Licence area plans (LAPs) determine the number, category and characteristics of broadcasting services that are to be made available for allocation in particular areas of Australia with the use of the broadcasting services bands (AM and FM radio, and VHF and UHF television channels) - see section 26 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Draft and final LAPs are published in accordance with the priorities determined by the ACMA and contained in Planning Priorities, which was released in September 1993 and is available free from the ACMA.
How to read a licence area plan
A LAP is a legal instrument made up of a determination, schedules, and attachments which set out the licence area and the technical specifications for existing and proposed services.
The members of the ACMA determine licence area plans in accordance with subsection 26(1) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. The determination sets out the type and number of broadcasting services to be made available in an area. Attachments to the Determination set out the geographic area and the characteristics, including technical specifications, of the services that are to be available in that area.
The Schedules to the Determination set out:
- the categories of service, that is, whether it is a national, community, commercial or open narrowcasting radio or television service;
- the service licence number, which uniquely identifies each commercial or community service contained in the LAP (the Act does not require national or open narrowcasting services to have service licences);
- the transmitter specification number/s, which uniquely identifies each transmitter required for proposed and existing services;
- the identifying number of the attachment where the technical specifications for each transmitter are described; and
- the general area served by each transmitter.
The next section of the LAP refers to the geographic area commercial and community broadcasting services will be licensed to serve. The licence area is defined in terms of 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:
- the category of service; general area served;
- associated service licence number, for commercial or community services;
- the specification number: the unique number which specifies each transmitter;
- nominal transmitter site details, including the geographical location and the standard Australian Grid Map Reference;
Note: there is some flexibility to site a transmitter elsewhere than at the nominal site, provided the technical specifications of the service and all relevant technical planning guidelines are complied with.
- 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.
Where decisions made in the LAP require a variation to the frequency allotment plan (FAP) an instrument and a schedule detailing the changes to the FAP will also accompany the LAP.
Responsibilities of licensees
The ACMA has endeavoured to develop technical specifications that have some degree of flexibility built in, that is, the specifications will mostly provide parameters within which the transmitting facility must operate.
It is most important that potential and current service providers read the LAP together with the technical planning guidelines so that they are fully aware of their technical obligations in establishing services. A separate facts sheet about the guidelines and a copy of the guidelines may be obtained from the ACMA.
Once a licence area plan has been determined for a particular area the service must be provided in accordance with the technical specifications contained in the LAP. The technical specifications set out in LAPs are not negotiable after the relevant LAP has been finalised.
Existing and potential service providers should be aware that the allocation of a broadcasting licence does not imply that a transmitter site is available and that the necessary approvals for use of the land have been obtained.
It is the licensee's responsibility to:
- obtain approval from Federal, State/Territory and local government authorities to use a site and 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 the necessary clearances from the air navigation safety authorities; and
- obtain the necessary approval to share broadcasting facilities.