- 1Open for comment29 Apr 2021
- 2Consultation closed21 Jun 2021
- 3Submissions published09 Aug 2021
- 4Outcome published14 Sep 2022
We recently consulted on options for replanning FM frequencies in the Perth RA1 licence area to:
- make better use of the FM band
- enable additional high-power/wide-coverage FM frequencies to be made available in Perth.
The replanning is intended to address requests from the ABC and 2 commercial AM broadcasters. They sought improvements to service quality after issues with the soil conductivity, geography of the area and impulse noise from electric rail and powerlines.
In the options paper found above, we identified up to 5 additional high-power/wide-coverage frequencies that could be used to:
- convert existing radio services from AM to FM
- allocate new commercial, national or community radio broadcasting services
- allocate open narrowcasting radio services.
However, to achieve this outcome, some existing FM services in Perth would need to change frequency.
We received 17 submissions to the options paper. You can access these at the bottom of this page. There were different views in the submissions, as the options proposed will have a big impact on radio broadcasting industry.
Option 1 for the conversion of the national ABC AM services and 2 commercial AM services in Perth to FM received the most support. However, these conversions were opposed by the existing FM commercial radio broadcasters because of the potential impact on their services.
We have considered the submissions and issues raised by the submitters. We've formed the view that Option 1 best promotes the objects of section 3 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA), as follows:
- Promotes diverse range of services (paragraph 3(1)(a)):
- Greater fidelity of FM allows a wider range of potential formats than AM.
- Facilitates development of an industry that is efficient, competitive and responsive to audience needs (paragraph 3(1)(b)):
- Will assist the industry to manage the slow decline in AM audiences.
- Compared to AM, FM provides improved outcomes for listeners in terms of better fidelity, better interference immunity, and ability to provide formats that audiences seek.
- Switching AM off provides savings for broadcasters, for example, energy costs, site rentals, opportunity cost of land, tower maintenance.
- Promotes economic and efficient use of spectrum by maximising use of FM spectrum available in Perth and taking into account section 23 of the BSA, especially:
- Relevant demographics and social and economic characteristics (paragraphs 23(a) and (b)).
- The number of existing broadcasting services and demand for new services (paragraph 23(c)).
- The technical restraints relating to the delivery or reception of broadcasting services in the licence area (paragraph 23(e)).
We believe the potential benefits of Option 1 could be better realised if it were progressed in stages:
- Plan for conversion of the national ABC AM services.
- Plan for conversion of the commercial AM services if the concerns of commercial FM services have been resolved.
This 2-stage approach would improve service quality for audiences of the national ABC AM services. There would also be less impact on existing commercial FM services.
At this time, we consider the concerns raised by commercial FM licensees suggest that Option 1 would create uncertainty in the commercial radio industry in Perth, and would not facilitate its development as an industry that is efficient, competitive and responsive to audience needs (paragraph 3(1)(b) of the BSA).
The approach allows for conversion of the commercial AM services at a later stage if the commercial radio broadcasting licensees can reach an agreement. Circumstances may also change so that conversion becomes warranted even without this agreement.
We will work with the commercial AM services licensees to develop interim solutions to improve their reception without affecting other broadcasters. This will be subject to the limited FM spectrum availability in Perth.
The ABC would be responsible for mitigating the potential impact on other radio broadcasting services affected by the conversion of its national ABC AM services. Concerns about the impact on the community broadcasters affected by conversions were raised by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. We won't progress the conversion requests until these matters are resolved to the satisfaction of the affected licensees.
As there are only 5 FM frequencies available in Perth for conversions, it is not possible to convert all services. This means some services will be left on AM. This includes 6RPH, which provides a valuable service for the local blind, low-vision and print-disabled communities, and 2 high-power open narrowcasting (HPON) services.
We intend to include a proposal to consult on a variation to the Perth radio licence area plan in the forward workplan in the five-year spectrum outlook so we can:
- Consider whether, and how, to give effect to the national ABC AM conversions.
- Consider requests from commercial AM services to improve their coverage (subject to spectrum availability).
- Progress other outstanding requests for changes to that licence area plan, not related to AM to FM conversions, which will be detailed in the forward work plan.
We will monitor implementation of Option 1, and if there is no material progress, we will revisit planning options for the Perth market in 3 years.
Previous consultation: The issue
For many years, the full use of FM broadcasting services band in Perth has been constrained by the presence of VHF Band II analog TV on channels 3 and 5 in Bunbury.
These channels have not been used for television since the switchover to digital TV in 2013, creating an opportunity to make additional high-power/wide-coverage FM frequencies available in Perth.
UPDATE: On page 8, in the Engineering analysis outcomes section, the second bullet point under the 102.5 MHz: high-power 100 kW omni-directional FM service heading has been amended to now read (change indicated in bold):
- The Perth 6SEN community 101.7 MHz service needs to relocate from its current Ardross site to a new site at Bickley and increase ERP from 8 kW to 16 kW.