In September 2016, the Digital Radio Planning Committee discussed a set of principles for the planning of the rollout of digital radio to regional areas. Based on these discussions, the ACMA has adopted a set of planning principles (available below) to be applied in developments to establish regional digital radio services.
The ACMA has been working with the committee to:
- address the regulatory and planning issues that need to be resolved in order to facilitate the regional rollout of digital radio
- identify the priority markets for regional rollouts in the remaining 35 markets.
The immediate task of the ACMA will be to publish formal digital radio channel plans (DRCPs) for the Canberra, Darwin, Hobart and Gold Coast digital services. The licensing of digital radio services will commence on completion of the channel planning.
In the meantime, the ACMA will work with the radio industry to prepare indicative regional allotment plans—which seek to provide indicative spectrum allotments for possible future services across broad regions—with the first to be completed in the first half of 2017, in accordance with the industry-agreed planning principles.
Following publication of these allotment plans, the remaining 35 markets who have expressed interest in offering digital radio will be asked whether they plan to offer digital radio services in a specified window in the next five years. The ACMA will only plan DRCPs for those markets where licensees have indicated a commitment to offer digital radio services.
For each licence area rolling out digital radio, the ACMA, the ACCC and licensees have a number of activities they must undertake, including:
- making a DRCP for a licence area
- declaring foundation digital radio multiplex transmitter licences, which provides incumbent broadcasters with the right to jointly apply for a licence
- ‘deeming’ relevant community broadcasting licence areas
- receiving a joint written notice from ‘designated community broadcasters’ in the licence area that they wish to form a digital radio community radio representative company
- issuing an invitation from the promoters of the digital radio community radio representative company to each of the incumbent digital community radio broadcasting licensees to apply (within no less than 90 days) for shares in the representative company
- establishing an eligible joint venture company comprised of incumbent broadcasters to enable the ACMA to issue the foundation digital radio multiplex transmitter (DRMT) licence(s) without a need to conduct a price-based allocation
- issuing a DRMT licence (from the ACMA) to the eligible joint venture companies upon payment of fees
- accessing undertakings being given by DRMT licensees to the ACCC, which involves a public consultation process. The undertakings are in force once accepted by the ACCC.
- declaring the start-up day.
Digital commercial and community radio broadcasting services may commence (and at least one service must commence) under the DRMT licence from the start-up day.
Want to know more?
- Detailed information about the digital radio framework and licensing is available on the ACMA website.
- Specific information pertaining to a particular licence area will be made available in the relevant DRCP consultation paper.
The principles, based on the planning principles considered by the committee, will assist the ACMA when it makes decisions on planning digital radio services .
Planning principles for the expansion of digital radio to regional Australia
 Commercial radio broadcasters, through their peak body CRA, have nominated 39 potential ‘early mover’ markets where it may be economically feasible to rollout digital radio services within the next five years. Hobart, the Gold Coast and the regularisation of the Canberra and Darwin trial services have been proposed as first movers.