ACCC release: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will consult on a proposed access arrangement for the transmission service necessary for digital radio services, which are due to begin in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney no later than 1 July 2009.

ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel said "As the radio industry begins its move to digital, it is important that all broadcasters can access the digital radio transmission service on fair and reasonable terms. This requirement will lead to the best outcome for consumers in terms of the range and quality of these services."

The ACCC will consult on an access undertaking that will determine the terms and conditions on which the multiplex transmission licensees will provide the service to radio broadcasters. The licensees will be responsible for multiplexing together the separate streams of content from individual broadcasters and transmitting a combined stream to end users in each licence area.

Under the legislation the Australian Communications and Media Authority is required to allocate eight digital radio multiplex licences to joint venture companies for the provision of services to commercial and community broadcasters. Each multiplex licensee must provide the ACCC with an undertaking specifying the terms and conditions on which it will provide access to broadcasters. It is only after the undertaking has been accepted by the ACCC that ACMA can determine that digital radio services may begin in that area.

The eight multiplex licensees submitted their access undertakings to the ACCC on 3 October 2008, and they were considered against the decision-making criteria set
out in the Digital Radio Multiplex Transmitter Licences (Decision-Making Criteria) Determination 2008. After extensive consultation however, the ACCC has concluded that the submitted undertakings did not fully meet the requirements.

"The ACCC acknowledges the time and effort that Commercial Radio Australia has put into developing the undertakings on behalf of the multiplex licensees, and that it has been willing to suggest changes to the submitted undertakings to address some of the ACCC's concerns," Mr Samuel said.

The undertaking proposed by the ACCC is based heavily on those previously submitted by the multiplex licensees. An important element of the undertaking is that it provides fair and reasonable terms to all access seekers, including the many community broadcasters that play an important role in the quality and diversity of radio broadcasting.

"The proposed undertaking also adopts a number of the recommendations made by the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia," Mr Samuel said.
"It is very important that community broadcasters have access to this service. However, the access regime cannot in itself address all the issues associated with the capacity of community broadcasters to participate in digital radio services. In particular, the ACCC has concluded that the access arrangements should not

allow broadcasters to 'opt out' of any back-up transmission sites; or
set the terms and conditions upon which any electronic program guide (EPG) services are provided."