By Gerry Pyne, General Manager, Queensland Remote Aboriginal Media
CAIRNS, Queensland — I started my career as a technical officer with the main telco in Australia in the late 1970s, before completing electronics and electrical engineering qualifications and moving into community radio in Victoria, and then commercial radio in north Queensland. About 20 years ago I oversaw the creation of the National Indigenous Radio Service in Brisbane and since 2010 I have been responsible for setting up and maintaining technical services for the Black Star radio network.
Black Star plays an important role in regional Queensland by distributing local content to 15 stations in the network across North Queensland. We syndicate radio programming and each market receives local news and weather reports, with up-to-date cyclone warnings and community service announcements. In most of these communities we are the only station delivering local content and as a result we are seen as a breath of fresh air.
We stream music updates and other program content from Cairns, Queensland, to a data center in Sydney each day over a WAN. We then use local playout machines running RCS Zetta at each site to deliver locally-branded content at each location. On 16 September we launched Cooktown 96.9FM on the Cape York Peninsula. To celebrate we went on the road to broadcast live from Cooktown at two locations using our new Tieline ViA portable codec.
Announcer Greg Reid (left) interviews local residents in Cooktown.
We were the first Australian broadcaster to receive the new ViA codec and I was very excited to road-test the new unit. The first thing I noticed was how easy it is to setup. The touchscreen menus are so simple to use that you don’t even have to open a manual to get up and running. I tested ViA thoroughly using a Telstra-supplied Huawei E8372h-608 USB modem and it provided very solid streaming over IP.
Our first broadcast with ViA was from outside a local business sponsor, “The Lure Shop,” to promote the new Black Star radio service in Cooktown. Our announcer, Greg Reid, is well known on the cape and he interviewed local personalities throughout the three hour broadcast.
Cooktown is a small town and on most days the cellular network was flooded and can be very unreliable. We decided to use an ADSL IP link which was also pretty slow, but we used Tieline’s low bitrate Music algorithm with automatic jitter buffering and connected very reliably with no packet loss. I was super-impressed by the codec’s performance.
Black Star’s ViA Codec
We were overwhelmed by the response to the broadcast and it was one of the best I have been involved in. The take-up of radio is amazing in Cooktown and everyone seemed to be listening to the show. We had packed school buses stop to greet us, and we had visits from the ranger’s office, council workers and the general public.
With ViA you can literally arrive minutes before a broadcast, set-up the headset mics, check the connection and go live. There’s no need for a truck with loads of equipment anymore. ViA has an internal battery which lasts for several hours and if you are using the 12 V power supply it’s also a great backup if external power is lost. We connected in seconds to a Tieline Commander G3 at our hub studio at Black Star Central in Cairns and used a laptop with Teamviewer to monitor and control our RCS Zetta playout system.
Overall the ViA codec performed perfectly to ensure the broadcasts were a huge success. In the bush you don’t have much choice when it comes to technologies, so the fact that ViA can use cellular, Wi-Fi, and LAN connections delivers the flexibility we require. Black Star looks forward to taking this technology to other communities and adding a new dimension to local broadcasting throughout the network.
For more information about ViA and other Tieline codecs, visit http://www.tieline.com
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Please note: This article was published in the March 2017 issue of Radio World International and you can read this story and others by visiting www.radioworld.com