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Lifeline for Australia’s last remaining community TV stations

Legislation has been introduced to allow Australia's last two community TV channels to continue.

Legislation has been introduced to allow Australia's last two community TV channels to continue. Photo: AAP

A lifeline has been thrown to Australia’s remaining community TV stations that were set to stop broadcasting.

Melbourne’s Channel 31 and Adelaide’s Channel 44 will continue programming after a bill enabling them to stay on air was introduced to federal Parliament.

“Community television adds crucial diversity to the Australian media environment,” Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said.

“With the help of around 4000 volunteers, the two remaining terrestrial community television channels, Channel 31 in Melbourne and Channel 44 in Adelaide create content that entertains and informs their communities each week.”

The government remains committed to keeping the channels alive until an alternative use for the broadcasting space is proposed.

Channel 31’s general manager and president of the Australian Community Television Alliance, Shane Dunlop, said the fulfilled election commitment from Labor to extend the licences – initially set to expire in June 2024 – followed a decade of “damaging and destabilising” federal policy on community TV.

“For as long as there is (free-to-air) television, community TV should be a part of that,” Dunlop told AAP.

“We reflect what Melbourne actually looks like through the diversity of voices and faces that are represented through our channel, and we do that perhaps better than the commercial and public broadcasters.”

The bill also hands power over the broadcasting licences to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, rather than being in the hands of a minister.

Community TV licensees and Australian broadcasting associations were consulted on the bill, which guarantees the broadcast space to the community channels until a better use of the spectrum is found.

Dunlop acknowledged the nature of community broadcasting was likely to change, but said his channel was secured for a reasonable amount of time.

“For the time being, we’re really happy that we’re in a position where our licences aren’t going to be questioned until there is an actual legitimate use for that spectrum,” he said.

“We didn’t have a back-up plan in case this didn’t occur, we were just really confident that this would be just a matter of time.”

Channel 31 and Channel 44 have been broadcasting since the mid-1990s, with the former celebrating its 30th birthday in October 2024.

-AAP
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