About licence areas | ACMA

About licence areas

A licence area is a designated geographical area of Australia that is determined in a Licence Area Plan (LAP). This page describes licence areas, how they are defined and how to interpret them.

Licence areas define where a commercial or community broadcaster, or a service licensed under s40 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act), is authorised to operate. The number and type of services in a licence area are defined in a Licence Area Plan (LAP).

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Licence areas and the Australian Census

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) uses areas defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for the Australian Census to define licence areas.

The smallest unit of area defined by the ABS is a Collection District (CD) - nominally the area that can be covered by one Census Collector on Census Night.

The ABS varies census areas boundaries in response to population changes and the changing needs of Census data consumers. The Act requires the ACMA to determine the population entitled to be served by commercial licensees as soon as possible after each Census. The Act does not require the ACMA to determine the population entitled to be served by other broadcasting licence categories such as community services.

Identifying licence areas

Licence areas have two identifiers:

Area ID – A unique numeric code in the ACMA's databases. In correspondence concerning licence areas, use the Area ID to unambiguously identify a particular Licence Area.

Name – Text describing geographic and/or licence type, followed by a class of service code or classifier. Some classifiers include a numeral allowing for multiple (up to 9) licence areas covering a particular geographic area but varying in specific boundaries, possibly due to variation in service coverage resulting from different transmission parameters (e.g. ERP, frequency).

The current standardised classifiers are:

  • RAx (where x is 1 - 9) for radio services

  • TVx (where x is 1 - 9) for television services

  • S40 for services licensed under Section 40 of the BSA

  • DCx (where x is 1 - 9) for datacasting services.

Licence area information

There are currently five different types of information available for a licence area:

  • the list of ABS CDs that make up the Licence Area Definition (a comma separated value (CSV) format text file)

  • the Licence Area Description - the names of ABS Statistical Districts and Local Government Areas within the area (HTML page)

  • a geographic map of the Licence Area (PDF)

  • a spatial dataset for use in GIS software (ZIP archive containing ESRI Shapefile format data files)

  • a Google Earth Placemark (.KMZ) file viewable in Google Earth.

This information is available for all active licence areas.

The Section 30 Schedule contains licence area population and overlap information for commercial services.

Licence area information is also available on the Licensed Community Broadcasting Services index.

Conditions of use

Licence area information published by the ACMA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. If you use this material, there are certain obligations you must fulfil, detailed in Attributing ACMA material released under the Creative Commons Licence framework. A disclaimer applies to Licence Area information.

Viewing and using licence area boundary data

Due to accuracy limitations in the acquisition and/or presentation of spatial data, there are always discrepancies between licence area boundaries and other spatial data sources such as satellite imagery or GIS topographic data.

The ACMA's licence area boundary data is directly derived from Census boundary data published by the ABS. The licence area boundaries available from the ACMA in Shapefile format are intended for use in GIS applications and maintain the same accuracy standards as the ABS Census data.

Google Earth Placemark files of licence area boundaries have been cartographically generalised to optimise their usability in Google Earth. As a consequence, compared to the reference boundary data available in Shapefile format, the positional accuracy of Placemark depicted boundaries is degraded. The ACMA has limited the degradation so that, in software that correctly displays both Shapefile and Placemark data, the discrepancy between the two boundaries for most licence areas will not exceed 5 metres. Please note that the descriptive text included with each Placemark file contains a statement of the maximum discrepancy for the particular boundary.

If you use licence area data, be aware of issues related to coordinate systems. Placemark data will always use the WGS84 datum. The ACMA's shapefile data may use either the AGD66 datum or the GDA94 datum. Not all software that can process shapefile data will correctly identify the datum. Coordinate discrepancies of several hundred metres may result from incorrect datum selection.

Further information about datums is available from the Geoscience Australia website.

Last updated: 19 September 2016