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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Mildura Region to Lose Channel 10 Broadcasts

Residents of the Mildura/Sunraysia region of western Victoria/NSW are to lose free-to-air access to Channel 10 and its associated Bold and Peach channels from June 30 with the closure of the Seven West Media/WIN Corporation joint venture, Mildura Digital Television Pty Ltd due to an untenable financial position.

The closure of the service is not without some irony. June 30, 2010, saw Mildura/Sunraysia become the first region in Australia to switch to digital-only television. Then Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy even made the comment, “The switch to digital-only television in Mildura/Sunraysia is an historic day for Australia. People in Mildura/Sunraysia have today moved from having some of the worst television reception, and the most limited choice of channels, to leading Australia in the move to 16 or more channels of clear pictures and crisp sound.”

Launched in 2006, Mildura Digital Television has, during its history of operations, seen a number of shifts in its network affiliation. In 2016, as a result of WIN Television becoming the Network Ten affiliate in the region, Mildura Digital Television switched its affiliation to the Nine Network and rebranded as Nine Mildura. Then in 2021, due to WIN Television becoming the region’s Nine Network affiliate, it switched its affiliation back to Network 10.

Speaking to C+T, Bridget Fair, Chief Executive Officer of industry body Free TV, said: “The difficult decision to shut down the Mildura Digital Television joint venture is a reflection of the very real pressures that exist for regional commercial television broadcasters.

“The Albanese Government has said it is committed to regulatory reform to support the sustainability of commercial television broadcasters and regional news services, but unfortunately we are not seeing any action to line up with the rhetoric. In an environment of declining revenue and Government inaction on any real regulatory change to support the sustainability of commercial television, this decision was inevitable.

“Outdated regulatory burdens like the $42 million spectrum tax levied on commercial television remain in place with no plan to review them, and new legislation around prominence and anti-siphoning do not seem likely to deliver any meaningful benefit. In addition the Government has flagged onerous new privacy laws, accessibility requirements and cuts to gambling advertising, all of which place additional pressure on regional commercial television businesses. If the government is truly committed to a future made in Australia for regional media services, it needs to take action now. The time for reviews and consultations is over.”

Local Federal Member for Mallee, Dr Anne Webster, said: “The Albanese Labor Government is leaving Regional Australia yet again to wither on the vine while they dither on the surging power of Meta, Google and social media platforms to push their content and ideological agenda onto Australians as their primary source of entertainment and news. The foreign operators’ market power is a major factor in commercial TV’s struggle for advertising revenue.”

Meanwhile, Shadow Minister for Communications, David Coleman, said the Coalition supports a reduction in the tax impost on television broadcasters, a measure not undertaken during the Coalition’s ten years in government.

“We want to get rid of a big tax that local TV outlets are forced to pay,” Mr Coleman said. “It’s called the Commercial Broadcasting Tax, and in 2023, TV broadcasters were forced to pay over $44 million for it.

“The tax disproportionately affects regional broadcasters. If they didn’t have to pay this tax, they’d have more money to invest in staff and programs for local communities.”

Current Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, is yet to issue a formal statement on the closure of Mildura Digital Television.

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