The ACMA finds against Hawkesbury Radio in long running dispute | radioinfo

The ACMA finds against Hawkesbury Radio in long running dispute

Wednesday 22 February, 2017

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has ruled against community station 2VTR, Hawkesbury Radio and in favour of two complainants who accused the licensee of restrictive practices in granting their applications to become members. 

In their official finding the ACMA states that it has found that “Hawkesbury Radio was preventing the complainants from becoming members of the Co-operative and, by doing so, was not encouraging participation in the operations of the service” which is in breach of licence condition at sub-paragraph 9(2)(c)(i) of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA). 

The ACMA has previously warned the Windsor based station on the outskirts of Sydney that it was not doing enough to encourage community participation in the operations of the station. 

In October 2015 the ACMA issued remedial directions requiring 2VTR, among other things, to:

  • develop a community consultation strategy and structured engagement program with a view to increasing membership and participation;
  • clarify the rules around membership and the way that membership applications are dealt with; and
  • report back to the ACMA on progress.

Clearly this has not occurred to the ACMA’s satisfaction.

In their submission to the ACMA, one complainant stated:

We have been trying to join as members of 2VTR Hawkesbury Radio for the past FIVE YEARS [complainant’s emphasis]. They have currently held our membership application fees for nearly a year.

[…] We have been given the royal run around by the chairman and his directors, receiving multiple letters and emails, none of which have confirmed our membership. […] since we live and listen in the Station’s broadcast area […] simply wanted to support our local community radio station.

Another complainant who waited eight months before being formally rejected said:

The board asked me to attend a meeting, but I explained that I have a disability and would find that too onerous.

After numerous emails back and forth, they formally rejected my application, presumably because I was unable to attend their interview and they failed to refund my application fee, even after my request for them to do so.

In response 2VTR, Hawkesbury Radio sent the ACMA a number of submissions over approximately 18 months, the most recent dated 31 January 2017 in response to the ACMA’s preliminary investigation report. It stated:

(1)    a finding of a breach would be unreasonable, unfair, and would not be supported by the facts;

(2)    further, we believe that your investigation does not adequately address the real situation; and

(3)    we believe that ACMA’s attitude towards what “community involvement” means does not take account of the realities of life running a radio station in a small semi-rural town, as we have for more than 35 years.

The ACMA rejected the submissions put forward by 2VTR, Hawkesbury Radio and ruled that "the licensee is not encouraging participation in the operations of the service and, accordingly, is in breach of sub-paragraph 9(2)(c)(i) of Schedule 2 to the BSA."

In its reasons for the decision, the ACMA stated:

All community broadcasting licensees are required to comply with the licence condition to encourage community participation in the operations of their service. Compliance with this licence condition is a key characteristic of community broadcasting services.

Membership is one of the primary ways of encouraging community participation in the operations of a service, as members can have a formal say in decision-making of the licensee. Members can propose items of business for consideration at general meetings, nominate members for election to boards and management committees, vote at general meetings, and participate in board and committee meetings.

It is the ACMA’s strong preference for community broadcasting services to have open membership practices to demonstrate that they are encouraging community participation. It is unlikely that a licensee with overly restrictive membership practices would be complying with the community participation requirement in the BSA.


Post a Comment


Log InYou must be logged in to post comments.
Tim Williams
22 February 2017 - 12:01pm
It might be time for the ACMA to consider alternative applications for the Windsor community radio licence, given the length of time that this dispute about active community involvement in the operation of Hawkesbury Radio has been running, and the ongoing issues over membership.

The fact that the existing licence has been held for thirty-five years does not guarantee the holder perpetuity, and it might just be time for a fresh licencee, with fresh faces on the Board, fresh programming ideas, and a fresh approach to what community involvement really means.

The seeming stance of the current Board that Windsor is a semi-rural area with therefore different licencing needs simply doesn't cut it.

Of the 150 members stations of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, many, many stations are from "semi-rural" communities, with a whole lot of those fitting the description of "semi-rural" far better than Windsor, which these days is much better profiled as an outer urban area of Sydney.

So, let's see the ACMA call for alternative groups to submit expressions of interest for the licence, and let's see a real community radio station in the Hawkesbury area.

And, for the record, I am not currently, nor have I ever been, a member of Hawkesbury Radio. Nor have I ever been rejected as a member. I am simply a staunch believer in the principles of community radio, and the benefits of having an open, active, community based involvement in a local radio station.

Tim Williams
22 February 2017 - 6:36pm
The problem at the Station is that the same FOUR directors have held total power and control for the past 15 years, and during this period have incurred losses exceeding $300,000.

By selectively denying new memberships, the members have been unable to participate in democratic elections. Hopefully ACMA's enforcement actions will bring the "dynasty" to an end and allow this COMMUNITY Station to operate in accordance with the Law.
straight talker
22 February 2017 - 10:57pm
It has been the brave few that have stood up to this so called board of directors that has finally seen them exposed , they have kept memberships closed to anyone that they did not personally know to keep control to themselves, I think that there should also be an investigation into the financials.
Get rid of this board ACMA and let the smart business people that are involved with the station take it to where it should be after 35 years, which was starting to happen a few short years ago but the board didn't like the idea of the station becoming larger with more members so they ganged up on that director and he resigned.

This post has been edited for legal reasons.
Taking the cat for a 2 hour walk
23 February 2017 - 12:11am
Oh Goodness me, this is STILL on.

It's like the radio version of the Bold and the Beautiful- but instead of someone sleeping with the next door neighbours, half sisters boyfriend while they're supposed to be running the clothing company, it's a dude who got told "no thank you" and he just can't handle rejection.

My goodness, I wish I had the time to hold a grudge for this long!! Actually no I don't that would make me a bitter and grumpy person.

Life's way too short, move on buddy.
24 February 2017 - 8:21am
Well, hopefully this long running soap opera is about to witness the Fat Lady singing. The latest ACMA report vindicates those that have stood up to this self-serving board of directors, and damns those who have said "yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir" in order to keep their on-air programs.

Yes, there are some massive egos involved, but they will no longer be able to hide behind a veneer of propriety while enjoying the pathetically meager scraps seized from the table of a starving community station that limps along on a TOTAL income of $100k a year.
Tall Paul
24 February 2017 - 9:45am
My name is Tall Pall I work at Hawkesbury radio. One day I went to go on air and [people] where on Air, drinking and smelled of alcohol.

[I told someone] what was going on and 9 weeks later I was framed by the board. Where on one Saturday morning the Windsor police came to arrest me, after 3 hours I was let go and I was told by the Police that this looks as it was a story made up by the board to get read of you for reporting [someone].

After all of this all I got from the board is stress with no sorry.

Thank you for reading
Tall Paul

EDITOR: This post has been edited for legal reasons.
Tall Paul
25 February 2017 - 7:37pm
Everyone Knows me as Tall Paul, my on-air name Country radio presenter.

I have something to say About the CDs that come to the station for the Country radio presenters.

What right have the Board to think that they own the CRS CDs?
Every Radio Station gets a CRS CD.

But at Hawkesbury Radio we do not get it unless we ask one of the board members. And then we only get a copy of the CD that does not play all songs. And to the Catalogue that we should get with the CD not only we do not get one but I never ever see one.

The CRS Publicity CD is a promotional compilation of new country music single tracks for radio airplay. All material is from albums, EPs, singles or forthcoming releases commercially available in Australia.

The CD is distributed every 6 weeks to selected radio stations, media and retailers, and is not available for retail sale.

Tracks are supplied by Australian Independent labels and artists. Label and Catalogue details for product are available on the individual artists' pages shown on the track list at left.

What else... I have a lot to say. The Board must go and a new one should be appointed

Thank You
Tall Paul
Tall Paul
27 February 2017 - 9:05pm
To all the people that read all the comments on here and think that the people on the Board are nice people.

They do not work for the station as we do and the only way they stay in power is because they go to people's places that they know and get them to join the station to vote all of them back in.

I know because that is how I got into radio I was friends with them. Before I Joined the station I remember they went around getting people to sign up. Do not worry about who to vote for because they will tell you who to vote for. People should stand up to the board of directors.

Job market carousel

radioinfo ABN: 87 004 005 109  P O Box 6430 North Ryde NSW 2113 Australia.  |  All content © 2012. All Rights Reserved.