Monday 17 August 2015

Digital Radio Will Not Replace FM in Australia

DAB+ proposed to be supplementary to analogue platforms
In the Department of Communications report the conclusion is that Australia should not replace AM/FM with DAB+ but rather focus on analogue platforms and make DAB+ as a supplementary alternative. There is no clear picture of the future for digital terrestrial radio.
The cost and complexity of rolling out DAB plus-based digital terrestrial radio services across regional Australia present major challenges for the industry according to the report. The need to cover large geographic areas with small and dispersed populations offers unique challenges which have not been faced in many international markets.

At the same time, Australians are rapidly adopting new types of technology with the growth of online audio platforms such as Spotify and Pandora. These services are complementing the move by traditional radio businesses—most notably the national broadcasters—to deliver radio services online or through mobile apps. 

The announcement by Apple of a move into the streamed audio market will only increase the choices available to audiences.  These services may herald a generational change in listening habits with significant implications for traditional platforms over time. That said, there are ongoing challenges with the bandwidth and data transmission requirements of these services being delivered to large audiences over mobile and wireless platforms.

The report recommends that the Government should not set a timetable for analogue radio switch off at this time. Also that the Government should consider allowing broadcasters themselves to choose the mode(s) in which they deliver their radio services.

Broadcasting organizations Commercial Radio Australia and Community Broadcasting Association of Australia support the conclusions in the report.

Australia now joins Sweden rejecting any FM switch-off. Still Norway is the only country in the world with a set FM switch-off timetable (2017).