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Community TV station celebrates new home in Southbank

Community TV station celebrates new home in Southbank
Brendan Rees

Community broadcaster Channel 31 is celebrating after officially opening its new studio in Southbank following a local campaign to extend its three-year licence earlier this year.

The station’s general manager Shane Dunlop said after a “whirlwind” year, his team was buoyed by the “groundswell of support” by the local community to keep its free-to-air operations running.

“It was heart-warming to get that support and it came from all corners, whether it was cultural groups or political groups, that was a testament to our wider appeal,” he said.

Mr Dunlop joined Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece in December for a tour of 31’s new studios in Douglas St, Southbank, after the community TV station moved from Williams St in the CBD in September.

He said Cr Capp and Cr Reece had been “pretty outstanding supporters and to be represented by two of the bigger faces in local politics has been very helpful”.

“We didn’t expect we’d still be here,” Mr Dunlop said after the federal government reversed a decision in June to end its free-to-air operations.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, it might be one of those things where it all needs to sink in,” he said.

Cr Reece, a staunch proponent to keep the local station alive, said, “Channel 31 is a vital part of the local media scene”, and “tells stories about Melbourne – important stories – that would not be told without them”.

“These new studios are like a wonderful Christmas gift for Melbourne after the long community campaign we ran this year to save our local TV station,” he said.

Cr Capp said after coming “so close to shutting down last year,” she said it was “fantastic to see Channel 31 is powering ahead at its new studio in Southbank”.

“It’s heartening as well for the employees and volunteers who bring us this one-of-a-kind programming every week,” she said.

Channel 31 had faced the threat of its licence being cancelled for the sixth time since 2014 and the possibility of being switched off the air permanently by June 30.

But following an outpouring of community support and an urgent motion by City of Melbourne, the community broadcaster was saved.

Mr Dunlop said it was a relief the station’s team of 13 to 15 staff plus volunteers could continue their operations and allow students to “build a career in front of the camera”.

TV personalities Hamish Blake, Waleed Aly and Andy Lee, all got their first gig at the community TV station.

“I will always try to remind people there’s countless others in the thousands who have come through community TV that work behind the camera that use their time on community TV to further their careers – that really still is our core function,” Mr Dunlop said.

Channel 31’s new studios are located at 2-4 Douglas St, Southbank in the Montague Precinct of Fishermans Bend opposite South Melbourne Primary School •

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