Budget: $136m for ABC3, $20m for SBS, Community TV unhappy

The money men give ABC more for its children's channel and an increase to drama, but the SBS boost falls short of expectations and Community TV is all but ignored.

hollowmen1The Government will provide the ABC with $136.4 million in new funding over the next triennium to support the ABC’s plans for an advertising-free, digital children’s television channel and a significantly increased annual output of new Australian drama.

In addition to this new funding, the ABC will receive ongoing operational base funding of $698.7 million in 2009-10, $716.0 million in 2010–11 and $725.8 million in 2011–12.

The new ABC digital children’s channel will be operational before the end of the year.

In a statement Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said increased funding means the ABC will be able to produce around 90 hours of drama programs a year, similar levels required of the commercial broadcasters.

SBS will receive an extra $20 million over the next three years to produce up to 50 hours of new Australian content each year. It will receive ongoing operational base funding of $118.7 million in 2009–10, $120.6 million in 2010–11 and $123.3 million in 2011-12.

SBS had been seeking an additional $70m per year.

“The ABC and SBS play an important role reflecting our culture by telling Australian stories,” said the Minister.

The ABC will also receive $15.3 million over three years under the Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative to deliver more than 50 enhanced ABC Local Broadband Hubs in regional Australia.

The increases trickled down the broadcasting tree.

$2.5 million is allocated over four years to training in community broadcasting (including radio). But the Budget did not contain an expected announcement on funding for community simulcasting arrangements. The Australian Community Television Alliance is already calling for an urgent meeting with Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy.

“For a relatively modest sum of money the Government can provide a long term future for the thousands of not-for-profit community groups and individuals across Australia that create programs for community channels”, said TVS manager Laurie Patton.

Elsewhere, $140 million is allocated over three years to help Australians get ready for digital television to be undertaken in regional South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.

Improved digital television reception is promised in outer metropolitan Adelaide. It is expected that a solution to improve digital television reception in the Para Escarpment area will be implemented by the end of 2009–10. Broadford in Victoria and Currie on King Island reception improvements are due for implementation in mid-2009.

Source: AAP / The Age, Senator Conroy

13 Responses

  1. Man! Finally somebody who agrees with me; You are so right Russell. I’ve been saying that for years. We don’t need to fund another television sector that the public needs to pay for. The community television sector is fully capable of funding itself, they just need to change the way they operate and stop competing with mainstream television. And, again, remember I told them that there won’t be any funding, at least year for them; but the federal government might provide something by the end of this year. By the way, who voted the Labor government in anyway? The Liberal government was just about to release spectrum from the Channel A or B allocation, but folks thought a new government would guarantee success. Shame on You!

  2. Why should the federal (read – national, commonwealth etc) government fund Community TV?

    The government gives them the licence for free – they should not then also fund it.

    If people want community TV, let it be funded by that community. Through local money drives, and appeals etc.

  3. Just to clarify the situation;
    1. There is actually spare spectrum in all the capital cities (in addition to that earmarked for channels A and B). The Government simply needs get ACMA / DBCDE to allocate it to CTV.
    2. Because they rely on sponsorship revenue, which in turn relies on massed audiences (even if much small than the commercials), community channels need to simulcast. Making a ‘hot swap’ to digital would simply mean replacing one limited audience with another limited audience. Only when analogue is switched off will there be enough potential viewers for one mode of transmission to be sufficient to deliver the necessary viewers.
    3. After switch-off there will be bucker loads of spare spectrum for mobiles or whatever.
    4. I think you will find that ABC3 will end up running for most if not all of the day. In any case sharing a channel would not work for TVS as we see our remit as including the provision of viewing options on a 24 x 7 basis.

  4. We get better community tv reception on our tv than we do SBS analogue. In fact it’s clearer than ABC and ten, we don’t even live close to where it is broadcast from, but somehow must be in a pocket of good reception.

  5. Just thinking, serious thinking mind you……

    ABC3 is not going to be a 24hr channel (i believe).
    If transmission space is the one barrier, than surely community tv could get 7pm-6am.
    Its a compromise, but if funding isn’t the issue, then it should be a serious option.

  6. Fair enough Laurie, but none of the current five main FTA’s have spare capacity to give over to hosting Community TV. And if such was to occur, the cost of maintaining separate Mux infrastructure so as to Mux the host and community TV streams on a region by region bsais would have to be borne by someone, and it wont be the host broadcaster. As such there is no spare spectrum left, as the Govt is unlikely to licence a 4th commercial network that would have a ‘must carry’ Community TV obligation, as that would make the licence not commercially attractive. The only oter option in Sydney anyway is to have to have Macquire carry the current TVS stream through the D4 service? But the D4 service is only temporary and not long term, as this 7MHz of specttrum is likely to be gobbled up by the ABC/SBS long term so as ABC/SBS can expand their services. With the other still spare 7Mhz slab likely to be used by mobile TV servicves. As this would be years away, through this community TV could claim part of this spectrum as a ‘hosted’ service, but Community TV would have to stay in analogue mode until then, of which it cant wait that far. The remaining analogue spectrum is most likely to be sold off to mobile phone companies post ananlogue switch off by a Govt deperate to reign in the deterioating budget bottom line. As I said before, the silence from the Govt speaks volumes, as it appears it may still be in the too hard basket. In which case, Community TV may have to mode change on their existing slab of spectrum with no preiod of simulcast. As such, I believe the current transmitter at Gore Hill by TVS is capable of this, and was originally purchased with this in mind. If this was to occur, at least Community TV could keep the full 7MHz of its current spectrum alocation without having to be hosted anywhere. This might well be the only option left to Community TV in the end?


  7. To make a point of clarification, the budget puts a lot more than just the 2.5mil in for “community broadcasting” – but it does not clarify exactly what that money is for, noone will know for the next couple of days where all the money is truly going. So it is way too early to really know!

  8. ACTA has never sought a full 7 MHz. Community Television licensees are simply asking for access to sufficient digital spectrum to be able to simulcast their existing channels in Standard Definition – to the same standard as the networks. It is simply ridiculous to suggest that Community Television be ‘shunted’ on to broadband. Anyone who knows anything about the key audience groups who watch Community TV would know that far too many do not have access to broadband and are not likely to have this any time soon.

  9. So by the end of the year Australia should have

    ABC1 ABC2 ABC3
    Go! Nine
    SBS1 SBS2
    + Seven’s yet to be announced second network

    11 Free to air nets.

  10. Community TV is never going to get a full 8MHz Digital Mux Channel to itself. The Govt will now be more likely to sell analogue TV spectrum in any case to mobile phone companies given the budget situation. It is more likely that community TV will probably be shunted on broadband as IPTV. The silence from the Govt speaks volumes.

  11. The scary thing is we are all hoping hoping hoping that the government will sit down and make a reasonable decision to support “Community Digital TV”

    …and yet there has been almost no comment from the government at all, on it.
    Yes, Freeview are supporting Community TV.
    Yes, community broadcasting is being supported by this budget.
    Yes, the government have spoken to community groups about going digital (in relation to reception)

    Butyet we have this
    “The Australian Community Television Alliance is already calling for an urgent meeting with Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy”

    seriously concerning.

  12. Interesting to what the outcome could be for possible meetings. Hoping that the government can give more support for Community Digital TV as you have reported there is only comment for ABC and SBS and no comment from the minister about community TV. Surely will Freeview have a talk to the Government with the differing opinions if the money is not for the switchover.

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