By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), the largest shareholder in Imparja, is thinking about selling its interest in the television station.
“This may have some impact on the future operations of [Imparja] and the results of these operations,” say the station’s 2017/18 General Purpose Financial Statements prepared by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
They disclose a loss of $900,000 because “simply put” it is “the volume of advertising that is now problematic” as multiple digital devices compete for audience.
Meanwhile there remain unresolved issues with the financial relationship between CAAMA and Imparja.
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) told the News last month, when we asked for an update, that CAAMA has not met the requirements “to prepare consolidated financial reports with Imparja Television Pty Ltd.
“There continues to be difficulty regarding access to the financial accounts of Imparja as well as differing advice as to whether the accounts should be consolidated or not.
“ORIC continues to monitor the [CAAMA] corporation and its financial situation through monthly financial reports from the corporation.”
Jennifer Howard, Misha Cartwright, Catherine Satour, Graham Dowling, Maureen Abbott, Tracey Brand and Owen Cole were members of both the Imparja board and the CAAMA board during 2017/18.
Deloitte quote Imparja directors in the statements: “A number of large categories in the home shopping brand have succumbed to the power of the so called FAANGS [Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet’s Google] with shopping online now impacting this television category which has been substantial business for Imparja.
“Unfortunately, the Imparja footprint is not a must buy and is probably one of the markets that national advertisers drop if budgets are under pressure.”
The statements say CAAMA has “requested their directors [to] investigate whether a withdrawal from ownership of Imparja is possible” and Imparja “has engaged specialist not for profit lawyers to investigate if this is possible under the Public Benevolent Institution, Deductible Gift Recipient and Charitable status and Imparja Constitution.”
Imparja CEO Alistair Feehan was not available for comment, so we could not find out what, if any, information these lawyers have come up with.
The statements say: “Likely developments … and the expected results … in future financial years have not been included in this report as the inclusion … is likely to result in unreasonable prejudice to the consolidated [Imparja] group.”
The consolidated loss of the Imparja group for the 2017/18 year was $902,000 (compared to $558,000 the year before) with revenues of $12.4m (about the same as the year before).
“Imparja receives funding from the Indigenous Broadcast Program under the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to assist with Yamba’s Playtime and Yamba the Honey Ant’s healthy living program, and the satellite transmission of 14 indigenous radio services and Indigenous Community Television,” says Imparja’s website.
The amount in the statements listed under “grant income” is $1.2m for 2017/18.
Imparja Television is a Pty Ltd company and, although Aboriginal-owned, does not operate under the auspices of ORIC. This restricts public access to information which is freely and more comprehensively available online for ORIC registered companies.
According to the statements Imparja has revalued its broadcasting licence, which it got for free, at $3m and lists it as an intangible asset.
But Deloitte says this should be done only “where there is an active market for the specified intangible asset.
“In our opinion the fair value cannot be determined as there is no active market, and as such the intangible asset should be recognised at cost” and as Imparja got it “at no cost it should not be recognised in the company’s financial statements.”
Total assets are listed as $13.2m; removing the $3m for the licence would considerably reduce the station’s asset base.
Imparja started broadcasting in 1988. There was a flurry of news and documentary production activities in Alice Springs, with an array of satellite dishes first in an office building in Leichhard Terrace from 1997 to 2008 (at left), and since 2008, on the new “purpose built digital facility” opposite the civic centre (at top).
But production has been wound back and programming now is understood to come in its entirety from the national Nine Network, uplinked interstate, and with Imparja’s sole function being to sell, and sometimes produce and insert commercials.
Yet employee costs in 2017/18 were $3.3m plus $1m commission expenses. It is not clear how much $2.5m “other operating expenses” are also for personnel.
The six most senior employees cost the station $1m a year.
We are continuing to seek information from Imparja, especially about the staffing levels and the work for which remunerations are being paid.
There has not been a viewer survey in more than 10 years, say the statements.
By next year Imparja will need to renegotiate its ties with the Nine Network. Programs from Nine cost it $2.5m in 2017/18.
Imparja should seek opportunities for expansion, say the Deloitte statements.
IMAGES from the Imparja website.
By ERWIN CHLANDA