ACT News


Federal budget 2017: Funding boost to bring digital radio to Canberra

Canberra's community radio stations have welcomed news of a funding boost in this year's federal budget, which would deliver a roll out of digital radio in the area.

The federal government announced that $3.9 million would be spent expanding digital radio in Canberra, as well as Darwin, Hobart and the Gold Coast.

The funding is part of $6.1 million that will be spent during the next two years in the sector, which will also include upgrades to infrastructure.

Acting manager of 2XX Adrian Gibbs said the funding would allow for Canberra community stations to be put on a similar level to their metro counterparts.

"Without the funding there would be no chance of this happening, so it's welcome in terms of the roll out [of digital radio] to regional centres," he said.

"It's quite an expensive undertaking normally."


While digital radio was launched in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in 2009, Canberra's commercial stations as well as ABC and SBS took part in a trial in 2010, which finished in 2016.

The ABC announced in December last year it would make its digital radio stations permanent in the ACT in 2017.

Mr Gibbs said while the trial of digital radio was no longer happening in the area, he expected the number of people using the service to dramatically increase.

"There isn't a tremendous penetration of digital radio at the moment, but they're being increasingly installed into cars, and it's happening more and more," he said.

"The metro stations already have it, and any participation from [stations] in regional areas and smaller capitals was dependent on ongoing funding."

Art Sound FM president Richard Scherer has also welcomed the move.

"We're slated to get full digital radio service in the next 12 months, and this will certainly help the community stations to meet the cost incurred," he said.

However, despite the funding announcement, not all radio stations are confident their services will be upgraded to digital.

Over the border in Queanbeyan, QBN FM station manager Ron Parkinson said it was unlikely the community station's technology would be upgraded to the digital radio technology.

"The money isn't funding the radio stations, it's funding the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia to improve the digital services," he said.

"Whatever money that's allocated, a proportion of the money that goes to Canberra will only get to one station."

The association's chief executive Jon Bisset said work was underway to determine which stations will broadcast a digital signal.

"The decision of who becomes a licensed community broadcaster and who can broadcast the digital signal is made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority," he said.

"The future of radio is digital. I suppose you can look at it the same as TV. TV is digital around the county and radio is heading in that direction."