Temporary Community Broadcasting Licences criticised in ACMA submissions

The Commercial Radio sector has criticised the Community Broadcasting sector in its submission to the ACMA’s Future of Radio consultation, for the overuse of temporary licences (TCBLs).

The community broadcasting sector says it is an ACMA resource issue.

In its submission, CRA says:

The commercial radio sector has long-standing concerns regarding the community radio sector. These concerns include… the ACMA’s repeated renewals of Temporary Community Broadcasting Licences (TCBLs) which allow community broadcasters to circumvent the planning and consultation requirements embedded in the BSA for longer term licences.

The ACMA’s temporary licence scheme has been in place since 1997 under Part 6A of the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA). The scheme aims to give aspirant broadcasters the opportunity to develop skills before merit-based allocation of planned long-term community broadcasting licences.

Section 92G(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Services Act specifies that TCBLs “are allocated for a maximum of 12 months and cannot be renewed. However, a temporary licence holder can apply for a further temporary licence and it may be allocated if the spectrum is planned, it is not about to be allocated for long-term use or, if the spectrum is unplanned, it is not needed for an alternative use.”

The Commercial sector does not object to the short-term use of TCBLs, as originally contemplated under the BSA, but it “strongly opposes” the repeated re-granting of TBCLs to provide, “in effect, long term licences to broadcast.”

CRA also opposes the use of TCBLs to extend the footprint of an established long-term licensee, “while circumventing the planning and consultation mechanisms embedded in the BSA for longer term licences.”

CRA says the TCBL licence allocation process “does not incorporate any process under which commercial radio stations are able to complain or comment” on the granting of the licence.

Responding to the criticism, the CBAA’s CEO Jon Bissett has told radioinfo that the community sector would also prefer the certainty of long term licences, rather than TCBLs, but that the ACMA does not currently have enough resources to speed up the assessment of temporary licences.

As originally contemplated under the Broadcasting Services Act, temporary community broadcasting licences (TCBLs) are intended to allow new community broadcasters to build skills and capacity before applying for a merit-based long-term community licence – something the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia supports.
We know in many of these situations temporary licensed broadcasters would meet the criteria to become permanently licensed stations but unfortunately ACMA doesn’t have resources to undertake the necessary planning.
We’re very supportive of calls to increase ACMA’s resource allocation in relation to both spectrum and service planning for free-to-air radio services, which would then allow those community broadcasters with TCBLs to apply for a merit-based long-term community licence more quickly.

CRA’s submission outlines three main reasons for objecting to the long term use of TCBLs:

  1. the ACMA is not able to judge whether spectrum is needed for an alternative use unless it has conducted a wider consultation with other spectrum users;
  2. consideration should be given to the effect of the TCBL on existing planned commercial services in the area, to ensure that such services – who have paid significant sums of money for their licences – are not adversely affected; and
  3. such allocations on a long term basis threaten to undermine the spectrum planning processes that underpin the ACMA’s spectrum management function.

Bill Caralis’ Super Radio Network also made a submission to the ACMA consultation expressing similar concerns, saying some community radio services, especially TCBLs, “seem to be  issued without consideration of the impact on other services in the area.”


We contacted the ACMA for a comment on its ability to process TCBLs more quickly. This was the reply from an ACMA spokesperson:

The submissions to the Future Delivery of Radio issue papers have provided the ACMA with a range of views about the various technologies that can support terrestrial radio delivery.  From the ACMA’s perspective there has been very useful engagement from across the industry. 
The ACMA is currently analysing the submissions received. We anticipate completing our work by the end of 2019.
Authority Member James Cameron will be giving an update on the Future Delivery of Radio Project at the CBAA conference in Melbourne on Friday 25 October.




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