Am To Fm Conversions In Solo Markets


#1

As we have discussed this in many different threads let’s follow it under its own topic.

ACMA has given AM stations in Solo markets where they have an existing Fm service the opportunity to convert their existing AM service to FM.

Some of the pending applications for Fm conversion are for…

Armidale - 2AD
Bathurst - 2BS
Cooma - 2XL
Goulburn - 2GN
Lithgow -2LT
Nowra - 2ST
Tamworth - 2TM

How will ACMA find available frequencies to allow these conversions to take place for Lithgow, Bathurst, and Nowra where frequencies are very sparse?

Will The open narrowcasters (Sky Sports Radio) in Goulburn, Cooma / Monaro, Bathurst and Nowra, be forced by ACMA to give up their FM frequencies and move to the vacated AM frequency?

What frequency would be used in Lithgow for 2LT.

For 2ST Nowra I believe going to Knights Hill on 103.7mhz would be the best option for them. They would need a highly directional antenna to keep overspill out of the Wollongong and Bowral markets, and then direct 50kW at Nowra and the South Coast. This would then allow them to close their south Coast translator services such as Ulladulla, and Jervis Bay, and free up these frequencies. Alternatively ACMA may licence 2ST to Camberwarra lookout with the same specs as Sky Sports Radio (1kW to the north, 10KW towards Nowra) which would not cover Kiama like Knights Hill does.

All thoughts are welcome.


#2

Personally, I would use 91.7 MHz for 2ST from Knights Hill, which they currently use for its Jervis Bay translator. Since the latter would no longer be required after the station’s AM to FM conversion, that frequency can quite easily be reallocated for a full-power FM licence for 2ST. Also, it would be a better frequency to use than 103.7 MHz, which is used by 2NUR Newcastle.

Apparently, the Licence Area Plan for Bathurst & Northern Tasmania markets should be released soon, which will determine the FM frequencies for 2BS, 7BU, 7AD & 7SD. In fact, when the three Northern Tasmania commercial AM stations convert to FM, Tasmania would become the first state in Australia to have all its commercial radio stations on FM.


#3

All of its commercial stations which are on air.

Queenstown is a solus market, there’s 7XS and 7AUS. Because maintenance of the AM 837 stick was not kept up, when it fell over, Steve Adermann got the FM TX equipment together and shifted the program to FM (the FM having never operated). Essentially a conversion in itself.

Reading ACMA website, Camerons have applied for Queenstown which is humourous as there’s no second commercial on air.

Full list is here:

https://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Broadcast/Spectrum-for-broadcasting/Licence-area-plans/am-fm-conversions-and-infill-transmitters-for-commercial-radio-broadcasters

Lismore is another trouble spot, I feel without shifting community services, it may never happen.

Biggest among penny pinching owners, Caralis and Camerons/Blyton.


#4

I agree with @TV-Expert that 91.7 is the most logical option for 2ST, from Knights Hill.

A possible option for Lithgow…104.7 ??

Most of the other markets listed as pending I think will probably see a straight swap with SKY Sports Radio

I agree with @crankymedia that Lismore could be problematic… my thoughts are:

  • 2LM to go to 100.1 (possibly with a null towards Boonah to protect 4RIM).
    They could then switch off the Kyogle repeater on 104.3
  • 2BAY Byron Bay to move from 99.9 to 104.3

#5

II don’t know if 104.7 would work as Triple M can be received quite well in the eastern parts of the licence area (Blackheath through to the eastern parts of Lithgow)

2LT could go to 89.7 and be on the same frequency as 2RES, and swap frequency with Sky Sports Lithgow, and have the same specs as Move fm (10KW towards Lithgow and 1KW towards Bathurst) from Mt Lambie.

It will be messy in Sydney with co-channel interference between the two outside of the 2RES / Lithgow licence areas. If ACMA allocates it, it will be based on their experience of using 107.9 as a TCL in Sydney.


#6

That could work, 2RES could have a slight frequency change to 89.5 if needs be.


#7

Yeah Lismore is tricky - if not for the flea powered ABC relay in Bonalbo (is that even on air?) 91.3 would be a sensible choice for the area as there’s not too much nearby to cause trouble (JJJ Coffs aside). 100.1 makes sense from a local spacing point of view but gee it’s close to Boonah, probably too close for a high power coming from the stick on Mt Nardi


#8

Definitely too close to Boonah; I was picking up 4RIM quite well from Dorrigo on Saturday afternoon.

89.5 MHz would be a sensible option for 2LT imo. The TAB- now occupying 89.7- would have to convert to 900 kHz first of course. An ERP restriction of 1 kW or less towards Bathurst would be required to prevent overspill and to protect 89.3 MHz Blayney.

91.3 MHz Bonalbo is on air; it can be received on the Mount Lindesay Highway west of Kyogle.


#9

When 2BS converts to FM, the 89.3 Blayney translator would no longer be required, along with the 88.1 Burraga, 90.1 Sofala & 105.5 Oberon translators.


#10

Bathurst FM conversion - must be on a high powered freq with specs same as B Rock.

Lithgow - do you realise the s.39 FM licence on 107.9 is a compromised freq? When the licence was allocated to FM 95.3, specs were better, coverage better. ACMA should investigate how to return to such specs and allocate accordingly for both licences. Somewhere on this forum, I relayed my thoughts on this from reception when staying overlooking the Hartley Valley from Mt Victoria.

Lismore - these straight swaps with Sky/HPONs are not a good use of spectrum. The AM stick is therefore still in use, costly maintenance continues. Same sham going ahead in Warrnambool with Vision/RPH taking over from 3YB.

Agree, Bonalbo ABC is on air. It has to be on air, look at the topography, another ridge of mountains between Bonalbo and Mt Nardi before Kyogle, reception into that valley, esp up that far the valley. Reception of the Mt Nardi national services is not great in Kyogle due to the poor takeoff towards Mt Nardi (west facing slopes just east of the town, hence TV translator). AM from Lawrence, AM 738 is not great in Kyogle, worse in Bonalbo.

What 2LM needs is a high powered freq with specs of ZZZ. It would be good if it wasn’t co-channeled with the Wide Bay national services, ZZZ struggles on north facing slopes north of Mt Nardi, especially so on summer days when ducting etc is happening. Definitely reduces coverage within the licence area. Could be a move of the community station on 92.9 or a Jowitt station from adjoining licence areas. So many of the freqs in the 100’s are co-channeled with Southern or Darling Downs national services, it would be limited by interference, not good.

The quasi FM conversion, 4WK Toowoomba FM 95.5 is sounding great in Toowoomba, good coverage. However, their promos and other pre recorded production material is out of date, with references to AM 1359 still airing. Embarrassing.


#11

What this also does is limit the ability for ACMA to award future licences to allow competition in some of these markets (with no direction on the rollout of regional digital radio) - the radio bands in the New England/North West are already clogged with the same homogeneous crap that Caralis pumps out (particularly on weekends and at nights)


#12

Moving 91.3 Bonalbo then or 92.9 sounds like the better plan for 2LM then, it should at least be easier to find a new home for one of those lower-powered services. You could also look at shifting Rebel Mt Tamborine and using 99.3 but that would still have the issue co-channeling with Mt Goonaneman that you’ve highlighted, so it’s not a great win (although it would be closer to ZZZ on 100.9)

Would strongly hope they don’t try to co-channel it with Darling/Southern Downs services, they’re too strong in that part of the world. The GC community stations on 105.7 and 107.3 have significant issues at times with their ABC counterparts coming in over the top, would hate to see that happen to a 2LM FM service


#13

Agreed. It would struggle on north facing slopes within the coverage area, as FM 94.5 does, especially north of Mt Nardi due to Sunshine Coast Newsradio.

Caralis will be firm most likely that specs and coverage be equal to that of 2ZZZ.


#14

The licences for both are still active though. Once approved, the people of Queenstown will again be able to enjoy the 2 different stations they deserve.

I found this submission from the Camerons which raises some points:

  1. There is the potential that they won’t be allowed to convert Devonport and Burnie given that there is now a greater than 30% overlap between the two. (Which also means that they can’t be sold together, and they would have to offload 2 of the 4 stations when they change directors).

  2. The Burnie AM tower needs replacing sooner rather than later. They’re hoping to get this processed quickly so that they don’t have to replace the AM tower.

  3. They have raised the questions of being able to convert to FM and also continue using the AM frequency as a translator in some areas - giving them the coverage that only AM can provide, which also giving the larger population areas FM quality. They haven’t specified which areas (I suspect it will be their SA stations which are currently listed for conversion) but their is provision for the ACMA to grant this. From the ACMA link posted by crankymedia:


#15

I think it’s a bit too close to 102.7, which is used by ABC Northern Tasmania for its Launceston CBD translator, operating at an ERP of 200 watts.

The other possible best FM frequency for 7AD would be 94.9, as there’s nothing transmitting on either side (ie. 94.7 & 95.1) within earshot. As for 7BU in Burnie, the best frequencies would be either 98.5 or 99.3, whilst for 7SD in Scottsdale, the best would be 95.7.

According to this ACMA document from October on page 43, Warrnambool (3YB) & Mandurah (6MM) RA1s will be finalised in the first quarter (January-March) of the new year, whilst consulation for Bathurst (2BS), Lithgow (2LT) & Tasmania (7AD, 7BU, 7SD & 7XS) will occur during the first half of the new year.


#16

That will be interesting.


#17

Like East Devonport uses 100.5 for ABC Radio While Launceston City uses 100.3 for LAFM.


#18

They’re both relatively low-powered services compared to 107.7 Sea FM Devonport, in which 100.5 ABC Northern Tasmania in East Devonport operates at an ERP of 1.2kW, whilst 100.3 LAFM in Launceston City operates at an ERP of 200 watts. By contrast, Sea FM Devonport’s maximum ERP is 7kW, so it’s strongly assumed that 7AD’s main FM service will operate at the same ERP as Sea FM.


#19

Spirit Radio in Port Hedland will be converting to FM this Friday (22nd December), moving from 1026 kHz to 94.1 MHz. It will be the first commercial AM station to do so under the current AM-FM conversion for solus markets program.

Source: North West Telegraph, 6th December 2017


#20

Changes may be in the air for radio in Mandurah and Warrnambool

Three radio stations in Mandurah, Western Australia and Warrnambool, Victoria could soon swap between and AM and FM frequencies, in proposals released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

‘FM radio provides improved audio quality for listeners in regional areas,’ said ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin.
‘Some regional commercial radio stations are seeking to move services to FM from AM where possible. The ACMA is charged with facilitating these moves while ensuring that audiences in regional areas do not lose important radio services’.

‘It is also up to each broadcaster to decide when they make the transition.’

In Mandurah, 6MM would convert to FM. In Warrnambool, 3YB would convert to FM. This will involve a frequency swap with 3RPH, a talk radio service for the print handicapped, operating in the area. Once the exchange is complete, 3YB will broadcast on FM and 3RPH will broadcast on AM. AM frequencies are considered more suitable for talk radio services and the conversion to AM radio will increase 3RPH’s reception area.

The ACMA is seeking comments on these industry-led proposals. Submissions are due by 15 February 2018. More information about AM-FM conversion is available here.