Not only did ABC announce the upcoming launch of its new ABC News Breakfast venture for ABC2, but also press reports last week indicated that the commercial networks appear to be putting in some planning and acquiring programming for their new standard-definition digital channels that they are permitted to launch from 1 January 2009.
But, while it is great to see our national broadcaster and commercial networks embracing their digital future, the community TV sector continues to be left wanting for a piece of the digital pie.
Both past and present governments have done little to ensure community TV has a migration path to digital transmission – while our national and commercial broadcasters have had access to free digital spectrum, allowed to run in parallel to their analogue frequencies, plus other concessions and incentives to roll-out digital transmission sites in order to fulfil the Government’s digital transition strategy.
The plight of Perth’s Access 31, which has now since ceased operation, is a reminder that without a licence to broadcast in digital, the community TV sector risks losing its relevance in the market and, therefore, its financial sustainability as it will struggle to find sponsorship funds when its viewer base is being eroded – particularly as the market penetration of digital tuners is on the increase and will continue to do so as ABC, SBS and commercial operators ramp up their digital offerings.
What can you or I do to help? Tell the Government what community TV means to you, that you support its transition to digital and that the Government provides the technical (ie. digital spectrum) and financial means to do so.
Write to Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Write to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
Contact your local community television station for more information:
Disclaimer: I write this article only as a digital TV viewer who has effectively lost access to viewing my local Channel 31*. I have no connection or affiliation to any community TV group so the views expressed here are my own and not intended to represent those of any community TV organisation.
* and yes, I am aware that there are steps to be taken to essentially have the analogue signal ‘bypass’ the digital set-top-box connection to my TV set. It is not a practical solution in this instance.