A lifeline has been extended for the community TV stations Channel 31 and Channel 44.

Channel 44 (Adelaide) and Channel 31 (Melbourne) were on track to stop broadcasting after June 30 and switch to an online-only model.

However, votes in the Senate and now the House of Representatives will see the federal government give them until 2024.

“This is a massive victory for South Australia and our community television station Channel 44, who have been guaranteed three more years of broadcast spectrum usage,” Labor Senator for SA Marielle Smith said.

Former communications minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered community stations across the country to shift to an online-only model in 2014, saying their spectrum was needed for testing new technologies.

There have since been seven last minute, 12-month reprieves due to the government having no actual plans to use the spectrum. However, stations in Brisbane (Bris31), Perth (WTV) and Sydney (TVS) have closed.

“We are incredibly surprised but massively relieved and elated to be given a three-year commitment to continue broadcasting on free air,” Channel 44 general manager Lauren Hillman said.

“The uncertainty over the past seven years has been incredibly challenging on so many levels for our team of staff, volunteers, interns, program makers, sponsors and supporters.”

Both Channel 44 and 31 already deliver their content online, but say that forcing them to go online-only would strip most of their advertising revenue. 

Channel 31 general manager Shane Dunlop said having three years of certainty is a big change.

“We've had a decade of getting used to whatever last minute reprieves we get,” he said.

“They've just been kicking the can down the road a little further, but this length of time really gives us a chance to make the most of whatever the future will hold for community TV, so we can appropriately plan and roll with punches a lot better.”

The Federal Government still has plans to sell off vacated spectrum for other uses, but its own Media Reform Green Paper last year said that would not happen until at least 2024.