Australian Music Content on Commercial Radio

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The Source

The objectives of AMPCOM, the Australian Music Performance Committee are, in part:

  • To maximise the exposure of Australian music on commercial radio, having due regard to the availability of broadcast-worthy material and the needs and preferences of the Australian listening public.
  • To monitor the commercial radio industry’s observance of the Australian Music Code of Practice (the Code).[1]

AMPCOM is a voluntary association comprising of representatives of Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), and the Australian Music Publishers’ Association Ltd (AMPAL) represented currently on AMPCOM by delegates from APRA and AMCOS, the Musicians’ Union of Australia and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Representatives of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) may attend committee meetings in the capacity of observers.[2]

The Australian Music Code of Practice

The Code is dated December 2001. As a result, quotas have been adopted by the commercial radio industry, setting out the minimum levels of music performed by Australians which is to be broadcast. The Australian content requirements are based on five categories (A to E) into which all stations fit. There are different music formats under each category with the most popular formats attracting the highest quota:

  • Category A (not less than 25%): Mainstream Rock, Album Orientated Rock, Contemporary Hits, Top 40, Alternative
  • Category B: (≥ 20%): Hot/Mainstream Adult Contemporary, Country, Classic Rock
  • Category C: (≥ 15%): Soft Adult Contemporary, Hits & Memories, Gold — encompassing Classic Hits, News Talk/Sports Talk
  • Category D: (≥ 10%): Oldies, Easy Listening, Easy Gold, Country Gold
  • Category E: (≥ 10%):[3] Nostalgia, Jazz, NAC (Smooth Jazz).

There is a further clause (4.3(b)) that for services within categories A, B and C the broadcast of new Australian performances relative to total Australian performances shall be ≥ 25% for category A, ≥ 20%; for B, and ≥ 15% for C. This is an interesting indicator, as shown in the section on new Australian releases.[4]

Content Returns

These returns form the basis for the statistics in this article, relating to the year ended 30 June, 2012. The music content for each commercial radio station is supplied by Commercial Radio Australia to AMPCOM each half year. These tables contain records of the average proportions of Australian music with respect to the formats and categories within the Code.[5]

The Data

The following sections deal in turn with number of Australian commercial radio stations, Australian music content, compliance with the Code, and new Australian music relative to total music broadcast.

Number of Stations

Alt=Table 1

The majority of commercial radio stations — 201 of 254 or 79% — are located in regional areas, leaving 21% to serve metropolitan areas (Table 1). Leaving the two territories aside, the metropolitan proportion appears (without doing any formal statistical analysis) to be a function of (a) the relative size of the metropolitan to the total state population, (b) the total area of the state, and (c) the distribution of towns and cities across it. Among the six state metropolitan areas, Adelaide has the largest proportion of commercial radio stations in the state (33%), followed by Hobart (25%), Melbourne (24%), and Sydney (19%), Perth (17%), and Brisbane (11%) falling below the national average. Queensland and Western Australia are vast states and Queensland and New South Wales have relatively many large provincial cities which provide significant independent local markets.

No state capital city, however, comes near hosting half or more of the commercial radio stations in its state.
Alt=Box 1
The stations in the large capital cities, of course, have much larger catchment areas than any regional radio station, but it may be a good guess that the competition is fiercer in Sydney, with its 16 metropolitan stations, than in Melbourne with nine.[6]

The territories are another story. Canberra is practically identical with the Australian Capital Territory and its four commercial radio stations by definition serves Canberra. The Northern Territory with two stations in Darwin and two in Alice Springs to the south is a very large area, but community radio is probably the main provider of services to the Indigenous population.

Alt=Chart 1

Chart 1 gives a visual impression of the geographical distribution of the stations, and the dominance of country or regional areas.

The right-hand columns of Table 1 show a complication to the statistics — in certain states the statistical analysis must take note of the fact that some stations with common ownership report the same figures for total Australian content and new Australian content. This applies to 24% of all commercial radio stations but to 66% in Western Australia. In fact, as highlighted in the box below Table 1, all the stations reporting such “bunched’ data are regional. Thirty percent of the total number of regional stations, and 79% (23 of 29) of the Western Australian regional stations belong in groups with identical figures for the two Australian content measures. This implies that the programs are identical in each group which appears to be the case according to spot checks. They still count as individual regional radio stations.

Australian Music Content

Alt=Chart 2
Alt=Table 2

Of the 254 stations in the 2011-12 list, 110 were in Code C (15% quota), 72 in B (20% quota), 49 in A (25% quota), 20 in D (10% quota), and 3 in E (shown as 5% quota in the AMPCOM table). The largest group (C) accounted for 43% of the stations followed by B (28%) and A (19%), leaving about 10% for D and E (Chart 2).

Table 2 shows that there is not full correspondence between the program format (left-hand column) and the code.[7] Of the 49 stations under Code A, the program format of 39 accord with the specifications of the code in the AMPCOM report, but 10 cases of “adult contemporary” and “hot adult contemporary” are also included under A, rather than B where they belong according to the Code of Practice shown in the AMPCOM report. On the other hand, five “contemporary hit” formats and one “mainstream rock” format (formats normally under A) are allocated to B.

The 72 observations for Code B include 66 under formats as listed in the Code, and the six mentioned above normally supposed to be Code A format. On the other hand, 11 of ostensibly B format went to Code C.

Code C includes 10 cases called “Heritage”, which is not in the official Code of Practice for Australian Music as described by AMPCOM, but clearly belongs under C.

Alt=Table 3

The totals for each code in the bottom of Table 2 therefore differ from what would be expected from looking at the program format column. For example, there are 31 cases of “contemporary hits” of which 26 are in the expected Code A and five in B. Looking at the totals of these formats, those appearing most frequently are:

  1. Hot adult contemporary, expected to be Code B, 52 cases, 20.5% of all stations
  2. Gold, incorporating Classic hits, expected to be Code C, 51 cases, 20.1%
  3. Contemporary hits, expected to be Code A, 31 cases, 12.2%
  4. Adult contemporary, expected to be Code B, 29 cases, 11.4%
  5. Hits & memories, expected to be Code C, 21 cases, 8.3%.

These formats accounted for 72.4% of all commercial radio stations (184 of 254).

Table 3 summarises the relationship between actual allocations to each code and what was “expected” from the format descriptions. Code A "gained" 10 from B but "lost" six to B; B "lost" 10 to A and 11 to C but "gained" the six from A. The largest code, C, "gained" 11 from B and one from D but "lost" seven to D and E. Code D "gained" six from C but "lost" two to C and E. The impression is that there is some room for bargaining left for individual stations despite the labels put on their program formats.

Compliance with the Code

395px Alt=Table 4
Alt=Chart 3

The great majority of Australian commercial stations complied with the Australian content code in 2011-12 (all but one for each of Codes B, C and D, and seven in Group A (Table 4)). The corresponding ratios varied from just 1% to 5%, reflecting the size of the total groups (we don't know if the non-reporting station shown as NA complied but the compliance rate for Code C is still very high).

The seven stations, amounting to 14% of total Code A stations, were checked and confirmed from the AMPCOM list — all except one (Hobart) were country stations and they were spread over most Australian states (one each in NSW, SA and WA; two each in Queensland and Tasmania).[8]

Table 4 shows that it is common for stations under Codes B and C, and even under Code D, to have Australian contents far beyond the minimum Australian content set in each code, indeed, most observations for all three codes exceed five percentage points above their respective minimum levels of 20, 15 and 10 percent. On the other hand, it is uncommon for Code A stations to have actual Australian contents beyond 30%.

Chart 3 shows the distribution of Australian music contents reported by each station, regardless of code and whether or not it complied with its code. Mainly due to Codes B and C, there were 97 stations reporting between 25% and less than 30%. B and C contributed 59 of these observations (there was even a lone representative of Code D). In contrast, as noted above there were few stations under Code A reporting 30% Australian content or more. The 25% to <30% group contributed 38% of the total number of stations, the 20% to <25% group contributed 25%, and the 15% to <20% group accounted for 21%.

New Australian Music

Alt=Chart 4
Alt=Table 5

The final findings relate to new Australian music relative to total new music broadcast. Chart 4 summarises the findings. For all commercial radio stations that provided the information (only Codes A, B and C should do so according to the Code of Practice), the average new Australian music content relative to total new Australian releases was close to 40%. For Code A it was 48%, for B an even higher 51%, for C 24%, similar to those stations reporting under Code D (a minority only).

Table 5 provides details. The average for each code and each main program format under each code is shown in the highlighted column. It shows the average for each code that was plotted in Chart 4. The averages are consistently high under Codes A and B — generally over 50% for the main formats (mainstream rock lowest at 42% and the only main format below 50%). This is much above the minimum levels specified in the Code of Practice: 25% for Code A and 20% for Code B. The Code C stations also comply at much above the 15% minimum. For the main individual formats, the average varied between 20% and 31%, the latter for “heritage” which didn’t actually appear in the categorisation in the AMPCOM report.

The reporting rate was at or almost 100% for Codes A and B, and 66% for Code C. Clause 4.3(c) stipulates that CRA may reduce the required proportion of new Australian performances if there is a substantial decrease in the release of such performances. This may explain the lower reporting rate for Code C.


An elaborate system exists for the monitoring of commercial radio stations in Australia, through a committee (AMPCOM) which includes the main interest organisations and provides observer status to the government communications and media watchdog. Compliance with the Australian Code of Practice is generally high in the five codes set up for different program formats, nearly 100% for all except Code A which sets the highest quota, a minimum of 25%, for the most popular formats. Seven of the 49 stations under Code A (14%) fell short of the minimum quota in 2011-12.

Another requirement of the Code of Practice is to provide a minimum percentage of new Australian music compared with total Australian performances. These minimum levels appear to generally well exceeded.

Genres of New Australian Music Recordings contains another set of statistics from the AMPCOM reports, compiled since 2000-01 to support the information on new Australian music collected from the commercial radio stations. It is recommended as a supplement to the present article.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg. Entered on knowledge base 5 June 2013.


  1. The full list of objectives is shown in AMPCOM’s Annual Report 2011-2012, p 3. In the rest of this article, this source will be shown simply as “AMPCOM”.
  2. Verbatim quote from AMPCOM, p 3.
  3. The detailed list of radio stations shows E as ≥ 5%. There are only three stations in the category, of a total of 254)
  4. Certain modifications to this rule are set out in clauses 4.3(c) and 4.3(d), as listed in AMPCOM, p 6.
  5. The individual returns are listed in AMPCOM, pp 8 to 13, and in addition to the half-year monitored statistics show the annual averages used in this article. A new Australian performance is a sound recording of a previously unpublished performance of a musical item performed by an Australian which has been on sale to the Australian public for no more than 12 months since its initial release (based on ARIA records). A new release meets the same conditions for all new releases in Australia. The music does not include music in advertisements, program or station promotions, theme or bridging music. The monitored Australian performance period is the 126 hours per week between the hours of 6 am and 12 midnight.
  6. The populations in the two cities are not dissimilar — in June 2012 Sydney had 4,667,283 inhabitants and Melbourne 4,246,345, well in excess of Brisbane (2,189,878), Perth (1,897,548) and Adelaide (1,277,174).
  7. The left-hand column is called "summary description" rather than "program format" because of certain necessary simplifications to the individual descriptions briefly described in the footnote to Table 2.
  8. The analysis used the average of 2011-12 as the criterion rather than analysing the two half-year groups separately. Inspection of the AMPCOM list revealed that had the first monitoring period been used for the analysis (July-December 2011), two additional stations reported slightly lower than the minimum Australian content set (lower than 25 by a mere .02 and .17). Had the second period been used, three additional stations would have failed the test. These findings are not big enough to have anything like a significant impact on the findings in this article.
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