Government review recommends no timetable to be set on switch off of analogue radio

Digital RadioA government review of Australian radio has recommended no timetable should be set for the switch off of analogue radio, with the report suggesting broadcasters should be allowed to choose the mode they deliver radio services in.

The Digital Radio Report considered whether regulatory changes are needed to allow easier licensing of digital radio in regional areas.

The report found no “definitive views on the future of digital terrestrial radio” could be made as “significant rollout uncertainties and challenges”, particularly in regional Australia, remain.

“Australia will continue to rely on a combination of complementary analogue, digital and online radio technologies to deliver radio services to all Australians. Digital terrestrial radio will continue as a supplementary, rather than a replacement, technology in at least the short to medium term,” the report said.

“The rollout of digital terrestrial radio services in regional areas should be a commercial decision for broadcasters, subject to spectrum availability and planning.”

It was recommended the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) should be given responsibility for determining where and when digital terrestrial radio services can commence, with the industry also to be encouraged to work with the regulator to establish a Digital Radio Planning Committee for regional Australia.

The release of the report has been welcomed by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) with the organisation’s CEO Joan Warner stating: “CRA 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 move has also been welcomed by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA).

CBAA president Adrian Basso said in a statement:  “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.

“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.”

The report also recommended broadcasters should be allowed to choose the mode in which they deliver their radio services.

It was recommended for the government to consider not reintroducing the moratorium on the ACMA issuing digital-only commercial radio licences in mainland state capital cities as well as the removal of provisions requiring a six year moratorium on additional commercial digital radio services in a regional licence area when one commercial service commences in that area.

“As a consequence of the removal of the moratorium period for new digital radio services, the requirement for commercial radio broadcasters to provide at least one digital radio service during the moratorium period would also be removed,” the report stated.

It recommended permanent digital services in Canberra and Darwin should be licensed “as a priority”; recommending the current digital radio regulatory regime be relaxed to allow easier licensing of digital radio in regional areas.

Miranda Ward


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