Channel 31 in Melbourne denied government support and the right to digital

by Michelle Thomas April 30, 2010
The long running community TV station in Melbourne C31 is still being denied the opportunity by the Rudd government to broadcast in digital. C31 does not receive any government funding and to ensure long term survival must be given the opportunity to simulcast now. The government is running a $140million campaign to encourage the Australian public to switch to digital and with 80% of its funding coming from sponsorship and revenue C31 should be given one of the three channels left of the digital spectrum in Melbourne. C31 provides a platform for the community to communicate and is the largest broadcaster of local content in Australia.

 Channel 31 Melbourne is now in its 15th year of broadcasting to Melbourne and Geelong , as well as parts of the Mornington Peninsular and Phillip Island .

Channel 31 Melbourne is a consortium of 28 full member and 14 affiliate community television production groups representing over 23 languages, regions, religions, lifestyles and cultures.

Since it’s inception in 1990 the Melbourne Community Television Consortium Limited (MCTCL) has never received federal funding or support, and exists today as a leading model of a self sustaining community broadcaster with a synergistic relationship with small business’ across Melbourne .

When Channel 31 starting broadcasting in 1994 the aim was to hold a permanent analogue license and be a sustainable central broadcaster for its stakeholders, the community. Having finally achieved a permanent license in 2004 the organization has lobbied for access to digital broadcasting for the last five years.

It was anticipated that the station would be included in the 2009/10 budget along with access to desperately needed spectrum (a broadcast channel). Senator Conroy in a Senate estimates committee hearing on the 26th of May 2009 declared that there would be no funding for community television until next year’s budget. He also declared that spectrum allocation wasn’t necessarily a budgetary issue. The Senator also confirmed it would only cost 10 million dollars to migrate the 5 mainland stations until digital switch-off while there was a budget of 795 million dollars for SBS and ABC to do the same. In the same budget there was an allocation of 140 million dollars to entice people to buy set top boxes, disenfranchising them from the benefits of community television.

With the introduction of digital set top boxes three years ago the board of Channel 31 saw its ratings start to taper off from its peak of 1.4 million viewers. To counter this, the station invested over $360.000 in a brand new 10 kilowatt solid state transmitter in order to get greater coverage and reception across Melbourne

There a currently 3 channels (32, 35 & 38) effectively gathering dust in Melbourne . We want the federal government to immediately allocate the use of Channel 38 for digital community television broadcasting.

A Brief history of Channel 31 Melbourne

In the late eighties a number of community television production groups conducted test broadcasts in suburbs such as St Kilda, Footscray, Richmond, Northcote, Templestowe and Inner Melbourne. These test broadcasts were undertaken to prove to the federal government that community TV was not only possible, but a very viable option.

By 1990 these groups and others had founded the Melbourne Community Television Consortium Incorporated with the aim of having a central broadcaster with a stronger signal. On October 6, 1994, the station started broadcasting eight hours a day in Melbourne with a temporary licence on the UHF Cannel, 31.

After ten years of temporary licensing, Channel 31 finally received a permanent licence and implemented a digital playout system which enabled programs to be broadcast 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

As of 2009 the station has increased its membership to 28 full member groups and 14 affiliate member groups. The station has an annual turnover of 2.1 million dollars this financial year and has installed a new transmitter with an improved output of 10 Kilowatts and screens almost 100 new programs per week (the highest rate of Australian produced content in the country) to an audience of 1.4 million viewers.

Digital Broadcasting

In 1998, when Senator Alston announced the plan for digital television he assured the sector that “Community Television would not be left behind”. In 2002, when community television stations were introduced to the framework for permanent analogue licenses, they were assured that a solution for digital broadcasting was under consideration. In March 2009 Senator Conroy gave an assurance that “Community Television would not be left behind”.

ABC and SBS have had their digital migration costs paid by the taxpayer to the tune of 1 billion dollars. In the 2009 / 10 budget an additional 140 million dollars was allocated over three years to encourage viewers to take up digital television.

Channel 31 Melbourne was assured by Senator Stephen Conroy in the lead up to the budget that Community Television would have a future in digital broadcasting.

Where to now?

When digital set top boxes were being taken up three years ago, the directors and staff noticed a downward trend in our OzTAM Ratings. To counter this decline the board decided to invest in a brand new solid state analogue transmitter over two years at a cost to the station of $400,000.

While our ratings have returned through having a wider reach, there is great uncertainty about our future. While on one hand the government has denied Community Television access to digital broadcasting, on the other hand it is spending 140 million dollars to encourage people to switch off analogue.

Community Television is exactly that – “By the people, for the people”. Community Television in Melbourne has been developed by the community without a cent of federal funding. Apart from well known celebrities such as Rove McManus and Corrine Grant, Channel 31 has trained thousands of people in television at no cost to the taxpayer.

We cater to many varied communities who do not have a voice in the mainstream. We provide access for multicultural, youth, disabled, GLBTI and indigenous communities in Melbourne 24 hours a day – seven days a week.

For further enquiries or concerns, please contact me Campbell Manderson on

0404 360 841 of by email at digitalnow@c31.org.au


Video:Fair Go Kec - C31 left behind on digital http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/Michelle/videos/Fair_Go_Kev_TVC3.wmv/view?searchterm=C31


Linda Boland
Linda Boland says:
April 04, 2010

When Channel 31 stops showing rubbish like Blokes World and unfunny and unentertaining crap maybe the government would give financial support, the quality of the shows is about as good as the quality of the picture

Anonymous says:
July 21, 2010

Oh Linda...


I DISAGREE!!! *Drives off in car*

connie
connie says:
November 07, 2010

so have you stopped transmitting, I have a snowy screen?????

Melbournian
Melbournian says:
November 18, 2010

Maybe people like Lina who happen to be up late enough for Blokes World don't like the program, but how about the rest of the 23.5 hours in the day that C31 broadcasts wonderful programs of all genres at their OWN expense????

So many brain washed viewers of prime time television believing what the government wants you to. Here we have a community station delivering real stories and news, great work.

Linda did you know you can change the channel??