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Switching Off Channel 31

Thursday, 23 October, 2014

Students interested in broadcast television are set to lose an accessible avenue into the industry.

On the 10th of September, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the broadcasting license for Melbourne’s community broadcaster Channel 31, would not be extended beyond December 2015. The channel would then have to become an entirely online content distributor.

‘It’s beyond a disappointment, it’s total shock’ said Channel 31 presenter and Bachelor of Arts graduate Scott Whinfield. ‘I’m just so surprised that the value of community television isn’t more obvious to the government’.

‘The training at Channel 31 has been so developmental for me, it’s been so fundamentally important to me as a young person interested in working in the media. There is literally nowhere else in the media where a young person will have the opportunity to make an produce live television’.

Being involved with community television offers said Scott ‘as close as possible an idea of what it would be like to make television for a commercial network’, giving young people experience with researching stories, writing, interviewing and working to deadlines.

‘I learnt a lot at university, but it was all very theoretical’ said Scott, adding that the bulk of his practical training had been through community and student media outlets such as Channel 31.

‘Closing Channel 31 really limits the opportunities young people have. Where else do they go to get involved?’.

Bec Petraitis, another Channel 31 presenter and Content Development Coordinator at SYN Media, agreed that the end of community television would make it harder for students to get a start in television.

‘There’s nowhere else that you can get the experience that you can get at Channel 31’ said Bec, stating that community television offers not just practical experience, but gives young people confidence to get involved with the media.

‘There isn’t really another place when it comes to television where you can develop your skills and know it’s ok if it’s not perfect the first time. You can actually feel like you can do something in the media’.

Many prominent Australian media personalities began their careers at the community broadcaster, including radio duo Hamish and Andy, Rove McManus, Corrine Grant and Nazeem Hussain.

Channel 31 General manager Richard McLellend and Operations manager Matt Field, expressed concerns that the changes to community television might make it more difficult for the next generation of Australian television figures to gain practical experience. However, both were keen to stress it wouldn’t just be those looking to become presenters that would be disadvantaged.

‘It’s not only your Roves and your Hamish and Andys, it’s also the people behind the cameras, the production teams, writers, editors, that are gaining that genuine experience of making broadcast television’ said Matt.

Both also felt that the Government’s decision ignored the difference between making long form communication, such as television shows, and short form, such as Youtube videos.

Making content for broadcast television ‘provides a real world environment for students to get the experience that will enable them to move into mainstream media’, whereas being forced onto the internet would see Channel 31’s local content possibly become ‘lost among the cat videos’ said Matt.

‘We’re going to be lost in the noise’ continued Richard. ‘For community television, it’s the medium that matters. The rising media talent, whether they’re in front or behind the camera, they’re just not going to be noticed’.