Digital radio regulatory and licensing framework | ACMA

Digital radio regulatory and licensing framework

Overview of digital radio licensing

The licensing framework for digital radio in Australia operates under a digital radio multiplex transmitter (DRMT) licence category system. The ACMA can only issue a DRMT licence to a qualified company – one that was formed in Australia and has a share capital. Before licensing a DRMT, the ACMA must make a digital radio channel plan (DRCP) for the area.

Division 2 of Part 3.3 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) specifies three categories of DRMTs and which digital radio services may be transmitted by each category.

A category 1 digital radio multiplex transmitter licence is a licence that provides for the transmission of any or all of the following services:

  • one or more digital commercial radio broadcasting services
  • one or more digital community radio broadcasting services.

A category 2 digital radio multiplex transmitter licence is a licence that provides for the transmission of any or all of the following services:

  • one or more digital commercial radio broadcasting services
  • one or more digital community radio broadcasting services
  • one or more digital national radio broadcasting services.

A category 3 digital radio multiplex transmitter licence is a licence that provides for the transmission of:

  • one or more digital national radio broadcasting services only.

The ACMA can declare category 1 and category 2 DRMTs as foundation licences. Foundation licences provide 'standard access entitlements' for incumbent licensees, namely:

  • each incumbent digital commercial radio broadcasting licensee in the licence area is entitled to access one-ninth of multiplex capacity under a foundation category 1 or category 2 DRMT
  • two-ninths of multiplex capacity under a foundation category 1 or category 2 DRMT is reserved for sharing between digital community radio broadcasting licensees nominated by the digital community radio broadcasting representative company for the area
  • each national broadcaster is entitled to access one-ninth of multiplex capacity under a foundation category 2 DRMT.

For DAB+ transmissions, one-ninth of multiplex capacity is 128 kbps, which includes capacity to provide error protection for services. This means an incumbent commercial radio broadcaster using its standard access entitlement should be able to broadcast two or three good quality music radio services or four voice radio services.

Foundation DRMT licences must be held by 'eligible joint venture companies' and shares in eligible joint venture companies can only be held by incumbent digital commercial radio broadcasters, digital community radio broadcasting representative companies and national broadcasters. The ACMA will not licence more foundation DRMTs in a licence area than is necessary to meet the standard access entitlements.

The ACMA has made the following foundation category 1 DRMTs

For Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney

For Canberra, Darwin

The ACMA has not declared any foundation category 2 DRMTs at this time.

If the ACMA were to licence any more DRMTs in Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, these licences could not be foundation DRMTs, as all the eligible incumbent licensees have been catered for. Future DRMTs in these licence areas would not allow for standard access entitlements, but licensees would be able to seek access through 'distributed-capacity' obligations.

Digital community radio broadcasting representative company

Designated community radio broadcasting licensees hold shares in the eligible joint venture companies through digital community radio broadcasting representative companies. These representative companies  nominate the digital community broadcasting licensees in a licence area to access a portion of the two-ninths of multiplex capacity reserved for the community radio sector on each foundation DRMT licence.

Designated digital community radio broadcasting licensees

A designated digital community radio broadcasting licensee:

  • is a community radio broadcasting licence holder
  • shares a licence area of a commercial radio broadcasting licence
  • must satisfy the conditions set out in a legislative instrument made by the ACMA for the community radio broadcasting service or services provided under the community radio broadcasting licence.

In some cases, a community radio broadcasting licensee may be a designated community radio broadcasting licensee if their licence area is deemed to be the same as the relevant commercial radio broadcasting licence area under s. 8AD of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 or under a determination made by the ACMA. The ACMA has made the Broadcasting Services (Deemed Digital Radio Licence Areas) Determination 2007.

Last updated: 24 July 2017