Licence area populations | ACMA

Licence area populations

Section 30 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act) provides for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA), having regard to the census data prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to determine:

  • the population of Australia;
  • the population of each licence area;
  • the percentage of the population of Australia that licence area population represents; and
  • the percentage of a licence area population that is also in another licence area.

The ACMA updates the determination of population to take into account the latest census. It must also make a new determination when the ACMA makes a change to a licence area plan that affects the definition of the licence area.

To help monitor media control and diversity in licence areas, the ACMA has to determine the population of each licence area. This page explains why and how this occurs, and provides access to the latest determination.

Purpose

A determination of the population figures for a licence area affects the application of the media control and diversity rules in the Act. Population figures determined under section 30 are relevant to the following provisions of Part 5 the Act:

  • A person must not be in a position to exercise control of commercial television broadcasting licences whose combined licence area population exceed 75 per cent of the population of Australia and one commercial television broadcasting licence in the same licence area under section 53 of the Act.
  • A person must not be in a position to exercise control of more than two commercial radio broadcasting licences in the same licence area under section 54 of the Act.
  • There are directorship limits for commercial broadcasting licences in sections 55, 56 and 56A of the Act.
  • Division 5B of Part 5 of the Act contains cross media disclosure provisions.
  • Transactions that result in an unacceptable three-way media diversity situation are prohibited under Division 5A of Part 5 of the Act.

Additionally the Broadcasting (Hours of Local Content) Declaration No. 1 of 2007 (the local content licence condition) relies upon the section 30 population determination to determine the amount of local content a regional commercial radio licensee must broadcast. The population of a licence area is used to distinguish between small (under 30 000 people) and other (over 30 000 people) regional commercial radio broadcasting licences. ‘Small’ licences are required to broadcast 30 minutes of local content, and ‘other’ licences are required to broadcast three hours of local content.

Overlapping licence areas

There are many licence areas that overlap one another across Australia. Under section 51 of the Act, two licence areas that overlap are treated as one for the purpose of Part 5 of the Act, where the population in the overlap area is more than 30 per cent of the total population of either of those licence areas.

When you check the population of a licence area, you should consider all licence areas that are shown to overlap that licence area.

You should also note that section 51 does not apply to Division 5A of the Act.

Changes in licence area population not to result in breaches

Section 52 of the Act provides that if the ACMA makes a new determination of the population of a licence area or of the population of Australia, and as result of the determination a person would be in breach of a provision Division 2 (Limitation on Control) or Division 3 (Limitation Directorships) then those provisions apply to the person as if the previous determination remained in force.

The population threshold for the local content license condition is similarly grandfathered. Subsection 43C(4) of the Act provides that where the ACMA makes a new determination of population and as a result of the determination a person would be in breach, the condition continues to apply to the person as if the previous determination remained in force.

Latest population determination

The ACMA’s most recent determination of licence area populations of commercial television and commercial radio broadcasting licences, under section 30 of the Act, was signed on 11 April 2016.  In making this determination the ACMA had regard to the 2011 census conducted by the Australian Statistician.

Key changes from the last determination are:

  • The population of the following licence area overlaps have exceeded the 30% threshold for the first time:
    • Burnie RA1 and Devonport RA1 commercial radio licence area.
    • Deniliquin RA1 and Bendigo RA1 licence areas:

Section 51 requires the two markets to be treated as one for the purposes of control and directorship limitations in Part 5 of the BSA. 

  • The population of the Northam RA1 licence area has exceed the 30,000 person threshold, which means the commercial radio licence in the Northam RA1 is now no longer a small licence for the purpose of the local content condition.

Note: provisions in section 52 (described above) means that existing controllers and directors are not in breach of the two station to a market rule because of the 30% threshold being exceeded in the Burnie/Devonport overlap. While the Deniliquin/Bendigo overlap has passed the 30% threshold, this does not give rise to any control issues.

The existing licensee of the Northam commercial radio broadcasting service is not affected by no longer being classified as a ‘small’ licence area for the purpose of local content as it is covered by grandfathering provision noted above.

View the Section 30 Schedule

  • View by call sign
  • View by licence area - this includes population and overlap information, licence area maps, and licence area descriptions for all commercial services.
  • Download the population determination 

Related information

For more information on licence areas, go to:

Last updated: 19 April 2016