A letter was circulated publicly last week calling for JOY 94.9’s board to be fired, alleging that the board had taken little action to respond to various claims of bullying and mismanaged volunteers.
“It is no secret that JOY 94.9 has seen an exodus of extraordinary on-air presenters and volunteers who have been forced out or who felt the need to walk away under the current management and board,” the letter read.
“Nor is it a secret that morale at JOY 94.9 is possibly at its lowest point ever.
The letter, orchestrated by an anonymous group known as the ‘Save JOY Committee’, has encouraged current members to sign it.
If the letter reaches 100 current member signatures, or five per cent of JOY’s current membership, the committee will be able to call a special general meeting (SGM) and put forward a motion to change the current board.
While the letter had 28 printed signatures when it was released last week, chief executive of JOY, Tennille Moisel, said that many of these are not from current members.
She added that many of the people that have criticised JOY or weighed in on the discussion since the letter’s release haven’t been a part of JOY for a long time, and said there are two sides to every story.
“If those people are claiming that the bullying culture has always been here, then I guess this is a longstanding problem that we need to address, and my job is to address it,” she told the Star Observer.
“There is no place for bullying. And to the current volunteers – and there aren’t many current volunteers talking at the moment – I’d say come and talk to me, because we action every single complaint we get.
“Up until a year ago we used to receive quite a lot [of complaints], and in the last 12 months we’d be lucky to have received six – and that’s not just bullying, but any kind of grievance at all.
“We action those as they come through, in line with our policies that everyone has access to. Just because someone’s unhappy with an outcome doesn’t mean we haven’t followed a process.”
Moisel added that despite the various and non-specific claims of bullying that have been circulating on social media over the past week, not one person has approached JOY with a complaint as a result of that.
“There’s a lot of speculation, a lot of allegation, and not a lot of substance,” she said.
“There have however been a couple of examples of bullying [against JOY staff and volunteers] that have occurred online as a result of the letter, and we’re going to investigate those matters.
“The number one priority for this organisation is always the people, and any accusation that we’re not focused on the people is wrong.”
Tristan* is one of the former volunteers calling for a culture change at JOY and backing an SGM.
He became a member early last year, and decided not to renew his membership this year.
He said the culture and energy at JOY was always different depending on who was in the office.
“When I first went into the organisation it was very positive, but later in the year the culture turned toxic after I had issues with presenters and management,” he told the Star Observer.
“I was working on what was being pitched as a nationwide show, and the environment was very negative.
“I feel like a lot of the bullying within JOY came from people’s egos – a lot of disrespect was thrown my way from both older members and management because of my age, and I was made to feel irrelevant and unqualified.
“After bringing up my issues with management I was asked to take some time away from JOY because I was a ‘trouble maker’.”
Tristan believes there’s a hierarchy at JOY, and if you’re not “with the crowd”, you won’t have a positive experience. If an SGM is called, he hopes it can go some way towards ensuring the station continues to grow and flourish.
“I just want Australia’s LGBTI radio station to be a safe and inclusive space,” he said.
Jamie*, a volunteer whose signature appeared on the recently released public letter, said they hadn’t given their consent for it to be included.
In February, they gave permission to be named on a private letter sent to the board, but not the more recent public iteration.
“Seeing the letter on social media last week was terrifying for me,” they told the Star Observer.
“As much as there are concerns I want to raise, I would have liked a bit more diplomacy – the [Save JOY Committee] didn’t get my explicit consent to be included in the letter.
“I think there should have been more time given to the board to address the issues that were raised. I think the committee made a snap decision and wanted to move quickly, but that comes at the cost of people who actually do have concerns and want them addressed.”
While JOY is incredibly important to Jamie, they believe improvements can be made when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
“I want to raise the issue of responses to constructive criticism and how it’s often a really defensive response,” they said.
“Though it’s not unique to JOY and I think that kind of thing happens a lot of the time – people get defensive when they feel like you’re calling them a bad person around issues of inclusion.
“One of the pillars of JOY is supposed to be inclusivity but I think it’s difficult to change the culture of an area towards inclusivity when you don’t see much push from the management to back that up.
“It feels like there are token groups at JOY outside of the gay space, and when issues around a lack of diversity are raised, the responses seem to be lacklustre. JOY has been hugely important to me in terms of finding community, but I believe there are things that need to be addressed.”
In response to the letter’s allegations, JOY president Melinda Rich sent an email out to station members last week in a means to address them.
She said the board takes bullying allegations very seriously, and after investigating claims earlier in the year, found they could not be sustained.
“It is important to understand that directing a person in a professional and respectful manner and requiring them to do their job effectively, correctly, and appropriately does not constitute bullying,” she wrote.
“The most recent survey of volunteers indicated that there was a very high level of satisfaction with the culture of JOY, and that the station is in very good shape.
“Our listenership is at record highs, we are enjoying excellent support from sponsors, and our content is of the highest quality.”
Executive producer of JOY’s weeknightly current affairs program The Informer, Dean Arcuri, said despite the letter and its allegations, he hasn’t experienced or witnessed bullying or low morale at the station.
“If I’d seen something I would have spoken up and supported the person,” he told the Star Observer.
“And I would’ve felt comfortable signing a letter calling for an SGM, but I haven’t witnessed anything like that and that’s what’s upsetting.
“It’s smearing the station and the volunteers who are doing a lot of work, and we’re now experiencing anxiety and stress because of what they’re putting out there.”
Arcuri added that the abuse he’s witnessed on social media over the past week has been “disgusting”.
“The way in which people on social media have been attacking individuals and content on the station, and spouting things whether they’re true or not, has made things awful,” he said.
“I don’t understand why [the Save JOY Committee] feel this public letter is best practice. I don’t trust nameless sources who don’t feel comfortable coming forward, especially when what they’re saying isn’t my experience at the station.
“If anyone has felt bullied they should feel supported but it’s important for it to be done in the right way and through the due process, and what’s playing out in the mainstream and social media is not that.”
The Save JOY Committee have asked for members to sign the letter before Wednesday 25 April.
The Save JOY Committee were contacted for comment, but were unable to provide a response by the time of publication.
*Not their real names
Note: Matthew Wade, the Editor of Star Observer, is also a current member of JOY and reports news on the station.