Channel 44 Faces Switch-Off After Being Denied Renewal Licence

CTV stations have undergone six years of back and forth with the Federal Government over the decision to vacate their broadcast spectrum and move to an online only delivery model.

Community TV stations C31 Melbourne and C44 Adelaide were notified of their free-to-air broadcast licences not being renewed beyond June 30, 2020, by Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher.

The notice that was provided in March did not include an explanation to the renewal decision.

CTV stations have undergone six years of back and forth with the Federal Government over the decision to vacate their broadcast spectrum and move to an online only delivery model.

After six sporadic, short-term, licence renewals, some arriving within a week of a planned switch-off, causing the closure of CTV stations in Sydney (TVS), Brisbane (Bris31) and more recently Perth (WTV). 

There are currently only two remaining CTV stations still in function, C31 Melbourne and C44 Adelaide.

CTV stations, like many other stations, have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, facing reduced revenue, staff redundancies, operational challenges and production shutdowns.

“Like many businesses, we are in survival mode,” says C31 Melbourne General Manager Shane Dunlop. “We are being asked to make a monumental and challenging digital transition work in unprecedented times. It’s an unreasonable and impossible request.”

Despite a significant decrease in resources, C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne have continued to support cultural and religious groups affected by the pandemic to provide historic live-to-air TV broadcasts of their services.

Through their live to air broadcasts, providing an essential service during Easter Week, Ramadan and Vaisakhi.

“We are proud to be able to support our local communities through this challenging period,” says C44 Adelaide Acting General Manager Kristen Hamill.

“There are many Australians that don’t have access to the internet, and our local broadcasts provide an essential service to keep people connected, comforted and informed.”

C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne have formally asked Minister Fletcher for a renewal of our broadcast licences, allowing time to navigate this pandemic and to make a successful digital transition work at its end.

C44 Adelaide and C31 Melbourne ask that they be left on air to provide a service to their local communities until there is a planned alternative use for the broadcast spectrum they occupy.

If forced to switch off their free-to-air broadcasts on June 30, it is unlikely either station will survive, resulting in immediate job losses of more than 15 full time staff, over 200 weekly volunteers and insolvency for both businesses.

Without an extension to the free-to-air broadcast licence, both remaining stations will fail. 

“Despite six years of instability and during a global pandemic, both C31 Melbourne and C44 Adelaide have continued to provide an important contribution to Australia’s cultural fabric,” states C44 Adelaide’s Kristen Hamill.

C31 Melbourne’s Shane Dunlop added, “The Australian Community Television Alliance call upon the Federal Government and Minister Fletcher to renew our broadcast licences and show their support for culturally and linguistically diverse communities, local journalists, screen and media practitioners, small businesses, tertiary students, LGBTI+ groups and a vibrant collection of volunteers and contributors who still call Community Television their home”.

Minister Fletcher is yet to comment.

More to come.


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