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Top End Aboriginal Bush Broadcasting Association (TEABBA)

Establishment of TEABBA
Following the rapid establishment of BRACS sites in communities, it was becoming apparent to some members of Top End communities, that there was a need for the establishment of a local body to represent the interests of the community broadcasters. To satisfy this need, the TEABBA association was formed.

The inaugural meeting was held at Kakadu in 1989. From that meeting, a committee and membership was set up with representation from all the Top End communities. The new association secured temporary office and studio space in a building on the Batchelor College campus, 100km south of Darwin.

Radio Rum Jungle
It was here that TEABBA took on the call sign of Radio Rum Jungle (after the old uranium mine nearby at Rum Jungle). The new organisation was funded by a grant from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission (ATSIC) and continues to receive funding from this body.

TEABBA became the local broadcaster for the Batchelor township area and also served as a training base for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students attending the Diploma in Broadcast and Journalism and the BRACS Certificate course at Batchelor College.

Studio equipment was supplied and installed by the ABC for the use of both Batchelor College and TEABBA and consisted of a twelve channel stereo broadcast mixer, cartridge player and recorder, reel tape recorders, turntables, cassette player/recorders, CD players and a telephone interface unit for talkback programs.

Studio equipment
Studio equipment. Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA.

However time was running out for TEABBA to remain in the building at Batchelor. Due to expansion at the college, they were desperate for room and TEABBA was asked to seek alternative accommodation. This situation forced a decision by the Board to move the operation to Darwin as it was felt that it would give organisations better access to facilities and the services now provided to the communities. The move was completed in June 1994.

TEABBA radio, Darwi
TEABBA radio, Darwin. Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA
TEABBA radio studio
TEABBA radio studio. Photo: Evan Wyatt. Courtesy: TEABBA.

After the move, TEABBA secured access to a spare mono audio channel on the Central Australian Aboriginal television service (IMPARJA) satellite transponder. An Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) semi-permanent link carries the program from the Darwin studio to IMPARJA. This connection realised early plans for a radio network, with a distinctive Top End sound from the bush, as opposed to the programs broadcast to the communities at that time by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA).

Satellite channel
With their own satellite channel, the next step was to connect the BRACS studios into that network. This posed a major problem, as Telstra could not provide circuits in the communities for a 10khz broadcast line, and if they could, the rental costs would have been prohibitive.

TEABBA were left with only one choice for the program line, use standard dial up telephone lines connected to telephone interface units at both ends. When a telephone call was established, the line would be routed through the TEABBA studio to the IMPARJA satellite transponder for delivery to communities for re-broadcasting.

TEABBA's role
TEABBA's program is a mix of news, music and chat in Aboriginal languages and some English, reaching an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audience of approximately 17 000 people. It is different from a normal broadcast station in that it does not have a licensed broadcast transmitter, that is, it is a retransmission broadcast hub for the isolated Top End BRACS communication network.

click to hear audio
Tony Binalay, TEABBA radio announcer. Courtesy: TEABBA
mp2 file 1,601k

TEABBA's role is a service provider to the community broadcast stations and to manage the hub that connects either the Darwin studio or any of these community studios, into the ISDN program link feeding the IMPARJA satellite uplink at Alice Springs. The network program is then delivered by satellite, back to those 28 communities for rebroadcast on low powered FM transmitters.

TEABBA network
TEABBA network. Courtesy: TEABBA

TEABBA network unique

The TEABBA network is unique in that it is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander radio network hub, its broadcasters and control is based in the bush, it has a diversity of language groups, and the program content must observe cultural protocols at both community and national level. This TEABBA model has shown the way for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media groups, on how to set up and operate a bush based radio satellite network.

TEABBA has an exciting future, with more communities due to come on to the network, we also see our future role as a broadcast technical training base and a training provider for community broadcasters. (Wyatt, 1996)

Draw a diagram to illustrate the role of TEABBA as manager of the hub that connects the Darwin or community studios to Alice Springs into the ISDN program link.

Visit the Media report link below and scroll down to the section where Evan Wyatt is interviewed. It will give you a good idea about why TEABBA is so different.

Media report

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