Government confirms the axe to Community TV broadcasting

Community television is set to go off the air at the end of this month.

Melbourne’s C31 has issued a statement to say that the government, namely the Department of Communications and Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield, has denied the sector, which also includes channels in Adelaide and Perth, any extension beyond the current end of June deadline to go off air.

The sector was initially given a 12-month reprieve from switching off at the end of 2015, and then a further six-month extension at the end of 2016 — to allow the operators time to migrate to an online platform.

Already, Sydney’s TVS and Brisbane’s 31 Digital have exited the airwaves. The latter has since migrated to QLD Online.

The government has yet, still, to outline what actual plans it has for the precious one-channel of broadcast spectrum that the community operators occupied in each city — or indeed why it has felt the need to evict community television from the airwaves in what is still considered to be a brief time frame.

C31’s statement from General Manager Matthew Field follows:

Unfortunately after a three-year battle and two extensions of our transmitter licence we have today received a letter from Minister Fifield confirming his intention to switch off our free-to-air signal on June 30 this year.

As many of you know, we have fought long and hard to convince Minister Fifield and the Department of Communications that our access to spectrum should be aligned to our broadcast licence, awarded by the ACMA until June 2019, based on this organisation’s financial strength and demonstrable commitment to being open access and supporting media diversity. The reality is that the spectrum we currently occupy is valuable and there is no doubt that in the future demand for spectrum will be driven by the data and digital economy, but we have not been able to establish why there is such a rushed determination to kick us off air in the absence of any planned alternative use of our spectrum before 2019. In the context of the explosion of shopping and racing channels on free-to-air TV, the instability of Network Ten, and concerns around the lack of diverse Australian voices in mainstream media, it is particularly puzzling that Community TV should be so readily kicked off free-to-air.

Despite the frustration caused by the decision, C31 has been hard at work on the transition. We have been developing our digital platforms, and building our capacity to support diverse groups of content creators to produce content that is optimised for online distribution. We will maintain our linear stream channel beyond July 1. This channel is accessible on our suite of apps for web, mobile, tablets, Apple TVs and Android-enabled Smart TVs, and we are pleased to report that audiences are on the rise.

If you have not downloaded our apps, get around us! We encourage all producers to contact us to find out how we can support you to keep producing content, whether it is destined for the linear broadcast channel, for Video on Demand (VOD), or for social media platforms. Facebook Live video is now pulling in extraordinary audiences and C31 staff members are now YouTube Certified. We are excited by the potential to connect niche CTV content with global social media audiences.

In support of a sustainable business model, we have launched a production unit offering live webcasting and production services to cultural events and festivals, local sports organisations and councils. This unit is powered by our internship and volunteer programs; 30 young media hopefuls from diverse backgrounds have been offered paid employment on C31 productions in the past 12 months alone.

We are developing a social enterprise unit – Community Builder – that aims to support the NFP and NGO sector to create digital content that is optimised for online audiences. We have also developed a digital offering for our small business community that supports local business owners to capitalise on social media as a marketing platform.

Despite the challenges of the last few years, I’m confident that C31 is evolving into a digital media organisation that will retain the values of access, participation and diversity, and that we can continue to support the next generation of content creators for many years to come.

Stick with us.

C31 has been broadcasting since October 1994, initially under a temporary broadcasting licence. It was given a permanent licence in 2004 but this did not include access to digital spectrum.

It was not until 2009 that access to digital broadcast was permitted by the then Labor government, using spectrum reserved for datacasting that had not been utilised. Even then it was only on a temporary basis, which the current government has now ceased to extend further.



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    • Peter Strange on 17 June 2017 at 9:02 AM
    • Reply

    Strange how they can give licenses and spectrum to revolting home shopping channels and yet deny Channel 31/44.
    Oh well, I hope people remember this at the next election.

      • Anonymous on 20 June 2017 at 10:33 PM
      • Reply

      I couldn’t agree more Peter. It’s revolting what’s happening.

    • Steven Wood on 20 June 2017 at 8:33 PM
    • Reply

    I’m looking at getting the Instal-Life set-top box, that will allow me to get any free IPTV channels I want as well as the free Optus D2 satellite channels, because I want to have a few of the Hope-TV and 3ABN variants that available on IPTV as well as a very interesting channel from Arkansas called Safe-TV. But before I go ahead with this, would I still be able to scan and pick up C31’s IPTV stream with the Instal-Life box, even if it means trying to download the Apple or Google app for this? I wish Roku was allowed to come on-board freely here in Australia since with a Roku box you can do wonders.

    I was one of C31’s early volunteers back in 1988, when it was called TVU (TV Unlimited) and based in the old Open Channel facility in Fitzroy. After all of that hard work and dedication shown by the station over the years it is hypocritical that the Feds can allow (even encourage) more home shopping and bland entertainment channels on Freeview (because they bring in all the money) yet disgracefully dismiss community television as “a victim of the system”.

    Still, I wish the new online-only venture all the very best. I’m sorry to see the normal broadcast version of C31 go.

    “It’s like the death of an old friend!” – Sir John Betjeman

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