Licence area plans: an overview | ACMA

Licence area plans: an overview

Licence area plans (LAPs) govern how broadcasting services bands - AM and FM radio, and VHF and UHF television channels – can be used in different parts of Australia. This page explains what LAPs are and how to interpret them.

Draft and final LAPs are created by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) and are available for free from the ACMA.

Structure of a licence area plan

A LAP is a legal instrument made up of a determination, schedules, and attachments. It sets out a licence area and technical specifications for any existing and proposed broadcasting services.

The ACMA can determine a licence area plan in accordance with subsection 26(1) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act). The Determination sets out the type and number of broadcasting services available in an area.

The Attachments to the Determination details the geographic area and the characteristics of the services available in that area, including technical specifications.

The Schedules to the Determination set out:

  • the service category - whether it is a national, community, commercial or open narrowcasting radio or television service
  • the service licence number to uniquely identify each commercial or community service contained in the LAP (the Act does not require national or open narrowcasting services to have service licences)
  • transmitter specification number/s to uniquely identify each transmitter required for proposed and existing services
  • the general area served by each transmitter.

The next section of the LAP defines the geographic area that broadcasting services will be licensed to serve, using the most recently published census data collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The final section of the LAP contains the characteristics and technical specifications for the existing and proposed services and includes the following details:

  • associated service licence number, for commercial or community services
  • the specification number - the unique number which specifies each transmitter
  • emission details, including the broadcasting services band and mode of transmission, the assigned frequency, the signal polarisation, and the height of the transmitting antenna
  • output radiation pattern, which refers to the compass directions in which transmissions are emitted and the maximum effective radiated power (or, in the case of AM services, the cymomotive force) to be transmitted in each direction. the output radiation pattern for AM services also includes the angle of elevation from the ground of the radiated signal.
  • nominal transmitter site details, including the geographical location and the standard Australian Grid Map Reference.

If an LAP requires a variation to the frequency allotment plan (FAP), the LAP will also contain a schedule detailing the changes to the FAP.

Responsibilities of licensees

If you are a potential or current service provider, you must read both the LAP and the technical planning guidelines so you are fully aware of your technical obligations in establishing services. You may find this facts sheet about the guidelines useful.

Once an LAP has been determined for a particular area, your service must be provided in accordance with the technical specifications contained in the LAP. Technical specifications set out in LAPs are not negotiable after a LAP has been finalised.

The ACMA has aimed to develop technical specifications that have built-in flexibility. That is, the specifications will mostly provide operating parameters for your transmitters.

Transmission sites

Being allocated a broadcasting licence does not imply a transmitter site is available and the necessary approvals for use of the land have been obtained.

It is your responsibility as a licensee to:

  • obtain approval from Federal, State/Territory and local government authorities to erect and operate a transmitting facility at a particular site
  • comply with any environmental restrictions
  • ensure the transmitting equipment does not present a hazard to air navigation and to obtain any necessary clearances from the air navigation safety authorities
  • obtain the necessary approval to share broadcasting facilities.

Note: there is some flexibility to place a transmitter elsewhere than at the nominal site, provided the technical specifications of the service and all relevant technical planning guidelines are complied with.

Last updated: 15 August 2016