Channel 31 ceases broadcasting


Simon Tayler, Sydney

Transmission by Sydney's community TV station, Channel 31, ceased at midnight on April 23, after the current licence holders, TV Sydney (TVS), refused an offer by the previous licence holders, Community TV Sydney (CTS).

TVS was awarded a permanent ultra-high frequency 31 television broadcasting licence by the Australian Broadcasting Authority last month, even though TVS said it needs at least eight months to be ready to begin transmission.

CTS contested the decision in the Federal Court and won a series of injunctions to allow continued transmission. But on April 16, Justice Ronald Sackville ruled against CTS, giving it a week to cease broadcasting.

CTS had approached the TVS consortium with an offer to continue broadcasting until TVS was ready to take over transmission. CTS proposed that it would wind down as an organisation, and that individual program providers would apply for membership with the community broadcasting arm of TVS, known as Slice TV.

At an April 22 board meeting TVS rejected the offer. The CTS board is still hoping to negotiate with TVS, but in the absence of any deal, community television in Sydney will be off the air until at least the beginning of 2005.

Despite this setback, Actively Radical TV, the progressive political program that is supported by Green Left Weekly, intends to approach TVS to apply for membership and air time. In the meantime, ARTV plans to produce television programs, which it will distribute on video cassette by mail.

ARTV will also concentrate on producing high quality documentaries.

"The decision by the court was a setback for us", said Jill Hickson, the program's producer. "But we're going to make the time between broadcasts to consolidate ourselves. We want to go into TVS with more supporters and better production skills."

To continue operating, however, ARTV needs to raise funds. The group will be holding regular film screenings and other public events so that supporters can continue to support and watch independent progressive media. The first of these fundraisers will be held at 7pm on May 2 at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre. For more information phone (02) 9564 1277.

From Green Left Weekly, April 29, 2004.

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