ACCC clears the way for digital radio broadcasts

Final access arrangements set for digital radio, ACMA to pick start-up date

Digital radio is set for widespread launch by 1 July 2009

Digital radio is set for widespread launch by 1 July 2009

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has finalised access arrangements for digital radio, clearing the way for wide scale DAB+ broadcasts to begin.

"Access arrangements" refer to how commercial and community radio stations access the digital radio transmission services that are coordinated by the eight multiplex licence holders (a licence to operate a multiplex transmitter, which is necessary for the broadcast of digital radio). The licence holders are in turn operated by digital joint venture companies (JVC), which are predominately controlled by commercial radio broadcasters.

The start-up date for digital radio broadcasts can now be set by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Digital radio services must begin transmission in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth by 1 July.

The ACCC faced opposition over its original access arrangements from Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), a body that represents Australia's commercial broadcasters.

"The ACCC made its final decision to reject the CRA-submitted access undertakings and begin consultation on ACCC-modified access undertakings on 18 March 2009", said the ACCC in a statement.

According to Joan Warner, CEO of CRA, the decision to treat each individual community radio station as separate entity rather than group them under an umbrella organisation may cause long-term complications for the multiplex license holders.

"The requirement to invoice community stations separately, rather than one invoice to the community representative company [which would be a representative body for the community stations]. This has the potential to impose a heavy administrative burden on the JVCs — especially if the community stations are time sharing or changing access frequently", Warner told GoodGearGuide.com.au.

"If it proves to be too onerous in practice we may go back to the ACCC; it's a matter of wait and see", she said.

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