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BRACS revitalisation program

In the nine years since the first BRACS units were installed, the equipment has performed reasonably well, considering the harsh environment of heat and dust that some units were expected to work in.

As most of the installations had suffered neglect, equipment failure and missing equipment, ATSIC decided to make funds available to carry out urgent maintenance and replace damaged or missing equipment. This project became known as the revitalisation program, implemented in 1993, it was planned to run for five years.

Audio mixer
As a direct result of the revitalisation program, TEABBA identified the need for a purpose-built audio mixer for use at the community level. The criteria for such a mixer was that it had to be:

  • robust
  • easily serviced in the field with plug-in modules
  • rack frame size yet have all the features usually found in a broadcast studio mixer.

TEABBA put the proposal to broadcast equipment manufacturer, Rod McCubbin in Melbourne, who agreed with the concept and came up with a working model in early 1994. After some negotiation and discussion a final design was agreed upon and the unit went into production. The mixer has since proved to be very popular with broadcasters in the public and community radio sectors.

The audio mixer featured:

  • unbalanced line inputs
  • balanced and unbalanced outputs
  • headphone sockets for broadcaster and guest
  • monitor amplifier built in
  • off air and program monitoring
  • split cueing for announcers' headphones
  • microphone balanced inputs (2)
  • talk back facilities when coupled to a telephone interface unit.

It was decided to use Radio Corporation of America (RCA) connectors and phone jack connections for all units and outputs for ease of connection to domestic and semi-professional equipment. By 1996 TEABBA had installed over 20 of these units.

Mixer. Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA.
Rear view of mixer
Rear view of mixer close-up. Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA.

Rostered broadcasting
With twelve sites in the Top End having been upgraded by TEABBA, they now have the capacity to contribute regular program into the TEABBA satellite network.

All stations work to a roster, Monday to Friday from 12 noon to 6pm, each station has two hours allocated for broadcasting. The rostering system has to be very flexible, as some broadcasters in communities have ceremony commitments to attend to throughout the year, this can mean being unavailable for weeks or even months at a time.

Maintenance of the network
The ongoing maintenance of this equipment is an issue being addressed by TEABBA. With 28 communities in the Top End, a technician has been employed to coordinate maintenance and installation work.

TEABBA recognises the need for training of selected members of the community to carry out simple fault diagnoses on their equipment to assist in providing an efficient maintenance service. TEABBA also plans to become a base for training Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the technical field.

Typical console upgrade. Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA

Nhulunbuy region
This region has been the most active in their involvement with the TEABBA network. The communities now on line are Galiwinku, Gapuwiyak, Millingimbi, Ramingining, Yirrkala, with two communities on Groote Eylandt, Umbakumba and Angurugu to come online.

Broadcasters in these communities have been long term operators and the most experienced, contributing regular daily programs into the TEABBA network.

One of the most active communities is Gapuwiyak, who are making much progress with both broadcasting and video making, mainly due to the services of the resident anthropologist, Jennifer Deger, who trains local operators in both radio and video production. She is supported by funding from the local council. In the 1996—97 year funds were allocated for a language maintenance project.

Where to from here?
The work does not stop here, there is a lot of upgrading work that has to be completed with community studios, that includes both buildings and equipment. There are also a number of issues that need to be resolved with TEABBA's operation:

  • production facilities need upgrading
  • program line quality needs improving
  • a need for ongoing training for broadcasters and technical people.
  • recognition of the contribution to the National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS)
  • national recognition for the important work being done for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander broadcasting in Australia.

Studio improvements
An eight track digital mixer/recorder for production work has been purchased. This unit will be used in conjunction with a digital audio tape (DAT) recorder for mastering and archiving material. Minidisks are to be installed in the production area, and to replace the aging cartridge players in the main studio. Using minidisk in the studio will enable production and distribution of material for use on the community stations, as they are also moving towards minidisk use. Two domestic machines have been installed in communities on a test basis, they have since proved to be popular with the broadcasters, due to their ease of use.

Program line quality
The quality of program lines from the communities needed to be improved, especially now that program was being fed into the NIRS and other broadcast stations around the country.

Digital technology, using the latest TieLine Codec boxes have achieved this. A bandwidth of up to 10khz is now possible over existing telephone circuits providing a big improvement on the existing sound quality and addressing the enormous costs confronting TEABBA to provide permanent program lines from community stations.

In early 1996, TEABBA secured funds from the National Indigenous Media Association of Australia (NIMAA), to purchase an ISDN Codec and a two port terminal adaptor to upgrade the program link to IMPARJA, from a 10khz landline to ISDN.

This serves a dual purpose, it has allowed TEABBA to drop the 10khz program line to Alice Springs and replace it with a 64kb semi-permanent micro link, which has resulted in line cost savings and has given more flexibility with sourcing programs.

National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS)
The ISDN equipment has also given TEABBA the opportunity to feed program into the NIRS - officially launched in January 1996. The NIRS takes program feeds from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media associations from around Australia, such as TEABBA, the program is routed through an automation system, located in Brisbane, then fed via an ISDN where it is uplinked to the OPTUS B3 satellite, which has a footprint covering Australia.

A new Internet-based service is planned too. It will provide a national news service with coverage and content of interest to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It will be known as the National Indigenous News Service (NINS).

For more information about the Optus satellites:,1450,129,00.html,1450,47,00.html

TEABBA/NIRS network. Courtesy: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA.

click to hear audio
Frank Drirrimbilpilwuy, test transmission from TEABBA studio. Courtesy: TEABBA. 1,851K

TEABBA network expansion
As the network gains support, TEABBA is encouraging more community broadcasters to join the network and be regular contributors of program. This is an important process as it keeps the TEABBA organisation focused on its charter and that is to encourage and promote bush broadcasting.

The role of the Darwin studio is to provide support and backup for community broadcast stations, by providing specialised programs of interest to communities, carry out production work for distribution to the community stations and be an administrative point for their broadcasters.

TEABBA employs a marketer to sell sponsorship on the network and a full time technician, employed mainly to service the BRACS installations and carry out upgrade work.

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