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Community TV stations celebrate as Federal government grants another reprieve

Community television broadcasters in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth will receive a further two year stay of execution following an announcement by the communications minister this afternoon extending their spectrum allocations.

Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of extensions granted to the stations since broadcasters were told in 2014 the government would require them to vacate the terrestrial spectrum and move to internet streaming.

At the time, the decision was justified on the grounds that the internet was the best long-term distribution platform for the channels and the broadcast spectrum needed to be vacated for testing of new technologies like MPEG-4 and ultra-high definition 4K television.

Subsequently, the Brisbane and Sydney community stations closed down, however the Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne stations continued broadcasting as the Federal government indicated it would extend their licenses.

Melbourne’s C31 general manager, Matthew Field, was delighted with the latest decision, saying: “The decision provides C31, its producers, viewers, and sponsors with a welcome sense of stability and security.

“This is a huge win for the diverse community of passionate grassroots content creators across the country. It’s also fantastic news for the next generation of media talent, who hone their craft at C31, and for media diversity in general.”

Jon Bisset, CEO of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, also welcomed the news, telling Mumbrella: “This is fantastic news for C31 Melbourne, Channel 44 in Adelaide and WTV in Perth.

“The extension will facilitate the ongoing growth of their online operations whilst enabling communities to continue to view the great content that the three stations produce on free to air television.”

Fifield’s announcement comes after lobbying by Coalition and cross bench parliamentarians and an industry roundtable held in Melbourne in April.

In a statement, the minister’s office said: “A further two year extension will enable stations in Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne to finalise their arrangements for vacating terrestrial spectrum by 30 June 2020. Services in Brisbane and Sydney have already ceased broadcasting over spectrum.

“The Government is confident that this two year extension will provide a period of stability and certainty to CTV broadcasters, enabling staff and volunteers to manage their day to day operations whilst completing a successful transition to online streaming.”

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