TV turn-off sparks protest

TV turn-off sparks protest, by Sunanda Creagh - 19th March 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Sydney's only community TV station will be forced to switch off for good at midnight - even though its rival won't be able to take over until next year.

Channel 31, which gets around 1.3 million viewers a month, has been running under temporary licences for 10 years, showing ethnic programming, activist news and seniors' lifestyle shows.

But yesterday's meeting of the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) handed Sydney's first permanent community TV licence to newcomers TV Sydney, a consortium of universities and youth groups. But they won't be able to get up and running until next year.

The decision sparked a small protest by Channel 31 workers outside The Sydney Morning Herald's office this afternoon.

John Reynold, vice president of the CTS board, the volunteer group which runs Channel 31, says he's outraged by the ABA's decision.

"TVS have no real background or experience in community TV, or supported the development of it over the last ten years," he said. "It's theft."

He said his Channel 31's application was backed by NSW Premier Bob Carr and Opposition Leader John Brogden.

Channel 31 is now seeking a Temporary Spectrum Licence to allow it to stay on air until TVS starts up.

It is threatening to seek an injunction in the Federal Court if the ABA refuses the request, which is backed by TVS.

"There's no point having a blank screen for nine months," said TVS spokesman James Black, adding that he hoped many CTS volunteers would jump ship to join TVS, which includes includes the media school of University of Western Sydney and the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

But ABA spokesman Donald Robertson said the request for Channel 31 to keep going until TVS starts has been refused.

``It's unfortunate that there'll be this gap but once a permanent licence has been allocated, under the broadcasting act, we can't let someone else broadcast on that channel,'' he said.

Channel 31 is found by manually tuning your TV set to SBS on the UHF band, then adjusting the tuning up just a little.


The Sydney Morning Herald: Entertainment - TV & Radio

Media Man Australia: Channel 31 profile