By Brendan Swift

The Victorian government has awarded community TV station Channel 31 with a $350,000 grant to help make the switch to digital broadcasting.

The grant will be used to expand Channel 31’s studios, purchase new technology including studio cameras, sound mixers and widescreen displays, as well as train staff and volunteers for the digital transition.

The Victorian Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation and Member for Melbourne, Bronwyn Pike, said the grant would allow Channel 31, which broadcasts shows in 23 languages, to continue reaching a wide array of audiences.

“This Brumby Government grant of $350,000 for production infrastructure and the skills of staff, volunteers and program groups, builds on the Rudd Government’s contribution of $600,000 towards the station’s transmission related infrastructure,” she said.

Channel 31 employs 26 staff, with 80 more staff involved in production, and more than 1300 volunteers.

“A number of Australia’s most popular media personalities, including Rove McManus, Corinne Grant, and Hamish and Andy started their careers in community television,” she said.

The station is expected to begin broadcasting in digital by mid-year and will continue to broadcast in both digital and analogue until analogue broadcasting is switched off in 2013.

The broadcaster raises most of its revenue from sponsorship announcements and by charging some programs for airtime access.

For the year ended June 30, 2008, the Melbourne Community Television Consortium posted revenue of $2.76 million and a surplus of $45,788.

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