WITH the federal government set to pull the plug on Melbourne and Geelong community TV station C31, Henry Greener, host and producer of Australian Jewish program The Shtick, has written to Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher slamming the decision.
The channel, launched in 1994, has faced six shutdown deadlines and five reprieves from the government since 2014, the latest deadline issued 24 months ago, when C31 was given until June 30, 2020 to vacate the airwaves, with no firm reasons for its removal.
While The Shtick has established a following on YouTube and Facebook, and Greener will produce new episodes for those platforms, he and other producers at the embattled community broadcaster are concerned an online-only presence will alienate fans, particularly elderly viewers who find the internet challenging to use.
Greener wrote to Fletcher that he was “astounded and very disappointed that we have not received a reason for the federal government’s stubborn attitude” on the closure.
“Community TV has offered so many benefits for our very diverse and proud multicultural society, especially at the time of COVID-19, when we need information and entertainment for the many Australians who are not online and those who do not understand English … people still like to watch free-to-air TV,” he wrote.
Beginning as Shalom TV when C31 launched, The Shtick has chalked up 640 editions to date, with Greener and technical specialist Amit Rehak operating on a shoestring budget.
“All other channels are still broadcasting on TV as well as being online … they’ve all got multiple channels,” Greener told The AJN, lamenting the imminent axing of “the one channel that’s genuinely grassroots”.
Labor senators last week moved to keep community TV on air. C31 general manager Shane Dunlop argued the station’s move to online-only has been jeopardised by COVID-19, and as “there is no alternative use of the spectrum”, C31 deserves more time.