The Victorian Government has announced it will provide key funding to ensure that community television station Channel 31 (C31) can continue to provide a vital communication service through the coronavirus crisis and beyond.
Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley has confirmed the awarding of a $120,000 grant, which will support C31 in transitioning to a digital model. “Community television is an important and highly valued service, particularly for members of Victoria’s diverse multicultural, disability and LGBTIQ communities,” he said.
“As we continue to face the impacts of coronavirus and life with restrictions, access to information and home-based entertainment is more important than ever – especially for vulnerable Victorians. For many in our community Channel 31 is a lifeline and this is an important investment in its future,” said Minister Foley.
The move came after lobbying from the Victorian Government, the City of Melbourne and a range of community groups led to the Commonwealth Government extending the station’s broadcast licence into Melbourne and Geelong for a final 12 months. Additional support will also come via advertising investment from the Victorian Government, helping to make sure important information reaches all Victorians – particularly during coronavirus.
Since coronavirus restrictions came into force in March, Channel 31’s audience has soared by almost a quarter as many turned to religious services, seniors exercise classes, educational programs and other content during isolation.
C31 reaches 660,000 viewers each month and broadcasts 100 shows a week, the bulk of which are made with the help of the station’s 1,000 volunteers. With programs representing 30 language and cultural groups produced by and for multicultural communities, Channel 31 is a vital source of information, connection and entertainment for many Victorians, including those without internet access.
Channel 31 is also an important training ground for Victoria’s screen industry and broadcasts 120 hours of locally-made content every week. It’s a place where aspiring screen practitioners, including those from culturally diverse backgrounds, can develop their skills, gain experience and test ideas.
The Victorian Government funding will help Channel 31 continue its digital transition and secure its future, while keeping Victorian communities connected and informed throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The Government will also work with groups, including those from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds and older Victorians, to ensure they have the digital literacy skills to access C31 programming when it moves online.
The announcement by the Victorian Government comes as the Federal Government has given Channel 31 a last-minute reprieve – allowing it to stay on air for another year while it transitions to a digital-only broadcasting model.
Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said on the ABC’s QandA program on Monday night, the Federal Government had wanted community TV stations to go online since 2014 but extended deadlines several times. An official announcement is expected today (Tuesday 30 June 2020).
“We will be using this period to work through with them what needs to happen for them to successfully transition to digital operations so that we can still have community TV as a great place where people can work and make programs,” said Minister Fletcher.
For more information about Channel 31, visit: www.c31.org.au for details.