Department of Communications releases Digital Radio Report

Digital Radio Report recommends no analog switch-off, ACMA to review new licences

•  Recommendations include no analog switch-off
•  New digital-only cap city radio licences could be available
•  Road map for bringing digital radio to regional markets

The Department of Communications yesterday released its Digital Radio Report looking at the future of analog and digital radio in Australia.

The report makes the following recommendations:

1. The Government should not set a timetable for analogue radio switch-off at this time.
2. The Government should give the ACMA responsibility for determining where and when digital terrestrial radio services can commence.
3. Industry is encouraged to work with the ACMA to establish a Digital Radio Planning Committee for Regional Australia comprising key industry bodies and stakeholders. The Committee should be chaired by the ACMA.
4. The Government should not reintroduce the moratorium on the ACMA issuing digital-only commercial radio licences in mainland state capital cities.
5. The Government should remove the provisions requiring a six-year moratorium on additional commercial digital radio services in a regional licence area following the commencement of commercial services in that area.
6. The Government should consider allowing broadcasters to choose the mode(s) in which they deliver their radio services.
7. The Government should consider minor amendments to the current digital radio regulatory regime to provide a simpler, more flexible process for planning and licensing of digital radio in regional Australia, with a view to permanent services being licensed in Canberra and Darwin as a priority.
8. The Government should consider whether the statutory restrictions on who can provide digital radio services should be relaxed in the event that incumbent radio broadcasters in regional licence areas have not established digital radio services, or taken positive steps towards their establishment, by 30 June 2018.
9. The Government should consider the arrangements required to enable narrowcasters to provide digital radio services in areas where services have already been established or to join incumbent broadcasters in rolling out services, subject to the availability of spectrum and multiplex capacity.
10. The Government should repeal the restricted datacasting licence category.

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) yesterday welcomed the release of the Digital Radio Report by the Department of Communications and looks forward to joining the recommended planning group to commence planning for the rollout of DAB+ broadcast radio to regional Australia.

Joan Warner, chief executive officer of CRA, said: “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.”

Read the report here.

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