31questionsFederal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is reported to be considering the future of community TV as the government ponders opportunities for the broadcast spectrum.

The planning of broadcasting spectrum following the closure of analogue television allows for six channels — ABC, SBS and three commercial operators — including one unallocated frequency. Community TV broadcasters are currently operating on borrowed frequencies outside of that spectrum.

Fairfax Media reports that the government is considering selling off the sixth channel spectrum to commercial bidders. It is unclear what demand there is for an additional commercial network given that one network at present is in ratings and financial trouble and the market continues to be offered new technologies for viewing options rather than traditional television.

Community TV’s path to digital transmission has long been in the ‘too hard’ basket for past federal governments of both sides of politics. The Howard Government failed to allocate any community channel access to digital broadcasting, despite national and commercial broadcasters being given free access to digital spectrum and subsidies to convert, and the Rudd Government in 2009 allowed community TV operators only temporary access until at least the end of this year.

Community TV is not a high rating platform but it does provide an alternative for viewers and an outlet for communities, producers, performers and sponsors that are rarely allowed exposure on mainstream media. The sector also provides training and experience to performers and production crew who have gone on to employment in the mainstream sector.

Source: The Age
Picture: 31 Questions



13 thoughts on “Community TV’s future in question

  1. Community TV should be allowed to continue on analogue as these stations run on a “shoestring” budget and much of the equipment they use is recycled from that no longer needed by the commercial or national stations. Conversion to digital would therefore be cost-prohibitive without HUGE government subsidies, and seeing the penny-pinching mean-spiritedness of the current mob, I don’t see any subsidies coming to Community TV stations anytime soon, unless they’ve got some rich women having babies on their staff.

    1. I don’t see the benefit in them broadcasting in analogue. In many instances the channels had been digital-ready years beforehand, it was just at the point of transmission that they had to convert to analogue. And all the stations had made full transition to digital transmission months before the mainstream channels.

      Analogue is a step backwards plus as analogue equipment is ageing technology it might be cheaper in the short term but it becomes harder and more costly to maintain when things break down or need replacement. It’s counterproductive.

      1. My suggestion may be backward-looking to some, but as I’ve said, many of these stations operate on a shoestring budget, meaning they really must watch where they spend their meagre funds, and digital, brand-new, as it is, will be bloody expensive. well outside the financial reach of small operators like community television. Andrew B., you say many have been digital-ready for years – lucky them! But not all have been in such a fortunate position. They’ve had to scrimp and save to get what little they do have, and that may well mean using second-hand equipment(ex-broadcast gear now surplus to requirements) and domestic cameras dragooned into service for community TV purpose. They’ve got to go with whatever they can get hold of. They’re the ones who’ll need the most help if they have to convert, but they won’t get it from the current government!

        1. Which stations are you talking about that are yet to convert? Because all 5 existing community TV stations that are on-air now are now producing and broadcasting in digital.

          1. I’m overlaying my community radio experience onto community TV. I may be wrong about their financial status, I’ll admit. but when it comes to community broadcasting, be it radio or TV, it’s staffed with keen, eager volunteers and run on a very tight budget with equipment cobbled from wherever and however it can be obtained. But another thought had occurred to me, if community TV is operating on “borrowed” frequencies, why not cancel the licences of those useless “shopping” and “infomercial” channels – they’re just a total waste of spectrum space – and give those channels over to a far more worthy recipient, community TV? This is the training ground for future presenters and tech. staff that the ABC, SBS and commercial stations would recruit in years to come.

  2. As I stated in my last post, I overlayed my community radio experience onto community TV. If TV in Australia is to get any better than the sick-and-sorry state it’s in now(far too much reliance on so-called “reality” shows, and cooking shows, even talent shows following the same heartless format), then we must nurture the up-and-coming producers, presenters, camerapersons, studio technicians and so on, and the best training ground for this purpose is Community TV. Malcolm Turnbull should be striving to make things EASIER for operators of this third sector of TV broadcasting. Instead, their future is in doubt and Turnbull has an itchy finger poised on the “kill” switch.

  3. I’ve been keeping an eye on this story and any comments made on it since I posted my last on the 9th of July. Aside from myself and Andrew B., this article hasn’t drawn that much attention, likely due to the low profile of Community TV. However, this could change. Community radio had a low profile 40 years ago when it first started, and that could easily be blamed on the elitist high-brow music content of those pioneer stations operated by the Music Broadcasting Society, 2MBS-Sydney and 3MBS-Melbourne – classical and jazz only! Since then several more stations came on air with a more egalitarian programme format and the popularity of Community Radio grew rapidly. Community TV can learn from the experiences of its radio cousins and the future could be bright for the sector. As for that unused sixth channel, the way should be obvious. Give it over to Community TV! With commercial TV in the doldrums due to unimaginative programming(too many faked “reality” shows and too many talent shows where the emphasis has shifted toward the judges at the expense of the contestants). There are three commercial stations in each area – that’s MORE than enough! Give Community TV its chance to shine!

  4. the idea of community television has been around over the past twenty years or so as being on analogue system you have to realise analogue is gone we now in the digital age and the question will community television get the go ahead in this country I doubt it

  5. I only recently posted here a couple of days ago, updating the situation. I’ve learned from David Knox’s TV Tonight website, and that of Hunter TV itself that the licence has been granted in a backflip by the ACMA saying they initially refused the licence in error. Hunter TV has been granted a 12-month licence. For more info, google Hunter TV.

  6. Andrew B., go to huntertv.com.au and the “home” page will show a space where you can click on to get an update on their licence situation. I recently spoke to Rod Breis on the phone and was told they(and other community TV operators are awaiting Malcolm Turnbull’s decision in October, this year. It is my understanding that the ACMA did a “back-flip” and granted the licence, citing a “misunderstanding” on the ACMA’s part. The licence is for 12 months. Rod is awaiting Turnbull’s decision in October so he and his “team” can set up a studio/office in the Tower Cinema complex in King, Street, Newcastle.

    1. Neil you may have more information but there is nothing on Hunter TV’s website that says they have been granted a licence. It just says that ACMA will review based on new information that has been submitted, but an outcome has not been decided.

      1. Andrew B., Beyond what I’ve already seen and read on the Hunter TV website, there’s not a great deal more I can say. I just know from what I’ve read on other websites(notably TV Tonight, and Hunter TV’s sites) that the ACMA have reversed their decision to refuse the licence… done a “backflip”. I’ll keep my eye on this story as it develops.

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