The Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF) has proposed a new model of operation that is a radical change and complete departure from what we know as the CBF. It changes the CBF from an agency that administers funds to one that determines what happens to those funds. The CBF will in fact become a development agency that can shape the community broadcasting sector.
We are totally opposed to this new model of operation.
The most alarming thing about this move is that a small group of self-appointed people will control the sector’s funding.
This new model will do away with a system that has been developed over the past 30 years. The system in place now is democratic, open and transparent, with representation from the sector that provides accountability.
The present strength of the CBF comes from its formal structures and links to the peak sector bodies. The peak sector bodies (NEMBC, AICA, RPH and CBAA) have been able to directly contribute to the decision-making of the CBF. It is a vital link that provides legitimacy to the CBF. It gives the community broadcasters a sense of ownership, participation, access and involvement in CBF decisions and directions. The relationship provides a system of communication and checks-and-balances on the funding, whilst allowing the CBF to still operate at ‘arms-length’ from the sector in accordance with government agreements.
This unique model reflects the very ethos of community broadcasting by allowing access and participation, reflecting the diversity of the sector. The CBF works well because it has the confidence of the community broadcasting sector and the government.
It is astonishing that the CBF’s new model completely abandons this unique democratic participatory system. The new model proposed is aligned to a corporate model.
Hundreds of community broadcasters worked tirelessly to initially establish the CBF, and many thousands are still working with and developing this unique system. All this hard work will vanish if the present CBF board accepts this new model in August.
The new model proposed by the CBF disenfranchises the NEMBC and puts at risk the voice of ethnic broadcasters. The present grassroots democratic involvement of the sector will be abandoned.
• The Ethnic Grants Advisory Committee (EGAC) will vanish.
• There’s no requirement to have ethnic or Indigenous representation on the CBF board.
• The Indigenous and Radio Print Handicapped sectors will lose their duly elected GAC’s.
• The new model will disenfranchise the national peak bodies – the NEMBC, RPH and AICA.
The new model proposed by the CBF is totally undemocratic. There will be no membership base, there will be no elections and there will be no system of representation. It will become a top-down, self-appointed and hand-picked organisation.
The only thing retained in the new model is the CBAA’s right to nominate the President of the CBF. The rest of the board is self-appointed and hand-picked by a small group of CBF individuals – the outgoing board. The national peak bodies will be treated just the same as any other organisation or radio station.
In the new schema, peak bodies and radio stations will be able to nominate two people. That’s a potential pool of 600 people or more, from which the CBF will choose just five people. This creates a massive pool for the CBF board to pick and choose who they want to suit their intentions. It takes away power and participation from community broadcasters. There is nothing democratic about this process.
We are disappointed that the CBF has agreed to most of what was contained in the recent Nous Group Report. Once again, no options were provided; just a single model which we are supposed to make comment on.
The New Model expands and creates complexities
The proposed CBF model adds complexity rather than streamlining the grants process. Presently there are 9 GACs, but under their proposal, this expands to 11 (3 GACs and 8 Assessor Panels). They will also expand from the current 40 people to potentially 100 people. The operations of the CBF will no doubt become more cumbersome and expensive.
The proposed new grant process will be competitive and require a lot more effort by stations without guarantee of success. The current hourly rate formula is reliable and stations are guaranteed that if they produce a certain number of language programs, they will receive funding.
Ethnic broadcasters have a lot to lose
In this proposed model, ethnic community broadcasters will be required to prove that the content they produce on their programs meets required outcomes and they will have to show ‘actual costs of program production’.
We anticipate a threat to the hourly-rate model as the CBF asks:
‘Should the CBF introduce a more transparent approach to funding specialist Indigenous and Ethnic programming based on actual content production … rather than the current hourly rate’.
We believe the hourly-rate is open and transparent. The current hourly-rate model provides a set amount of funding for every hour produced of an eligible ethnic or multicultural program. In this arrangement, there are clearly defined funding allocations for the ethnic sector, with most funds going to ‘the hourly-rate’, other funding for projects, and some for new start up programs.
Under the new proposal, all ethnic funding will be lumped together. According to the CBF, ‘funding allocations will be consolidated and simplified to give the Foundation more flexibility to use those funds to maximise sector-wide benefit.’ Once this funding is lumped together, the CBF will then be able to set guidelines for how funding can be allocated.
The present system of allocating funds is very open and transparent. The new system will rely on a few individuals deciding how that money can be allocated.
We need to ask ourselves, what are the checks and balances in the CBF new model?
The only safeguard is that the $4 million allocated will remain for people from a migrant background that produce media. But this includes ALL media: online, digital platforms, TV and radio, not just the ethnic community broadcasting sector. Apart from this, there are no safeguards. We would totally rely on the new hand-picked board of the CBF and their GACs to decide outcomes for the sector.
The Sector Investment GAC
The CBF plans to form an overarching GAC – a super GAC – called the Sector Investment Advisory Committee (SIAC). This Sector Investment Advisory Committee will oversee the sector and make sure that the sector is meeting its outcomes. The outcomes, of course, are ultimately decided by the CBF and will need to fit with the Strategic plan of the CBF.
The CBF paper says that SIAC will ‘provide common oversight of high level funding investment in sector coordination and sector projects, promoting a more efficient, effective and strategic use of major grants. The Foundation will have greater capacity to assist the sector to respond to a rapidly evolving media landscape.’
SIAC will also ‘ensure that funding initiatives and grant programs are consistent with broader strategic intent, and will actively convert broad CBF strategic goals into action’.
NEMBC offered options
The NEMBC has offered models for change, but our proposals have been ignored.
We are opposed to this new model. The NEMBC is not opposed to the CBF becoming more ‘efficient and effective’. In fact, the NEMBC was at the planning day for the CBF Strategic Plan in 2012. When we asked the CBF to be more ‘efficient and effective’, we did not mean for it to take away the very principles on which the CBF was established in the first place.
We realise that change can occur, but it doesn’t need to be so drastic.
The NEMBC suggested keeping the main GACs as a system of representation, which means keeping EGAC, the Indigenous GAC, RPH GAC and a General GAC. These committees are then represented as four positions on the CBF board. In addition to this, we recommended three other appointments to the board from experts in the community sector. We believe this system maintains the traditional reason why the CBF was established, allows for specialised expertise to be added to the CBF board, at the same time as being totally accountable to the community sector.
Make your voice heard
The NEMBC is asking community broadcasters to oppose this new CBF model. We ask you to support our campaign. Go to our website, sign a petition and see how you can get involved to protect your democratic rights and the central ethos of community broadcasters. Protect your voice so that it is not marginalised.