Digital Radio Services Available by 2001

The Government has put in place planning processes which will allow the start up of digital radio services in Australia in 2001, the Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, announced today.

'Digital radio will provide CD quality stereo signals, much better reception than AM or FM radio and ancillary data and text services which complement radio programs. Digital radio receiver prices are expected to fall to the existing prices for AM and FM radios once there is a substantial market,' Senator Alston said.

'Commercial, community and national (ABC and SBS) radio broadcasters will be able to convert to digital, but will be required to transmit their programs in analog mode for a simulcasting period to ensure that listeners are not disadvantaged. There will also be opportunities for new digital commercial radio services, with the number and timing of new entrants to be determined as part of the planning process.

'The Minister will be inviting the Australian Broadcasting Authority, the Australian Communications Authority and industry representatives to participate in a Planning and Steering Committee to develop a comprehensive planning framework which will enable digital radio services to commence transmission in Australia in 2001.

'The Committee, which will be chaired by the Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts, will examine technical planning issues and develop legislative proposals to facilitate the introduction of digital radio services.

'Planning will proceed on the basis that the Eureka 147 system will be used to provide digital services, operating generally in L band spectrum but with consideration of VHF spectrum in regional areas. Existing broadcasters will share a multiplex facility which can provide 5 CD quality radio services.

'The Government is committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes and to ensuring that digital radio meets the needs of urban, rural and remote communities. Other planning options and transmission standards will therefore not be discounted in the planning process.

'Digital radio has the potential to further enhance a thriving radio industry in Australia. The planning processes which have been put in place will ensure that radio listeners receive the benefits of digital technology as soon as possible within a planning framework which maximises involvement by the radio industry.

Media Contact: Terry O'Connor, Minister's office 02 6277 7480 or 0419 636 879

24 March 1998

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