Govt announces digital radio framework

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The Australian Government has released a framework for the introduction of digital radio, with a staged rollout of the technology due to start in metropolitan areas "as soon as practicable".

Helen Coonan, Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, said the government had consulted widely on the proposed introduction of digital radio and that input from stakeholders had been useful in designing a suitable framework.

“As radio is the only mainstream broadcasting platform to remain analogue-only, and with increasing competition from new digital platforms such as the internet and mobile phones, the radio industry needs the certainty to plan and promote the potential benefits of digital radio,” Senator Coonan said.

According to a statement from the Minister's office, the government was also urging broadcasters to begin digital radio trials in regional areas, so technical and other issues could be resolved.

"The Government will then consider what financial support is necessary to expand digital radio services to rural and regional Australians," the statement said.

The digital radio framework would see Australia implementing terrestrial digital radio based upon European Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standards, which the Minister's office said was also known as Eureka 147.

Commercial, national and wide-coverage community broadcasters currently operating in the broadcasting services bands (BSB) in those areas would have the opportunity to participate and would share the available digital spectrum, according to the statement.

Digital radio had the potential to deliver new services to listeners such as record and rewind, streamed text with news and weather updates, play list information and still pictures, the statement said.

“International experience shows that digital radio will supplement existing analogue radio services for a considerable period, and may never be a complete replacement," Coonan said.

“Accordingly, the government’s framework has been built around digital radio being a supplement to existing services in Australia rather a replacement technology, as it is in television.”
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