APATA – The Australian Performing Arts Teachers Association

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Community Training Foundations

Posted by APATA | Jul 14, 2020

Community television has been under threat since the federal government decided it ought to move online. For six years, community television has pushed to stay on air, threatened with closure repeatedly, only to be met with last-minute reprieves.

“Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that community stations would only be licensed until the end of 2015. After that, they would not be granted access to broadcast spectrum and Mr Turnbull suggested they use the internet instead. Mr Turnbull unveiled the move in a speech to a conference hosted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in Sydney in September 2014. The move would affect C31 in Melbourne and Geelong, 31 in Brisbane and TVS in Sydney, as well as 44 in Adelaide and WTV in Perth.”

Audiences may remember or know Melbourne’s Channel 31 as the home of Fish Cam. While this is a highlight for some, there is much more to C31. Despite having zero funding from taxpayers, 90% of community television is Australian made. Incredibly, this 220-hours of content every week is produced by some 1,000 volunteers.

The point that seems to be missing two-fold. Firstly community television and facilities are a training ground for learning how the industry works, practicing skills such as hosting a show and interviewing, writing, filming and editing, program scheduling, line running and live broadcast. Learning in the real world and honing skills as a volunteer or intern concretes one’s learning in the classroom to translate to how industry functions. Secondly looking at the bigger picture the broader community is losing out, in particular rural communities and Australian stories.

The fight goes on! Community broadcasters C31 Melbourne and C44 Adelaide are standing firm in the wake of confirmation that the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher was proceeding with a June 30 spectrum switch-off for the sector. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced an 11th hour reprieve, when speaking on the ABC’s Q&A Program almost 24 hours before both faced switch off.

“I’ve agreed now and we’ll be announcing formally tomorrow to extend for a further 12 months for both of those channels. But we will be using this period to work through with them, what needs to happen for them to successfully transition to digital operations, so that we can still have Community TV as a great place where people can work, can make programs, be responsive to the community…”

Community organisations have never been more important. During lockdown, C31’s viewership increased by 23% and Australia wide, CTV was home to a million viewers during April. Certainty is required as the ongoing instability has caused revenue loses, chaos and community concern. The focus should be training and supporting important, vibrant and diverse conversations for Australian’s and the broader community. Over the past 12 months community TV stations have aired over 150 locally produced shows per week, involving over 1,000 volunteers, with no government funding.

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