Where’s the papparazzi with top shelf eavesdropping equipment when you need
them? Because the Who’s Who and the Who’s That of commercial radio are in
Canberra for four days this week for talks with the government on the delicate
subject of digital radio.
The big guns of metro radio are there: Austereo, DMG, Australian Radio Network,
Southern Cross Broadcasting and Macquarie Radio. We’ve also got self-styled
regional gurus Macquarie Regional Radioworks, Capital Radio Network and Grant
Broadcasters, among others.
Surprisingly, though, there’s one name not on the list and that’s Radio 2/World
Audio Limited, led by Andrew Thompson. Why wouldn’t he be there? The company
has pretty much staked its whole future on digital radio by buying transmitters
from Broadcast Australia that nobody else wanted, to establish its national
digital network in regional Australia. And it has raked up a loss of $43
million doing it.
Radio 2 must get adequate, permanent access to the digital spectrum. But I don’t
believe the mainstream commercial radio industry will go for that. More likely,
they’re lobbying furiously in Canberra right now to convince the government to
firstly open up digital spectrum, and secondly to deny full access to limited
licence holders like Radio 2.
And they’ve probably got the ABA on their side. Fred Gengaroli, the ABA’s
acting director of planning, is on record as saying the ABA never intended
limited licence holders to have the reach of the other stations, and that these
sorts of stations might receive lesser licences with less bandwidth on
digital. Which doesn’t really solve Radio 2’s current problems, which include
dodgy reception and limited reach. It’s not going to be a real alternative for
regional listeners if that’s the case.