Changes in the air for Regional Radio?
The days of AM radio in some regional markets may be over. ACMA is pushing ahead with the proposal of AM to FM conversions for commercial services in six single commercial license areas. But the first hurdle will be a public consultation.
“Previously the ACMA and its predecessors have only considered AM–FM conversion of commercial radio broadcasting services in very exceptional circumstances”’said ACMA acting Chairman, Richard Bean. “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 move came after Commercial Radio Australia approached the Commination’s Minister back in early 2015 with the proposal to convert AM services to FM in selected regional solus markets – in which there are no separately-owned FM commercial stations, against which the converted licences might receive an unfair advantage.
Commercial Radio Australia, chief executive officer, Joan Warner said: “These are solus markets with one commercial operator where difficulties with AM transmission have prevented the operator from offering an optimum service. A conversion to FM will address that. Regional broadcasters choosing to convert in some markets see this as an interim step while policy issues are resolved and planning is underway for DAB+ rollout to regional Australia.”
Right now the Australian Communications and Media Authority is seeking public comment on a proposal to revise its approach to considering requests for AM–FM conversion. The proposed revised approach is contained in the A new approach to AM-FM conversions and in-fill transmitters for commercial radio broadcasting services consultation paper.
ACMA 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.