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Channel 44 reprieve under community TV law move

A bill to protect the future of community TV has passed federal parliament, meaning Adelaide’s Channel 44 and Melbourne’s Channel 31 will remain on air for the foreseeable future.

Mar 27, 2024, updated Mar 27, 2024
Picture: supplied

Picture: supplied

The amendment bill repealed previous legislation which would have seen both stations’ broadcasting licences expire on June 30 this year.

Under the changes, both stations will now be able to continue broadcasting until an alternative use for the radio frequency spectrum they use is confirmed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Channel 44 general manager Lauren Hillman said the passing of the bill was a “monumental day for community TV”.

“Continued free-to-air broadcasting is a significant step towards the stability and certainty so desperately needed by the community TV sector after a decade-long fight for survival,” Hillman, an InDaily 40 Under 40 alumnus, said.

Both Adelaide and Melbourne’s community TV channels were previously awarded last-minute three-year extensions to their broadcasting licences in 2021 after the launch of an online community TV streaming service.

Channel 31 had received a one-year extension following calls from the government to transition community television to an online-only model.

President of the Australian Community Television Alliance Shane Dunlop said the changes punctuated “the culmination of a long and uncertain journey for community TV”.

“After enduring a tumultuous period of detrimental federal policy, the bi-partisan support seen for the CTV Bill signifies a landmark moment in the journey to secure community TV services,” Dunlop said.

Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, who introduced the bill in parliament, said the government recognised community television provides “an important platform for local news and content and local businesses”.

“We want the engaging, informative programs these services create to be accessible for their communities to enjoy over terrestrial broadcast,” she said.

Under the new laws the Australian Communications and Media Authority has a process to declare when an alternative use of the radiofrequency spectrum is identified, and to then determine a date by which the community channels would need to transition from terrestrial broadcasting.

The changes also combine the Codes of Practice, bringing Adelaide’s Channel 44 and Melbourne’s 31 under the same code, developed by the Australian Community Television Alliance.

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