Sunrise Radio has come under pressure to explain why cash raised for natural disasters in Asia has been sitting dormant in a bank account for almost seven years.
An 11-month investigation by the Charity Commission has found that Sunrise Radio and sister station Kismat Radio which are not charities deposited 160,000 of listeners’ donations in an account named Sunrise Radio South East Asia Disaster Appeal.
The charity fund, which last year had grown to 181,000 with interest, was raised through a station appeal following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and then again after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.
The Commission concluded that “the trustees did not act appropriately in respect of the long-term retention of funds raised by the Appeal and the delay in applying these for charitable purposes. This was particularly so given the urgent nature of the charitable relief needed in countries and areas affected by the 2004 tsunami and 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Trustees were under a duty to apply these funds within a reasonable period. They did not do so.”
Station owner Avtar Lit told MediaGuardian it had not been able to deliver the money for relief purposes because the station could not get one of its presenters a visa to go to Pakistan, and the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka.
Lit admitted that in hindsight it would have been more appropriate to give the money to British registered charities directly.
The Charity Commission has passed its report to the broadcast watchdog Ofcom. The media regulator said it will launch a full investigation after looking at the report.
If guilty, the licence of Sunrise Radio can be revoked.
The full commissioned report can be found here.