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Hamish, Andy, Rove and Pete go missing on Channel 31 effort

BRW Rich Listers Hamish Blake and Andy Lee and other success stories are nowhere to be seen as Melbourne’s Channel 31, the struggling community TV station that gave them a start, struggles to raise the $300,000 needed to upgrade its studio facilities during its current subscriberthon.

Channel 31 has been hit hard by the Federal Government’s mandated switch to digital television and the need to upgrade its studio facilities. Without an immediate cash injection the station could be forced to stick with its second-rate analogue signal, which is being switched off around Australia.

For years, Channel 31 has served as an incubator for talent that has then been poached by commercial networks keen to exploit the youth advertising market, with megastars Rove McManus, Corinne Grant and Peter Helliar all making the jump to the big league.

Yesterday, on Melbourne community station 3RRR, Channel 31 manager Richard McLelland urged the station’s alumni to dig deep, highlighting the discrepancy between the cash-drenched commercial world and Channel 31’s shoestring operation. McLelland said the station would  ”disappear into dust” without the extra cash to upgrade the station’s facilities, which were “way behind the eight ball”. But the station’s alumni had remained silent.

Presenter: “So you haven’t heard from Rove or Hamish and Andy, they haven’t stepped up?”

McLelland: “Haven’t seen any cash yet…I think you should name and shame.”

The ratings-topping duo, who are reaching the end of a record-setting three-year contract with radio conglomerate Austereo and are looking at a looming breakthrough on the lucrative US television landscape, did not respond to Crikey queries this morning over how much money they would donate to the community TV station.

In 2003, Hamish and Andy got their break on the sketch comedy show Radio Karate before Seven swooped with offers (the Hamish and Andy Show had a short life before the pair switched to Ten). Their talent was quickly recognised by Austereo, who made the duo drive-time stars across the country.

Last month, the Victorian state government gave $350,000 to the station, to build on a previous last-ditch rescue package of $650,000 received from federal authorities. But this falls well short of the amount needed to keep the digital stream flowing.

McLelland told Crikey the response rate to the subscription drive in general has been marked by a distinct “lack of enthusiasm”. The station relies on donations and sponsorship for 80% of its revenue.

Rove’s Manager Kevin Whyte said the former star of Channel 31’s The Loft, which also featured Helliar, was in the United States and would be difficult to contact before Crikey’s deadline. Speculation has been swirling for months that Rove will soon stitch up a lucrative Los Angeles-based chat show deal following high-profile appearances last year on the Jay Leno Show. Tweets directed at Rove, who wished Helliar luck for the debut of his new TV show on his Twitter account this morning, went unreturned.

Whyte said Rove had supported the station in the past through numerous PR appearances but was unable to say if Rove had donated any money to Channel 31. In 2005, Rove hired Hamish and Andy to create a Network Ten show, Real Stories. Like Rove, Hamish and Andy also appeared last year on Leno.

Helliar got his break on Channel 31 stand-up show Under Melbourne Tonight before joining The Loft in 1997. Rove and Helliar then went on to repeat  the successful formula on Channel 10 with the Sunday night variety show Rove Live.

But Helliar’s publicist told Crikey the star was busy rehearsing for tonight’s premiere of Channel 7’s The Bounce and would be “difficult to contact”. Seven lured Helliar from Ten to helm the new show, reportedly for a six-figure sum.

The station’s last-ditch live telethon will air on Sunday at 7:30pm, hosted by Vasili from cult gardening show Vasili’s Garden.

10
  • 1
    wilful
    Posted Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    What people donate to is entirely their own business.

    Andrew crook would be wanting to make a pretty sizable donation to ch 31 after this effort.

  • 2
    terry bystander
    Posted Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Did you even read the story Wilful? Are you familiar with the concept of paying your dues? What about the term ‘alumni’?

  • 3
    Elan
    Posted Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Well done for highlighting this Andrew!

    I recently discovered that I could get a fairly good picture for SA’s C31. I regularly watch it now, and use the timer switch last thing to watch the music/pictures which show at the end of C31 programmes.

    I had no idea that A-H-R started on C31.

    It would be nice to see some support forthcoming.

    ………………..don’t hold your breath.

  • 4
    Maxy
    Posted Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see this story out there. Some of the most important media available could become so unavailable in the coming years due to technologies and society’s new different tastes. Lets not see channel 31 close its doors as it would be a great shame. Hopefully the local or state governments might inject a few more funds to help. I’m not sure whether I agree with current stars who got their initial start with 31 should donate funding. I think it should be a personal choice for them without a guilt trip. Good Luck 31……….

  • 5
    Gary Johnson
    Posted Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Idea!!!…Crikey should take over Ch31 and we get Crikey TV…imagine the quality live crosses to realestate auction sites as some realestate goon beats up on Adam Schwab…plus, you get to get rid of all your annoying interns with stints in Afghanistan…it’s gotta work!!!hehehe

    Pass the hat around boys and girls….think about it.

  • 6
    Pete WN
    Posted Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Love a good ‘Name and Shame’! I remember watching Hamish & Andy on Radio Karate, along with Ryan Shelton.

    They were awesome even back then, and its great to see them doing so well. Not so good if they can’t support a station that gave them their break.

  • 7
    Gary Johnson
    Posted Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Miss Somora..I assume it’s miss. Will you please stop sending me your material for perusal?

    I am very busy at the moment, and look what’s happened…somehow your email that YOU sent to me has ended up under my name as a post from Gary Johnson…it’s a terrible mistake and I think you owe them an apology.

    ..forthwith.

  • 8
    Dave Dreimann
    Posted Thursday, 25 March 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I’ve tried to find the Richard McLelland interview on RRR without much luck but from the quotes I think its think its pretty poor form of a station manager to be shifting the blame like that and wonder if anyone has even approached c31alumni for help. This is the only article article I’ve seen on the topic and if it wasn’t for it and word of mouth a few days ago I would have had no idea that the station was trying to raise money at all. The publicity surrounding the whole thing has been non existent. Andrew Crook has at least tried to contacted some of c31’s success stories and allowed them to respond, which is more than I imagine c31 have done before trying to publicly shame them. RRR, SYN, FBi all managed to raise money when it was required (although you can question the ethics of FBi’s Ask Richard campaign it still worked). If c31 is unable to raise the money required to upgrade to digital the responsibility has to sit not on former volunteers but squarely on those who manage the network who have had years to prepare a fund raising and media campaigns but have failed to do anything of substance.

  • 9
    The Pav
    Posted Thursday, 25 March 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Perth lost its Ch31 sometime ago & is worse for it.

    Community TV is an outlet for alternatives that commercial TV lacks the will to develop

  • 10
    Andrew G
    Posted Thursday, 25 March 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    They shouldn’t be expected to help channel 31. Its really like throwing good money after bad.

    Private schools get a lot of their money from Alumni but thats fair enough as private schools produce a large portion of our business and political leaders. Channel 31 produces…..a few comedians?

    I like Hamish & Andy but they would have made it big without Channel 31 one way or another. Rove however should perhaps give back as I am not sure how he made it big so he probably should be thanking everyone he possibly can.

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