Sunday, 06 November 2016 21:40

Changes to regional AM/FM radio broadcasting contemplated by ACMA Featured

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A proposal to convert AM to FM for commercial radio broadcasting services in regional areas of Australia is under consideration by the communications regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The ACMA has just released a draft of its proposals which, if implemented, would see radio in smaller regional communities soon undergo a major change.

The authority is now seeking public comment on its proposal to revise its approach to considering requests for AM–FM conversion.

The ACMA acting chairman Richard Bean says that previously the ACMA and its predecessors have “only considered AM–FM conversion of commercial radio broadcasting services in very exceptional circumstances”.

‘The ACMA’s revised approach has been developed in response to a request by the Minister for Communications to prioritise planning for AM-FM conversions in certain smaller regional radio markets where reasons to hold back do not apply.

“While there is still an important place for AM transmitters in Australia—for example for the provision of wide coverage services—FM has the potential to deliver a range of benefits including improved audio quality, reduced signal interference and lower costs.”

The peak radio industry body Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) approached the Minister in January 2015 with the proposal to convert AM services to FM in selected regional solus markets – single-licensee markets in which there are no separately-owned FM commercial stations, against which the converted licences might receive an unfair advantage.

And, the ACMA says that a conversion of a commercial radio broadcasting service from AM to FM without additional licence fee arguably delivers “an advantage to the AM licence-owner over any FM radio competitors who may have acquired their FM services commercially or from the ACMA in a previous price-based allocation”.

“However, this is not a consideration in the many small solus radio licence areas in regional Australia where the only two commercial radio broadcasting licences are held by the one licensee,” the ACMA notes.

The proposed revised approach by the ACMA can be accessed in the consultation paper issued by the authority, with comments on the proposal due to be submitted by Friday 2 December.

At the same time the ACMA says it is also consulting on AM-FM conversion proposals in Exmouth, Paraburdoo, Karratha, Tom Price and Port Hedland in Western Australia and in Broken Hill, NSW.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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