Eastern Metro MP Rod Barton has asked the Andrews Government to intervene and save the broadcast licence for community television station Channel 31.
The station will be replaced with “white noise” at the end of this month when the Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher flicks the switch based on a decision made in 2014 to use the spectrum for mainstream testing.
“There is just no reason why we would scrap a service that is still being used and enjoyed, that is sustaining itself, and is so obviously needed and valued by the community,” said Mr Barton.
Today I asked the Andrews Government to intervene and save the broadcast licence for community television station Channel 31.
Today Mr Barton asked Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley to step in and ask his federal counterpart to renew the licences.
Mr Barton has also written to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs who recently announced $500,000 in broadcast funding to enable multicultural outlets to continue to deliver high quality news, entertainment and information.
“It is a great shame to be spending all that money to make great local content and then force them all to compete for airtime with mainstream production houses for airtime. Those funding recipients need community TV.”
C31 Melbourne is one of the last two community television stations in Australia and, along with C44 Adelaide, produces and broadcasts over 220 hours of Australian made content.
These stations support more than 30 culturally and linguistically diverse programs each week, with around 1000 volunteers working on a weekly basis to produce this content.
C31 in Melbourne has helped to launch the careers of countless media professionals such as Rove, Hamish & Andy, Waleed Aly, Nazeem Hussain, and Corinne Grant, and has provided valuable experience for production professionals.
“What really stings is that we’re about to lose these valuable community broadcasting services right in the middle of a pandemic that proves how valuable they are to minority communities.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic these channels have been able to air content for local community groups who are no longer able to meet in person. Local television has been quick to respond to needs in their communities, streaming live masses over Easter and providing Covid-19 information in minority languages.
Australia had five community channels in 2014 and when Sydney and Brisbane stations closed the mainstream testing was able to take place. In 2016 the licenses for the remaining three were extended and the Perth station has since closed.
“I’m calling on the government to extend these licenses in perpetuity and give these communities certainty that local television and the many benefits and opportunities it brings has a place in Australia.”