Community TV (CTV) stations Channel 31 Melbourne and Channel 44 Adelaide have received widespread support from local religious and multicultural organisations in a fight to renew their free-to-air broadcast licences beyond the current deadline of 30 June 2020.
Despite ongoing and mounting support, Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher continues to stand by his decision to not consider a reprieve for CTV. The Minister has declined to provide an explanation behind his decision and has not communicated directly with either station since taking on the portfolio.
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. (Referenced; The Age, ABC News).
“We are keeping the community comforted and connected through this very difficult and isolating time. The response from the multi-faith community to our coverage of cultural and religious services has been overwhelming,” said C31 Melbourne General Manager Shane Dunlop.
C44 Adelaide’s Kristen Hamill added, “Community TV is a sector is worth fighting for. Our stations have been able to adapt quickly during the pandemic and identify needs within the local community. We look forward to supporting cultural and religious groups across both states to connect with their audiences while these restrictions are in place.”
Representatives from The Catholic Archdioceses of Melbourne & Adelaide, Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC), Greek Orthodox Church, Lutheran Church of Australia, National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council, Board of Imams Victoria, Victorian Sikh Gurduaras Council and many more have all written to the Minister for Communications this week to request his reconsideration over Community TV’s future.
“Throughout our longstanding partnership with Channel 31, we have seen first-hand the integral role they play in supporting Victorians, and in recent weeks, their service has been more relevant and important than ever” said VMC Chair Vivienne Nguyen.
“We have a responsibility to continue informing and enriching people from other cultures and the younger generations of our traditions in a way that is accessible to all,” said Roxanna Bianco, President of the Associazione Nazionale Carabinieri Adelaide. “Now is the time to support C44 Adelaide, not interrupt their valuable service by switching off Community Television stations.”
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. To date, neither C31 Melbourne or C44 Adelaide have received a response from the Minister.
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 30 June, 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.