Digital radio receives $2.2 million boost

By Matthew Henry

CANBERRA: The federal government has commited $2.2 million to ‘take digital radio to the next level’ through the development of a new broadcast coding which will allow for more innovative multimedia services when digital radio is eventually rolled-out in Australia.

The $2.2 million Industry Cooperative Innovation Program (ICIP) grant has been given to Digital Radio Australia (DRA) – the industry body representing commercial radio broadcasters and the ABC and SBS – which will match the government investment dollar-for-dollar.

The DRA will spend the grant conducting a trial of the new AAC+ broadcast coding, which is more spectrum efficient than the current MPEG 1 Layer II format and will enable higher quality and more innovative programming.

"The new capability will allow state-of-the-art digital broadcasting around Australia, offering services such as text, news and weather and multimedia applications," said the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane.

"The introduction of digital broadcast technologies will provide a platform for the radio broadcasting industry to move forward into new areas of delivery, and new products for consumers."

Commercial radio industry peak body, Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), has welcomed the government’s investment in digital radio research and development.

“We’re very pleased to see the government supporting the industry in the critical planning phase for the introduction of digital radio, which will provide Australians with higher quality free to air radio services,” said CRA chief executive officer, Joan Warner.

“Radio is an essential service and an important information and entertainment channel for all Australians, and this grant will help the industry with its planning to take radio to the next exciting stage of its development.”

According to the DRA, the radio industry plans to spend $400 million launching digital radio across Australia from 2009.

“Digital radio is one of the next big opportunities for radio,” said Warner.

“The media landscape is undergoing massive change and radio stations are coming under increased competition not only from our traditional local competitors, but also internationally from a range of new and emerging media and entertainment devices.

“We are adopting a strategic and long term approach to make sure radio continues to take the lead in terms of media innovation, and that we remain relevant and engaging to listeners into the future.”

Digital radio is currently being trialled in Sydney and Melbourne.

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