LGBTI radio station Joy 94.9 faces strong headwinds as it begins its annual fundraiser, with key staff resigning, long-time presenters pushed out, morale plummeting, and downloads on the slide. Updated 21st March.
Every year Joy runs a “Radiothon”, usually with big prizes like holidays and cars, if you renew your annual membership and/or make a donations. The Radiothon generates around one third of the station’s entire annual income, so it’s crucial to get it right.
This year the station has set itself a massive target of $350,000, but that’s not the only reason it faces an uphill struggle this year. Volunteers currently working at the station claim morale is at rock bottom, management is struggling to find enough experienced on air talent to fill the rosters. And in the last few weeks, three paid staff members have resigned.
Staff Walk Away
Operations Manager Josh Pearson, Production Manager Jason Gipps and Volunteer Coordinator Alice Berkeley have all resigned. These are crucial roles within the organisation.
The Operations Manager is responsible for the day to day running of the support functions. They have accountability for all aspects of the management of our volunteer program as well as all facilities and support services provided for the station.
The Production Manager provides creative and effective production services, producing and coordinating station promotions, sponsorship announcements, community service announcements. They also manage the production of the podcasts.
The Volunteer Co-ordinator is responsible for managing and developing the volunteer program, rostering and co-ordinating shifts (detailed job descriptions are at the end of this post).
Posts on social media by a current volunteer suggested that these departures had no connection with the current turmoil at the station. Instead it was claimed that the departures were due to illness and other personal issues.
The stirrer has confirmed that Pearson is not ill, and Gipp’s departure is, in his own words, ‘not due to any external issues’, but that he is tired and needs a rest. At the time of writing no information has come to hand regarding Berkeley’s reasons for departure, which she has reportedly asked volunteers to keep private.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one manager in a month may be regarded as misfortune, to lose two looks very much like carelessness, but losing three strongly suggests some deeper malaise.
Sources have confirmed to the stirrer that the station is attempting to shut down critical comment on social media. Leaders of LGBTI bodies have been receiving angry calls from a Joy director demanding they have criticism coming from people connected with their organisations removed from Facebook and twitter.
One such critic told the stirrer that their Chair responded by telling Joy that people were free to say whatever they liked in their capacity as private citizens, exercising their freedom of speech.
A large number of popular station presenters say they have been forced out of the station in recent times, as the stirrer has been reporting. A group calling themselves Save Joy is attempting to collect enough signatures to force a Special General Meeting, with the aim of holding the board and management to account.
To date they have fallen short. Many volunteers and members who agree with their aims say they dare not support Save Joy publicly, for fear of retaliation. A few signatories have even been persuaded or coerced to withdraw their signatures, lending credence to the argument that all is not well at the station (see below for previous posts).
As I wrote in Sunlight is a Great Disinfectant, a community radio station depends utterly on nurturing, growing and maintaining a first class roster of producers, researchers and presenters. All the rest is a support mechanism… A station so adept as Joy at driving away passionate, intelligent and committed people is clearly a toxic workplace (more post on this topic are listed below).
Podcasts A Measure of Station Health
Management rightly trumpets the large number of podcasts as evidence of strong community engagement with the station. But a closer look at Joy’s own statistics paints a less than rosy picture.
As Program Manager Chris Tait said on Saturday Magazine May 5, and in the radio trade press, podcasts are essential. Joy cannot afford to remain a little local FM station with a sub-metro licence: it needs to reach out above and beyond to the rest of the country and even the world.
A proposition with which I think we can all agree. Joy’s very restricted broadcast licence means it currently services most those who need it least: inner city Melbourne LGBTI folk living in relatively benign circumstances, working for relatively open-minded employers, renting from relatively unprejudiced landlords, among largely accepting neighbours. For us, it’s a ‘nice to have’, but for others, it’s crucial.
The crying need is to connect rural and regional LGBTI folk outside the cities and major towns, where the environment is likely to be much more hostile, to one another and the wider LGBTI community. These potential listeners are far more likely to access Joy via the internet, either live streaming, or downloading podcasts.
As Tait pointed out to radioinfo.com, during the marriage equality vote podcast downloads reached 77,000 per month, a pretty healthy figure. When Joy produces relevant, engaging content not available elsewhere, people devour it hungrily.
August 2017“Combined with the fact that JOYs podcast downloads have doubled since the beginning of the year (to 77,000 a month), online listenership is at an all-time high, which suggests that JOY is not just on the up and up, but is spreading its reach wider.” Program Manager Chris Tait
But the station has been unable to sustain that growth. It proved to be a temporary ‘blip’ in the statistics. The long term trend tells a very different story.
Here are the podcast download figures for one year ago, showing a total of 48,684.
Most downloaded at 3,680 was Word for Word, presented by longtime volunteer Dean Beck.
(Earlier this year Beck was removed from on air presenting and told to take a six month break, during which time he would not be allowed access to station premises)
Now take a look at the stats one year later.
Word for Word (without Beck) dropped from 3,680 to 772 downloads. His other former show, Hide and Seek, dropped from 2,116 to 1,504.
Total downloads dropped to 36,227, a fall of more than 25% year on year, to only 16% of the peak achieved during the marriage equality vote. These are very worrying statistics, not least for the sponsorship sales team, who must persuade businesses to buy slots on the station. These are not the signs of a healthy radio station.
High levels of downloads mean high levels of audience engagement. Low levels mean the station is failing to produce the kind of content they want and need. Joy is no longer ‘spreading it’s reach wider’, but shrinking back to its core territory. Save Joy is concerned to arrest and reverse this decline.
Rallying The Troops
Clearly this is not lost on CEO Tennille Moisel. In an attempt to gee up the troops and restore morale, she has called a Town Hall Meeting of all Joy volunteers for this Wednesday, May 23.
She says, “While attendance is not compulsory we do hope that you will take the opportunity to come along and hear about how JOY is performing.”
We hope so too. We also hope that an accurate picture is presented of the extremely tough situation the station now finds itself, entirely of its own making, and how those who got it into this mess propose to get it out.
It should be an interesting evening. Sadly, as I am no longer a member or volunteer, I will not be able to attend, but recollections (or even better, recordings) of the proceedings would be welcome, should you feel inclined to send them along.
As a former long time volunteer and presenter, I can attest that this toxic culture has existed to a greater or lesser degree since I first walked through the station’s doors in 2002. It has from time to time been beaten back, but never entirely rooted out, and is now flourishing once again. However, for many years many of us have kept silence for fear of damaging the station, just as many are doing now. In hindsight, this was a bad mistake for which I, for one, am very sorry. Please don’t repeat it.
A Joy Director contacted the stirrer prior to the publication of this post, claiming the stirrer had misrepresented the situation and published statements which they claimed were untrue. the stirrer offered them the opportunity to post a refutation, which they declined. They asked if we could instead have an unquotable off the record discussion, which the stirrer declined, inviting them instead to be interviewed on the record. This invitation was also declined. The director was told that the invitation would remain open, but to date no further contact has been made..
EMail from Joy CEO
From: Tennille Moisel <Tennille.Moisel@joy.org.au>
Date: 16 May 2018 at 9:48:04 pm AEST
To: volunteersteam <email@example.com>
Subject: Invitation – JOY Town Hall Meeting
On behalf of JOY President Melinda Rich and the entire board, I invite you to our first Town Hall meeting for volunteers. Volunteers are critical to our success as an organisation and as a media entity and we want to make sure you have the information you need to help us achieve the strategic objectives we have developed.
We will be scheduling these meetings at least every 6 months to provide JOY’s volunteers with updates on how we are tracking against our strategy plan and to also provide an opportunity for volunteers to ask questions about our progress.
The Town Hall meetings are being established to increase our communication across the organisation and to ensure that we are all aligned with JOYs goals, challenges and achievements.
In attendance for the 23rd of May will be JOY’s President Melinda Rich, board members Ian Graystone, Andrew Thorp, Andy McNamara, Marcus King and Jane Smith as well as JOY CEO Tennille Moisel. While attendance is not compulsory we do hope that you will take the opportunity to come along and hear about how JOY is performing.
Please RSVP to this event to help us ensure we have enough space by registering here. I look forward to seeing you there.
Tennille Moisel Chief Executive Officer
A radio station depends utterly on nurturing, growing and maintaining a first class roster of producers, researchers and presenters. All the rest is a support mechanism for what they do, which is inform and enlighten the LGBTI community. A station so adept as Joy at driving away passionate, intelligent and committed people, is clearly a sick place.
I know personally a number of people who have been affected at the station in the way that’s outlined in the letter calling for an SGM. I have heard their reasoned side of the story and in my view the characterisation presented in the board’s recent response is not a fair representation of their plight.
For example, the board has asserted that there is no will, on the part of the aggrieved volunteers, to resolve the issues that have brought this situation to a head. I’d consider this is an unfair characterisation of what I understand to have been a drawn-out, frustrated process that has not been handled with the veracity it deserves.
The depiction that bullying behaviour by management as just mistaken respectful / professional direction, also seems to me an unfair characterisation.
The groundswell of a lack of confidence in the CEO by volunteers has been around for all that time, if not longer. Her management style and techniques are ones used in a call centre, not a volunteer and membership-based organisation. Some of those volunteers you mention as a small group have described the environment in which they give their time willingly, as a toxic space since her appointment.
The station was no longer a place or culture I recognised. I was placed in a position where ‘my’ product wasn’t being supported and we were sounding worse and worse and no one cared enough to fix that. After 8 years I no longer have the patience ‘to wait out’ another cultural shift that may or may not occur. So I decided that I should leave now and at least be able to do it on my own terms
Paid Staff Job Descriptions
The Operations Manager is responsible for the day to day running of the support functions within the organisation. They have accountability for all aspects of the management of our volunteer program as well as all facilities and support services provided for the station. https://www.seek.com.au/job/36235817
Key Responsibilities include:
Manage our end to end volunteer program
Oversee the delivery of all support services including IT, Facilities and Systems
Lead support team to ensure day to day station operations
Consult with Program Director, Production Manager, Sales team and CEO to determine requirements
Develop and maintain key policies that support our culture and purpose
Champion OH&S policies and standards for the station
Oversee special projects as required
The Production Manager has overall responsibility for: https://www.seek.com.au/job/36247052
Providing creative and effective production services that fits the station formats and comply with the Broadcasting Act and the CBAA Code of Practice
Directing and mentoring the production team
Assisting to achieve and maintain the JOY Melbourne purpose, values and mission
Head JOY’s corporate podcasting services and future production ventures
Providing creative and effective production services to ensure a seamless on-air sound that fits station formats and comply with the Broadcasting Act and the CBAA Code of Practice under the direction of the, Program Director
Ability to multitask and coordinate the production of various services, from station promotion, sponsorships, CSA’s and podcast production
Maintaining a close working relationship with Sponsorship Account Managers, Operations Manager, Volunteer Coordinator and other functional managers to achieve creative and effective production outcomes
Manage, coordinate, and monitor all audio production activities
Manage, coordinate, and monitor all traffic management activities
Maintenance and record keeping of all forms of production media and sound library
Monitor all produced and live-read on-air scripts to ensure fit to station formats
Act as mentor to production (and when required presentation) team, including – training, consultation, advice, provision of feedback, effective flow of communication, and performance management
Briefing the Volunteer Coordinator to source volunteers with specialist skills (as required)
The Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for managing and developing the volunteer program and has broad accountability for human resource management tasks as they relate to the overall volunteer program and to maintain JOY’s purpose, values and mission. https://joy.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Volunteer-Coordinator-Ad-August-2016.pdf?5425fd
KEY SELECTION CRITERIA:
strong computer literacy
ability to roster and coordinate shifts
excellent interpersonal skills
experience working with volunteers
ability to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds
empathy, sensitivity and understanding of the GLBTI community and the values of JOY 94.9
good understanding of community radio
good working knowledge of the Station policy and procedures and Constitution
Responsible for managing and developing the volunteer program, with broad accountability for human resources tasks as they relate to overall volunteer management.