Community TV hits back against Turnbull’s ratings argument

2014-09-13_0126An angry Community Television sector says it has not heard from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, despite his claims the government will work with them to move online by the end of 2015.

The first they heard of the decision was via a transcript on the Minister’s website on Wednesday.

Yesterday the Minister’s website published a statement and FAQs on the decision to cease spectrum to community TV broadcasters, despite them asking for a 3 year transition.

“While I acknowledge there are concerns within the CTV sector about this announcement, average prime time audiences of CTV are low with only 6000 viewers across all five capitals and some services have as few as 1000. Given the small number of services and audiences, their capacity to serve a wide range of different community interest groups is limited,” Malcolm Turnbull claimed.

But the Australian Community Television Alliance has hit back at the figures, noting that the television ratings system is geared at commercial broadcasters and advertisers. It defends that CTV ‘reach’ of unique viewers is 3 million a month.

Here is their statement in full:

In a statement on his website today Malcolm Turnbull justifies his recent shock decision to axe community television services by quoting some audience statistics that throws into question whether the sector deserves a place on the spectrum.

As with all use of statistics, it is easy to cherry pick the numbers that best support the outcome you are looking to achieve. No one should be surprised that a politician might use this approach in the face of what is proving to be a universally condemned decision.

“Average Audience” describes exactly that – the average number of viewers that watched a particular station over a period of time as viewers tune in and out. “Average Audience” is the currency of television advertising trading. It is unsurprising that community television has a low “average audience” due to the niche and eclectic nature of the program and the fact that stations do not operate primarily to attract strong “average” audiences in the same way the massively resourced national broadcasters do. Community TV audiences watch the program that is of interest to them and then switch off.

A more appropriate measure of the scale of active interest in community television is “Reach”.

Reach describes the total number of “unique” individuals who tune in and watch the station over the same period. Melbourne community television station C31 reaches 450,000 – 500,000 viewers every scheduled week – demonstrating the scale of interest and relevance of the programs we broadcast. Nationally community television is watched by over 3 million Australians every month.

By quoting community television audience as an “average” Turnbull seeks to diminish the quantum of interest in community television in the face of the overwhelming public backlash against his decision.

As a comparison Community Television currently out-rates our equivalent special interest broadcaster NITV on both “average audience” and “reach”. We view NITV as an integral and important part of our media landscape and like Community TV should not be evaluated purely on a ratings analysis.

We also note that the Minister indicates he will be working with the sector to “consider the most appropriate transition strategy” for community television. We are yet to have any communication from the Minister or the department about this decision. The sector learned of this announcement via a transcript on his personal website on Wednesday.


  1. As someone who has worked in Community TV for four years as a writer/producer on shows like 31 Questions and Live On Bowen, Turnbull’s decision doesn’t effect me so much, it effects the next generation and that’s what is so upsetting.

    I’m 24 and without the experience Community TV has given me I wouldn’t be in LA right now pursuing tonight show and sitcom writing.

    I’ve made web series too. Creating content for the web bears little resemblance to working in a TV studio and making a TV show.

    The way that Community TV brings together such a large number of young people (17-26) to work for no pay at a time of the week when most other young people are out clubbing, drugging and mugging, is remarkable.

    Community TV will suffer from this decision, but not as much as Australian TV will.

  2. @ Cam Reed – Yeah originally I only had the MHz’s written down and I edited in the channel numbers because I thought they’d mean more to people and I edited those ones in the wrong spot. I did try to correct it with another post straight after, however it never got added, which is fair enough David can’t pander to posting corrections to our mistakes (I should’ve read through before hitting post).

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