Digital Radio

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On 3 September 2014, the CBAA and sector bodies representing community broadcasters gathered for morning tea with Federal politicians to continue to highlight the role of community broadcasting services in Australian media.
 
Later that day the then Minister for Communications, and now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, spoke with The Wire about developments for digital radio.
 
The Minister restated the Government’s support for community radio:

'We’re very supportive of the presence of community radio stations on digital radio, and we’ll coordinate with the industry to ensure that community radio is a part of any future digital radio framework…’

He acknowledged the role of community radio in regional areas:

'Community radio is a very valuable platform to communicate to our constituents and is often the only media available to regional and remote communities.'

He also stressed the role of commercial ‘viability’ in the rollout of digital radio:

'The rollout of digital radio, outside of where it currently is, is really a commercial decision for broadcasters and it depends on the viability of services being made available in markets that are big enough to sustain them.

The CBAA made a PDF iconmajor submission.pdf to the Federal Government's reviews of digital radio in March 2014 that focused on a number of key areas, including that:

  • An industry planning group be established for the rollout of digital radio co-ordinated by the ACMA
  • A staged approach be implemented for regional digital radio services commencing 2016-17
  • Sub-metropolitan and remote community radio services are included in planning considerations
  • Triggers for analogue closure be based on all forms of digital listening reaching over 50% with 95% coverage
  • Planning for regional digital radio be based on licence areas with shared infrastructure, coverage alignment and deeming greater than 25%
  • Digital broadcast capacity is needed to address concurrent audience demand for radio services
  • Inclusion of services is based on concurrent audience and evidence based on a per service basis
  • The provision of digital radio broadcast services on a free-to-receive basis functions in the public interest, provides media diversity and achieves cultural inclusion objectives
  • Current legislation provides two-ninths of category 1 or 2 foundational multiplex access to community broadcasters
  • Additional multiplexes should be declared foundational until community services reach parity access with other broadcast sectors and until then additional capacity should be reserved for community broadcasters from any excess capacity 
  • Regional trials should reserve two-ninths capacity for community broadcasters in accordance with digital radio legislation 
  • The access regime for digital radio continue to be administered by the ACCC with some amendments
  • Provision for community broadcasters to initiate multiplexes be introduced and otherwise the moratorium should end by June 2015
  • In the contemporary media environment the digital delivery of radio is no longer an optional approach 
  • Free-to-receive broadcast platforms are required as mainstay services
  • Boutique and interactive on-demand broadband platforms are complementary to broadcast services
  • Hybrid solutions would ideally be available seamlessly on user devises
  • Broadcasters maintain responsibilities to operate in the public interest and for social benefit
  • A primary set of free-to-receive digital radio services should be available to the full Australian community 

The CBAA is currently working on establishing a framework with commercial and national broadcasters for the inclusion of community broadcasters in current regional digital radio trials.  

The Australian Government’s policy is to introduce digital radio in stages launching services in 2009. There are currently 36 community digital radio stations broadcasting 40+ services in five capital cities: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Digital radio service trials are being conducted in Darwin and Canberra. Currently 27% of listening is by way of DAB+ digital radio, averaging out to 11.3 hours a week [1]. Community sector research echoes these CRA figures with 26.5% of community radio listening averaging out to 13.7 hours a week [2].

Listener numbers are around the 3.6 million, with over 2.9 million digital radio receivers out on the Australian market to date [3].

About the CBAA's Digital Radio Project

Through its Digital Radio Project (DRP), the CBAA has established and operates services and infrastructure to enable 36 licensed metropolitan-wide community broadcasters to provide digital radio services across five capital cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Community digital radio provides a diverse mix of cultural and specialist talks, educational, music, Indigenous, print handicapped, youth, seniors, religious and ethnic language and multicultural services.

Guiding principles underpin the contribution services make to media diversity and social inclusion, including to:

  • promote harmony and diversity and contribute to an inclusive, cohesive and culturally diverse Australian community.
  • pursue the principles of democracy, access and equity, especially for people and issues not adequately represented in other media.
  • enhance the diversity of programming choices available to the public and present programs that expand the variety of viewpoints broadcast in Australia.
  • demonstrate independence in programming as well as in editorial and management decisions.
  • support and develop local arts and music.
  • increase community involvement in broadcasting.

The primary purpose of the Digital Radio Project is to provide assistance to community digital radio broadcasting licensees to supply digital radio services within the framework and requirements of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992. 

The Project is to implement, develop, maintain and operate digital radio transmission and content delivery infrastructure for community digital radio broadcasting licensees and to provide national co-ordination for the payment of digital multiplex transmission access fees. The infrastructure is to supply digital radio services to the public.

More information on digital community radio services is available here. Find your local digital station here. For other information or inquiries about community digital radio please contact us on 02 9310 2999 or via email

[1] GfK CRA, December 2016, Digital radio listening. All stations 27%, 11.3 hours per week

[2] NLS National Listener Survey, McNair Ingenuity, October 2016. Community digital radio listening 26.5%, 13.7 hours per week

[3] CRA December 2016 and GfK Point of Sale DAB+ Fusion Report