The Federal Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has announced today that licences for community television will not be renewed in 2016. This means all community television stations will stop broadcasting at the end of next year.
This is a ballsy move, considering Turnbull justifies it by saying that the unused spectrums could be put to “alternative non-broadcasting uses, perhaps as the basis for a second digital dividend.” Further, he suggests existing community stations just HTFU and switch to Internet broadcasting.
The auctioning off of a tiny portion of the airwaves inconveniences community and minority groups who rely on the local broadcasters for news and information. Community television functions at a nexus between social need, public funding, and locally-produced content. This nexus also consolidates healthy representation of local community and minority interests.
This is not to say anything of those who don’t have access to the NBN, or high-speed internet, or can’t afford bandwidth to stream quantities of video.
Further, community television stations act as a boon to students, many of whom are engaged in learning behind- and in-front-of-camera skills on community productions. My students, for instance, are encouraged to produce broadcast-ready content for TVS. This gives them a broadcast credit before they even graduate. Web streaming can – and is – done by everyone, and prospective employers don’t value it quite as highly.
Not content, then, with bulldozing the environment, the carbon tax, retirement, the NBN, Medicare, and affordable and accessible higher education, the Abbott government has now seen fit to take a pickaxe to a crucial means of local expression and information. Next stop? Heaven knows, but if you’re thinking a few steps ahead, I don’t think it’ll be long before Murdocracy is a legitimate contender for the OED.