In 1992, the former Australian Broadcasting Authority (now the Australian Communications and Media Authority or the ACMA) licensed community television (CTV) services on a trial basis. Six CTV operators were allocated licences to provide community-based television programming in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Lismore.
In December 2002, amendments were made to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) to legislate for CTV licences. The additional conditions on CTV licences are detailed in section 87A of the BSA.
On 17 February 2003, the ABA advertised for applicants for long-term licences. During 2004, licences were awarded to Television Sydney (TVS) Ltd, Melbourne Community Television Consortium Ltd in Melbourne and Briz 31 Ltd in Brisbane. Since this time, the ACMA has cancelled Channel 31 Community Educational Television Ltd's licence in Perth. The ACMA took this decision as the licensee had ceased to provide a community television service from 6 August 2008.
On 18 December 2008, West TV Ltd was allocated a two-year trial licence to broadcast in Perth. West TV commenced its trial service in April 2009. In March 2011, the ACMA issued West TV with a new trial licence until 30 June 2013. This licence has been extended until 31 December 2013.
On 4 November 2009, the Australian Government announced a pathway to digital for the metropolitan community television stations. The announcement provided for the temporary digital simulcast of the three long-term community television services in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and the trial community television service in Adelaide. Under the policy, the trial community television service in Perth was authorised to commence transmission in digital mode only. Funding support was provided to assist stations to meet the costs of commencing digital broadcasts.
Transmission of community television is now available in digital only in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide.
On 30 November 2012, the then Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, announced community television broadcasters could continue to use spectrum intended for the 'sixth channel' until at least 31 December 2014. Future uses of the sixth channel will be considered in the longer term, in the light of the ACMA's assessment of future broadcasting technologies.