It Seems You Can’t Spell Community Without Money

Press release time!

MEDIA RELEASE For immediate release

Community Television Press Release

In a statement on his website today Malcolm Turnbull justifies his recent shock decision to axe community television services by quoting some audience statistics that throws into question whether the sector deserves a place on the spectrum.As with all use of statistics, it is easy to cherry pick the numbers that best support the outcome you are looking to achieve.

No one should be surprised that a politician might use this approach in the face of what is proving to be a universally condemned decision.“Average Audience” describes exactly that – the average number of viewers that watched a particular station over a period of time as viewers tune in and out.  “Average Audience” is the currency of television advertising trading.  It is unsurprising that community television has a low “average audience” due to the niche and eclectic nature of the program and the fact that stations do not operate primarily to attract strong “average” audiences in the same way the massively resourced national broadcasters do.  Community TV audiences watch the program that is of interest to them and then switch off.

A more appropriate measure of the scale of active interest in community television is “Reach”.  Reach describes the total number of “unique” individuals who tune in and watch the station over the same period.  Melbourne community television station C31 reaches 450,000 – 500,000 viewers every scheduled week – demonstrating the scale of interest and relevance of the programs we broadcast.  Nationally community television is watched by over 3 million Australians every month.

By quoting community television audience as an “average” Turnbull seeks to diminish the quantum of interest in community television in the face of the overwhelming public backlash against his decision.As a comparison Community Television currently out-rates our equivalent specialinterest broadcaster NITV on both “average audience” and “reach”.  We view NITV as an integral and important part of our media landscape and like Community TV should not be evaluated purely on a ratings analysis.

We also note that the Minister indicates he will be working with the sector to “consider the most appropriate transition strategy” for community television.  We are yet to have any communication from the Minister or the department about this decision.  The sector learned of this announcement via a transcript on his personal website on Wednesday.

And just in case you were wondering exactly what kind of sods we’re dealing with in the Federal Government, this is one of the questions posted as part of Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement on the “future of community television”:

How much have community television broadcasters been paying for access to the sixth channel spectrum?

Seriously? They’re trying to stir up outrage that a “community” organisation is getting free access to the broadcast spectrum? Guess we know what line they’ll be taking when it’s time to privatize the ABC then.

We sat on this for a few days because we weren’t really sure about what stance we wanted to take. Sure, Rove and Hamish & Andy (amongst others) got their starts on community television: do we really need to make the obvious jokes here?

But even we can tell a massively shitty decision (and a naked cash grab) when we spot one. Community television might not be the proving ground it once was – blah blah youtube clips blah blah bunch of obvious “observations” gone viral blah blah – but that doesn’t mean we should chuck it in the bin for the sake of yet another commercial shopping network we’ll program out of our televisions the first chance we get.

Moving into the future is supposed to mean we get more viewing options, not less: guess that upcoming Chaser show Media Circus is just going to be jokes about how the Abbott government won’t rest until the only media options available to Australians come from Rupert Murdoch.

Only they won’t really be jokes.

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  • Rutegar says:

    I can’t decide what is more disheartening …
    the shameless and unapologetic wickedness being perpetrated by a privileged few to the detriment of the rest for generations to come;
    the feebleness, ignorance, and apathy of the masses that allow it to happen.

    hell, why choose.

    just treat the double-dose as an extra scoop !

  • Urinal Cake says:

    On the Internet community tv will just wither and die. But then I guess that’s the point.

    Hopefully SBS will\should pick up the slack.

  • Andrew says:

    “How much have community television broadcasters been paying for access to the sixth channel spectrum?”

    Oh, those thieving kids getting stuff for nothing!!

    And how much are the commercial networks paying for their piece of bandwidth where they now have 4 channels each? Oh, that’s right, they’re getting a generous licence discount now…