Based in Bellingen on the north coast of New South Wales, Radio 2BBB is an Australian regional radio station that is the last remaining source of local news for the area, following the closure of the region’s newspaper. Like many other remote places in Australia, the last few years have been plagued by fires, floods and problems with the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the need for better communication within the territory.
With the goal of community service in mind, Ms Bryony Fearns, a member of Radio 2BBB’s governing board, started to consider the work needed to renovate and improve the station’s facilities so it might become part of the Bellingen Shire Emergency Operations Centre. She and Mr Andrew Walls, the station’s chairman, approached fellow regional broadcaster Tank FM of Kempsey for advice. Located some three hours south of Bellingen, Tank FM’s technical manager, Ross Delaforce, described his station’s experiences over the past few years since it renovated its facilities to improve the service it could provide to that community.
After many meetings, Ross drew up a first draft detailing the scope of work required for Radio 2BBB to upgrade the station to the latest technology. Being an adobe brick building, Ross also identified that using a digital IP network based system would facilitate the overall implementation. AEQ’s local partner in Australia, Broadcast Components was invited to design and quote for the construction of two studios, where the requirements included:
- Simple integration with the ability to grow according to the station’s requirements in future years;
- Improved telephone capabilities ensuring low operating costs;
- Remote broadcasting equipment for easy coverage of outdoor events;
- Implementation of the entire project in stages to allow for training and problem solving prior to handover;
- Close support with integrators and the technology provider; and
- Detailed training plan for all Radio 2BBB staff, including technicians, operators and journalists.
Broadcast Components created an end-to-end transmission solution that exceeded the initial requirements defined, which included rebuilding the studio and upgrading the transmission network with a focus on high capacity, efficiency, audio quality and reliability.
With a plan in place, the City of Bellingen Shire invested in 2BBB Radio as part of the Bellingen Shire Emergency Operations Centre with part of its Local Wildfire Emergency Recovery Fund (BLERF), so that the station is the only regional media centre that will be able to officially communicate information, news and safety alerts throughout the county in real time, especially during severe situations such as floods, wildfires and pandemics.
At the heart of this digital engineered solution is an AEQ FORUM LITE digital mixing console for each studio, along with an AEQ SYSTEL-IP16 IP telephony system. Studios 1 and 2 were replicated to allow easy contribution from both studios and efficient handover. AEQ FORUM LITE offers working profiles to support a wide range of inputs and presenter requirements, as well as one-button voice track capability.
AEQ FORUM LITE is a mixing console designed for ONAIR broadcast control. It incorporates all the basic features required in this type of environment: automatic monitor cut, cough cut, faderstart, signalling control, control signals for the automation of external equipment, external communications management, intercommunication, etc.
They can be equipped with AoIP multi-channel input and output cards compatible with the new AES67 protocol via DANTE technology. Through this connectivity, signals can be picked up and delivered to other consoles, routers, and other input and output terminal equipment from over 300 different manufacturers. It is also possible to choose MADI connectivity, and can be equipped with up to two internal digital telephone hybrids.
The entire Broadcast Components technical team installed, wired and configured the entire new studio 2, while studio 1 continued with programming as normal.
The remote control interface for the supplied mixing desks has enabled the technical team to provide training and support to less confident hosts from home and significantly reduced signal interruptions due to operational problems.
AEQ products feature Dante audio-over-IP technology, which offers dual ports with no single point of failure, including network infrastructure. Additionally, we provide dual power supplies in AEQ equipment and UPS technology for power management and risk mitigation. With the idea of reusing as much of the station’s ancillary equipment as possible, an AEQ NETBOX interface was set up allowing any analogue equipment in the production space to be incorporated into the broadcast chain in moments via IP.
Likewise the existing transmission chain features the main 93.3MHz transmitter (via an 850MHz analogue STL link) and an off-air relay on 107.3MHz. To provide signal continuity, Broadcast Components implemented an IP codec back-up so that there is no single point of failure for FM transmission and the secondary frequency is not dependent on the main frequency. This AEQ VENUS codec network can transmit a replica of the station’s content, or in a catastrophic situation (where the station is down and inaccessible) and AEQ TALENT can remotely transmit directly to the transmitter.
Finally, with all the equipment to be installed clear, the assembly and configuration work already in place, the human side remained, to ensure that these new resources were used in the most appropriate way possible. So the training courses were organised in two versions, technician and presenter, where Kye Ruigrok and Vanessa Nugent helped with the additional training of the presenters.
This recent technological upgrade represents the biggest renovation in the life of Radio 2BBB since it was built and launched in 1983. The entire project has been led by the technical services of Broadcast Components, AEQ’s local partner in the country, in coordination with AEQ Madrid’s commissioning staff working with a remote connection to the equipment thanks to the Internet.