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 2017 the ACMA published formal digital radio channel plans (DRCPs) for the Canberra, Darwin and Hobart digital services. This paved the way for the licensing of digital radio services to commence. The ACMA allocated a foundation category 3 digital radio multiplex transmitter licence to the national broadcasting services, ABC and SBS, for each of Canberra, Darwin and Hobart. The Canberra and Darwin services commenced permanent transmissions in December 2017. The permanent transmissions in Hobart are due to commence by mid-2018.
The ACMA is now inviting applications for a foundation category 1 digital radio multiplex transmitter licence each in Canberra and Darwin. The category 1 licence is for transmitting commercial and community radio services as well as restricted datacasting services. There are a number of planning and licensing steps involved in the permanent licensing of digital radio services in Canberra and Darwin.
In the meantime, the ACMA continues to work with the radio industry to plan for the rollout of digital radio in the remaining regional markets who have expressed interest in offering digital radio 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 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, initially nominated 39 potential ‘early mover’ markets where it may be economically feasible to rollout digital radio services within the next five years. However the industry has since revised this number to 15 markets. Hobart and the regularisation of the Canberra and Darwin trial services have been proposed as first movers.