For those waiting with bated breath for digital radio to start, the industry announced today that the national ‘switch-on’ will take place on 1 May 2009, following a resolution of infrastructure issues relating to the rollout of transmission equipment.

Commercial Radio Australia and ABC Radio believe the introduction of digital radio in Australia will be successful depending on an integrated rollout with both public and commercial broadcasters switching on simultaneously in the five mainland capital cities.

“Given we have timeline infrastructure issues in a number of the launch cities and after consultation with the commercial sector, the industry has made a united decision to officially launch digital radio to listeners on 1 May 2009 in all markets,” says Sue Howard, director of ABC Radio.

Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, maintains that the digital radio rollout in Australia was planned from the onset to be released nation-wide, with the first five markets in the capital cities to be launched simultaneously.

Warner says the timeline issues had arisen as a result of collaborative work being done on a second draft of the Digital Radio Channel Plans (DRCPs) developed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which won’t be finalised until December 2008.

“The infrastructure build of an entirely new broadcast technology is a complex one. We are committed to ensuring that we get it right from day one. Transmission networks last a very long time,” Warner says.

“In addition, the radio industry is briefing all stakeholders on the new brand and logo for digital radio on Thursday 11 September in Sydney and on Friday 12 September in Melbourne.”

Free to air digital radio will potentially allow broadcasters to provide additional audio channels, superior quality sound, pause and rewind facilities, plus a new visual aspect to radio with the introduction of scrolling news, sport and weather text and the ability to transmit a picture of a radio host or band, the cover of a CD or an animated logo on screen.

For marketers, the release of digital radio will create new challenges and force the industry to re-evaluate how to reach consumers through this medium. This is radio 2.0 people – thinking caps on!