Govt ends uncertainty for Community TV channels

C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne and Geelong will stay on-air for the foreseeable future.

The Australian Community Television Alliance has welcomed the Federal Government’s passing of the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Community Television) Bill 2024.

The Bill repeals previous legislation, under which both stations’ broadcasting licences were due to expire on 30 June this year. Now, C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne and Geelong will continue broadcasting until an alternative use for the radiofrequency spectrum they use has been confirmed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“The Albanese Government recognises that community television services Channel 31 Melbourne and Channel 44 Adelaide provide an important platform for local news and content and local businesses and [they are] a training ground for talent,” said Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. “We want the engaging, informative programs these services create to be accessible for their communities to enjoy over terrestrial broadcast.”

“Today punctuates the culmination of a long and uncertain journey for community TV,” said Shane Dunlop, President of ACTA and General Manager of C31 Melbourne and Geelong.

“After enduring a tumultuous period of detrimental federal policy, the bi-partisan support seen for the CTV Bill signifies a landmark moment in the journey to secure community TV services in Melbourne and Adelaide.

“The sector has weathered significant challenges since 2014 and this result not only acknowledges the unwavering resilience demonstrated by C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne in representing their communities but also underscores the indispensable role of community TV in the Australian media landscape. As we embrace this milestone, we look forward to embarking on the next steps toward revitalising and fortifying community TV as a vital platform and conduit for diverse voices and burgeoning media talent.”

“What a monumental day for community TV,” said Lauren Hillman, General Manager of C44 Adelaide. “The passing of the CTV Bill is a historical and pivotal moment. Continued free-to-air broadcasting is a significant step towards the stability and certainty so desperately needed by the community TV sector after a decade-long fight for survival.

“This bill shows that the Australian Government recognises the vital role played by community TV in not only serving local communities but in the broader media landscape, too, as a platform for cultural diversity and inclusivity, and as a training ground for emerging creators.

“We know community TV is loved by thousands of Australians and we want to thank everyone for their tireless support in campaigning over many years to preserve our important and independent home of local content and local stories.”

Senator Marielle Smith, Senator for SA, said: “My community loves community television. There is so much to value in this bill. This bill is about giving transparency and security in the future of community television. I know it means a hell of a lot to the people who work in community television, to volunteers within community television, to people in Adelaide and Melbourne who watch community television and love community television.”

Steve Georganas MP, Member for Adelaide, said: “[C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne] play an important role in our community and we want to make sure that they are viable, and they continue to service the very diverse community that they serve. Community TV plays a vital, important role in the diverse migrant community, and I saw it firsthand in my electorate and I still see it.”

James Stevens MP, Member for Sturt, said: “The service that they [Channel 44] provide is very important and it’s community-led, it’s volunteer-led. They obviously work very hard to finance and fund the service that they provide. There’s a lot of volunteerism associated with what they do and of course a lot of people learn great skills and get excellent early opportunities in the sector as well.

“I’ve got the South Australian Film Corporation in my electorate [too] and we in South Australia are very proud of our history more broadly in broadcasting, in film and in screen, and the sorts of both on-camera and technical expertise needed to produce broadcast-quality product like Channel 44 are also very important skills that are supported in that broader ecosystem in South Australia.”

Kate Thwaites MP, Member for Jagajaga, said: “My first role on TV when I was studying to become a television journalist was on Channel 31. For me it was an invaluable experience, being able to have that real-life experience of having your story go on to community television. I know there are many more famous people than me who have had their start on Channel 31, and it is really important that we continue to give people that training ground that community TV provides.”

Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah MP, Member for Higgins, said: “Young people use community television as a means to hone their skills and spread their wings often to other arenas with a much bigger stage, like commercial TV, either in Australia or internationally.”

10 Responses

  1. Well done Shane & everyone involved in this protracted David & “Goliaths” battle.
    My Sydney pals are still dismayed at what they lost, allowing politicians & their blackmailing lobbyists to put their community tv “in the skip”. fBook & utube not the same thing, as has been demonstrated.
    Well, truth will out! You can’t stop independent thought and young talent, no matter how much $$$ you throw at closing us down.

  2. I don’t get why TVS was forced to shut down while less populous states got to keep their community channels, and just as I was looking forward to creating some content too (back when).

    1. That’s a slight misread of what occurred. All CTV were given until December 31, 2015 with the spectrum, but in September 2016 the Turnbull govt extended their use of spectrum to December 31, 2016. In December 2015 TVS Board voted to move towards the online model and shut down, whereas C31 and C44 hung on…. to their credit there were more and more extensions, some right up to the eleventh hour of not knowing if they were to be shut down.

      1. Actually, it was Turnbull who in the end gave in to the bureaucrats in his department who waged a war on community TV for years. Add that to his efforts to destroy the NBN! Coalition minister Helen Coonan, to her credit, issued temporary licences and Labor’s Stephen Conroy made them permanent (and against his department’s preference then allocated new digital spectrum).

  3. When Sydney’s C44, TVS went off air, the then Prime Minister said that we could enjoy the service online.

    Video consumes a lot of internet bandwidth and many people cannot afford high-capacity internet connections.

    I would like to know if C44 will resume providing that there is an interested party willing to take up C44 in Sydney and whether the transmitter still exists or whether there is a spare space on the FTA channels.

    Thank you
    Anthony, Strathfield South.

  4. While this is great news for the sector, the caveat that this is only until alternative use of the frequency is found still just leaves an element of uncertainty subject to whatever ACMA comes up with at any time in the future. The commercial and national broadcasters seem to have indefinite access to spectrum, why not the community channels.

  5. I am hoping that this brings to an end the ongoing uncertainty that has plagued community television for the last decade. I can imagine the stress that faces the sector every time they have to justify their very existence. I say just let them be – those bandwidth issues are going to be obsolete anyway, with streaming becoming so much more prevalent.

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