Eleventh hour save for Channel 44
South Australia’s community television station Channel 44 will remain on-air until 2024 thanks to the advocacy of the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.
After staring down another June 30 deadline to being switched off, the Centre Alliance MP worked with the Federal Government and her crossbench colleagues in the Senate to secure free-to-air broadcasting access for the Adelaide channel and Channel 31 in Melbourne and Geelong until 2024.
“I am delighted that Channel 44 will remain on air until 30 June 2024,” Rebekha said today.
“It was an 11th hour save with the Senate passing my amendment at 11pm last night and it follows weeks of persistent advocacy to the Government.
“I would like to thank Communications Minister Paul Fletcher for listening to our community and our valid arguments for keeping Channel 44 and Channel 31 on-air and working with me to draft an amendment to set this timeframe in legislation.
“I would like to sincerely thank Senator Rex Patrick for putting up my amendment in the Senate when my Centre Alliance colleague Senator Stirling Griff had to take a leave of absence.
“This is team South Australia working for South Australians to allow this valued creative service to continue.
“The amendment does set a clear online-only transition deadline for 2024 but this three-year timeframe will allow these two community broadcasters to work through the Media Reform Green Paper process and give the stations sufficient time to really plan their future.”
Channel 44 and Channel 31 are the only community broadcasting stations to remain in Australia.
Back in 2014, the Government announced that it would remove community television from the ‘sixth channel’ to an online-only delivery model in order to allow a review of the broadcasting spectrum policy framework.
Channels were given 12-months to transition. A number of last-minute 12-month extensions have been announced since then.
Channels in other major cities, including Sydney and Perth, shut down, saying they couldn’t sustain an online-only broadcasting business model.
“That broadcasting spectrum review is still ongoing and the spectrum used by Channel 44 and Channel 31 hasn’t been re-allocated so I couldn’t see any reason why these stations couldn’t continue to broadcast until 2024,” Rebekha said.
“Not only are Channel 44 and Channel 31 the training ground for our broadcasting industry, they really proved their value to our community during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“They broadcast religious services and other culturally significant events to older audiences and multicultural audiences during a time when people were being told to stay home.
“Many of these audiences do not use the internet to watch content.
“Giving community television a three-year timeframe will allow the stations to work out a business plan and work with their audiences to transition.”