The community television sector’s access to broadcast on free-to-air television has been a cause of much instability since 2014, when the then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull decreed that community television must exit the airwaves by the end of 2015.

The stations have been living an uncertain future ever since, as extensions to the cut-off date were granted in November 2015, December 2016, June 2017, June 2018, June 2020 and, finally, a three-year extension in June 2021.

In the meantime, three stations — TVS Sydney, 31 Digital Brisbane and WTV Perth — have vanished from the airwaves, leaving only Melbourne’s C31 and 44 Adelaide on the air and online.

The two remaining stations have been given an extension to their broadcast licences under a Bill introduced to Parliament by Communications Minister The Hon Michelle Rowland last week. However, the change comes with the caveat that the extension is granted only until any alternative use for the broadcast channels they occupy is identified:

“Community television is a vibrant part of Australia’s media landscape – adding to media diversity, providing local news and content, supporting local businesses and serving as a platform for the next generation of industry talent.

“These changes will ensure Channel 31 Melbourne and Channel 44 Adelaide can continue to provide these valuable services until there is an alternative use for the radiofrequency spectrum they occupy.

“By introducing this Bill, the Albanese Government is delivering on its election commitment to support a strong, diverse community broadcasting sector and the audiences they serve.”

The change gives the Australian Communications and Media Authority the power to declare when an alternative use for the spectrum has been identified, and to determine a specified date.

Source: The Hon Michelle Rowland MP



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