Digital Radio

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About digital radio

Digital radio sits alongside AM and FM as an alternative radio transmission platform. Like AM & FM radio, it is broadcast free-to-air. Digital Radio does this via DAB+ technology.  Digital Radio is not the same as Internet Radio, which is listening to radio via an online stream.

Community digital radio in Australia

Digital Radio was launched in Australia in 2009 and 37 digital community radio stations are currently broadcasting across five capital cities - Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. This is in line with the Government’s plans to have a staged roll out of digital radio services. The Government is currently working on policy related to extending this roll out.

Digital Radio is future facing and a vital element in Australia’s multi-platform media environment. Community digital radio augments FM/AM radio broadcast & online streaming. Currently 21% of community radio listening is by way of DAB+ digital radio.

Digital radio services

What programming is on community digital radio?

Community digital stations share guiding principles with FM & AM community radio stations. You can expect to hear a similarly diverse mix of specialist talks, educational content, music and Indigenous, print-handicapped, youth, seniors, religious, ethnic language and multicultural services.

Some stations use the opportunity of a digital service to broadcast extra content for their community that can’t be heard elsewhere. Other stations mirror simulcast their FM/AM signal on digital, and others do a mix of both – broadcasting content from both FM & AM and digital pools of content.

As well as day to day radio services, digital stations also do ‘pop up’ and special event broadcasts. These are usually a collaborative effort by a national network and examples include:

How does Digital Radio Broadcasting (DAB+) work?

Digital radio broadcasting (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, see program and station related information displayed on small screens. Digital radio receivers provide visual information via text which scrolls across the screen – this is similar to the tickertape-styled text you may see on a television or computer screen. Some receivers have larger screens which will accommodate both text and images.

Why not just listen online?

Streaming radio online and the free-to-receive digital radio platform are different. 

Internet radio:

  • Uses a stream of data accessed through a connection to the internet via a computer or an internet-capable radio. 
  • Is streamed over the telecommunications networks and incurs a download cost which varies set by the internet service provider.

Digital radio:

  • Is terrestrially broadcast from a transmission site and received by digital radios. 
  • Is a free-to-receive broadcast platform and does not require an internet connection
  • Requires a digital radio receiver
  • Has improved sound quality and the potential for greater choice for listeners

For more information, read our Digital Radio FAQs or contact the CBAA’s Digital Radio Project staff on 02 9310 2999.

2016 CBAA Conference

Helen Henry, 28th July 2017

Digital transformation and documentary-making added to this year's program.

Keep Community Radio

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, 4th May 2017

The community broadcasting sector today welcomes the Federal Government’s decision to increase sector funding by $6.1m over two years. 

Helen Henry, 21st December 2016

Following the announcement of digital radio extension beyond the five capital cities, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has outlined the general approach and planning principles for regional Australia.

Digital radio

Helen Henry, 7th December 2016

The ABC and Commercial Radio Australia have announced plans to roll out DAB+ digital radio to Hobart, Darwin and Canberra, marking the expansion of permanent digital radio services beyond the current five capital cities. The announcement was welcomed by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA).

Keep Community Radio

Helen Henry, 4th May 2016

The Federal Budget has failed to maintain funding for metropolitan community digital radio services in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.