Keep Channel 44 switched on
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie used Question Time to ask Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to extend the broadcasting licence for Adelaide-based community television station Channel 44 beyond June 30.
"This week I used my time in Question Time to ask the Minister for Communications NOT to switch off community television station Channel 44 at the end of June," Rebekha said.
"The Government has not allocated the spectrum so why not let a vital creative service continue?
"Unfortunately, in his response, the Minister only addressed the issue by saying Channel 44 could continue to deliver content online.
"Not everyone looks for content online, particularly older South Australians.
"Channel 44 and its counterpart in Melbourne are a training ground for the broadcasting industry and the provide quality local content.
"I have also written to the Minister about this issue and await a response."
The following is the Hansard excerpt of Question Time on Wednesday, June 10.
Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (14:16): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts. Minister, I understand that in just 20 days time Adelaide television broadcaster Channel 44, our community television station, will be switched off when its free-to-air broadcasting licence is not renewed. The station is a training ground for South Australian television and provides valuable local content for many who do not have access to the internet, particularly older South Australians. Given that the government is yet to announce an alternative use for this broadcast spectrum, will you please allow this station to keep operating by extending its free-to-air licence?
Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield—Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts) (14:17): I thank the member for her question. Since 2014 it's been the policy of this government that the radio frequency spectrum that was historically made available to community television stations in our five largest cities should be put to alternative uses, and we have supported community television to transition to delivering its content online. Community television will continue to have an important future and will continue to be a place where members of the community can make television content, but there is the capacity to generate and disseminate that content online. Already the spectrum that was being used for community television in Sydney, in Brisbane and in Perth is no longer being used for that purpose. Our government provided funding to community television in 2015 and more recently in December 2019 to support the transition online.
If we look at where some of the best Australian new talent is developing today, it's people who are producing content online and disseminating it through, for example, YouTube—people like Ozzy Man Reviews, an Australian comedian with more than 3.9 million subscribers, and Natalie Tran, who runs communitychannel and has 1.3 million subscribers. So we know that people can be very successful in generating original creative content and disseminating it online, and that's certainly where we want to see community television go. We have provided funding for that, and that's the policy the government has been committed to and has been implementing since 2014.