After more than 25 years of broadcasting, Melbourne not-for-profit community television station Channel 31 is set to be taken off air. Although it sought an extension to its free-to-air licence, Channel 31 now believes that extension will not be granted and the station will cease to broadcast on June 30, 2020.
The axing follows the 2014 announcement that transmitter licences for community television stations would not be renewed beyond December 31, 2015. A number of extensions have been granted since then, including most recently in 2018, when an extension was granted until the end of June 2020 – that is, this June 30.
While an eleventh-hour reprieve has now been granted to sister station Channel 44 in Adelaide, Channel 31 has not been so lucky. General manager for Channel 31 Shane Dunlop said: “This decision to provide an offer of 12 months to just one community TV station begs the question as to whether any of the reasons put forward by [communications] minister Paul Fletcher as to why more time could not be granted to the sector as a whole have any merit.”
“With seven days remaining until our broadcast comes to a close, we ask one more time for minister Fletcher to consider our case and to provide C31 Melbourne with the same 12-month extension he is considering providing to C44 Adelaide.”
Channel 31 launched in 1994 and has kickstarted the careers of major TV personalities like Waleed Aly, Rove McManus and Hamish and Andy. The station has also provided Melbourne and Geelong’s multicultural communities a medium to share news and stories. Not to mention the “ever-popular” Fishcam – Australia’s original slow TV show featuring a fish swimming on camera for hours.
Update 29/06/2020: with no reprieve in sight, Channel 31 is preparing to go out with a bang. The station will be broadcasting live from its Melbourne studio from 5pm until it is switched off at 11.59pm on Tuesday, June 30. During the broadcast, C31 will cross to a number of special guests, as well as bringing back Fishcam for a final run. Tune in here.