It's Official: The Government Is Switching Off Community TV This Month

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Communications Minister Fifield today confirmed that the Australian Government will be shutting down free to air community television as of 30 June 2017.

In a letter to viewers, C31's General Manager has revealed the details.

A message from the General Manager of C31 to viewers, producers, sponsors and supporters of community TV:

Unfortunately after a three-year battle and two extensions of our transmitter licence we have today received a letter from Minister Fifield confirming his intention to switch off our free-to-air signal on June 30 this year.

As many of you know, we have fought long and hard to convince Minister Fifield and the Department of Communications that our access to spectrum should be aligned to our broadcast licence, awarded by the ACMA until June 2019, based on this organisation’s financial strength and demonstrable commitment to being open access and supporting media diversity. The reality is that the spectrum we currently occupy is valuable and there is no doubt that in the future demand for spectrum will be driven by the data and digital economy, but we have not been able to establish why there is such a rushed determination to kick us off air in the absence of any planned alternative use of our spectrum before 2019. In the context of the explosion of shopping and racing channels on free-to-air TV, the instability of Network Ten, and concerns around the lack of diverse Australian voices in mainstream media, it is particularly puzzling that Community TV should be so readily kicked off free-to-air.

Despite the frustration caused by the decision, C31 has been hard at work on the transition. We have been developing our digital platforms, and building our capacity to support diverse groups of content creators to produce content that is optimised for online distribution. We will maintain our linear stream channel beyond July 1. This channel is accessible on our suite of apps for web, mobile, tablets, Apple TVs and Android-enabled Smart TVs, and we are pleased to report that audiences are on the rise.

If you have not downloaded our apps, get around us! We encourage all producers to contact us to find out how we can support you to keep producing content, whether it is destined for the linear broadcast channel, for Video on Demand (VOD), or for social media platforms. Facebook Live video is now pulling in extraordinary audiences and C31 staff members are now YouTube Certified. We are excited by the potential to connect niche CTV content with global social media audiences.

In support of a sustainable business model, we have launched a production unit offering live webcasting and production services to cultural events and festivals, local sports organisations and councils. This unit is powered by our internship and volunteer programs; 30 young media hopefuls from diverse backgrounds have been offered paid employment on C31 productions in the past 12 months alone.

We are developing a social enterprise unit - Community Builder - that aims to support the NFP and NGO sector to create digital content that is optimised for online audiences. We have also developed a digital offering for our small business community that supports local business owners to capitalise on social media as a marketing platform. Despite the challenges of the last few years, I'm confident that C31 is evolving into a digital media organisation that will retain the values of access, participation and diversity, and that we can continue to support the next generation of content creators for many years to come.

Stick with us.

Matthew Field (GM, C31 Melbourne)

This story is developing.

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Comments

    In the context of the explosion of shopping and racing channels on free-to-air TV, the instability of Network Ten, and concerns around the lack of diverse Australian voices in mainstream media, it is particularly puzzling that Community TV should be so readily kicked off free-to-air.Nailed it here. The first thing I do on any newly tuned television is delete all those stupid shopping channels. Has anyone ever bought anything from them? Does anyone ever watch them? There's enough advertorial crap on the regular FTA channels without dedicating whole channels to it.

    Communications Minister Fifield today confirmed that the Australian Government will be shutting down free to air community television as of 30 June 2017.

    I thought that happened already when Abbott was still PM.

    Then again, I only watch FTA when Mad as Hell is on, all of FTA could be shut down and it would be months before I notice.

      are you sure about that? there would be an eerie sense of somewhat more intellectual chat in the office for one (if you work in an office). although admittedly you possibly wouldn't pick it initially but you would notice something slightly different in the quality of water cooler content conversations.

      Depends on where you live I think. In Brisbane, we lost channel 31 a while back. Was a sad day. I used to watch it quite often. Still dunno why the fuck we need a 24 hour horse racing channel, and like... 6 shopping channels? The govt are just a bunch of cunts. :(

        The Government only meters out the spectrum, it's up to the networks on how they use it.

        It stinks that they are shutting that part of the spectrum down with no current plans to put it to use but in terms of content, it's not the Government's fault.

        All commercial FTAs and even the ABC are only acting for themselves. They most likely think that they can outlast the "fad" that is Netflix.

        Not to get too far off topic but I remember when Netflix is making plans to set up shop here, Channel 9 tried to petition the Coalition to block Netflix from coming here.

        Luckily, that wish was not granted.

        In fact, when it comes to FTA, I think most (if not all) of our problems we born with the formation of FreeView but that is topic for another day.

          Well, it kind of is the govt's fault. Minister Fifield (who's the minister for communications and the arts) is intending to kick them off the air. I mean, it might not be 100% his decision, but he is definitely the one bringing down the hammer on them. They aren't doing it because they NEED the frequencies for something else right now. They don't have any plans tabled for that part of the spectrum until at least 2019. Their broadcasting licence is valid until then, so it really is just the govt just being ass hats for no good reason.

            Ah, sorry. When you mentioned fault I though you mean on who decides the content.

            Sorry about that.

              ahh heheh nah. just talking about 31 getting the boot. Dunno why they don't just let them keep going til the end of their licence at least. I used to watch a few things on 31 here, then one day it just disappeared. Found out they do have an online presence, but I can't access it through my tv cos it doesn't have a browser, just a limited amount of apps. Not gonna bother with online, cos it was just convenient to be able to flick through the channels. Now I have to go to my computer. Even if I could get to the content via my tv, it takes way longer, and you can't switch channels while online, so just resigned myself to them being dead :|

    If they tried removing community TV in the US, people would be out on the streets demonstrating! It's really quite outrageous for the government to limit the FTA spectrum to commercial TV and ABC + SBS. Why can't grass roots organisations have this access? How many shopping channels do we need? I guess the temptation to sell off the spectrum was too great. Ker-chingggg!!!

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