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Motion: Channel 44 Community Television

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:00): I move:

That this council—

1. Congratulates Adelaide's community TV media broadcaster, Channel 44, for covering South Australian stories, social and cultural activities, showcasing talent and creating employment and hands-on training opportunities for the local screen sector for the past 15 years;

2. Expresses concern that, while community television has always been self-funded, the past six years of instability caused by both short-term and often last-minute extensions on their licence have made Channel 44's financial stability and forward planning unduly challenging;

3. Expresses disappointment that the federal government intends to switch off community television in Australia from 30 June this year;

4. Notes that allowing continued access to the spectrum comes at no budgetary cost and that no alternative use has been planned for the spectrum but that, without an ongoing and stable free-to-air licence, Channel 44's partnerships and training opportunities will be lost; and

5. Maintains that there is significant public benefit to Channel 44's continuance on the local airwaves and urges the federal Minister for Communications to urgently provide a five-year commitment to the spectrum, while it is not in use, for Channel 44 so that South Australia can keep local TV.

Channel 44 has been informed that the federal government intends to switch off community television in Australia from 30 June this year. That confirmation follows the loss of free-to-air community TV in Western Australia, leaving our own Channel 44 and Melbourne's community TV as the last two standing. For around 15 years, Channel 44 has been covering South Australian stories. It has been working with our local academic institutions, and it has been a vital, active contributor in South Australia's arts and entertainment sector.

This local station has acted as a launchpad for many South Australian media workers. It works with UniSA, Flinders Uni and various employment and training agencies, and currently provides opportunities to gain experience in the screen industry, which does not exist elsewhere in the state. Particularly, for those students and graduates, this is a slap in the face. It is an experience that is not offered anywhere else in South Australia, and those contracts with those institutions will be lost if Channel 44 is cut from the spectrum.

Channel 44 also has 140 internships annually, and it broadcasts 11 programs as part of its tertiary institution coursework. This is all at absolutely minimal cost to the taxpayer as community television is and always has been self-funded. The partnerships that they gain and the training opportunities that they have forged are under threat without that free-to-air licence that, as I say, costs the federal government zilch and that there is no intended plan for in terms of the use of the spectrum.

Our community broadcaster, Channel 44, does fine work, and has weathered six years of instability caused by short and often last-minute extensions to their licence, which has allowed them very little forward planning—the inability to know, from month to month, how much longer they will be given, which means that they have not been able to forge some of the partnerships that they could if they were given that chance.

Channel 44, however, does work with Channel 31 in Melbourne and Geelong, and it remains united and committed to ensuring that local stories continue to be told. We need local stories more than ever. We need the community television programs that air over 150 brand-new and locally produced shows across Australia in the last year alone. Thirty-two of those shows came from culturally and linguistically diverse program makers. There were around 220 hours of Australian made television, involving over 1,000 volunteers on a weekly basis.

Among the Channel 44 offerings are programs such as Adelaide Community Diary and FringeWatch. Members who have been supporters or participants in the Reclink Community Cup from year to year have featured, and the Hon. Kyam Maher certainly has featured in that particular program. They bring community to the fore and they provide those essential skills that our screen sector so needs.

FringeWatch was launched during the last Adelaide Fringe—the 60th Adelaide Fringe—and it was an utterly awe-inspiring documentary on the 60-year history of the Adelaide Fringe. It was an enlightening record of the work of a grassroots collective that created their own opportunities and change to create an open access people's festival, which I know that many members attend and are rightly proud of.

I had hoped, when launching this motion, to have had a screening of that documentary, but I will send members a link, if I can achieve that in these COVID times, to perhaps watch that documentary that is an utter Adelaide institution that we should be so proud of. For some of those who do not quite remember the nineties as well as others, I was reminded of many things that I had forgotten. The talents of the Doug Anthony All Stars and the wonderful Fringes that I have attended, as no doubt other members of this place have, are all featured in that particular documentary. It puts Adelaide on a world stage as well. It is an outstanding piece of cinema.

No alternative use, however, has been planned for the spectrum that is occupied currently by Channel 44 and community television. It simply beggars belief that the essential information, the community solidarity and the training and opportunity that this channel provides should be written off on 30 June for no financial gain but for great public loss. While Channel 44 continues to work towards a digital platform with further availability of online content, the spectrum for community TV should continue to see vibrant and diverse local content.

I encourage everyone in this place to take a look at Channel 44's Facebook presence and website and to urge our federal colleagues to keep local TV so that Channel 44 in Adelaide can continue to share their vision, continue to encourage local talent, continue to embrace innovative ideas and provide that platform for the grassroots content—perhaps a little less of the Hon. Kyam Maher in the future in the Reclink Community Cup. But I am sure those of you who have participated in that particular event know just how important it is that these community events are not only celebrated in person but are documented for perpetuity and, in particular in this online world, shared in a COVID environment to create that community when we cannot be together in our community.

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