Community TV ordered off the air

colourbarsEarlier this month Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged his government’s support for community broadcasting: “Committed as we are to Australia’s diversity, we are committed to community broadcasting,” Mr Turnbull told a gathering of politicians and representatives of the community broadcasting sector at a recent Morning Tea event at Parliament House.

It seems Mr Turnbull has had a change of heart since that meeting, announcing that the Government now intends to withdraw community TV from the airwaves at the end of 2015.

The decision affects community channels in Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth who will now be forced into an online-only presence or into oblivion.

The broadcasting spectrum currently being used by the community broadcasters was “borrowed” capacity made available by the former Labor Government until the end of 2014. The current government now intends to reallocate this broadcasting spectrum for other uses that may include testing new technologies such as MPEG-4 or making it available for other non-broadcast applications.

The Government has already committed to selling off the high end of the UHF band (channels 52 to 69) following the completed phase out of analogue television and the pending re-tune of digital television services across Australia.

For the community TV sector this is a crippling blow. Community TV channels may not command high audiences but provide free-to-air access to minority groups not served by mainstream television. This includes migrant communities, sporting and leisure groups, youth, people with a disability, religious groups, LGBTI communities and local government.

The sector also provides experience and exposure to performers, artists, production crews and journalists — with many going on to employment in mainstream media — as well as an opportunity for small business, who can no longer afford to use mainstream media, to promote their services.

And with an online-only presence these broadcasters, which will no longer be “broadcasting”, will lose a considerable amount of audience reach, thereby affecting their capacity to gain sponsors to make them viable. The channels involved also do not receive any government funding, while commercial networks that are handing over capacity to multiple 24-hour shopping channels have in the past been handed generous licensing rebates.

Moving to online-only operation will also affect those without adequate access to high speed internet services such as the National Broadband Network (NBN) and viewing such high-bandwidth content will also eat into download limits as ‘metered’ content.

At the time of writing more than 6700 people have signed up to the ‘Commit To Community TV’ campaign that was initiated by the community TV sector to petition the Government to extend its commitment to community television broadcasting.

Source: CBAA, Malcolm Turnbull, ABC, Commit To Community TV




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  1. It’s a very disappointing decision. I know people of all ages who tune in at times to Melbourne’s Channel 31. I doubt the number of people who dip into Ch31 are reflected in any statistics.

    • Neil Forbes on 13 September 2014 at 12:47 AM
    • Reply

    He probably won’t read this as he’s not interested in what the people think, but anyway….
    MALCOLM TURNBULL, YOUR TREACHERY KNOWS NO BOUNDS! Are you acting under your bosses orders, no, not Tony Abbott, but Rupert Murdoch?. You are a thorough disgrace and I for one will cheer like mad when you get kicked out of parliament at the next federal election. I will certainly celebrate your well-deserved ignominious downfall!

    • Neil Forbes on 13 September 2014 at 11:18 PM
    • Reply

    Having just read Malcolm Turnbull’s reasons for “kicking Community TV off the air”, I’m far from convinced that it’s the right thing to do. This year Community TV should be celebrating a milestone anniversary, instead they find themselves having to fight for their very existence! I wish the best of luck to all involved with Community TV and hope they can beat Turnbull. In his seat of Wentworth, come next federal election, I hope he gets kicked out, and it would be “poetic justice” if the person who beats Turnbull is a member or manager of a Community TV station.

    • Neil Forbes on 21 September 2014 at 1:13 AM
    • Reply

    Community TV gets kicked off the air but the most wasteful operators get to keep operating…. who are they? The so-called “home shopping” stations, Extra, TVSN, IshopTV, etc. Flogging rubbish merchandise that no-one in their right mind would waste money buying it! Yet more worthy users of the spectrum, Community TV. are to be denied access, just so Turnbull can get a pat on the head from his lord and master, Rupert Murdoch!

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