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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 108

Mr Lindsay asked the Minister representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, in writing, on 18 September 2008:

(1)   Why has ABC NewsRadio not commenced broadcasting in the Townsville region, given engineering surveys (to determine spectrum allocation) were conducted 18 months ago.

(2)   What is the proposed date for ABC NewsRadio to commence broadcasting in Townsville.

Mr Albanese (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —The Minister representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

(1)   The Government is continuing with the extension of ABC NewsRadio services to transmission areas with a population of 10,000 or more, and funding for the third and final stage of the rollout program was confirmed in the 2008-09 Budget. This including funding to allow services for Townsville and Townsville North to proceed. However, spectrum is congested for high power services in the Townsville region and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which is responsible for the planning of these services, was only able to identify two FM channels which, subject to on-air tests to assess potential interference issues, could be considered for the Townsville NewsRadio services. While laboratory testing had suggested that the proposed frequencies could be used without resulting in interference, ACMA considered that on-air test transmissions should be conducted to confirm the usability of the proposed frequencies. The on-air testing of these frequencies required two other services operating in the area at Charters Towers and Bowen to first be relocated to new frequencies. This in turn required changes to be made to the Townsville and Charters Towers Licence Area Plans (LAPs) and such proposals are subject to a public consultation process. Submissions to the public consultation process closed in September 2008 and the matter was subsequently considered by the ACMA Board at its meeting on 20 November 2008. At that meeting ACMA approved the variations to the Townsville and Charters Towers LAPs, enabling the on-air test transmissions to now proceed.

(2)   The ABC anticipates commencing the first phase of test transmissions in Townsville in December 2008. The second phase of test transmissions, which may take several weeks, is expected to be conducted in March or April 2009 once suitable high-power transmission equipment has been installed at the main Townsville site on Mt Stuart. It would be expected that the Townsville NewsRadio services would commence after the conclusion of the second phase of test transmissions, subject to the tests being successful.