Spectrum for broadcasting

Spectrum radio broadcasting

Community licence allocations, renewals and transfers

The ACMA offers community broadcasting licences for allocation when they are made available in a licence area plan. Licence area plans (LAPs) determine the number and characteristics of the broadcasting services available in particular areas of Australia.

This section of the ACMA website provides detailed information on community broadcasting licence allocations and renewals, including:

Who can apply for a licence

The ACMA may only accept applications from companies that:

  • are formed in Australia or in an external Territory, and
  • represent a community interest.

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 defines a 'company' as including an incorporated association. The ACMA considers an applicant that is an incorporated association or a company limited by guarantee are eligible to apply for a licence. Other types of company (including certain cooperatives and companies limited by shares), while not precluded from applying, are considered by the ACMA to be inappropriate vehicles to hold a community broadcasting licence.

How to apply for a licence

An application may be only made after the ACMA invites applications through advertisements in the print and online media.

Current advertised community radio licence allocations can be viewed here.

Allocation of long-term community broadcasting licences

The ACMA assesses applications for available long-term community radio and community television broadcasting licences on a merit basis.

In deciding whether to allocate a licence to an applicant, the ACMA takes into account:

  • the extent to which the proposed service would meet the existing and future needs of the community within the licence area
  • the nature and diversity of the interests of that community
  • the nature and diversity of other broadcasting services (including national broadcasting services) available within that licence area
  • the capacity of the applicant to provide the proposed service
  • the undesirability of one person being in a position to exercise control of more than one community broadcasting in the same licence area
  • the undesirability of the Commonwealth, state or territory or a political party being in a position to exercise control of a community broadcasting licence.

After the successful applicant has been notified, it is a condition on the licence that the licensee commences providing the service within one year of being allocated the licence or a longer period as notified by the ACMA.

Community broadcasting licences remain in force for five years.

The allocation of community broadcasting licences is made under Part 6 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

The ACMA's list of community radio licensees [PDF] provides information about the licence areas, licensees, community interests and number of licences in Australia.

The ACMA's list of community television licensees [PDF] provides similar information for community television.

Allocation of temporary community broadcasting licences

Before undertaking any merit-based allocation of a long-term licence, ACMA may allocate non-renewable temporary community radio licences to eligible broadcasters for up to 12 months. These temporary community broadcasting licences (TCBLs) provide access to available spectrum ahead of, but without affecting the outcome of, the allocation of long-term broadcasting service licences.

Temporary community broadcasting licences foster the development of community radio by allowing aspiring community broadcasters to develop their operational and programming skills. They also help to build community support for a long-term community broadcasting service.

Generally, the allocation process for TCBLs is not merit based and, where there is more than one valid application for a TCBL on a particular frequency, the ACMA will issue more than one TCBL. The licensees must share broadcasting time on the spectrum according to timing conditions determined by the ACMA.

The allocation of temporary community broadcasting licences is made under Part 6A of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

The ACMA's temporary community broadcasting licence guidelines provide more detailed information about TCBLs and the allocation process. They also include a list of temporary community broadcasting licences and their community interest [PDF].

Trial community television (CTV) licences are currently on issue for Adelaide and Perth.

Trial CTV Broadcaster Contact Details

Adelaide digital Ch 44
C31 Adelaide Ltd
Tel: (08) 8234 6955

Perth digital Ch 44
West TV Ltd
Tel: (08) 9221 5355

Renewal of community broadcasting licences

The ACMA reminds licensees to lodge their community radio licence renewal form - PDF or Word one year before their licence is due to expire.

When a renewal application is received, the ACMA conducts an assessment and investigation of the licence. This may take up to 12 months. The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 was amended in 2002 so that, in deciding whether to renew a licence, the ACMA can take into account the same matters that it took into account when allocating the licence. These are outlined in the Allocation of long-term community broadcasting licences section.

During the period of assessment and investigation, a licensee may be asked to provide an explanation of its answers. If insufficient information has been provided, the ACMA may also ask the licensee for additional material. The assessment and investigation includes a review of the licensee's record of compliance with the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, licence conditions and codes of practice.

The renewal of community broadcasting licences is made under Parts 6 of the Broadcasting Service Act 1992.

Non-renewal reports will be published from 2008-2009. Reasons for non-renewal decisions are published in the table of enforcement actions.

Transfer of licences

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 was amended in 2006 to give the ACMA the power to approve the transfer of community broadcasting licences to another corporate entity.

The following list provides some examples of circumstances when a community broadcasting licensee may wish to transfer a licence. The licensee may:

  • want to merge with another company or council so that it becomes part of a larger corporate entity and in doing so, it loses its original legal status
  • want to operate the service as a different type of legal entity e.g., as an incorporated association rather than as a cooperative or company limited by guarantee
  • wants to hand over the licence to another corporate entity as it does not have the financial capacity to continue broadcasting
  • knows it will or is likely to cease to exist in the future e.g., where the licensee expects to be deregistered.

The ACMA may only approve the transfer of a licence if:

  • the proposed transferee is a company of the sort that would be eligible to be allocated such a licence in the first place
  • it is the type of corporate entity that may apply to be allocated a licence
  • it represents a community interest
  • the ACMA has not decided that the proposed transferee is not a suitable licensee or applicant.

The ACMA's Guidelines to the Transfer of Community Broadcasting Licences [Word] provide more detailed information about the transfer process.

To apply for a transfer, licensees need to download and complete an Application to transfer community broadcasting licence [PDF].

Once an approved transfer has occurred, the person to whom a community broadcasting licence has been transferred must notify the ACMA of the transaction by completing a Notification of transfer of a community broadcasting licence [PDF].

Applications for a transfer of a community broadcasting licence can also be made by a remote Indigenous community broadcasting service. Applicants need to download and complete an Application to transfer a community broadcasting licence by a remote Indigenous community service.

Change of community interest

Community broadcasting licences are subject to the licence condition that the licensee will continue to represent the community interest that it represented at the time when the licence was allocated or was last renewed.

The licence condition recognises that a community broadcasting service should be able to evolve with the community. It also enables the ACMA, when renewing a community broadcasting licence, to consider a request from a licensee that the community interest that it represents has evolved since the licence was allocated or was last renewed.

If a licensee wishes to change its community interest, it must lodge a request to do so at the same time when lodging a licence renewal application. 

A licensee requesting a change should complete the relevant parts of Section 2 of the Application for Renewal of a Community Radio Broadcasting Licence - PDF or Word and include in its submission:

  • how a proposed service with the changed community interest will meet the existing and perceived future needs of the community in the licence area
  • any research or evidence to demonstrate how the community has evolved, or will evolve, over time
  • evidence to demonstrate how the licensee will represent the proposed changed community interest
  • letters of support and any other evidence it has to demonstrate that its members and the general community support the proposed change..

Last updated: 21 August 2017

Most commented

Most read

Back to top