Ethnic community broadcasting will lose its voice, if the CBF accepts the Nous report findings. Please read this and respond.
Your urgent attention is needed to respond to a potentially major shake-up of ethnic community broadcasting.
The Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF) initiated a review of its ‘Governance and Structure’ and employed a consultant called the Nous Group. They have produced a report and it is now on the CBF website for comment. Unfortunately, responses are due by the 24th November. This does not allow us much time, so your response is urgent.
If the CBF agrees to the recommendations it will mean that the CBF will change from being a funds dispersal agency to a ‘sector shaper’ — a move towards a development agency. This is indicated in the report by such statements as: ‘The CBF should have more scope to drive specific policy objectives of the government’, and the CBF is ‘weak in shaping outcomes’ and it should ‘tightly define its strategic intent’.
We believe the consultant, the Nous Group, has looked through a corporate lens and recommended a CBF with far reaching powers to decide what is best for the community sector, with no understanding of the history and practice of the sector.
The NEMBC has major concerns with this report and the direction recommended. We ask you to write a simple email using the information below and send it to us, or ring us and we will help you formulate a response. By sending it to us you agree that we can publish it on webiste and to other members. The report is very detailed and at times a perplexing report. The least you could do is complain how little time has been allowed to respond to this fundamentally pivotal report.
The NEMBC detailed response is available on our website. However, to make it easier, here are the primary Nous Group recommendations that the NEMBC strongly opposes.
1) Establishing a self-selecting board. This is contrary to the community-based ethos of participation, access and equity. Recommendation 20 states: ‘The CBF Board should be appointed by the outgoing Board against a skills matrix, from candidates nominated by sector stations and SROs. Each station and SRO can nominate up to two candidates.’ Nous recommends that by July next year the present CBF board chooses a new board from hundreds of nominations.
2) The necessity to have an ethnic person on the board is not identified.
3) No governance model options suggested by the Nous Report: Despite the NEMBC suggesting other models, the Nous Group chose to ignore them and suggested one model only: a self-selecting board. There are many examples that could have been used: why did they pick the most extreme example?
4) Abolishing the current GACs. The Nous Group recommended ‘assessor pools’ based on other ‘like- organisations’ (Australia Council, Screen Australia) that bear no resemblance to the CBF or other community based organisations. The CBF Administration Officer will drive policy from these assessor pools. They will assemble the Grants panel selected from the ‘assessor pools’ and they will ‘lead the administration of Ethnic grants, serving as a convener’. This will take away the present role of the GAC Convener and reporting will rest with the Grants Administrator.
5) Establishing a Social Return on Investment (SROI) Framework. The report recommends moving to a ‘social benefits’ focused approach, but no reason is given why we need to make this change. This recommendation will lead to the CBF setting outcomes and dispersing funds for radio stations and national peak bodies based on a very narrow and contrary set of “social benefits”.
6) CBF becoming a ‘sector shaper’ for funds dispersal: This gives the CBF too much control, and funds will be dispersed according to the CBF. For example, Ethnic funds would be used in a ‘content innovation’ funding pool with guidelines decided by the CBF Board.
7) The CBF Secretariat will have strong policy control: Recommendation 30 states that the present Grants Administrator will have a sector engagement role to ‘cover responsibility for shaping and measuring outcomes of sector projects and sector advancement’. The national peak bodies will therefore be answerable to the CBF secretariat to achieve ‘outcomes’.
The present community broadcasting structure has stood the test of time and is well respected for being ethical, transparent and truly representative. This is acknowledged by government, the community broadcasting sector and radio broadcasters.
This truly participatory and bottom-up approach, with elections and AGMs to the national representative peak bodies, all flow into the CBF, and thus provide the CBF a meaningful and representative role within the community broadcasting sector. This structure that has grown from a grassroots volunteer base is exceptional; in fact, it’s unique in the world.
For the Nous Group to recommend the CBF change its constitution by February 2015 and have in place a self-selecting board by July is quite extraordinary. The Nous Group Report intends to turn community broadcasting on its head and proposes to do so with lightning speed.
A major misunderstanding made by the Nous Group was why the CBF was first established and the fact that it is not empowered to shape outcomes for national representative peak-bodies or in fact make decisions on how funding can be changed. The CBF was established as a ‘clearing-house’, as an administrator of funds; not a development agency. The Nous Group misses this point completely, and instead claims that the CBF is ‘weak in shaping outcomes’. The purpose of the CBF is not to shape outcomes. There are Government guidelines and targets for the CBF to follow, and they distribute funds accordingly.
The Nous Report is lacking in details and analysis, such as explaining how the SROI outcomes would work in a community setting; why the current changes to the CBF Board and GACs need to be changed; why the one board model was proposed and why is it better than the current structure. They use grandiose statements such as the ‘moment of truth’, as if there is some terrible urgency why radical changes must be made.
The NEMBC also has concerns about meaningful consultation and ‘independence’ of the Review. The CBF Structural and Governance Review is treated in almost the same way as the CBOnline Review, while the CBF Structural and Governance review is a much broader important issue with wider ramifications. Also concerning is that the CBF’s closeness to the process: they were the contractor, wrote the tender brief and employed the consultant to evaluate their own performance and structure. Furthermore, the Nous Group has had little connection with the community broadcasting sector.
The NEMBC questions where the ‘sector shaper’ idea emanates from, especially when the majority of the ‘stakeholders’ interviewed were from the CBF (see page 57 of the report). We were also very disappointed by the ‘consultation’ process, which limited the time for the NEMBC and other peak organisations to put its views.
The NEMBC is very concerned about the fairness of the Review process. The public release of the Report came as a surprise when it was a confidential document for stakeholders to have input. Then unexpectedly, it was released just prior to the national peak-bodies AGMs leaving no time for AICA or the NEMBC to distribute information to members. The CBAA had one week to notify its members. This makes for an ill-conceived process for members to respond fully to the Structural and Governance Review.
The NEMBC at their 2014 AGM recommended that CBF further extend the November 24 deadline so all members have adequate time to prepare responses.
Please write your responses to us or call us as soon as you can. Make your opinions count.