Last sitting week I tabled a document containing the signatures of almost 4000 people asking for support from our state and federal communications minister for renewal of its broadcasting licences.
Today I spoke on documents tabled last sitting week that contain the signatures of over 4000 individuals appealing for the extension of broadcasting licences…
These were collected through online petitions at change.org and on my own website and represent a small section of the very concerned group of creative industry professionals and community individuals which make up supporters and viewers of our last remaining community television stations.
I have written to our Commonwealth Minister for Communications and asked him to renew the license and this week my constituency question to Minister Foley asks that he intervenes to save this valuable community asset.
Just last week our Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence announced a broadcasting package of half a million dollars to enable multicultural outlets to continue to deliver high quality news, entertainment and information, while also increasing their engagement with readers, viewers and listeners.
Sadly from the end of this month they will have nowhere to broadcast, and must compete for airtime with mainstream production houses.
Channel 31 (C31), the local television station for Melbourne and Geelong, will be gone for good. It will be replaced by white noise. There is no other use for the broadcast spectrum at this time.
The axing of licenses for community television was announced in 2014 by then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, when the broadcast spectrum was needed for testing mainstream channels.
That testing was completed years ago, and our two remaining channels in Melbourne and Adelaide are still broadcasting on extended licenses with this uncertainty hanging over their future for the last six years. This is the end of the line, but I see no sensible reason why it should be.
Other than the licenses there is no government ongoing funding for the channels, who rely on volunteers and community sponsors for income.
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.
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 TV and film students and production professionals.
It 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 ethnic 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.
C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne supported cultural and religious groups affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic by providing over 40 hours of historic live-to-air TV broadcasts of their services.
With 2.5 million Australians without access to the internet to watch online services, these broadcasts provided an essential service during Easter Week, Ramadan and Vaisakhi and have continued through this extended period of social isolation.
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 our state government to intervene, to ask their federal counterparts 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.