23 September 2019

Queanbeyan-Palerang ratepayers slugged to tune into local ABC radio

| Alex Rea
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The location of the transmission tower at Mount Cronin.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council carried a motion at its February 27 meeting for the installation of a new transmission tower by a private company at Mount Cronin, just south of the Tallaganda National Park, near Harolds Cross.

The service agreement with N-Com Pty Ltd will cost $24,245 pa.

The Braidwood and Captains Flat area has had very patchy to no reception on the ABC Canberra frequency. The area sits just on the far edge of the broadcast areas for ABC Illawarra, ABC South East and ABC Canberra. Residents have expressed their frustration at this lack of service from the National Broadcaster for many years.

While ABC Canberra has denied that Braidwood is in its broadcast area, it often hosts correspondence from the Braidwood area, reports on the weather, and speaks to a community correspondent weekly.

As the official emergency broadcaster for the area, the lack of service has posed an extra risk during bushfires in often remote areas to the south and north of Braidwood which have had little mobile reception, making streaming impossible. At times, residents have had to sit in their cars to tune in.

Reg O’Connell from Landmark Real Estate Braidwood specialises in rural property sale and says, “the ability to tune into ABC radio will be a big boon to local residents. With many urban people moving out to these more remote places, access to public radio is a necessity. When there is a bushfire, it is a lifeline to the emergency services.”

“In this modern age it is unthinkable that something as basic as access to ABC radio is not available, services such as this are expected by those moving here,” he said.

The landscape south of Braidwood, where there is little mobile reception, no ABC radio and landlines can be out for lengthy periods. Photo: Alex Rea.

The council agenda said:Following representations from residents, Council has been progressing discussions with various organisations to determine options for enhancing the ABC 666 radio signal to the eastern and southern parts of the QPRC local government area.

Council has now been provided with a service agreement with N-Com Pty Ltd to allow the installation of a transmitter on Mt Cronin. The land is owned by the NSW Forestry Corporation and a licence agreement has been developed between those two parties to allow the required infrastructure to be installed.”

Following the Sandy Hills fire in 2013, and Currandooley and Carwoola fires during the 2016-17 summer, the former Palerang Council and QPRC were approached by residents to address this issue. The former Palerang Council was told of legislative barriers to re-broadcasting across the state/territory line.

Council engaged N-Com to undertake a survey and coverage simulation of the ABC radio signal in the eastern parts of the LGA. The report provided by N-Com considered five potential sites for the installation of a transmitter, including Mt Lowden, Mt Cronin, Mt Cowangerong (BOM site), Captains Flat and Mt Gillamatong. The report determined that Mt Cronin or Mt Cowangerong would provide the best result.

N-Com has since been in discussions with the NSW Forestry Corporation to install the required infrastructure on Mt Cronin. As a result, N-Com has presented Council with a service agreement between the two parties for the installation of a transmitter on Mt Cronin that will enhance the ABC radio signal in the eastern and southern areas of the local government area. The service agreement has been reviewed by Council’s Legal and Risk team.

As it is not possible to retransmit an AM signal via AM radio, the ABC re-transmission will occur via an FM signal. QPRC will hold the license for the FM radio service and will pay the application fee and annual license renewal fee.

Agreed service levels are at minimum service availability 95 per cent of the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week other than scheduled downtime (excluding factors beyond service provider control such as weather and faulty connection from ACT tower).

Mayor Tim Overall told Region Media that he had already signed letters to State and Federal Members and Candidates requesting funding for the service.

With an ageing population unlikely to use streaming, residents rejoiced in the news of the Council decision, but should they have to pay for it?

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Coralie Naumann5:47 pm 21 Apr 19

No. People in Braidwood and surrounding villages shouldn’t have to pay for something that is part of a government service.

Question: are any other Councils paying more to listen to ABC radio?

Why did we have to hire a private firm to do the work?

In 2004 there was a tower already up on Mt Cronin, it was a repeater connected to Moruya through to South Coast. In those days we could get quite a good reception from Canberra 666 am.

The Government has an obligation to make ABC radio available to all citizens.

David Cargill8:33 am 08 Mar 19

Will it broadcast the rural programme the country hour?

Coralie Naumann10:27 am 03 Mar 19

28 years of poor to nonexistent, quality, public radio.

We were young in 1990. We complained in 1990, we were ignored in 1990. Actually by 2010 public radio reception, had declined, while cities around us had improved.

Why was that so? Why was such a productive area, completely ignored?

There are no excuses;
Local, State and Federal governments need to take responsibility for this shocking situation.

Public radio is an essential service.

We as a community, shouldn’t have to pay for this essential service.

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