Community television in Australia
Community television in Australia is a form of free-to-air non-commercial citizen media in which a television station is owned, operated and/or programmed by a community group to provide local programming to its broadcast area. In principle, community television is another model of facilitating media production and involvement by private citizens and can be likened to public-access television in the United States and the community channels in Canada.
Each station is a not-for-profit entity and is subject to specific provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. A Code of Conduct, registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, provides additional regulation of the sector. The community television stations operate independently so they are technically not a network (in the commonly held definition of the term). However, some programs are broadcast on multiple stations in the group, and they do co-operate with each other in various ways. The stations act collectively through the Australian Community Television Alliance.
"Channel 31" is the colloquial name for community television stations throughout Australia. The name originates from channel 31, the frequency reserved for analogue broadcasts by community television stations. As of 2010, all stations are now broadcasting in 576i standard definition on channel 44 since their analogue signals were switched off and replaced with digital.
In the early 1970s, the Australia Council worked together with various community groups to establish a number of video production centres that could be used to produce Australian television programs. Many people began using these production centres, as well as their own resources, to make television programs. It was still difficult for these programs to be screened on commercial or government-funded television. It has been suggested that this was because the programs were thought to be too short, long or different from the programs already showing.
Whilst community radio stations were quickly established around Australia, community television took longer to develop. During 1984, a Perth based community group unsuccessfully applied for a community television licence. In the late 1980s in Alice Springs, Imparja Television (now a commercial station) was established. In 1987, RMITV was set up by students at RMIT University in Melbourne. This became the first community television station to receive a test transmission permit.
In 1992, the Government asked the ABA to conduct a trial of community television using the vacant sixth television channel (UHF 31 in capital cities). Community television services have been provided on a trial basis since 1994 under the open narrowcast 'class licence'. These licences are issued on the condition that they are used only for community and educational non-profit purposes and are held by broadcasters in most Australian capital cities.
In 2002, the legislation was changed to introduce new community television licences and in 2004 the first licences were issued in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Australia has a special type of broadcasting licence for community television which is available via free-to-air terrestrial reception. Holders of a community television licence must conform to various rules, primarily relating to advertising and to a lesser extent, program content. They are licensed by, and regulated by, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
In the strictest sense of the term, Australian community television is the officially licensed stations and their programming. However, there are a number of stations and distributors that release similar content - but they are not subject to government regulation.
|DVB name||LCN||Launch date||Notes|
|31 Digital||44||31 Jul 1994||Broadcast in Brisbane and surrounding areas. Originally broadcast on UHF 31 until 2010.|
|C31 Melbourne||6 Oct 1994||Broadcast in Melbourne, Geelong and surrounding areas. Originally broadcast on UHF 31 until 2010.|
|Channel 44||23 Apr 2004||Broadcast in Adelaide and surrounding areas. Originally broadcast on UHF 31 until 2010.|
|West TV||10 Apr 2010||Broadcast in Perth and surrounding areas.|
Licensing for all remaining community television stations will end on 31 December 2016. Henceforth these services will only be available via their online live stream services.
|Channel name||UHF||Launch date||Discontinued date||Notes|
|ACE TV||31||May 1994||Dec 2002||Broadcast in Adelaide. Licence cancelled due to conditions breach. Succeeded by C31 Adelaide (now Channel 44) in 2004.|
|Channel 31||1993||2004||Broadcast in Sydney, Central Coast, Blue Mountains & Southern Highlands. Succeeded by Television Sydney (TVS) in 2006. Their studios were at St Leonards.|
|Bushvision||May 2005||4 Mar 2007||Broadcast in Mount Gambier, South Australia.|
|Access 31||18 Jun 1999||6 Aug 2008||Broadcast in Perth. Licence cancelled due to insolvency. Succeeded by West TV on LCN 44 in 2010.|
|LINC TV||68||Sep 1993||2012||Broadcast in Lismore, New South Wales. Broadcast intermittently from original launch until final close.|
|DVB name||LCN||Launch date||Discontinued date||Notes|
|Television Sydney||44||20 Feb 2006||20 Dec 2015||Broadcast in Sydney, Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands. Originally broadcast on UHF 31 until 2010. Their studios were at University of Western Sydney at Kingswood (Penrith).|
Community television programs are most often made by amateurs about their own communities and special and diverse interests. In other cases, companies produce the programs. The sector is represented by the Australian Community Television Alliance.
Community television is funded by a mixture of sponsorship, subscriptions and donations, membership fees, grants, merchandise sales and sale of air time to program providers. It receives no regular national government funding. Many programs are paid for by the producers themselves.
The audience reach is over 5 million Australians, based on surveys, research and ratings (2001-2004).
The Antenna Awards, recognising outstanding community television programs, were established in 2004 and have been awarded annually ever since. They are traditionally hosted at a gala awards ceremony at Federation Square in Melbourne by C31 Melbourne.
A special emphasis of community television is the provision of programs in an increasing range of community languages and about community cultures. Over twenty languages groups, many from newly migrant and refugee communities, are broadcast regularly by the community television stations. Australian Community Television producers are often also producers of other community media. Examples are: SYN and Arts Community Television.
- Knox, David (17 September 2015). "Community TV lifeline: extended to 2016". TV Tonight. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Tayler, Simon (24 March 2004). "Save Channel 31 Sydney!". Green Left Weekly. Broadway, NSW. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- "Bushvision to go off air in Mt Gambier". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 19 February 2007. Retrieved 14 April 2016.