Radio Murray Bridge Pty Limited
ACN 087 293 605
9 First Street
Murray Bridge SA 5253
Ph: (08) 8532 4455
Fx: (08) 0532 3703
27th March 2006
Mr Gavin Oakes
Sector Analysis and Reporting Section
PO Box Q500
Queen Victoria Building NSW 1230
Dear Mr Oakes
RE: Issues Paper – Investigation into the appropriateness of, and
options for, relaxing programming rules for remote commercial radio
services licences and other categories of commercial radio
This submission is on behalf Radio Murray Bridge Pty Limited which controls the
Commercial Licences 5EZY and 5MU in the Licence Area Murray Bridge RA1.
This submission will deal predominately with our concerns as they relate to the
Remote Central Zone Licensee 8SAT.
We have a long history with the previous and current licensees of the 8SAT
In 1997, discussions were held with the then licensee regarding the sale of the
then predominately satellite delivered service of 8SAT.
Confidentiality agreements signed at the time preclude me from going into
specific detail about those discussions however discussions outside of the specific
proposals put forward may be relevant to the investigation before ACMA.
The service for sale was offered for sums matching those of existing commercial
operators in established regional centres in South Australia and Victoria.
It was also envisaged that a terrestrial network be established to take full
advantage of the proximity of the licence area to more highly populated areas,
but more importantly, areas that already had adequate commercial services
available. This included Melbourne and Adelaide.
It was initially suggested that separate program streams could be developed for
each transmitter location to provide localized programming and in turn maximize
revenue and returns, however on the basis of our discussions, we understood
that this was beyond the scope available to the licensee in so far as localized
programming was not permissible.
This, and the view that the sum of money being sought in a sale was more akin
to a Commercial Radio Service in an urbanized area led us to a decision not to
proceed any further with discussions regarding the sale.
It is our understanding that a sale did eventually take place and that the licences
ended up with the current operator. The details of this transaction are obviously
not known to us.
Fortuitous Coverage & Draft Variation to Remote Central Licence Area Plan
In September 2005 ACMA released a Draft variation to the Radio Licence area
plan for Remote Central and Eastern Australia.
The purpose of this draft variation was to address requests from the Licensees of
8SAT and 4RBL services to make a variety of changes to the technical conditions
under which they operate including increases to maximum effective radiated
power, changes of transmitter sites, frequency changes, changes to antennae
height and radiation patterns.
In a submission dated 30th September 2005, we submitted the variations on the
whole were excessive and would result in unacceptable levels of fortuitous
coverage into neighbouring service areas.
The issues paper released on 2nd march 2006 says the following about fortuitous
“ Overspill of a broadcasting service’s signal into a neighbouring service area
(also known as fortuitous coverage) is a frequent consequence of planning
technical specifications for a service that will enable a licensee to adequately
serve its licence area.
A commercial radio broadcasting service under the Broadcasting Services Act
authorizes the holder to provide a commercial broadcasting service only in the
licence area specified in the licence. Prima facie, a licensee is not authourised to
provide commercial radio broadcasting services outside the licence area of the
licence. However, the Act recognizes that fortuitous reception occurs, and a
licensee is protected from this general prohibition by providing an exception
where provision of a service outside the licence area occurs accidently or as a
necessary result of the provision of the service within the licence area.
Fortuitous coverage is not protected by ACMA when making planning decisions,
and the technical specifications of a service are not planned to ensure adequate
coverage of an area that is outside the licence area for the service”.
In our response to ACMA, we addressed the draft variations to the transmitter
Licences held by the Licensee 8SAT.
As noted above the Act allows for accidental fortuitous coverage or coverage that
is a necessary result of planning of that service.
In its submission, we proposed that some changes would be acceptable which
would be in accordance with the requirement to provide a service to the license
area of 8SAT, but would offer adjacent licencees some protection from fortuitous
coverage. (A Copy of the submission dated 30th September 2005 is attached)
As such, we would like to re-iterate that the proposals in the draft variation
would result in excessive fortuitous coverage, and that that fortuitous coverage
could be argued to be intentional (non accidental) and an unnecessary result of
planning for a provision of a service for that area all of which is beyond the
exceptions granted in the Act.
As at today, we are unaware of the outcome of that investigation and request
that when ACMA considers the proposals in the Issues paper released in 2nd
March 2006, that it take into account the concerns of ours in its response to the
draft variation to the LAP and that it not make any determination until those
issues have been resolved.
The issues paper states that the current proposal arose from the investigation
conducted in 2002 at the request of the minister.
The minister requested that the then ABA “conduct a review of the RCRS
scheme, and in particular whether the provision of commercially viable services is
feasible under the current arrangements, and if not, what changes might be
appropriate to achieve that objective”.
As part of that investigation, the ABA states that they reviewed a large amount
of financial information which is commercial in confidence and not available to
We are somewhat perplexed as to the relevance of this previous investigation to
the current issues paper or the results of that review of the commercial viability
of these services.
When planning services for an area ACMA looks at social diversity and diversity
of services to that area.
It has been argued by a number of commercial operators in the past that a
commercial viability test should also be a consideration when services are
To date such a test has never been a considered part of the planning process.
It is also noted that the current minister has not sought to investigate the
commercial viability of the RCRS but to consider (amongst other things) “the
appropriateness of, and the options for, relaxing the programming rules to
enable and RCRS licensee to provide different services to different parts of its
We would like to confirm and request that no consideration be given to the
commercial viability of the services when weighing up the proposals in the issues
However, if it is the intent of ACMA to consider the commercial viability of the
services in the scope of its investigation, then a qualified effort be made to
explore the opportunities that may arise as a result if the proposed changes are
accepted. This should include an assessment of what and where revenue would
be sourced to support these services. At the same time the commercial viability
of the neighbouring commercial services should be considered and the impact of
any changes to programming and technical specifications of the RCRS service.
Adequacy of Services
The Issues paper highlights the views of the operators that there is a need for
relaxation of the programming rules effectively because the areas covered are
too culturally diverse.
It is not the intent of this submission to prove or disprove that that is the case.
It is our view however, that these areas are adequately covered by a range of
services including those that are already provided by the RCRS providers.
In a number of the townships that fall within the RCRS licence areas there are
anywhere up to three national service broadcasters, one community broadcaster
and quite possibly a number of low power and/or high power open
This would suggest that there is in many cases, an existing outlet for the
community to participate in the shaping of that media.
In particular, the RCRS licensee 8SAT has indicated three townships to which it
desires to localize programming. Namely the townships of Ceduna, Nurioopta
These three townships quite possibly do have a level of cultural diversity,
however they also have a higher level of local services available.
Setting a Precedent
The regulations relating to the restrictive nature of certain classes of
Broadcasting Licenses are well documented.
It would seem that many people who pay small sums for a variety of licences
(Such As Section 40. Narrowcast & Remote Area Licences) understand fully the
restrictive nature of these licences but expect ACMA to change the rules for
Any action on the part of ACMA to approve or recommend the changes sought
will only enhance the perception that the rules are flexible and in all likely hood
RCRS are considered to be Commercial Radio Broadcasting Services.
As such, any latitude granted to RCRS in relation to their requests for autonomy
in deciding the amount of different content that can be aired on different
transmitter licences must be extended to all Commercial Radio Broadcasting
This would naturally include all translator licences held by Commercial Radio
Need for Change
Finally, it is noted in the issues paper that a level of localized programming is
permissible but would likely be restrained to localized news, weather, community
service announcements and commercials.
As such we question the need for any change to the regulations as the outlet for
community participation already exists.
If cultural diversity is a key argument for changing the programming rules, then
we contend that this can already be satisfied by applying the permissible local
content without any change to the regulations.
We are opposed to any changes to the programming limitations for the following
- The previous controller of the 8SAT Licence was actively touting the
opportunities for expansion of these services into neighbouring service
- The current licensee would have been aware of the limitations of this
licence when they took control. Should they not have been aware, then
that is only the fault of their own due diligence.
- We believe that activities of the Licensee in addressing the technical
planning have been to ensure that excessive and deliberate fortuitous
coverage be gained in neighbouring Licence Area’s.
- We believe that the arguments that require ACMA to consider the
commercial viability are invalid.
- We believe that in many areas where the RCRS licensee has transmitter
licences and in particular, the areas where separate programme streams
are desired, there is already adequate diversity of programmes available
to the community.
- We believe that unless any changes are very prescriptive, and even if they
are, then a dangerous precedent is likely to take place.
- We believe that the current allowance for some localized programming is
more than sufficient for the RCRS Licensee to satisfactorily achieve its
Radio Murray Bridge