The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued a formal notice today raising doubts about the future of Parrsboro’s troubled community radio station. CICR’s seven-year broadcast licence expires on August 31st.
The notice says that the Parrsboro Radio Society (PRS), which holds the licence, does not appear to be in compliance with CRTC requirements including the provision of program logs, other records and logger tapes. The CRTC uses such materials to judge whether a station is meeting its programming obligations.
The Commission’s notice also says that the PRS is in apparent non-compliance with the filing of annual returns dating back to 2008 when it received a full-time broadcasting licence. Annual returns include financial information.
CRTC ‘gravely concerned’
Along with today’s notice, the CRTC released two sets of written exchanges between CICR technical director Ross Robinson and Catherine White, the CRTC’s senior radio analyst. The exchanges took place last February.
They reveal that CICR’s annual returns between 2008 and 2012 were filed late while the ones from 2011 to 2014 were incomplete. “More specifically, the financial statements were missing,” White notes. Robinson responds by saying the annual returns are now complete.
When pressed by White in the second written exchange to explain why PRS had failed to file proper annual returns, Robinson responds:
We do apologize for the late filing as we are all volunteers and were not completely aware of the importance. Additionally there are no paid positions which contributed to the lack of responsibility in ensuring follow through of all requirements as requrested [sic] by the CRTC.
Robinson continues to assert elsewhere in the exchanges that “WE ARE ALL VOLUNTEERS WHERE NO BUDDY GETS PAID” even though he receives a monthly $500 stipend from the PRS in addition to the $450 in rent he collects each month.
“The Commission is gravely concerned by the inadequacy of the responses provided by the licensee to its requests for information,” the CRTC notice says. “These answers are an important indicator of whether the licensee has the required ability and knowledge to comply with the regulatory obligations in the future.”
CRTC sets deadline
The CRTC has set a deadline of June 19th for those who wish to comment on the PRS licence renewal application.
An official at the CRTC’s regional office in Dartmouth says the Commission will weigh the public comments and the seriousness of the non-compliance issues before issuing another notice. It has a variety of options ranging from a short-term licence renewal to suspending the licence or lifting it altogether. It could also summon station management to a public hearing.
I believe there should be more citizen input so that small town politics is eliminated. It always seems to be one or two people dictating policy.
“Gravely concerned” certainly describes a number of us who are aware of just how lacking are the Parrsboro Radio Society, and its station CICR, in basic matters of governance, accountability, competence and common sense.
The board, and the former station manager, now technical director (who as landlord of the station, and a paid employee, is allowed to be on the board in a clear conflict of interest) have arguably thumbed their collective noses in their non-compliance regarding many of these issues. This even after Supreme Court Judge Robert Wright rebuked the board in his ruling three years ago, for violating their own bylaws, among other things.
Will this current predicament, convince (at long last) the board that they are over their heads in understanding what community radio is, and how to operate a community station? Will they finally see the light and realize that their trust and faith in their technical director has been sorely misplaced? After a sorry history of decline, mistakes, and poor performance at the station (in terms of CRTC standards, and mine frankly), including – not so strangely – a precipitous drop in volunteers, they have remained loyal to him. And this when their first loyalty should be to the integrity of the station, and its mandate as described by the CRTC.
Perhaps with the new non-compliance rules, the CRTC may consider a counter proposal; that a short-term license be granted, provided that the present board resign, that radio station CICR be moved to a neutral location, and that a new (and competent) management and business plan be drawn up, and adhered to.
The radio station is too important to lose. That is why drastic and long overdue reforms are necessary. Far from leading the station to higher standards, better performance, and greater community relevance, the present board have led the radio station to the edge of destruction. Instead of being the champions of its mandate, they have betrayed it.
Let us hope that the CRTC can be convinced of a winning strategy forward.
You are right Sandy, the Parrsboro Radio is too important to lose. So, the present board ( who is not ignorant, as you say) is trying to bring the Radio up to standard. If some of you people would do something positive, instead of trying to destroy everything we do, things would be better. Stop complaining to the CRTC and twisting events around to try to make yourselves look good and us to look bad.Thank you for your comments.
Shirley Brown, Director.
I believe you are in earnest. But as I wrote in my comment on Kicking ass: Proposed new PRS bylaws, the board seems to have “drunk the Kool-aid”, mixed and served by the station’s technical director.
Have you and the board read, and discussed, the ruling two years ago by Supreme Court Judge Robert Wright? Has the board read, studied, and discussed the CRTC guidelines and regulations for community radio? Or the station’s (deplorable) correspondence with CRTC? Is the board aware of the (minimum) standards that must be met to comply with CRTC regulations, and the steps that need to be taken to get there?
There are a number of talented, creative and enthusiastic people practically “chomping at the bit” to be more deeply involved in Parrsboro Radio, who would love to help make it what it could be. But the practices and behaviour of the board, including this latest bizarre attempt to limit free speech with the proposed new PRS bylaws, is driving them away.
You write that the present board is trying to bring the radio station up to standard. If you really mean that, then you must practise proper, and accepted, standards of governance, including policy, and oversight of staff (as any nonprofit board should). I believe that the “tail has been wagging the dog”, and for far too long.
Nobody is trying to destroy anything. But are you suggesting that the complaints to the CRTC, as well as others, have no validity? Are you unaware of the futility some people feel after trying, repeatedly and unsuccessfully, to resolve matters with the station or the board? That was positive; and where did it get them? The board has made its own bed, and I ask it to take responsibility for that, and to discharge properly its responsibilities as a nonprofit in the public trust, for the public good.
I quote from John Carver, in his book “Boards that Make a Difference”, in which he states so succinctly: “The problem is not that a group or an individual occasionally slips into poor practice, but that intelligent, caring individuals regularly exhibit procedures of governance that are so deeply flawed”.
The board and the station have a serious problem of credibility with the CRTC, and the community (I might as well be frank). Things would be better if the board understood more intimately its obligations and responsibilities as a nonprofit community radio station. But that will take some homework, some honest conversations, some soul searching, and just maybe, some tough but necessary decisions. If you don’t, I fear the CRTC will make the decision for you.
I wish you luck.
CRTC calls for more public input??? can someone please post the link to do so?? thanks
Hi Mark: The CRTC’s Intervention Comment Form is online at:https://services.crtc.gc.ca/pub/CommentForm/Default-Defaut.aspx?lang=e&EN=2015-199&ET=N&S=O&PA=b&PT=nc&PST=a&FN=
Just follow the instructions for filling it out. Or, you can send your comments by mail to The Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2. Or you can send your comments addressed to The Secretary General by fax at 819-994-0218. The deadline for submissions is June 19, 2015.
Under CRTC rules, you must send a copy of your comments to the applicant. The mailing address is Parrsboro Radio Society, PO Box 729, Parrsboro, NS, B0M 1S0.