LOCAL community television station West TV will start broadcasting in March, 2010, after Communications Minister Stephen Conroy approved its digital licence yesterday.
The station, which had an analogue licence from April last year after Access 31 collapsed, will have an Australian programing focus.
Mr Conroy said when digital television was introduced in 2001, all commercial and national stations were given the spectrum and support to commence digital simulcasts, but community television was left marooned on analogue.
“This initiative will bring Community TV into line with commercial and national broadcasters, and ensure their loyal and passionate audiences can continue to enjoy their beloved local Community TV stations as they switch to digital television,” he said.
The Federal Government will temporarily allocate vacant spectrum, previously known as Channel A, to the community broadcasting sector, allowing Community TV stations C31 in Melbourne, TVS in Sydney, QCTV in Brisbane and Channel 31 Adelaide to simulcast their services until the switch to digital-only television in capital cities in 2013.
West TV will be the only licensee to go straight to commence digital-only broadcasts in early 2010.
“In Perth about 80 per cent of homes have digital TV so we’re in a whole new ball game,” West Television secretary Tibor Meszaros said.
“We believe in the future, but the future is almost the past now, digital TV is a reality now not the future.”
He said the company’s research showed there was a strong demand for Australian and local programing in Perth.
“The more local content we provide the better,” he said.
“The commercial free to air channels are providing a lot of overseas programing and don’t provide Australian programing in a big way,” he said.
“We want to fill that gap so people can decide what they want to watch.”
Australian Community Television Alliance secretary Laurie Patton said the decision was what the sector had been seeking from the government.
“The allocation of digital spectrum provides a certain future for community TV and the provision of funding support will assist us during the simulcast period ending in 2013,” he said.
“Going digital will allow community TV to reach more people and to finally become part of the broadcasting mainstream.
Community television channels already provide innovative and interesting Australian content and this will increase dramatically once digital transmission commences and more people are encouraged to get involved.”
Community TV provides a training ground for people seeking careers in television – both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
Some of Australia’s most popular media personalities – including Rove McManus, Corinne Grant, and Hamish and Andy – got their start on community TV.