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PS: Little joy as Malcolm Turnbull sends community television to the internet


PS: Little joy as Malcolm Turnbull sends community television to the internet
- 18th October 2014

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Joy Hruby, 87-year-old chat show host on TVS Joy's World, shot in her garage at Botany. Photo: Brendan Esposito

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Sometimes channel surfing can take you to the most extraordinary places.

Buried in the more obscure regions of your television's EPG exists a world of weird and wonderful creations otherwise known as community television ... but not for much longer.

Last month Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced community television operators around the country, including TVS here in Sydney, will be booted off the free-to-air television spectrum at end of 2015, left to fend for themselves in the virtual wilderness of the internet.

Apparently it is all about freeing up the free-to-air broadcast spectrum for commercial television networks, though given the number of home-shopping channels that have popped up under the guise of new TV offerings, I have my doubts.

Apparently Turnbull thinks the world wide web will be a better "fit" for community television.

"We'll be happy to go to the internet ... when the Seven, Nine and Ten Networks do too," TVS station manager Henri de Gorter told PS before citing the case in Britain where research has indicated internet-based television channels won't survive for at least another 15 years, and only then if the infrastructure, such as a very fast broadband network penetrating the majority of homes, comes to fruition.

Enter stage left: Joy Hruby, an 87-year-old showgirl who has been broadcasting her own chat show out of her Botany garage for nearly 30 years.

"I think Mr Turnbull is making a terrible decision ... what commercial television network is going to give an 87-year-old woman her own chat show? If I were on one of the commerical networks I would have been put off to pasture years ago," Hruby fumed to PS this week, in the midst of baking a batch of biscuits for her crew, a collection of volunteers who have helped put Joy to air for years.

Her show, Joy's World, airs weekly and has a collection of guests ranging from local cabaret performers to social workers, while she often reflects on her career, which included her stint as one of the Dubbo Dazzler showgirls entertaining troops in World War II.

Her commitment to community TV saw her awarded with a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the general division back in 2007.

"This will destroy community TV ... this is about people wanting to be involvedin television on a community level, why should it only be the big corporations who have access to television?"

And there is an audience for community TV's fare, with OzTam figures indicating at least 500,000 viewers dip into the channel each week.

Several famous faces have been given their start thanks to Joy's World, including Channel Seven presenters Sally Obermeder and James Tobin, along with Gold Logie winners Rove McManus and Hamish Blake, comic Corinne Grant, Dave Thornton, Tommy Little and Waleed Aly.

Of course there is no denying there are some truly obscure programs that end up on community television screens, like the bearded drag queen belly dancer named Essan Laurant. His kooky variety show was screening years before Conchita Wurst dared show her shadow at Eurovision.

And how many pretty landscape paintings are hanging on the walls of Australian homes – albeit all identical – thanks to the tuition of Ken Harris and his Masterclass in Oils show?

I strongly doubt the audience of the exercise program Move It Or Lose It would be inclined to log on to a website – with or without the NBN – each day to do their routine. The show is produced by Arthritis Victoria, but rather than perma-tanned fitness instructors wearing skimpy leotards and toothy grins, this show has sweet little silver-haired grannies in floral appliqueusing tins of baked beans as hand weights.

Although there is clearly a much larger commerical imperative behind freeing up the "spectrum", one has to ask if Mr Turnbull and Co have really thought about the transition to the internet for shows like Joy's World, which tend to attract a much older audience, who are not that tech-savvy.

Indeed, many of these viewersare far more likely to have a TV in the corner of their living room rather than a computer.

De Gorter used a recent Andre Rieu concert screened on TVS as an example. Pulling in an audience of 31,000 people across Sydney on a Saturday night, TVS' online streaming of the concert registered just five people.

"Community TV is like a family ... it's for people who would never normally get on commercial television ... community television should be just that: television for the community," says Hruby.

Sage advice Turnbull, but are you listening?

(The Sydney Morning Herald)