Brisbane DAB+ claims are flawed: Joan Warner

Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner responds to Brad Smart’s recent opinion piece on radioinfo.


Brad Smart’s article, Brisbane’s DAB+ Dilemma, contains a number of unfortunate errors that need to be addressed and greatly overstates the impact of the digital radio overspill on regional broadcasters.

Whilst some fortuitous coverage from Brisbane is unavoidable, extensive field measurements show that the DAB+ signals across the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast licence areas are weak and patchy. The signal strength is generally too low to provide in-building reception.

The claim that DAB+ signals are strong in the south of the Gold Coast towards Coolangatta is incorrect – reception will only be possible with specialised audio equipment, if at all. The coverage in the Sunshine Coast LAP is also very poor, with only patches of coverage, mainly on higher ground and in the overlap area around Caboolture which both the Brisbane and Sunshine Coast broadcasters are entitled to cover. 
In-car reception is inconsistent, and generally requires an external whip antenna.  The reality is, until DAB+ is launched on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, consumer awareness and uptake will remain minimal in these areas.

Brisbane broadcasters are not engaging in any sort of land grab. They have an obligation to fully cover their licence area which with the current restrictions is not possible. That being said, Brisbane broadcasters are aware of the concerns of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast operators and are in constant dialogue with them to find a way forward. Commercial Radio Australia is also working with ACMA and broadcasters to ensure that the rollout of DAB+ addresses the requirements of providing high quality coverage within a licence area while maintaining the integrity of the LAP system.

The good news is that ACMA is undertaking its channel allotment for Queensland, which will address how to improve coverage in Brisbane, as well as allow the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast broadcasters to move forward with their plans to offer DAB+ to their local audiences. As usual commercial broadcasters in all LAPs are working together on issues of importance to the industry and to imply otherwise especially based on flawed information and incorrect assumptions is just plain wrong.