A fast rate-optimal rate allocation algorithm is proposed for parallel transmission of scalable images in multichannel systems. Scalable images are transmitted via fixed-length packets. The proposed algorithm selects a subchannel, as well as a channel code rate for each packet, based on the signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) of the subchannels. The resulting scheme provides unequal error protection of source bits and significant gains are obtained over equal error protection schemes. An application of the proposed algorithm to JPEG2000 transmission shows the advantages of exploiting differences in SNRs between subchannels. Multiplexing of multiple sources is also considered, and additional gains are achieved by exploiting information diversity among the sources.