First it was the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia’s AMRAP that was pleading to the government for financial support, finally receiving funding to ensure its survival after the Federal Government initially failed to include it in the 2012 Federal Budget last June.
Now, Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has launched a campaign for a $500 million taxpayer subsidy to roll out digital radio stations across Australia.
The CRA represents the regional radio industry across the nation, and as The Australian reports, has lobbied for regional MPs to add their suppor to their submission for government assistance in establishing a digital radio presence in non-metropolitan areas from next year. The CRA’s appeal to rural MPs for support their proposal came after putting its case to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and opposition counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.
CRA Chief Executive Joan Warner stressed that the funding was necessary in order to extend the regional radio industry, comparing the Government assistance afforded to television operators as an example of similar initiatives gaining the kind of support that the CRA currently lacks.
“The government has provided $1.3 billion to the television operators to support the introduction of digital television,” said Ms Warner. “It is only fair that radio receives the same kind of assistance.”
The Government funding, says Warner, would mainly cover the costs of installing nearly 100 digital multiplex transmitters, and although the CRA bore the costs of establishing transmitters in state and territory capitals, Ms Warner emphasised that the CRA was unable to meet the considerable costs of a similar rollout to rural and regional areas.
[do action=”pullquote”]”The government has provided $1.3 billion to [digital television]… It is only fair that radio receives the same kind of assistance.” – Joan Warner, CRA[/do]
The installation of hundreds more on-channel fill-in transmitters, used to fill in reception black spots, is also necessary.
Fixing interruptions in broadcasting over seven years, the program to eliminate black spots in metropolitan areas is nearing completion and the strength of sales is continuing to grow steadily, with The Australian reporting sales now exceed 1.25 million units.
A small amount of the proposed $500 million would also apply to operational expenses in running the digital station roll out, phasing out over a further nine years.
Digital radio services have blossomed steadily in the last three years during their widespread introduction in metropolitan areas, with the number of stations and programmes available to listeners nearly tripling in that time frame.
Interestingly, the majority of digital spectrum listeners are switching to community radio, with a one-off survey McNair Ingenuity that surfaced during AMRAP’s appeal to be included in the Federal Budget noting that of those surveyed, 1 in 4 Australians preferred the alternative coverage and support coming from digital community radio in contrast to commercial radio.