CRA: Government, Opposition and Independent MPs and senators today attended a briefing on the rollout of metropolitan digital radio in Canberra with the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, CEOs of Australian commercial radio networks and senior ABC and SBS executives.

Hosted by radio presenters, Tony Squires and Mikey Robins, the event featured a display of digital radio receivers, plus an overview of the technology; benefits for listeners and planning for the regional rollout of digital radio.

Retailers and the commercial radio industry agreed last week on a start date of early April for a three phase digital radio advertising campaign on all commercial radio stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to let listeners know that digital radio is on the way and that, from May, digital radio receivers could be purchased from major retailers in metropolitan areas.
Speaking at today’s event, Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy, said: “The Government is looking forward to the successful switch on of digital radio services in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and will liaise with the industry on planning for regional digital services.”

Also speaking at the event, chief executive officer of Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner said digital radio would provide opportunities for a range of new and additional features to listeners. “With DAB+ enabling additional audio streams plus the use of text, graphics and animation as well as features such as pause and rewind, digital radio will offer exciting enhancements to radio listeners,” Ms Warner said.

She said the switch on of digital radio across the five capital cities was the first step in the conversion of all radio broadcasters across the country to digital radio technology. While metropolitan listeners would be the first to benefit from digital radio technology, the next step was to start planning for the rollout of digital services to regional Australia.

“The industry is committed to ensuring all Australians are able to access this enhanced form of free to air radio broadcasting via digital technology and the first step is ensuring that spectrum is made available across Australia for this purpose. Radio broadcasters want to ensure that allocation of appropriate spectrum is a high priority for the Federal Government and that the allocation of spectrum for digital radio will take precedence over reallocation or sale of spectrum for new services such as wireless internet or mobile telephony and other uses,” said Ms Warner.

Commercial Radio Australia regional members were sent an expression of interest for a regional DAB+ trial at the end of last year. Expressions of interest in the regional trial have come from Bathurst Broadcasters (2BS, Brock FM), Macquarie Southern Cross Broadcasters, Supernetwork, Flow FM, Coastal Broadcasters, Austereo and ARN (Canberra FM), West Coast Radio Pty Ltd (1116 6mm, 97.3 Cost FM) North East Broadcaster Ltd, Rich Rivers Radio and Tab Corp – 2KY. Commercial Radio Australia is awaiting confirmation from the Australian Media and Communication Authority (ACMA) on where suitable spectrum is available for a trial – with two possible areas of interest being Hobart or Townsville.