadly it is far from that and is likely never to be again so long as there is no serious intervention.

Serious questions still remain: What happened to the $90,000 last year? Did former disgraced president Rod Coutts retain the station vehicle? Will their be a fraud investigation into the former Arona-committee that was forced to resign in August 2009? When will up to 18 membership refusals be allowed to participate in the community radio?

1 comment:

Michael Hyams said...

For Sale, one Paper Tiger, answers to name of "Acma" presently domiciled in Canberra. Present owners too busy with NBN to take care of pressing issuesin Cairns. A sale price of $90,000 would usefully fill in a few gaps in the accounting of 4CCR. Offers by email to the Blog.