The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the licensee of Fresh 89.5 FM, Goldfields Community Radio Cooperative Limited, breached conditions of its licence by failing to continue to represent the Bendigo community and by not encouraging members of that community to participate in the operations of the service.

Goldfields Community Radio holds a temporary community broadcasting licence to provide a service for Bendigo. It has been broadcasting to the Bendigo area since 1983.

Goldfields Community Radio had not held annual general meetings of its members for the years 2001 to 2006. Annual general meetings are a key part of the operations of community broadcasting services as they deal with accountability issues of the first order including reporting obligations and important governance decisions, including the election of the board of directors. Failure to hold such meetings means that a licensee is excluding members from its most important decision-making forum and that it is operating with a board that has not been elected by its members.

In those circumstances, ACMA found that Fresh 89.5 FM could not claim to be representative of the Bendigo community or to have encouraged members of that community to be involved in all aspects of its operations.

ACMA’s view is that compliance with these licence conditions is a key obligation of a community broadcasting service and that non-compliance with these conditions is a serious matter.

Fresh 89.5 FM has now held its AGM and is now being managed by a board elected by its members at that meeting. In light of these circumstances, ACMA will not take any further compliance or any formal enforcement action at this stage. In any event, ACMA will also scrutinise compliance with these, and other key licence conditions, in any allocation process for a long-term community broadcasting licence for Bendigo.

ACMA investigated this issue following a complaint alleging that Fresh 89.5 FM did not encourage members of the community to participate in the operations of the service, that it did not continue to represent the community interest and that it had breached the prohibition on broadcasting advertisements. ACMA found that Fresh 89.5 FM had not broadcast advertisements.

Investigation Report No. 1833 is available on the ACMA website.

Media contact: Blake Murdoch, ACMA Media, on (02) 9334 7817.


ACMA conducts various types of investigations under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act). Investigations under Part 11 of the Act are conducted in response to complaints received by ACMA relating to a possible breach by:

a licensed broadcaster of the Act, the regulations, a licence condition, a class licence or a code of practice; or
the ABC or SBS of a code of practice.
If a person wishes to complain about something of concern they have seen or heard on a program broadcast by a radio or TV station, and the matter is covered by a code of practice, the person must, by law, first make a written complaint to the station.

However, if a complaint relates to a matter covered by a licence condition, the person can complain directly to ACMA and need not complain to the station first.

There is a different code of practice for each broadcasting sector, and each code of practice contains a section that explains the complaints process that applies to that sector.

As some codes impose time limits for complaints, it is advisable that people who wish to make a complaint write to the radio or TV station as soon as possible. For instance, the code of practice that applies to commercial television broadcasters enables them to decide to not respond in writing to complaints that are made more than 30 days after the date of broadcast.

When making a complaint to ACMA, people must provide a copy of their complaint to the station, a copy of the station’s reply if this has been received, and any other relevant correspondence with the station. ACMA takes all complaints seriously (except for those that are frivolous or vexatious or not made in good faith) and acknowledges all complaints in writing.

For valid complaints, ACMA considers the information provided and offers the relevant station an opportunity to provide its perspectives. When all relevant information is available, ACMA assesses the complaint against the relevant licence condition or code of practice.

When an investigation is completed, ACMA is required to notify a complainant of the results of an investigation under Part 11 of the Act. The form this notification is to take is not specified in the Act – it might be in the form of a letter or, alternatively, it could be in the form of a more formal investigation report, which is provided to both the complainant and the licensee concerned.

Generally, personal or private information provided in a complaint, including name and address details, are not disclosed to the licensee concerned if it is a licence condition matter. However, as code complaints are first made to a licensee, code complaints are usually made available to the licensee concerned. ACMA’s usual practice is to not provide personal or private information in an investigation report.

Under the Act, ACMA has discretion whether or not to publish the report of an investigation conducted under Part 11 of the Act. ACMA’s usual practice is to publish such reports. However, ACMA is not required to publish an investigation report if publication would disclose matter of a confidential character or likely to prejudice the fair trial of a person. If ACMA intends to publish an investigation report that may adversely affect the interests of a person, ACMA must give the person an opportunity to make representations in relation to the matter.