As well as a broadcast licence, commercial and community broadcasters require a transmitter licence to authorise the operation of one or more specified transmitters. This page discusses transmitter licences for broadcasters.
Are broadcasting service licensees required to hold a transmitter licence?
Under section 102 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act), a transmitter licence is required for anyone holding a broadcasting services bands licence allocated under Part 4 (for commercial licences), or Part 6 (for community licences), or Part 6A (for temporary community broadcasting licences) of the Broadcasting Services Act. These are licences that use the broadcasting services bands - currently MF (AM radio) and VHF (FM radio) and VHF and UHF (television) frequencies - as a means of delivering broadcasting services.
Transmitter licences issued under section 102 remain current while your related service licence is current. Service licences are issued for five years and can be renewed for five year terms. Your transmitter licence duration will be specified to coincide with the expiry date of your service licence and will be renewed when the service licence is renewed.
What conditions apply to section 102 transmitter licences?
Transmitter licences for commercial and community broadcasting service licences are subject to a set of conditions under section 109 of the Act. These conditions include:
complying with the Act
paying any relevant charges and amounts of transmitter licence tax
that the licensee inform anyone it authorises to operate the transmitter of their obligations to comply with the Act and the transmitter licence conditions
operating transmitters in accordance with any relevant technical specifications listed in a licence area plan (LAP) from the Australian Communications Media Authority (the ACMA)
complying with the ACMA's technical planning guidelines (TPGs)
any other conditions specified in the licence.
Effect of a LAP on transmitter licences
A licence area plan determines the technical specifications of broadcasting services in a specific area. These specifications detail emission conditions (frequency, polarisation, maximum antenna height and output radiation pattern) for all transmitters in the area covered by the LAP. Broadcasters must comply with the LAP conditions and specifications when operating transmitters.
Once a licence area plan is prepared, all affected transmitter licences are made subject to the plan specifications. In practice, this makes no difference to pre-existing licensees as long as you continue to operate your transmitters in accordance with existing licence conditions.
If you wish to change your transmitter operations, you will need to apply for a variation to the transmitter licence.
If a licence area plan has capacity for new services, transmitter licences will be issued to holders of new broadcasting service licences.
The relevant technical specifications determined in the licence area plan are NON NEGOTIABLE once the licence area plan has been finalised and compliance with them is an automatic for all transmitter licences. If you have concerns about the proposed technical specifications, you must raise these concerns with the ACMA before the licence area plan is finalised.
Compliance with the Technical Planning Guidelines
The technical planning guidelines (TPGs) came into force on 10 August 1995.
Despite their name, the technical planning guidelines are mandatory and compliance with them is a condition on all transmitter licences issued under section 102 of the Act.
Transmitters licensed before the TPGs came into force are potentially subject to them.
TPGs set down procedures that must be followed and limits that must be observed when you are planning new facilities or altering existing facilities.
The TPGs play a crucial role in the licensing of new transmitters, particularly if you request a site other than the one specified in the licence area plan. The site of a transmitter is a critical technical specification in a LAP. Applying the TPGs may permit some flexibility to locate a transmitter at alternative sites.
Licensing new transmitters under section 102
If you have successfully applied for a broadcasting service licence, you are entitled to a section 102 transmitter licence.Once a service licence has been issued, the transmitter licensing process follows, depending on whether the licensee wishes to use the nominal site or an alternative site.
Operation from the nominal site
You must complete the Form ACMA B12 - Application for a transmitter licence in the broadcasting services bands. You will only need to complete applicant details and your signature.
The technical details normally included by applicants in this form will be identical to those specified in the licence area plan for the corresponding service. The ACMA will append a schedule containing these details to the blank Form ACMA B12.
When you have submitted your application, the ACMA will issue a transmitter licence that specifies the transmitter site. This licence can be used to conduct test transmissions:
The TPGs have procedural guidelines for conducting test transmissions that must be followed.
The start up procedure require you to test for at least seven days before commencing a new service or changing an existing service. This is to confirm that no interference results from the new or changed transmissions.
Upon satisfactory completion of test transmissions, the licence can be used to transmit your service.
Operation from an alternative site
If you wish to operate from a different site, you must comply with the technical planning guidelines procedure for transmitter site changes:
You must apply (using Form ACMA B12) to the ACMA for test transmissions from the proposed site. The application must contain the necessary engineering and interference calculations for the proposed site.
If the ACMA is satisfied with your calculations, it will issue a transmitter licence for the test transmissions under section 100 of the Act.
After the test transmissions you must provide a report of the results.
If the test results demonstrate to the ACMA that your alternative site will not cause interference (and all other technical planning guidelines will be complied with on commencing transmissions from the new site) the ACMA will issue a permanent section 102 transmitter licence listing the actual site of the transmitter.
If you want to make any site variations after the transmitter licence has been issued, the ACMA will consider them provided that you follow the procedures set out under 'operation from an alternative site'.