DAB+ in Australia (Issue 14)

Issue 18 austDigital radio celebrates two years on air in Australia with the announcement that more than half a million DAB+ digital radios have been sold and there are nearly 1 million people* (940,000) listening to stations on digital radio.

High power permanent DAB+ digital radio services commenced in the major metropolitan markets of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in August 2009. Low power regional DAB+ trials began in late 2010 in Canberra and Darwin. Up to 20 new DAB+ only stations are on air in each market, offering dance music, comedy, chill out, unsigned new music, sport, country and jazz. In addition, in the past two years, 13 extra short-term “pop-up” or event focused stations have been created including an emergency information station during Australia’s flood and cyclone disasters.

7.6% of listening to radio is now via a DAB+ digital radio device in the five state
metropolitan capitals with Time Spent Listening (TSL) to radio via a DAB+ digital radio device also continuing to grow, reaching 11 hours and 28 minutes. outstripping TSL to radio via the internet which is at 5 hours and 40 minutes.
Commercial Radio Australia chief executive officer, Joan Warner said: “The most recent digital radio sales and listening figures have been achieved in a challenging retail environment and show the commercial radio industry’s ongoing digital radio awareness campaign has been able to cut through.”

There are now more than 100 different models of DAB+ radios on sale in Australia across 800 retail and online stores produced by 30 different receiver

A Facilitative Regulatory Framework

The switch on of digital radio in Australia was a culmination of seven years work with the Federal Government, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), commercial broadcasters, and public broadcasters the ABC and SBS, together with retailers and manufacturers of digital radios to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated switch on of a compelling new way of listening to radio. After extensive negotiation, the Australian Federal Government policy provided:

– 128 kbps of free spectrum for incumbent analogue broadcasters

– No new entrants for six year

– First option for broadcasters to own & operate multiplex

– No restriction on use of spectrum or format

– Financial assistance for regional commercial broadcasters

The outlay for digital infrastructure was funded by the broadcasters who are able to share operating and site costs. At the end of 2010, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy directed the regulator Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to allocate 14MHz VHF Band III for the rollout of digital radio into regional areas.

Technical Solutions

CRA has built the highest powered digital radio transmission system in the world. An On Channel Repeater (OCR) solution was developed to eliminate a small number of black spots and results show significant improvement in in-building reception. A process is now underway to develop an OCR rollout plan for the five launch cities in identified black spot areas that will benefit from a boost to the DAB+ signal. The trial and development of this OCR is a world first and the technology and expertise developed in Australia can be used world-wide.

Two key groups were established early in the planning of the digital radio rollout: the Digital Technical Advisory Committee (DTAC), made up of technical representatives from across public and commercial broadcasters and the Retailer, Broadcaster and Manufacturer Advisory Group – including key retailers, manufacturers and broadcasters in a forum where marketing, advertising, training and broadcaster support was discussed.

Marketing Awareness

The success of any new product is reliant on an effective awareness campaign. Broadcasters in Australia have invested more AUS$25 million dollars on marketing digital radio. It started with a carefully targeted public relations campaign during the lead up to switch on.

The Digital Radio Plus logo and website was launched well before switch on to help establish the brand, and http://www.digitalradioplus.com.au became the information gateway for all digital radio information. At this website the Australian radio listeners can enter their postcode to see if they can receive digital radio in their area and details of where to buy a digital radio. It’s also where they can listen to all the digital stations online. This site also includes training tools for retailers and the latest news on digital radio.

A national listener event called Radio United held in August 2009 heralded the arrival of digital radio with rival breakfast presenters from public and commercial radio stations broadcasting live side by side in central city locations in each of the five metropolitan cities. Thousands of listeners gathered at each site and the arrival of digital radio was broadcast on every commercial and public radio station, reported in all major newspapers and featured on breakfast and prime time television news.

Continued awareness

Research shows that digital radio awareness in Australia is currently at 78% and the industry marketing initiatives continue with:

Digital Radio Plus radio ad campaigns across 42 commercial stations on high rotation – switched to a retail focus around Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas.

– Demonstration kiosks at major retail shopping centers, providing radios for shoppers to try before they buy

– Ambassador program – key radio presenters tell listeners on air about their digital radio listening experience

– Automotive Workshops – four automotive workshops have been held to inform the motor industry of coverage maps, technical testing, new products and progress on the regional rollout

Australia’s drive to increase digital radio listening continues, planning the regional rollout and sharing expertise in population centers outside of Australia in the Asia Pacific to drive the adoption of DAB+.

Joan Warner,
CEO, Commercial Radio Australia


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