Whilst I have no doubt switching frequencies is an advantage in Metro areas, the signal strength of 50kW means that AM stations like 3LO have a very large range (far beyond ABCFM). This means that although the ABC has set up local stations in regional locations (eg Ballarat, Gippsland), there are still plenty that want to listen to 3LO. Its a shame that the Ballarat and Waragul ratings for instance do not include 3LO so the magnitude can be better understood (there is a large “other” in each ratings). In response, expect an “ABC is sydney centric” outrage.
I can’t imagine it would be a ‘move’ to FM - but rather a simulcast between AM and FM - at least for quite a while to come.
Though with moves like switching off domestic shortwave they seem less interested in maintaining duplicated coverage.
I can barely receive ABC Radio Ballarat or Bendigo - certainly not as well as the associated commercial stations - but I can always get either ABC Sydney or Adelaide on AM. This might not be hugely important 99.9% of the time, but there being an ABC station you can get even if all of the ones in your area are knocked out by a natural disaster or fault is I think part of the ABC’s role - they don’t get that on FM.
There’s a whole bunch of signs on highways in Victoria telling you to tune to 774am in an emergency - I wouldn’t expect all of those are in the range of the Classic FM transmission.
Either way I hope this is planned out with a view to maintaining coverage - with extra FM infill stations and/or increased power.
ABC Melbourne for example would greatly benefit from a FM simulcast, the AM works well for outer Melbourne and emergency services, but for the CBD and inner suburbs, a FM simulcast would be listenable, especially in the car in the CBD.
You still have the silly situation of ABC Upper Hunter being on both AM and FM in the main parts of the Upper Hunter (Scone through to Singleton along the New England Highway) - 1044 AM and 105.7FM are the exact same.
Just do away with 1044 and have all 3 ABC local radio services on FM.
You could also get rid of Hot Country, tell Bill to jam his 2HD FM translator up his big fat arse and move 2NM and Power FM around on the FM band to clear AM in the Upper Hunter but that’s for another thread.
I think it’s a legacy dating back to WW2 when i suppose there was a fear of transmitters being struck and ensuring back up coverage. Also as you say a backup incase of a natural disaster, although whether having back up coverage is part of their charter i don’t know
Firstly, let me make it clear that I’m not entirely against the idea of having ABC Local Radio on FM in the major metropolitan markets since that service is of more mainstream appeal (certainly if the ratings are anything to go by) than Classic FM!
But if the ABC were to decide that an FM broadcast of Local Radio on FM in major metropolitan markets is the way to go, they probably should still keep the AM broadcast on-air for emergency & coverage reasons. To use Sydney as an example, Prestons (AM) & Gore Hill (FM) are in different ends of the metropolitan area so there’s inevitably going to be some coverage differences. Minor in the grand scheme of things when it comes to covering the primary listening area, maybe. But differences nonetheless!
If the ABC were to completely axe their AM broadcasts of Local Radio in metropolitan areas, I would not be overly surprised if there was some backlash from listeners who neither have streaming as a viable option nor great reception of the FM/DAB+ services.
I suppose the question is what are the ABC trying to achieve here - do they want to overcome FM signal issues in the CBD, or do they think that there’s enough of a mass of FM only devices that they need local radio on FM.
If the former - there are likely frequencies they could identify that could provide a service of similar strength and coverage of Joy 94.9 - covering the inner city and quite a lot of the suburbs, rather than the whole of Melbourne.
It’s hard to see how retaining an ABC AM service could be considered an essential service for emergency situations. How is the AM service any more reliable or accessible than FM? Who has an AM only radio? In some cases the FM service would be more reliable. In all recent Brisbane flood emergencies that I can recall it has always been the AM transmitter that has been in danger of going off air - including backup. The FM service on 105.7 on the Darling Downs was used 2 floods ago to provide an FM version of the AM signal in that emergency and in the most recent flood, listeners were advised to standby in case 612 AM went off the air to tune to Classic FM frequency of 106.1. In addition, many areas, already only receive ABC radio via FM including in cyclone-prone areas e.g. Darwin; it doesn’t seem as if emergency AM transmission was a priority in those cases.
There are other reasons against a band change but I don’t think emergencies can be used as an excuse against FM.
The main argument is for redundant and rural area coverage - high powered AM can reach a much larger range than the ABC’s FM network - it’s not as essential for the areas within the main coverage area, but for those places outside or on the fringes.
For example - if there’s a bushfire that knocks out the mobile network and local radio repeaters in a small town, the ABC station from your nearest capital city is likely to still be receivable, while you may not be in the range of one of the other FM transmissions.
That doesn’t mean it has to be ABC local radio to fulfil that purpose. You could move ABC News to the current ABC Local Radio AM frequencies, but I worry that would then be seen as fat to cut - why have a high power service covering most of the state for broadcasting parliament?
On Black Saturday, the ABC Gippsland 100.7 FM signal went off air (along with TRFM) with the ABC advising listeners to tune to 828AM. So here’s my rule of thumb:
- In floods, the AM transmitters go down (because they are in boggy areas, subject to flood)
- In bushfires, the FM transmitters go down (because they are at the top of heavily wooded mountains)
- In cyclones, they all blow down and we won’t be in Kansas any more!
Its a toss up between NewsRadio and Radio National. Given so many Radio National stations are still AM, I would make that the main AM source. I am sure the ABC could work out how to do state-by-state emergency broadcasting on RN!
It’s role as Australia’s emergency broadcaster is very much still a thing. It was tendered out, which Sky and the ABC ran for, with the ABC obviously winning.
Is that RN’s role though? People expect that service to be on ABC Local Radio.
Just think of all the signs around the country saying turn to the ABC Local Radio frequency.
True but exactly the same can be said for people who currently have crap reception of the AM frequencies in inner city and CBD locations. I know in some instances fringe reception might be marginally better on AM but it’s very marginal IMO, and let’s face it we’re talking about Australia’s major cities not the back of Burke.
For example I headed up to Maryborough from Brisbane yesterday and took particular notice of when 612 4QR started to get scratchy and annoying to listen to and it was well before Classic FM dropped out (past Nambour). By that stage I’m WELL into ABC Local Sunshine Coast territory anyway. The overlap with Gold Coast is even more seamless in terms of Classic FM and ABC Local Gold Coast which is already on FM.
The commercial FM stations are adequately covering our major metro areas are they not?
I understand the argument in some remote areas against FM, but not at all in metro areas.
So people in regional areas that already have ABC Local on FM (and there are many) are more vulnerable in emergencies? Unlike Victoria, in places like Queensland these are also hundreds of km from Brisbane with no hope at all of receiving any ABC on AM.
Some cars like Tesla’s don’t even have an AM radio and it might be surprising how many houses don’t these days either.
Teslas are really city cars and aren’t really designed for rural travel as they don’t have a great range.
Anyhow, for those that only have Local on AM or FM (and not both), which is the majority of us, streaming will be the backup option, preferably via a fully charged mobile device if blackouts are also an issue.
A few points;
(1) The emergency broadcaster role is still very real.
(2) Any radio/TV station can be an emergency broadcaster, you must to sign up and provide a minimum level of service. Sky is an official emergency broadcaster in several states. This doesn’t change or dismiss the ABC’s obligations in this area. As far as I’m aware there has never been a tender for provision of emergency broadcasts.
(3) In rural areas AM provides the wide coverage that’s needed for remote populations.
(4) I don’t think the RN and NewsRadio networks can be isolated on a region by region basis… state by state is not local enough.
That’s true about the mobiles.
I disagree about electric cars though. There are charging stations up the entire East Coast now from Cairns to Melbourne - plenty of Telsa’s out there trust me
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- with FM you can get a low powered service to air relatively quickly if you have the gear and a geni to power it from the roof top of the local studio.
Sky for emergencies, what a joke, the station is littered with tech foul ups almost every hour. They’ve been on air since 1996 and still can’t get it right. Cutting corners will do that.
Agree. Noise floor of QR is on the rise south from Loganholme/Beenleigh.
Again correct, national stations are 9dB stronger than commercial if all run to their ERP spec. Commercial/Community RA1: 12kW. ABC FMs from Mt Coot-tha: 96kW. OD spec for both.
Commercial coverage overspills well up and down the coasts.
Move metro and Newcastle ABC to FM. There’s plenty of remaining wide coverage AM signals for ABC local radio.
FM Illawarra gets into Sydney. 549 will in more remote locations.
2NR, 4QS, 4QB are fine on the fringes to Brisbane.
3WV is designed to back up Melbourne.
5CK is fine in Adelaide.
Plenty of AM powerhouses in WA for coverage.
Remember this is all for if the unthinkable happens and both AM and FM metro sites are out.
You won’t need reception often + if you need these signals, it’s likely the power is out and coverage should be better with reduced EMF.
There are many places in Queensland with no radio reception at all, especially since the NT SW switch off.
They should have one for their emergency kit that EMQ suggests, but many houses won’t.
It may be ok for you, but for emergency planning purposes, this is considered insufficient, battery powered AM receiver is what’s needed. Much less power hungry and doesn’t rely on the mobile network to provide signal.
Sylvia of Gladstone was interviewed last Tues on Steve Austin’s ABC Bris drive show (you can still listen back) about driving around Australia in a Tesla. She made it without her hubby who’d died of Parkinson’s and was accompanied by her girlfriends on different stages, she was able to charge in remote NW WA.
Click on from 40:45