Forcing community TV stations off broadcast TV and onto the internet will enable these channels to reach new audiences, according to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The government announced last week it will extend the community television (CTV) transmitter licences that were due to expire at the end of this year to December 31 2015. After that the CTV stations will use the internet as their distribution platform.
Channel 31 Melbourne general manager Richard McLelland said the deadline for the switch-off was too soon and he asked for financial assistance and a three-year transition.
“It will, in all likelihood, see the death of community television in this country,” he told the Australian Financial Review.
Turnbull said the migration of CTV stations online will free up the ‘sixth channel’ spectrum in the five state mainland capitals in the transition to the more efficient MPEG-4 compression technology, which will allow free-to-air broadcasters to deliver more channels and more content in high definition.
“While I acknowledge there are concerns within the CTV sector about this announcement, average prime time audiences of CTV are low with only 6,000 viewers across all five capitals and some services have as few as 1,000,” he said.
“Given the small number of services and audiences, their capacity to serve a wide range of different community interest groups is limited.
“I have no doubt that moving to an online platform will allow CTV to reach new audiences who have otherwise not had access to CTV to date. This is especially good news for regional Australia. It will deliver CTV to wider audiences, at less cost on a wider range of devices.
“Moving CTV online will allow CTV to further expand its role in providing a place for independent and specialised content, as well as providing valuable and relevant training in program production and OTT distribution.”