Mildura, in Victoria’s north west, is set to lose a commercial network with the announcement that Mildura Digital Television (MDT), which provides Network Ten channels to the region, will close on 30 June 2024.

The pending closure was first reported on local radio before confirmation obtained by TV Tonight.

MDT launched in 2006, following a similar model pioneered in Tasmania where the two existing local commercial operators were licenced to operate a joint venture digital-only service to permit a third commercial network to a small market population. The same model was also adopted in Darwin, remote central and eastern Australia and regional Western Australia where it was deemed that three competing commercial operators was not viable.

Broadcasting a commercial service exclusively in digital provided Mildura viewers an incentive to upgrade from analogue. By the time Mildura was the first region in Australia to approach the shut down of local analogue television in 2010, the region was reported to have achieved the highest digital conversion in Australia — 88 per cent of households, compared to the national average of 74 per cent.

In confirming the closure of MDT, the company advises that the service was operating at a loss since its inception, with joint shareholders Seven West Media and WIN Corporation no longer able to sustain subsidising the service amid a declining advertising market.

The situation in Mildura may also cause the joint venture operators of similar outlets in Tasmania, Darwin, remote central and eastern Australia and regional Western Australia to re-evaluate their equivalent services — also providing Network Ten programming to their respective markets.

While some community TV services and some individual commercial and national broadcaster multi-channels have ceased to operate, the demise of MDT will be the first time in Australia that a free-to-air commercial television licence will simply go dead. As the situation stands, local viewers wishing to maintain access to Network Ten programs such The Project, MasterChef Australia, Have You Been Paying Attention?, The Cheap Seats and Neighbours after 30 June will need to stream from the 10play website or app.

Source: Radio 1467, TV Tonight. Digital Tracker Report, April-June 2010. 

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