h

Industry: Community TV scores two year extension

“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 while completing a successful transition to online streaming."

Community TV in Australia has been given an extension to remain on free-to-air until June 30, 2020. The announcement was made by Minister of Communications Mitch Fifield on Friday June 1. “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 while completing a successful transition to online streaming,” he said.  “Spectrum is a scarce and valuable community resource which the government needs to manage in a way that delivers best value to the Australian public. The Government continues to examine the potential options for using the vacated broadcast spectrum.”

Back in 2014, the federal government said it wanted the spectrum for other use and the sector had until December 31, 2015 before moving online. But the stations argued they needed more time to train their staff and adapt to the new online-only business model. They got a few extensions, began a lobbying campaign and received $90,000 each from the government to make the transition. Melbourne’s C31 said that the decision provides the station, 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,” said general manager Matthew Field. The government extension only affects two other stations,  C44 Adelaide and WTV in Perth. Brisbane (31 Digital) and Sydney (TVS) have already gone online.

Unlike community radio, community TV took longer to take hold. Attempts were made in Perth (1984), Alice Springs (1987) and in Melbourne (RMITV, in 1987). It was nationally trialled in 1992, and in 2004 the first licences were issued in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. As with community radio, the TV sector has played an important role in expressing diverse viewpoints and going online will expand their reach. In his 2017 end-of-the-year report, C31’s Matthew Field said the station had been working at finding the best ways to distribute its content online. “We have learned that attempting to establish a C31 VOD platform (think Netflix) is extremely complex and costly, and that CTV producers are connecting with greater audiences via social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.  The new C31 website links to our Producers YouTube channels and in this way we can drive audiences to find C31 content online.” The station has also set up new income sources from live streaming, production service and social media advertising services “to ensure that we remain viable and can grow without reliance on the whims of the government of the day.” In 2017, it established Community Builder with the help of the Helen McPherson Smith Trust to support Victorian NFP’s to create content for their social media platforms, to grow their communities and communicate with their stakeholders.