Digital radio regulatory roadmap | ACMA

Digital radio regulatory roadmap

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 commenced in March 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 few 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.

Key Statutory Licensing Steps for Digital Radio

   Responsible party Action Legislation
 1 ACMA Make a digital radio channel plan for the licence area. Section 44A of the Radiocommunications Act 1992
 2 Nationals ABC and SBS are able to apply for a category 3 digital radio multiplex transmitter licence. Section 102E of the Radiocommunications Act 1992
 3 ACMA Declare that a specified digital radio multiplex transmitter licence is to be a ‘foundation’ digital radio multiplex transmitter licence (which provides incumbent broadcasters with the right to jointly apply for a licence). Sections 98C and 98D of the Radiocommunications Act 1992
 4 ACMA Deem relevant community radio broadcasting licence areas to be the same as specified commercial radio broadcasting licence areas (which allows relevant community radio broadcasting licensees to provide digital radio broadcasting services). Section 8AD of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
 5 Community radio broadcasting licensees Establish a digital community radio representative company, which includes giving the ACMA a joint written notice about the company and having the invitation to subscribe for shares in the company published on the ACMA website. Section 9C of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
 6 Commercial radio broadcasting licensees Establish an eligible joint venture company, including having the invitation to subscribe for shares in the company published on the ACMA website. Sections 102C and 102D of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
 7 ACMA

Issue an invitation for digital radio multiplex licence applications.

(This is optional. Joint Venture Companies can apply for the licence without being invited to.)
Subsections 102C(3) and 102D(3) of the Radiocommunications Act 1992
 8 Eligible joint venture company Apply for a digital radio multiplex transmitter licence. Sections 102C and 102D of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
 9 ACMA Issue a digital radio multiplex transmitter licence. Sections 102C and 102D of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
 10 Digital radio multiplex transmitter licensee Give the ACCC an access undertaking that sets out the terms and conditions on which the licensee proposes to provide access to commercial and community broadcasters. Section 118ND of the Radiocommunications Act 1992
 11 ACCC Undertake public consultation and accept or reject access undertakings. Section 118NF of the Radiocommunications Act 1992
 12 ACMA Declare a digital radio start-up day for the licence area. Section 8AC of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992
 13 Digital radio multiplex transmitter licensee Transmit at least one digital commercial or community radio broadcasting service from the start-up day and at all times. Section 109B of the Radiocommunications Act 1992

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.

Planning principles

The principles, based on the planning principles considered by the committee, will assist the ACMA when it makes decisions on planning digital radio services.

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Planning principles for the expansion of digital radio to regional Australia

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Last updated: 13 April 2018