4RPH should go digital sign now

I am writing this petition as a member of the board of 4rph Radio for the Print Handicapped Brisbane. This petition in no way represents the views of the entire board of 4rph radio for the print handicapped, however it does represent the views of some members of the board including me.

4RPH has been offered the chance to go digital, as part of a government grant which is being provided by the federal government this year. This is a nation-wide grant to cover installation and some running costs for digital radio for the RPH sector across Australia.

On offer, is a grant of approximately $30,000 to cover the installation of equipment required for digital radio, and a further $2000 for the purchase of an uninterupted power supply to keep the system running.

The 4RPH board, without consulting the membership of the station, have decided not to take up the opportunity of digital radio.

After some consultation from RPH Australia, the board have agreed to reassess their position on 9 June 2010.

It is my belief that the vision-impaired community of Brisbane deserve the right to access 4RPH on digital radio, should they choose to do so, and that people need to be given the opportunity to have their say on the issue, which Is why I have written this partition.

In summary, the reasons for going digital are as follows:

Technical Equipment

all the equipment required to participate is being provided at no cost, including a fibre connection from Telstra;

computer an ancillary equipment that will permit content to be delivered to the transmission facility;

All RPH Brisbane has to do is plug the existing audio feed into the equipment and they're off and running.

The current offer of technical and services entry into this new technology is fully funded and will not be repeated.

Costs

The entire project, is at a no cost to stations point for the next two financial years. During the last year the level of ongoing Australian Government support will
be re-negotiated for a further three year period. If there are costs to be borne by stations from the end of 2011/12, then all stations will reassess their positions.
If the costs exceed any stations ability to bear them then there is an option to discontinue the digital broadcasts at no penalty to the station.

Digital Radio Uptake

As with any new technology, uptake is always relatively slow at first. Digital radio is no exception; just like digital TV, sets were expensive when they first came on the market but have now assumed a normal level. Unlike TV, digital radios future largely lies with the car industry in the short term.

The radio industry is working hard with car manufacturers to have digital radio become part of the standard fixtures in new cars and options to be able
to receive digital radio in existing vehicles. Uptake amongst the general public at home is relatively slow but growing. While it may be perceived that existing listener bases may not be able to afford digital radios this is just a perception, not an actuality. Embracing the digital options available are likely to increase the audience scope and size. RPH Australias own research through McNair indicate this; the majority of listeners are, in fact, print-abled, and have a range of income levels from highest to lowest. The research commissioned by RPH Australia shows that the print disabled audience extends well beyond people who are blind or vision impaired; they in fact make up a minor part of the print disabled population.

Digital Content

There is no obligation to provide new content to the digital service simul casting existing content is fine and will be commonplace with stations in all markets throughout the broad sector. There is no obligation at any time to provide new content to the digital service.

RPH Australia believes that, despite a common level of healthy scepticism that surrounds the implementation of digital radio, that the target audience
should not be denied the opportunity to experience it should they choose to do so.

RPH Australia can arrange for 24/7 provision of content to the Brisbane digital RPH service in compliance with all current ACMA regulations and conformity with current RPH Protocol requirements for RPH content

RPH Australia can provide the content stream without the installation of any equipment whatsoever at RPH Brisbanes premises

RPH Australia can continue to provide the stream until the current digital radio funding period ends

This provides RPH Brisbane and the Brisbane audience with the optimal outcomes in the short to medium term, and retains their option to provide
local content either in whole or part, at almost any time over this first two years of full digital operation.

The reasons for not going digital, provided by our station manager are as follows:

(1) We don't have the human resources to run a second station, or even
part of one, simul casting the rest with 4RPH. The Government won't wear
simulcast transmission forever, and neither they should.

(2) If the Aust. Government ceased funding DR after 2012, or only partially funded it, then we could expect little or no increase in sponsors, or sponsorship from current sponsors, and would have to find most of the increase in costs from current earnings.

(3) We have not the faintest idea how much that will be. The station manager's guess would be $30,000+

(4) We would face considerable odium from listeners who had bought a DR receiver if we started up and subsequently closed down in a couple of years.

(5) As far as RPH is concerned, there is not an unmet need for the service in Brisbane.

(6) The additional maintenance, power bills, and paperwork, is something extra that the station manager could definitely do without, and it will be him that has to deal with all that, and more.

(7) There has never been any demand or public outcry for a superior radio service. In the 8 months since the introduction of DR, it has been met with a big yawn by the public. Around 100,000 receivers have been sold in Australia, which is pathetic. There has been almost nothing about DR in the news. DR doesn't have a greater reception area.
It does sound better than AM, but worse than FM, but since MP3 players are so popular, it is obvious that sound quality just doesn't matter to most listeners anyway. Our older listening audience have poorer hearing than the general population, and won't benefit.

(8) The current AM band is not under any threat of being required by Government for anything else, and would take at least 10 years to phase out anyway. Should the Government decide to phase it out, 4RPH would probably be given a second chance to go digital, although it might cost us a lot more to do so.

(9) Our older listeners, and RPH does have an ageing audience, aren't likely to rush into buying the latest and greatest gadgets like DR. If they already have a service that works, then there will be no need to update. If the analogue TV service wasn't closing down, total migration to digital TV would be a slow process of waiting for TV receivers to fail.
The advantages of digital TV over analogue TV to the viewer are either minor, or not obvious.

(10) it's the station manager's sincere belief that the RPH radio reading service will be utterly obsolete in 20 years, whether we go DR or not. 20 years ago, it was a great idea. Nothing else was available for the vision impaired. Today there are Internet downloads, screen readers, scanners and optical character recognition. 20 years ago, public libraries had very few
audio books - today there are many to borrow. It is just a matter of time before most newspaper and magazine content are available off the Internet, possibly for a price.

(11) How incredibly stupid it would be to split up our listeners to those listening to 4RPH and those listening to Vision Australia Radio. Wouldn't our current sponsors, particularly the religious broadcasters, be so pleased for us to provide an alternate
service for our audience without our religious broadcasts, or even worse, some alternate religion from VAR, for which they would receive the sponsorship, and us the scraps.


Having looked at the reasons from either side, I am in support for digital radio, and support it enough to put this petition online.

Please sign this partition before 9 June 2010 so that I can take it to the meeting on 9 June 2010 where the issue will be decided.

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Trina VegaBy:
Technology and the InternetIn:
Petition target:
Queensland Radio For the Print Handicapped LTD

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