New Aus Online Radio Firm Gets Stripes

While the introduction of digital radio in Australia has been further delayed, the country's first mobile radio subscription service has just been launched. For a fee of $7.95 Australian ($6.30) per month, subscribers to the service are enabled to access 30 channels through their 3G mobile phones and computers.

The channels include such genres as Sixties American psychedelic rock, Japanese pop, love songs, hip-hop culture, chill out jazz and the Australian Top 50. Stripe markets itself as the place to find exciting new music - Australian as well as global - with one channel reserved for tracks less than four weeks old. It plans to expand to incorporate news, sports and lifestyle services.

"Stripe Radio will revolutionize radio in Australia the way FM did in the 1980s," its founder, Glenn Wheatley, tells Best known internationally as Melbourne-based manager of high profile acts John Farnham, Delta Goodrem and Little River Band, Wheatley lead a consortium of radio and music executives who introduced FM radio down under.

He expects the new broadcaster to have 40 ad-funded channels by Christmas, and 100 by the end of 2009.

Wheatley intended to introduce Stripe by satellite delivery. "But there wasn't the right satellite in this part of the world," he recounts. "After 12 frustrating months of working out how to launch our own satellite, 3G technology came to Australia. It did the job at less cost and without the need to support a massive structure as XM and Sirius had to do."

A report "2008 Australia - Mobile Communications Statistics, Trends and Forecasts,” released last month by research firm Research and Markets, reported that all four major mobile operators in the country - Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Hutchison - are completing faster 3G network upgrades. Vodafone's network will reach 95% of the population and Hutchison expects to cover 96% during the first half of 2009.

Following the launch on Oct. 2, Stripe is cautiously targeting a subscription base of 20,000 in its first six months.

Its managing director Iain Bartram and head of programming Jarrod Graetz come from traditional radio backgrounds. Wheatley will remain in home detention until Oct. 19 after being found guilty of tax evasion last year.