SKA TV turns 20

November 21, 2008

SKA TV has been around for 20 years as an alternative voice to mainstream television. We started off running guerrilla transmissions before there was such a thing as community television and along the way we created, along with four other guerrilla TV transmitter groups, Channel 31.

It came about through the belief of people in the idea of public access to broadcast television, and their commitment to realise it. We were told it was impossible, but "impossible ideas" can become real, with commitment, time, and effort.

Mainstream media is a corporate affair. From Channel 9 to the ABC and SBS, content is heavily controlled and access is strictly limited. While Channel 31 could not be said to be a political broadcaster, it does not control content and allows political content to go to air free of corporate interference and free to air.

SKA TV is a not-for-profit business. We broadcast two weekly programs on Channel 31 — The Union Show and SKA Story. The Union Show represents the views and activities of the broad church of the labour movement. SKA Story represents the views and activities of the broader community.

SKA TV supports our broadcast work by accepting commissioned work from ethical businesses. We do a lot of work for unions and progressive organisations.

We also run employment training and, though we do not agree with the principle of working for the dole, we have two "work for the dole" programs running here. We offer unemployed people full training and any other benefits they can derive from the resources of SKA TV.

SKA TV is a hive of people all committed to the cause. We have different roles, all contributing equally to our task.

Here's what some of our team have to say in celebrating our 20th birthday: "My name is Leesa Carriage. I produce SKA Story, manage volunteers at SKA and oversee training. I discovered SKA TV through the 'work for the dole' programs, and having completed my six month placement, decided to stay on as a fulltime volunteer. SKA Story is our weekly half-hour social justice/Indigenous/environmental/human rights current affairs show. SKA Story is the flagship program for SKA TV; it runs on SKA TV funding alone and is staffed by volunteer and trainee labour.

"It's always been a battle for not-for-profit organisations to become financially sustainable, and when the whole basis of the organisation depends on fairly expensive audio-visual gear to just to exist, you cannot believe how expensive it is to produce quality television.

"Most people think we shoot it and it magically appears on telly. We make miracles. Although we have nothing we still produce quality TV — with hard work and determination. We'd make the Olympic hurdling team — no worries!"

"My name is Vas Maroulis. I am the administrator and my role is to ensure that the place ticks over from an administrative, financial and governance point of view.

"I write news updates for the Union Show Facebook page and I directed our piece on Obama and US unions for a recent Union Show episode.

"I believe that alternative viewpoints in the media are important. It doesn't mean I have to agree with every single viewpoint that is expressed. If you are a believer in free speech and an alternative viewpoint then you accept that people have the right to express themselves and associate with others.

"I do not call myself an activist, but I do have strong political views and an awareness of issues which can make me opinionated at times!"

"My name is Tim Greentree and I'm the production manager at SKA TV and the IT professional on the job. I've worked here since the start of the Union Show in 2006. At SKA we have activists, ideologists, and I am the resident technologist.

"Activism wasn't really my thing to begin with, I came to SKA TV for the opportunities it offered me, and the relaxed environment, the activism came later."

"My name is Peter Lane, and I am the archive coordinator at SKA TV. I have been involved in the movement for community television since the 70s.

"One of the projects I'm most proud of is "Preserving Culture". SKA TV was funded by the Lance Reichstein Foundation to digitise all the stories and documentaries we have made with Aboriginal people, and give copies to the Koori Heritage Trust on behalf of the communities. Both SKA TV and the communities have the right to use the programs. We think of it as giving back the images.

"What I like most about the role is watching all the programs and seeing a peoples' history of Melbourne over the last 20 years, whether it's Spiderbait playing in 1991, the Jabiluka campaign retrospective, the Woomera breakout, or the footage of old St Kilda."

[Debra Weddall is SKA TV's manager and produces The Union Show, as well as doing commissioned work. Visit .]

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