Digital Radio

Commit to Community Radio Campaign

The future of free-to-air broadcasting is digital - but for community radio stations, that future is now at risk.

Unless the Federal Government commits to giving digital community radio a future in the upcoming budget, vital digital community radio stations will be switched off.

The Commit to Community Radio campaign aims to turn around the substantial shortfall in funding for the Digital Radio Project following last year’s Federal Government budget. The campaign has so far attracted fantastic support and national media attention. This support continues to grow by the minute.


What is digital radio?

Digital radio broadcasting (DAB+) is a new radio transmission platform which differs from AM and FM radio transmission. DAB+ utilises an audio compression encoding system called AAC+ to transmit data (a digital program stream). Digital radio receivers are able to receive and decode the digital program stream which you can then hear and, on compatible receivers, also see (program and station related information can be displayed on small screens).

What is the Digital Radio Project?

The Digital Radio Project (DRP) is responsible for the establishment and operation of digital radio transmission and content delivery infrastructure for Community Digital Broadcast Licensees utilising funds made available by the Federal Government. Funding for the project is provided through the Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and is administered by the Community Broadcasting Foundation. The current phase of the project is funded until mid 2012. The community-broadcasting sector will continue to lobby for further funding to support the ongoing development of digital radio services.

What are the benefits of digital radio?

The key benefits for listeners are improved sound quality and greater choice due to the increase in the number of digital services. Digital radio receivers can also provide pause and rewind functions and onscreen information. Screens can convey programming information such as artist and track titles, program schedules and information concerning station events and activities. Tuning is also easier as stations are identified by name rather than frequency.

Can I start a digital radio station?

Digital Radio Broadcast Licenses are only available to existing, eligible broadcast licensees: for community radio broadcasters this applies to metropolitan-wide services in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Why is digital radio only available in mainland capital cities?

The Government’s policy is to introduce digital radio in stages. The first stage applies to metropolitan-wide broadcasting services in the mainland capital cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. The Government does not as yet have a policy for the introduction of digital radio services for regional areas or for sub-metropolitan community stations. It is expected that further radio frequency spectrum will be made available for digital radio services following the shut down of analogue television services in 2013.

When can my station start broadcasting in digital?

If your station is not a metropolitan-wide service based in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth or Sydney it is currently not possible to broadcast a digital radio service. A range of factors will need to be addressed by the Government (spectrum availability, legislation and funding) before non-metro stations are able to broadcast digital radio services. The CBAA will continue to work with government, regulators and industry stakeholders to develop community digital radio services for all community radio broadcasters.

When will analogue radio services be switched off?

No date has been set for the turn off of analog radio services and the Federal Government has made no concrete suggestion that this will occur.

Will digital radio increase radio audiences or bring people back to radio?

Anecdotal evidence is positive but it’s a little too early in the process to understand digital radio listening patterns. It is however very clear that radio listeners will access services via a range of delivery platforms. It is important that community radio services are available on all broadcast platforms.

Is internet radio the same as digital radio?

No, internet radio uses a stream of data accessed through a connection to the internet via a computer or an internet capable radio. Digital radio is terrestrially broadcast from a transmission site and received by digital radios. Digital radio does not require an internet connection but does require a digital radio receiver.

How do Digital Community Broadcast Licensees access digital radio transmission?

As digital radio is broadcast from a multiplex transmitter where multiple station signals are broadcast simultaneously in a stream of data, individual stations do not need to operate their own transmitters. Instead, a station’s signal is digitised at the station and then sent to the multiplex transmitter site via a dedicated network link. Federal legislation allows community broadcasters to transmit digital radio services by accessing a portion of a multiplex transmitter. The multiplex transmitters used by community broadcasters are operated by commercial radio stations. In accordance with the legislation, eligible community licensees can access up to two-ninths of the multiplex’s capacity. As there are varying numbers of community licensees sharing this capacity in each city, the exact amount of capacity available to each station varies from city to city.

What kind of services will community stations broadcast on digital radio?

Community digital radio services will differ from station to station. During the first year or two stations can be expected to experiment with program schedules. Although some stations will introduce entirely new services, most stations will experiment with the introduction of new programs combined with time-shifted programs from their analogue services: they may also simply simulcast their analogue service.

For more information on community digital radio services head to www.radius.org.au