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Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Page: 155

Senator Webber asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 29 March 2006:

(1)   What is the timeline for the planned roll-out of ABC News Radio to regional Australia.

(2)   What is the proposed order in which areas will gain access to news radio services.

(3)   What is the proposed cost of this roll-out.

(4)   Can the Minister provide a time frame in which all areas of Australia will have access to news radio services.

Senator Coonan (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   The Government has committed to extending NewsRadio to all transmission areas with a population of 10,000 people or more, subject to the availability of suitable spectrum capacity. No timetable is presently available for the rollout of these services. The ABC and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts have identified a total of 72 transmission areas that satisfy the population extension criterion. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) expects to complete its analysis of spectrum availability in these areas by the end of 2006. The ABC has sought funding for a proposed first phase of rollout involving a number of NewsRadio extensions or enhancements whose associated spectrum planning ACMA has completed. The Government is currently considering this proposal.

(2)   The rollout order of the NewsRadio extensions and enhancements will be a matter for the ABC.

(3)   The cost of the proposed NewsRadio rollout is not known at this stage because the ABC cannot complete the associated contracting processes until ACMA planning reveals the total number of extensions and enhancements that can proceed and their associated technical specifications (for example, whether an AM or FM frequency has been assigned and the proposed level of transmission power) which may have a direct bearing on individual service costs.

(4)   Not at this stage. Please refer to my response to part (1).