Change in the Air for Bathurst Radio

Listeners of Bathurst commercial AM radio service 2BS Gold may soon have to change the dial if a proposal by the station is accepted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The proposal would see the station swap its AM frequency to FM, moving from 1503 AM to 95.1 FM.

“FM radio provides improved audio quality for listeners in regional areas and can be more cost-effective to operate than AM radio,” said ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin. “A number of regional commercial radio stations are seeking to convert their services to FM under an industry-led conversion program. ACMA will facilitate a conversion if we are satisfied that audiences in regional areas do not lose important radio services under the proposal.”

‘We now want to hear from the local Bathurst audience their views on the conversion proposal,’ Ms O’Loughlin said

1503 2BS Gold describes itself as “a rarity in Australian Commercial Radio”. The station began broadcasting in Bathurst on the 1st of January, 1937. Since 1969, Bathurst Broadcasters has been locally owned and operated by Ron and Stephanie Camplin. A winner of more than 70 Commercial Radio Awards since 1989, 2BS is an adult contemporary talk radio station covering listeners in Bathurst, Blayney, Oberon and surrounds.

2BS’s supplimentary licence, 99.3 B-Rock FM began broadcasting on the 2nd of December 1996. 2BS and B-Rock have won 65 Commercial Radio Australia Awards since 1989. 

Currently, the 2BS AM service has four FM infill transmitters planned and operating at Blayney, Burraga, Oberon and Sofala. To minimise any potential coverage loss, the licensee proposes to retain these four FM infill transmitters if the service converts to FM. 

The ACMA is proposing a 28-day simulcast period, where both the 2BS AM (on 1503 kHz) and the converted 2BS FM service (on 95.1 MHz) may operate. This period would allow the licensee to undertake a communications strategy on both services to inform listeners of the change to its radio service. It is expected the AM service would shut down at the end of the simulcast period. 

The ACMA says it has formed the preliminary view that the proposal to add new technical specifications to allow for an AM–FM conversion of 2BS Bathurst, in accordance with the AM–FM guidance, is likely to promote the objects of the Broadcasting Services Act. 

In its consultation paper on the frequency move, the ACMA said, “We have considered the predicted coverage and interference potential of the proposed 2BS FM transmitter in the Bathurst RA1 licence area when assessing the proposed AM–FM conversion of the 2BS Bathurst commercial radio broadcasting service. We consider the proposal for the variation of the Bathurst LAP is an economic and efficient use of spectrum.”

Submissions on the Bathurst proposal are due by 8 June, 2018. If the ACMA decides to approve the conversion, the timing of the transition would be up to the broadcaster.