Centre Alliance secures on-air extension for Channel 44

Centre Alliance secures on-air extension for Channel 44

Community television station Channel 44 will remain on-air for another 12 months thanks to the advocacy of Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie.

The Federal Member for Mayo recently launched a campaign to renew the Adelaide-based station’s free-to-air broadcast licence beyond the current deadline of June 30.

“I wrote to the Government, raised the issue in Question Time and recently met with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to present the results of two online petitions, including one run by Channel 44 that collected thousands of signatures,” Rebekha said.

“I was pleased that the Minister was persuaded to extend the licence for a further 12-months with the proviso that the station makes a concerted effort to educate viewers about moving to an online platform in 2021.

“Channel 44 is well-loved, well watched and highly valued by our community, especially our older people who do not watch programs using internet devices.

“At the height of the COVID-19 restrictions, many in my community and the wider Adelaide community were turning to Channel 44 for exercise programs and the broadcasting of many multi-denominational religious services.

“These live to air broadcasts provided an essential service during Easter, Greek Orthodox Easter and Ramadan.

“I recognise that community television has been given notice that they must move online but given the Government has not allocated the broadcast spectrum currently being used by Channel 44, a further extension is entirely reasonable and very welcome.”

Minister Fletcher made the announcement about Channel 44, and another extension for Channel 31 Melbourne and Geelong, when he appeared last night on the ABC program Q&A.

This morning a spokesperson for the Minister said: "The Morrison Government will provide C44 Adelaide with a 12-month extension of its spectrum licence to assist them in finalising the transition to online delivery of its services by 30 June 2021."

Community TV has existed in Adelaide for more than 25 years with Channel 44 broadcasting for the past 16 years.

In 2014 the former Abbott Coalition Government announced that community television would need to vacate their broadcast spectrum and move to an online-only delivery model.

Short-term licence extensions have been issued since that time but most stations have since closed around Australia.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, our free-to-air broadcast became an essential service for local religious and cultural organisations to remain connected to their communities and we are very grateful for Rebekha Sharkie's advocacy in gaining the station a further 12- month reprieve to continue providing this vital service on free to air and online," Channel 44's General Manager, Lauren Hillman, said.

“We will be working closely with our older audiences to help increase their digital literacy and find their favourite Channel 44 programs online,” Channel 44 Development & Strategy Manager Kristen Hamill said.

“We are also thrilled to be continuing our university partnerships in a broadcast world, providing invaluable training and pathways to industry for our interns and volunteers.”