NEWS

Radio to plan digital extension to regional Australia

Wednesday, Jul 08, 2015

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has released a report which recommends establishing a Digital Radio Planning Committee for regional Australia, chaired by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

A key thrust of the report is for the Government to remove obstacles and facilitate industry planning and implementation. There are incentives to focus prompt action in regional areas, such as the removal of who can provide digital radio if regional services are not on-air by mid 2018.

The report also recommends removing the current restrictions on new digital only licensees, both in metropolitan and regional areas.

Australian radio listeners have demonstrated strong support for DAB+ digital broadcast radio. Since the launch of DAB+ digital radio in metropolitan Australia in late 2009, DAB+ digital radio listening continues to outperform expectations, with 3.2 million people or nearly 25% now listening  to radio each week using a DAB+ digital radio in the five metropolitan capitals.  Twenty six vehicle manufacturers in Australia now include DAB+ digital radio and more than 190,000 vehicles with the technology have been sold.

The two industry bodies, CRA and CBAA, have welcomed the initiative:

Joan Warner says Commercial Radio Australia is "pleased to note the signal of support for regional DAB+ rollout in the report, with its recommendation for the establishment of an industry planning group. This means that regional Australians will not suffer a digital divide in relation to free to air broadcast radio but will eventually be on an equal footing with their metropolitan counterparts."

“The radio industry has invested in a robust reliable future broadcast technology that is easy for listeners to access, remains free, live and local with additional choice and content.  Broadcast radio plays a vital role in metropolitan and regional areas with the provision of local news and local emergency services information, so it is very important we continue to provide free to air broadcast radio services into the future,” says Warner.
 

The CBAA supports the establishment of the planning group with representation from community, commercial and national broadcasters and chaired by the ACMA as a key initiative to move things forward and ensure best account is taken of the public interest.

“Digital radio is the primary free-to-air broadcast technology in Australia’s multi-platform digital media environment. Community radio is an essential part of the mix of digital services,” says CBAA President Adrian Basso.

“Radio is a free media. As everything and everyone moves digital it is important that at least a primary set of media services stay freely available. Government legislation has ensured a primary set of free-to-air digital radio services is available in each area where digital radio has been implemented. Facilitating the extension to regional areas is welcomed.

“As well as free-to-air digital radio, the CBAA believes that it is in the public interest for Government to legislate for the primary set of radio services to be available via online and mobile on an unmetered basis.

"By endorsing the current allocation of spectrum for digital radio, we welcome the continued reservation of capacity for community radio services in the Radiocommunications Act. The report considers funding for community radio services to make use of this capacity, and we’ll continue to work with the Government to ensure that this funding is adequate.”

Community digital radio services provide a high level of unique local content and a diverse mix of cultural and specialist talks, educational, music, Indigenous, print handicapped, youth, seniors, religious and ethnic language and multicultural services. These services are critical to cultural inclusion and democratic participation, and allow all Australians to engage with the diverse views and information in their communities.

Recommendations from the review

Key recommendations in the report centre on the Government removing obstacles and facilitating industry planning and implementation of the expansion of the digital radio footprint to include regional Australia.

The CBAA supports the establishment of the planning group with representation from community, commercial and national broadcasters and chaired by the ACMA as a key initiative to move things forward and ensure best account is taken of the public interest.

Within the report, there are some incentives recommended to focus prompt action in regional areas, such as allowing new entrants in regional areas by mid-2018 if existing regional services are not on-air by that stage. The report also recommends removing the current restrictions on new digital only licensees, both in metropolitan and regional areas.

The report calls for a staged approach, indicating that the extension of digital radio is a commercial decision for broadcasters, depending on the viability of services being made available in markets that are big enough to sustain them.

 

radioinfo.com.au

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