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.”
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.