‘Today is an important day’: CTV welcomes government extension

Channel 44 Adelaide general manager Lauren Hillman.

Community television station Channel 44 Adelaide has commended the Federal Government and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland for “finally creating stability and a long-term future” for the sector with the introduction of a new bill that would extend its licence beyond June 30.

Under the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Community Television) Bill 2024, both Channel 44 and Channel 31 Melbourne will be kept on air until an alternative use for the radiofrequency spectrum they use has been realised, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority granted the power to declare when an alternative use for the spectrum has been identified, and to determine a specified date.

It comes after both stations were granted a last-minute, three-year extension to their licences in 2021. Channel 31 had previously been granted a one-year extension a year prior, following a backflip by the previous government, which had been calling for community television to transition to an online-only model since 2014.

In August 2021, Channel 31 and Channel 44 announced the launch of online streaming service, CTV+, allowing viewers to watch both stations’ live linear broadcast feeds as well as being able to catch up on locally produced community TV programs.

Channel 44 Adelaide general manager Lauren Hillman told IF the introduction of the new Bill would allow the stations to focus on the expansion of CTV+ while continuing to broadcast on free-to-air.

“Today is an important day,” she said.

“The bill introduced by the Minister for Communications will finally create stability and a long-term future for the community TV sector for the first time in nearly a decade.

“The past 10 years have been extremely damaging for the CTV sector, due to the instability and uncertainty of so many last-minute licence extensions. Community TV continues to be an important part of the broad Australian media landscape, it plays a crucial role in telling local stories, training the emerging sector, and supports a wide range of diverse voices. We very much welcome this commitment from Michelle Rowland for her ongoing support over many years in valuing community TV and the service we provide and we look forward to continuing that relationship into the future.”

Rowland described community television as a “vibrant part of Australia’s media landscape” that contributed to media diversity, providing local news and content, and supporting local businesses, while also serving as a “platform for the next generation of industry talent”.

“By introducing this Bill, the Albanese Government is delivering on its election commitment to support a strong, diverse community broadcasting sector and the audiences they serve,” she said.