The long running investigation into Perth’s youth community radio station, Groove FM, has been completed, with the ABA proposing strict licence conditions for the station, but stopping short of cancelling its licence.
The licence conditions are intended to “address a range of problems with the service”, ranging from “representation of the youth community” to “community participation” and “corporate governance.” They will ensure proper election processes for the management committee and a separation between that committee and the station manager.
The new conditions will also force the station’s format to include more talk content, as it proposed in its licence application, and to more closely scrutinise its accounts. The licence conditions are likely to bring Groove more into line with programming and processes in place in other recently licenced capital city youth stations such as FBi Sydney and Fresh FM Adelaide.
As a result of a complaint from DMG Radio, through Commercial Radio Australia, the ABA investigated the station’s licencee, the Youth Media Society of Western Australia Inc (YMS), and has released an investigation report.
The report says YMS provides “only a narrow range of programming that does not cater for the interests of the broader Perth youth community,” and that it has “not adequately encouraged members of the Perth youth community to participate in the service.”
The high powered community station on FM 101.7, which is the newest community licence in Perth, came under immediate scrutiny for its proactive marketing and sponsorship activities and its tight membership register, when it went on air around the same time as DMG’s Nova Perth in March 2003. It reminded some radio watchers of the ill fated Wild FM.
Acting ABA Chair, Lyn Maddock, has told radioinfo: “In its licence application, YMS said it would provide a diverse service for all the youth of Perth. It has not done this.
“YMS has been given free access to a scarce and valuable public resource, the radiofrequency spectrum, to provide a service that meets the needs and interests of the whole Perth youth community, not just one section of the community interested in a particular style of music. YMS must also ensure that members of the community are encouraged to participate in the service, not just as volunteers, but as members of YMS.”
The ABA also found significant deficiencies in the corporate governance of YMS. In particular it found that until recently, YMS “did not have in place financial and administrative procedures to ensure that YMS was run in accordance with the most basic standards of accountability, transparency and openness.”
Maddock says: “Community broadcasters must operate in a way that ensures they are fully open and accountable to their members. During the period investigated by the ABA, YMS did not do this.”
The problems the ABA found were of “such a serious nature” that it considered cancelling Groove FM’s licence. It decided not to do this after taking into account recent and proposed changes at YMS and because it would not be in the best interests of the Perth youth community at this time.
Since the ABA’s investigation began, YMS has “taken steps to improve its financial and administrative practices,” but the ABA “continues to have concerns about the future operation of the service.”
The licence conditions proposed by the ABA are intended to address issues of corporate governance, the representation of community interests and community participation.
The key defining characteristics of community broadcasting services are that they must be provided for community purposes and they may not be operated for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise. With those goals in mind, the new licence conditions will include:
1.1 The licensee must:
a. ensure that all members of the committee of management and the
office bearers of the licensee have been validly elected;
b. ensure that the position of station manager is not held by any
member of the committee of management or any office bearer of
c. comply with the provisions of the Associations Incorporation Act
1987 (Western Australia).
1.2 Within 3 months of the commencement of these conditions the
licensee must devise and implement:
a. procedures to ensure that each and every member of the licensee’s
committee of management is fully aware of and understands the
legislative and regulatory requirements which apply to the licensee
and to the broadcasting service provided by the licensee;
b. procedures to ensure that the committee of management properly
scrutinises all of the licensee’s business activities, including all
c. procedures to ensure that proper records are kept of the licensee’s
business activities, including all financial arrangements;
d. an appropriate conflict of interest policy.
Representation of community interests and community
2.1 The licensee must establish and maintain a sub-committee responsible
for encouraging and arranging access to Groove FM and all its
operations by members of the community it has been licensed to serve.
3.1 The licensee must:
a. broadcast Australian music content on Groove FM so that it comprises
not less than 40% of all programming broadcast in any one month
b. within three months of the commencement of these conditions
increase the level of talk programming broadcast on Groove FM so that
it comprises not less than 25% of all programming broadcast in any
one week period;
c. within six months of the commencement of these conditions increase
the level of talk programming broadcast on Groove FM so that it
comprises not less than 35% of all programming broadcast in any one
d. ensure that it does not broadcast on Groove FM more than six songs
during any one hour talk program.
3.2 For the purposes of calculating the percentage of talk programming
broadcast on Groove FM in any one week period, the percentage of
short program inserts of less than 5 minutes duration dealing with
specific topics of interest to the Perth youth community must not
exceed 50% of the total of talk programming broadcast.
4.1 The licensee must broadcast announcements on Groove FM inviting
listeners to become members of the licensee at least once every hour
between the hours of 7.00am and midnight, seven days per week.
4.2 The licensee must broadcast announcements on Groove FM inviting
listeners to participate in the music programming of Groove FM at
least once every two hours between the hours of 7.00am and midnight,
seven days per week.
4.3 The licensee must broadcast announcements on Groove FM inviting
listeners to participate in the talk programming of Groove FM at least
once every two hours between the hours of 7.00am and midnight,
seven days per week.
4.4 The announcements referred to in clauses 4.2 and 4.3 are to be
broadcast during alternate hours.
4.5 The text of the announcements referred to in clauses 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3
are to be published on the licensee’s website.
4.6 For the 12 month period following the commencement of these
conditions, announcements inviting listeners to become members of
the licensee must include the following information:
a. Groove FM is a community broadcasting service that has been
licensed to provide a service for the youth of Perth;
b. Groove FM depends on the support of the youth community for
its operations and continued existence;
c. listeners can support Groove FM by becoming members of Youth
Media Society of Western Australia (YMS) which provides
d. the benefits of membership of YMS include being able to
participate in the management of Groove FM and the selection of
programming on Groove FM.
Other conditions will require the station to:
* have a written policy on conflict of interest and provide that policy to the ABA;
* to report regularly on compliance;
* to report on written and verbal agreements with sponsors that go beyond standard sponsorship announcements;
* and to comply with the CBAA’s code of practice;
The station’s chatroom provides some flavour of the debate that has been generated over the station’s music selection since it was licenced:
On 17 Sept 2003 Mista-Marvelus wrote.
I’ve brought this up on another perth board (not a radio station) and alot of people agree that grooveFM USED perth hiphop and RnB crowd to sell out. . . . .
i wouldnt be so ticked off about this if grooveFM hadn’t based its 3pm onwards shows all on hiphop and RnB.
when u think about it, alot of you guys only listened to grooveFM coz they played hiphop and RnB and nuttin else. . . .
now i understand grooveFM is a business just like any other business, so i’ll compare groove to another business, lets say pal dog food…..lets say the owners of pal dogfood make a cat flavoured dog food….then, after seeing dogs everywhere eating it, and thinking that they could make more money than chum, they try to change recipes, from cat flavour to shoe flavour, just like chum has. but the pal buyers stop buying pal and instead just go out and kill cats and the half of the ppl that buy chum, buy pal.
all that pal has effectively done is lost its initial buyers. . . .sure, it still has buyers, but not nearly as much as it used to. all it really has done is stole half of chum’s customers, and caused a whole bunch of ppl to go out and kill cats.
i know this sounds a lil complicated….but when u really think about it…….grooveFM dogged-it.
C’mon Groove…..u know yall sold out….look at the difference between ur shows now and the ones u used to have …..atleast have some compassion for the people that listened everyday from 3pm onwards…..coz ur really selling them short…they made groove, not the lil 12yrolds that request Amiel or some other mainstream crap. . . give us hiphop and RnB or nuttin at all….
P.S – if u work for groove and u see this……i suggest u email me, coz im telling everyone my point of view on this, and to tell u the truth, hearing pop/rock/techno/othercrap on an “urban” radio station that claims to represent perth hiphop and RnB is just PLAIN OLD WRONG.
And on 25 June Steve wrote:
it seems like the have been playn other songs because the hip hop and rnb tracks they have are limited. thats probably why so much repitition occurs. or maybe they think its cool to play, the same same commercial tracks that arent that goos anywayz, over and over.
And on radioinfo’s forum today a former volunteer says: “I personally feel that the new management… not fulfil the new conditions imposed by the ABA and I give them 6 month’s before they are shut down…”
The station has until Friday 3 September 2004 to comment on the ABA’s proposed licence conditions.