The community TV sector had wrongly missed out on possible content production funding for years, a government spokeswoman has said.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy spokeswoman told IF that the Community Broadcasting Foundation had misinterpreted the General Grants funding deed “for years, against all Departmental legal advice to the contrary”.
“We believe CTV was always able to apply, but the CBF persisted in its misinterpretation,” she said via email.
“So we clarified the wording to make it absolutely clear that CTV could apply – but there was no new money or other change there.”
CBF executive director Ian Stanistreet remains adamant that the government “changed the terms” which allowed community TV to apply for additional funding in the 2011/12 financial year.
“The General Grants fund had previously provided funding for licensed stations, sector co-ordination, sustainability and development grants and national program production grants for the community radio sector,” he said.
Stanistreet said the $1.5 million General Grants fund was initially earmarked for community radio, but now that all was clear, it allowed the CTV sector to be eligible for a chunk of the funding.
Out of the possible $1.5 million, the sector will receive $300,000 in this financial year. The amount was confirmed after a recent consultation meeting that involved the CBF, the Australian Community Television Alliance (ACTA) and the Australian Indigenous Communications Association (AICA).
“The Foundation recognises that the CTV sector has a need for greater funding support in this and other areas,” Stanistreet said.
“We believe that a strong case can be made for the provision of dedicated CTV funding support by the Australian Government and look forward to working with the CTV sector to achieve it.”
ACTA representative and C31 general manager Richard McLelland said ACTA looked forward to working with the CBF and was sure the new funding would benefit community broadcasting.
However, he added it was well short of what was needed – considering the base level of expenditure needed to produce a well-made community TV series – and that it would be spread across the five capital city stations and the indigenous sector.
“ACTA is hopeful that this will be the start of recognition and increased funding for community TV producers who are making Australian local content.”
An estimated four million people nationwide tune in to community TV every month.