I’m very pleased to be speaking in support of this bill, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Community Television) Bill 2024, delivering on our government’s commitment to secure the future of Channel 31 in my home town of Melbourne and Channel 44 in Adelaide. Channel 31 does hold a special place in the hearts of many Melburnians, and the key, I think, is in the name: community TV. This channel provides a real community service to so many people in our city.

Specialised programming

It provides specialised, unique programming that viewers can’t find anywhere else. You can get this just from a quick look at the TV guide for Channel 31.

There’s the multicultural programming: Korean, Chinese, Serbian, Tamil, Macedonian, Indian, Greek, Latin American, African, Sri Lankan, Indonesian and Croatian.

There’s the very popular fishing programming. I must say I’m not a fisher myself, but I do know how popular this particular part of Channel 31’s service is. The shows include Fishing Trips with Skip, Fishing with Fergy, FishingMad, Savage Seas Adventures and Happy Fisherman Fishing Adventures. That’s a group of programs there that I know have a very dedicated audience.

There are car shows—again, not something I am personally familiar with, but for many people this is an area of interest, and the shows include All Offroad 4×4 Adventures, Aussie Garage TV and Bumper 2 Bumper.

There are many more programs, like Vasili’s Garden to Kitchen, Woodworking Masterclass, Creatives on the Couch and Move It or Lose It, all keeping people connected—all giving people interest and connection that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Of course, these programs don’t attract ratings at a level that make them a viable proposition for a commercial channel, but they are so important to our community and they all deserve a place for people to be able to tune in and see their passion, their interest, on the television.

Locals value Channel 31

I’ve had direct feedback from people in my community, in Jagajaga, about the value that Channel 31 has for them.

Kathy from Greensborough wrote to tell me about the importance that Channel 31 has for her and, she knows, for other Victorians and that it was particularly important during the lockdowns that Melbourne experienced during the COVID pandemic.

For Kathy, Channel 31 in fact was an invaluable resource to help her stay active and connected.

She said that the morning exercise program for older people is particularly important to her.

It’s actually part of her routine. Again, as I said, this is a service that is so community based and is valued by so many people in our community.

A training ground for media

Another important role that Channel 31 plays in Melbourne is in supporting local news.

It provides a training ground for emerging journalists and screen practitioners, including those going through university or TAFE.

I have personal experience of this: my first role on TV when I was studying to become a television journalist was on Channel 31.

If anyone goes way back to the early 2000s they could find me on Channel 31.

I dug around to see if I could find some of my early stories, and I found the VHS tapes but I no longer have a VHS player to play them on!

Having that real-life experience of my story go on community television was certainly an invaluable experience for me, and I know there are many more famous people than me who have had their start on Channel 31.

It’s really important that we continue to give people that training ground which community TV provides.

This is Labor delivering on our election commitment to keep community TV stations Channel 31 Melbourne and Channel 44 Adelaide on air.

Community support for community TV

Community TV adds to media diversity, local news and content.

It supports local business and community organisations and, as I said, it provides a much-needed training ground for journalists, producers and the industry talent of the future.

This is something that Labor has a proud track record in supporting.

For years we have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the community TV sector in fighting to keep them on air.

As I noted, some of Australia’s most popular media personalities came through Channel 31, like Rove McManus and Hamish and Andy. Rove has said of Channel 31:

What I gained from my Channel 31 experience was collaborating with fellow creative people in a group environment that taught me how to be a host and them how to be producers, camera operators, lighting technicians, set builders and editors.

All of those skills from one place—a real service to the community.

Actor and comedian Nazeem Hussain created two different panel shows on Channel 31: Ramadan TV and Salam Cafe aimed to provide a voice for Muslim Australians. As he said:

We were sick of seeing Muslims on TV who looked and sounded nothing like the Muslims we knew and hung out with. We were able to make TV that we had never seen before on a channel that is known for being experimental and giving a voice to people who don’t have a voice elsewhere.

Keeping communities connected

Community TV plays a vitally important role as an information and entertainment platform in our diverse migrant communities in Melbourne.

It provides religious communities with access to services.

I spoke before about the role that Channel 31 played during lockdowns in helping to keep people active, and it also kept religious communities connected by helping people to attend services that they would normally attend in person.

They were able to do that through community TV—again, giving people the opportunity to continue their routines and their traditions.

Coalition approach to Channel 31

Our government does believe that community television is a vibrant part of Australia ‘s media landscape, and that’s why we fought, and will continue to fight, attempts by those opposite to boot it off air.

It was of course Malcolm Turnbull, back in the days when he was still saying how happy he was to be part of Tony Abbott ‘s team, who told community TV that its time was up.

At that time, Malcolm Turnbull did not think it was worth having community TV taking up broadcast spectrum.

He suggested that this service, which, as I’ve explained, is so valuable in so many places to so many diverse members of our community, could be an internet-only service.

I will acknowledge that of course the internet plays an ever-expanding role in our lives and in our communities, but a significant number of Australians still use and rely on broadcast TV and radio.

People know the routine of turning on their TV and tuning in at a particular time for a particular show.

That’s what those opposite, under Malcolm Turnbull, were looking to take away from people.

We recognise the importance of this service, and that’s why it’s so important that this bill is before us today.

It reverses the coalition’s attempt to send the remaining community TV stations in Melbourne and Adelaide off air in June this year.

We will support them to continue to serve their diverse communities.

Our Government’s legislation

This bill repeals the legislated expiry date for channels 31 and 44, removing the deadline that was legislated by the former Liberal-National government.

I want to pay tribute to community TV itself and its many, many supporters.

They have run such a hard-fought campaign to make sure that they were in this position today, that they were safe, that they weren’t forced off air.

Obviously having that date put in legislation by those opposite was very difficult for all of those people, many of them volunteers, who give their time to community TV.

They put that work in to provide the service. It was very difficult for them to think that they were about to be forced off air.

As I said, it is a tribute to them that we are here today to ensure that community TV stays on air.

It’s a tribute to the minister, who I know has been a passionate supporter of community TV and has stood with them through this campaign to make sure that the important role they play in communities like mine is recognised and that they can continue to do that work.

This bill gives the two community television operators much more certainty beyond 30 June this year.

The audiences of all those programs I listed earlier will continue to have access to these services as the Future of Broadcasting Working Group considers the future of broadcasting in Australia as a whole.

The bill also harmonises the code of practice regime for community TV, bringing both existing operators under the definition of the ‘same section of industry’.

This will allow the development and registration of one code of practice by the peak community television body, the Australian Community Television Alliance, to cover Channels 31 and 44.

Backing in Channel 31

As I said, our government values community TV. We want to see it continue. It is a valuable service to so many people in my community.

As I said, I have personally benefited from the role that community TV plays in nurturing new talent.

For all these reasons, I am so very, very proud to be standing here today supporting it and seeing community television continue to thrive.

Click here to watch this speech.

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