11th hour reprieve: C31 & C44 win 12 month extension

Community TV broadcasters Channel 31 and Channel 44 have been given a 12 month broadcasting extension.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced the 11th hour reprieve, almost 24 hours before both faced switch off.

Speaking on Q&A he said, “I can announce tonight that we will be extending Channel 31 and Channel 44 for another 12 months.

“Let’s be clear, it’s been our policy since 2014 that these community television stations should move to operating in a digital mode. Both Channel 31 in Melbourne and Channel 44 in Adelaide have several times said yes, they’re going to make that transition. They have been extended several times.

“I’ve agreed now and we’ll be announcing formally tomorrow to extend for a further 12 months for both of those channels. But we will be using this period to work through with them, what needs to happen for them to successfully transition to digital operations, so that we can still have Community TV as a great place where people can work, can make programs, be responsive to the community…”

Asked by Trioli if assisting the transition would involve money he said, “We’re not at that point yet, but what we want to do is work with Channel 31 and Channel 44. in Melbourne and Adelaide.”

Labor MP Bill Shorten, who was also on the panel noted, “That’s one win for Q&A.”

“There’s going to be quite a few people claiming credit for that tomorrow, Bill,” Fletcher replied.

C31 General Manager Shane Dunlop told TV Tonight, “We’re grateful for the support of the Federal and Victorian State Governments that will allow our beloved station to make an eventual successful transition online, and are appreciative of their ongoing support of the arts industry.

“We’re looking forward to using the next 12 months to continue to pivot our operations to focus on online broadcasting, and we look forward to working with producers and viewers to ensure that they can still create, distribute and access Community Television content, for many years to come.”

C31 statement:

This decision was made following the commitment of financial support by the Andrews’s Government to assist Channel 31 Melbourne (alongside the rest of the Victorian arts industry) to survive the financial impacts of COVID-19 and ensure the sustainability of the station ongoing. This decision is welcomed by the many staff, producers, and volunteers of the sector, who feared that it may be no longer past 11.59pm this Tuesday. This decision ensures that Community Television’s valuable contribution to the wider arts industry can continue into the new financial year and assists the sector in building its financial and digital capacity to continue broadcasting to audiences around the country. Channel 31 Melbourne is looking forward to working closely with the Victorian Government to better integrate with its Victoria Together project, and provide further opportunities for content creators in Melbourne to share their stories online and represent Melbourne’s vulnerable communities on-air and online.

Paul Fletcher media release:

The Morrison Government will provide Melbourne and Adelaide community television stations, C31 and C44, with a final 12-month extension of their television licences to assist them in finalising the transition to digital delivery of their services.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the Government agreed to the extension following receipt of written undertakings from C31 and C44 that they will make the transition by 30 June 2021, and in C31’s case, with financial support secured from the Victorian Government.

“The final extension will allow a period for C31 and C44 to manage their day to day operations and take all the necessary steps to complete the transition.

“C31 and C44 staff and volunteers have a defined period to work through their plans, engage proactively with their communities and stakeholders, and educate and guide them on how to access content online.

“The Government has received a clear written assurance from both channels that they will cease their television services by 30 June 2021.

“Spectrum is a scarce and valuable community resource which needs to be managed in a way that delivers the best value to the Australian public. The Government continues to examine the potential options for using the vacated broadcast spectrum.”

Community television stations were initially notified in 2014 that the Government would require them to vacate terrestrial spectrum on 31 December 2015 and thereafter move online.

The Government has since provided several extensions and funding to community television operators to assist with the transition. 

Channel 31 was due to switch off tonight after nearly 26 years, with Channel 44 awaiting confirmation of an extension.

This post updates.

10 Comments:

    • … community television has been provided with federal taxpayer funding through the Community Broadcasting Foundation and directly by the federal government in 2018 to assist them to transition to on-line …

  1. harrypotter1994

    How much money has been wasted on closing down the community stations but then giving them lifelines at the last minute? This is so ridiculous.

    Note: I’d prefer the community stations stay but a decision needs to be made and kept.

  2. So does that mean that “Last Night Live” has been cancelled…for now? My EPG still says
    1800-2200 Last Night Live
    2200-2400 Fishcam

    It is so short notice that EPGs may not be updated to take this move into consideration

      • EPG has been updated for C31 in Melbourne. Last Night Live and Fishcam are officially gone, replaced by normal programming, including “Talking Fishing” which is the live fishing show you mentioned above.

  3. The Morrison government is wilfully ignorant when it comes to the creative industries, including community tv. Perth lost a quirky but often interesting media outlet when it lost its community channel, putting people out of work. The channel is now blank and unused for what reason? Melbourne is lucky because there are more federal sets at risk. Paul Fletcher and his predecessors are there to protect the big players. Not the community.

    • Congrats to both C31 in Melbourne and C44 in Adelaide. I agree, Paul Fletcher and the government protects the big players (like Rupert Murdoch and Nine) at the expense of community media. I mentioned this a lot, but in this day and age, especially with a concentrated media landscape in Australia and coronavirus, community television is more important.

      I think community television should be brought back in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane and expanded into regional markets. There were experiments in regional areas back in the 90s like in Bendigo and Mount Gambier, but didn’t last. I think it is high time that governments allow regional markets to get a community television channel, but no doubt will be opposed by regional broadcasters, which are increasingly being integrated into the major media conglomerates.

  4. … aah, looks like the outfit that was gonna take over the spectrum (no names, no pack drill) has told Fletch that the middle of a revenue-sucking, global pandemic was not the best time to launch, so they’ll wait another year …

  5. That’s great news. I still don’t see why CTV need to vacate free-to-air when the testing that the space was needed for has already been done (and couldn’t that testing have been done in Hobart, Ballarat, Wagga Wagga, Darwin or one of many other places around Australia where there wasn’t a community TV station using that spectrum?). I believe that receiving community broadcasting should be as simple as turning on a TV or radio, but I understand that streaming/VOD is the future. Though as that great Philosopher from the taco commercial says “Why not have both?”. It’s great to hear that the Federal Government is going to work with C31 and C44 to transition them to on-line rather than just saying “figure it out yourself” like they have been for 6 years. That didn’t help TVS in Sydney did it? Hopefully the CTV stations in Perth and Brisbane who are no longer on air but have been…

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