AN 11th-hour licence renewal for Melbourne and Geelong community TV C31 has given a new lease on life to Jewish program The Shtick, according to producer and host Henry Greener.
Contacted by The AJN after last Tuesday’s announcement by Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher – made only hours before C31 was to have faded to black on TV screens on June 30 – Greener was elated, as he prepared Sunday night’s edition.
He said a continued TV presence meant The Shtick, which has been part of a Jewish TV presence since the channel’s inception 26 years ago, would receive ongoing support from sponsors who would almost certainly not have remained if the program went online-only. The show is now also on Facebook and YouTube.
After former federal ALP leader Bill Shorten, who appeared on ABC-TV’s Q&A with Fletcher on Monday night, said he wanted to “put in a plea” to save community TV, the minister immediately confirmed C31’s stay of execution, pledging to help with the transition.
Last Tuesday, Fletcher released a statement describing the reprieve as “the final extension [which] will allow … all the necessary steps to complete the transition” online, adding he has received written assurances from C31 and from C44 in Adelaide, Australia’s last two community TV channels, that they will leave the airwaves this time next year.
It is C31’s sixth reprieve since 2014 when then communications minister Malcolm Turnbull signalled a policy of transitioning Australia’s community TV channels exclusively to the internet, but the federal government has never been specific about why community TV should leave the airwaves and what is intended for the vacated spectrum, with Fletcher stating only that the government “continues to examine the potential options”.
But Greener was emphatic, telling The AJN, “The thing about this victory is that it will sustain community TV for another 12 months at least,” adding that the government “can’t justify taking us off the spectrum”.
Before the deadline extension, C31 general manager Shane Dunlop said the channel has so far not been able to come up with a financial model to transition away from TV, and these problems have been magnified by the COVID-19 crisis. Forcing it off the air now could terminate it altogether, he predicted.