Community TV station C31 thrown a lifeline, granted another 12 months on air

After a lengthy battle, Melbourne-based community TV station, Channel 31, has been given another 12 months on the air while it transitions to a digital-only broadcast model.

The decision follows multiple threats from the Federal Government to switch off the station in a cleanup of its free-to-air spectrum.

Federal Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said the Government had been attempting to move C31 across to digital broadcasting since 2014, but agreed that with financial assistance from the Victorian Government, another 12 months could be provided.

Fletcher addressed the potential closure on ABC’s Q+A on Monday, after several media personalities threw their support behind the campaign including Andy Lee and Tommy Little. Adelaide’s community channel Channel 44 will also be given a 12-month extension.

Channel 31 was due to close by midnight, but will now be able to operate until the end of June 2021. General manager Shane Dunlop said the channel is looking forward to working closely with the Victorian Government to ensure its future.

“We’re grateful for the support of the Federal and Victorian State Governments that will allow our beloved station to make an eventual successful transition online, and are appreciative of their ongoing support of the arts industry,” said Dunlop.

“We’re looking forward to using the next 12 months to continue to pivot our operations to focus on online broadcasting, and we look forward to working with producers and viewers to ensure that they can still create, distribute and access community television content, for many years to come.

“The C31 staff and board would like to acknowledge the efforts of our wonderful producers and program makers over the last few months. We have also been overwhelmed by the showing of public support and are heartened by the collective resolve to fight for a positive outcome for Community Television in Victoria. Thank you.”

The Federal Government’s defence in the closure of C31 and C44 is that it needs space on the free-to-air spectrum. The current digitally compressed spectrum doesn’t allow infinite channels, but critics have accused networks of ‘wasting real estate’ and said the lack of community television left no third sector in the TV landscape.

Minister Fletcher called the spectrum a “scare and valuable community resource”.

“Spectrum is a scarce and valuable community resource which needs to be managed in a way that delivers the best value to the Australian public. The Government continues to examine the potential options for using the vacated broadcast spectrum,” he said.


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