Sydney finally gets digital radio, but the country areas keep waiting

By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: Digital radio finally switched on in Sydney today. DAB+ broadcasting has been plagued by delays and confusion, so today must represent a rare moment of contentment for CRA chief executive Joan Warner.

After the switch-on date was delayed last year, CRA originally hoped for a 1 May 2009 launch. This date lapsed into June, when media was told at the Pure digital radio launch that widespread switchover, including the vital Austereo channels, was scheduled for 8 June 2009. Today, a week later, Warner announced that a suite of 44 channels are now available for consumers with DAB+ radios.

The delays in Sydney switchover have been attributed to poor weather conditions and power issues.

It’s not all good news for Sydneysiders, however, with Warner admitting that the service will experience interference as kinks in the technology still persist.

“Sydney’s unique topography will mean we will remain in interference at low power for a little longer than in other states so any interruption to service  is not a cause for alarm – but simply part of the technical aspects of the switch-on,” said Warner.

Stations now broadcasting in DAB+ include 2CH, 2UE, 2DAY, TRIPLE M, 2KY, WS-FM, MIX 106.5, 2SM, NOVA, VEGA Radar and Pink Radio. The ABC and SBS DAB+ broadcasts are set to launch on 6 August 2009.

Warner reports that 60 per cent of the population now has access to digital radio broadcasts. As for the remaining 40 per cent, mostly regional Australians, they will have to continue waiting.

“The industry is committed to ensuring all Australians are able to access the enhanced form of free to air radio and we’ve commenced talks with Australian Media and Communications Authority and the Federal Government to plan the rollout of digital radio throughout the rest of Australia,” said Warner.

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