The Turnbull Government will provide community television (CTV) broadcasters in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth with a further six months to transition their services to online streaming. The decision has been taken following representations from Coalition and crossbench colleagues.
Broadcasters were initially notified in 2014 that the Government would require them to vacate terrestrial spectrum on 31 December 2015 and use the Internet as their distribution platform.
The Turnbull Government has since provided extensions to Community Television totalling an additional 18 months of broadcasting and allocated Government funding of up to $450,000 to the sector to assist with the transition.
A further six month extension will enable stations in Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne to finalise their arrangements for vacating terrestrial spectrum by 31 December 2017. Services in Brisbane and Sydney have already ceased broadcasting over spectrum.
Spectrum is a scarce and valuable community resource which the Government needs to manage in a way that delivers best value to the Australian public. OzTAM ratings data from 2009-2013 shows that community television’s peak prime time audience declined over that period from an average of 9,000 viewers to 6,000 viewers when all five services were operating. As at 2016, this figure had further declined to 4,000 viewers.
The Government is considering a variety of options for using the vacated broadcast spectrum, including for the trialling of next-generation broadcasting technologies that could enable new services for viewers, such as the terrestrial broadcast of ultra-high definition 4K television.