In response to the license of Melbourne and Geelong’s community TV network Channel 31 coming to a close in June 30 and the station being forced off the air after that date, the chairperson Mike Zafiropoulos has sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Australia Mr Scott Morrison.
Within it, he petitions Mr Morrison to re-evaluate the decision to terminate the Channel’s broacasting rights, considering their great contribution in bringing together the different multicultural and religious communities.
The letter also signifies the great work being done at the station in producing local TV programs and allowing thousands of volunteers on a weekly basis to expand their knowledge and skills within a professional environment.The letter reads as follows:
“Dear Prime Minister,
As you know, the Federal Government has decided to revoke the access to broadcast spectrum for Australia’s Community TV stations in the coming months. With a 25 year-long history of service, we believe Community TV is needed now more than ever. I am writing to you today to update you on the work being undertaken by C31 Melbourne (Channel 31), Melbourne’s Community Television station, and our ongoing efforts to support Christian and other faith-based communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Throughout the evolving COVID-19 crisis, C31 Melbourne has been proactively reaching out to the many community, cultural and religious groups who have had to close their places of worship or celebration to help stop the spread of the disease.
As a direct result, C31 Melbourne is now working with providing live or pre-recorded services for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, St. Paul’s Cathedral Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church of Australia, the Victorian Sikh Association, Islamic Board of Imams, Australian Baha’i Community and Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Melbourne. With every day that passes we are being approached by other groups to explore a similar engagement.
In addition, we’ve had further conversations with the Victorian Multicultural Commission surrounding our continued engagement of the cultural and religious communities within our state. They are encouraged by the work we are doing and recognise the benefits these efforts are providing to the broader community.
The services we offer allow for the broadcast of important cultural and religious events into the homes of Melburnians who have been asked to stay indoors. Many of these services were already being livestreamed to online platforms, however those in the community without a technical understanding or digital access are missing out. This is particularly true for older citizens within our community.
The response to our Holy Week broadcasts has already been overwhelming and a sign that the initiative to carry the broadcasts via free-to-air television has been a welcome one. We are keeping the community comforted and connected through this very difficult and isolating time.
In 2019 alone, Community TV stations aired over 150 new and locally produced shows per week, 32 of those from culturally and linguistically diverse program makers. We average 220 hours of Australian-made TV involving close to 1000 volunteers on a weekly basis.
Community TV connects people to their local community and during the current COVID-19 pandemic this has proven to be more relevant than ever. Regrettably, C31 Melbourne and our sister station C44 Adelaide will be unable to provide these free-to-air services after June 30, 2020.
We have been recently informed by the Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, that our broadcast licence will not be renewed after this date, and that our free-to-air broadcast will be turned off. Given the nature of the current crisis, we ask that you speak with Minister Fletcher urgently and work with him to reconsider the decision, keeping in mind that there is no planned alternative use for the spectrum we occupy beyond June 30 and unlikely to be any alternative use for at least the next five years.
Meanwhile, C31 Melbourne will continue to broadcast and produce local content and maintain our important community connections, including Federal Government messaging during these challenging times.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your leadership and wish you, your Federal Cabinet and State colleagues all the best for the coming months, dealing with this unprecedented crisis.