Breaking news: TR20 location and Guest of Honour announced

Technorama TR20 will be held at the Oaks Toowoomba Hotel, a boutique location with over 130 guest rooms and a large modern conference centre.   Although the complex doesn’t open until 18 April, we’ve visited it several times – it’s exciting, and the rooms are more impressive than at any TR conference location to date.

You can check out the room details on the Oaks website, but don’t book yet:  there are plenty of rooms and we will have a special code available to get you a special TR20 rate.

Today we’re also announcing that the TR20 Special Guest of Honour is Stephen Dunifer, founder of Free Radio Berkeley.  Stephen led the establishment of the micropower FM movement in the US.   Today, Stephen Dunifer designs and builds FM transmitters aimed at the low-power market (under 600W – the US has a different idea of what “low power” and “micro power” means), and regularly runs classes to teach communities how to get on air.  If you’d like a taste of his products, check here.

Registration for TR20 has been held back, pending the final negotiations for our venue.   We expect online TR20 registration to open this weekend, and if you’re on our mailing list we’ll send you an email as soon as registration is unleashed.

Not sure if you’re on the mailing list?   If you’re a member, then you are.  If you’re not a member, don’t forget that members get a $15 discount on registration and you can join online.  But if that doesn’t suit, just fill in the form on the home-page to be added to our general information list.

 

Be a pioneer with the Sector’s first ever full Technology Survey

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Technorama is looking for your help.  In over 40 years nobody has attempted a comprehensive analysis of what technology is in use at stations, so Technorama has taken on the task. Welcome to the inaugural national survey on technologies used by the community media sector.   How to get started is at the end of this story.

As at May 2019 there are over 461 licensed community stations in Australia, with 104 of these new to the last decade.   That increases the need to understand the range technologies that are used in stations across the country.

Whether you’re involved in the management or operations side of community radio broadcasting, or are the person who deals with studio technology first hand: your knowledge and assistance will improve the overall picture of how well equipped the community media sector is in the country.

John Maizels, President of Technorama, said “It’s tragic that nobody has done a survey like this in the past.   We’ve been running on guesswork for the longest time.  The Technorama survey will help everyone from stations to peak-bodies to get a validated view of what’s being used, and therefore what might be needed.

Information you provide will be used in many ways.  It will inform and guide Technorama, support decisions on training options for the Community Media Training Organisation; help guide the Community Broadcasting Foundation’s grantmaking processes and provide the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia with valuable information on how the sector uses technology.

Photo by William Iven on UnsplashYour input to the survey may also guide other stations like yours in their technology choices, helping them to make good selections and avoid poor selections, bolster grant applications and assist their technical staff in formulating their budgets and equipment replacement strategies.

We’d like you to be honest, and we won’t publish any identifying information or criticise your opinion in any way.

Chris Deacon, Technorama Board member and Survey Coordinator said “We’re asking everyone to take a bit of time to give us the best picture they can.  That might be a lot of detail, or a high level view, but every bit helps.  The more information that is included in the survey, the better our analysis will be.   Much of the detail should already be in your asset register, so there might not be much effort needed at all.”

The survey should take you around 40 minutes to complete and asks questions about your station’s resources and skillsets, technologies used in the studio and on the road as well as how your station sends programming to the transmitter.

President John Maizels stressed the benefits of the survey “We’re pretty sure that everyone who contributes will get many tangible take-aways from the experience.  And the opportunity to build a big-picture for CBF, CBAA and Technorama is huge.  It’s going to help CMTO identify training opportunities, will provide vendors with potential opportunity areas, and Technorama will use the information to plan our webinars and events“

Do it now

You can get started right away: just click here to begin.

The anonymity process means you won’t be able to save and return to the survey, so please pick a time when you can do it in one pass.  The survey will pause on a screen for 30-60 minutes but can’t be parked for longer.

Leap now:  the survey will close on Friday 29th February 2020.

Hannah Murray joins Technorama Board

At the December Committee meeting, the Technorama Board appointed Hannah Murray to a casual vacancy on the Board. Many of you will know Hannah from her current role at the CMTO, and her previous role at the CBAA.  As well as being steeped in technology, she comes with a wealth of experience in radio, music and event management, and is a passionate devotee of Klezmer.   You can read about Hannah in her bio entry on the Board page.

For Technorama, Hannah will take on management of the highly successful Technorama Tuesdays webinar program for 2020, and is busy already mapping out next year’s series of events.

Hannah also joins the TR20 Local Arrangements Committee, working with Josh Pearson and the team to select the venue and then deliver the TR20 event.

We also bid a temporary adieu to Julie Spencer who is taking a sabbatical.   Julie will return to active service with Technorama next year.

The Changing Face of Links

What’s on?

This month’s Technorama Tuesdays Webinar is another geek-mode episode.   We talk detail and answer your tough questions.  This time:  links, and how to get the best out of them.  Whether you’re connecting an OB, or feeding program to the transmitter, we have some interesting answers.

Who’s this webinar for?

This one is for technologists and people who want to get into the weeds or ask the super-technical questions.   As always, we also welcome managers, programmers, presenters, and anyone who is responsible for keeping the automation system sounding good.

What will we cover?

In this free 1-hr online learning experience you’ll:

  • hear from people who have burnt their fingers so you don’t have to
  • get the gospel on what is (and isn’t) happening on the 850Mhz band, and what it takes to renew or get a licence (yes, we talked to the ACMA!)
  • learn about digital devices and whether they are better or worse than analogue
  • be given useful information about link integration, and what difference a digital link might make to your presenters
  • be able to ask questions and get suggestions from some serious systems experts

This Technorama Training Tuesday webinar will be presented by Mike Tobin and will be moderated by John Maizels.  Plus a team of experts waiting in the wings.

When is it?

Tuesday 30 April 2019 at 18:30  (that’s 6:30PM) Australian Eastern Standard Time.

How do I sign up?

Easy:  click here.

Cost

Nothing more than an hour of your time on a Tuesday night.

Our presenter

Mike Tobin  is a broadcaster and technologist of more than 40 years standing.  He’s installed links of all types in all kinds of locations, and knows a thing or two about antennas and feeders.

Additional reading

Check out this story here on the truth about changes to the 850MHz SOB blocks.

Read this article about the 850MHz Restack.

Technorama Tuesdays is an initiative of Technorama Incorporated, and is supported by the Community Media Training Organisation.

800MHz band: not dead yet!!

The rumours persist, and keep coming round.   Let’s do our best to unmuddy the waters.

Are FM links dead?

Let’s start by dispelling the rumours.  FM link technology is not dead in Australia, and won’t go away any time soon.  There is spectrum available for Studio-Transmitter Links (STLs) and Sound Outside Broadcast (SOB) links, and licences are being issued.  To correctly quote Mark Twain, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.

So what happened?

Most of our community is aware that some segments of the UHF band have been repurposed.   Some of this, notably 809-824 MHz paired with 854-869 MHz, has been allocated to mobile broadband.

Also repurposed was the block from 849-852 MHz, traditionally used for STLs and SOBs.  This spectrum was made available for two-frequency fixed links and land mobile services, and many of these services have been moved in from other parts of the band.

Taking a high-wide view, it’s hard to argue with these reallocations.  Anyone who has applied for a two-way handheld service, or who is reading this page on a phone, might well be benefiting from the changes.  It might even be you, right now.

Consolidation of services previously using the STL/SOB block has advantages.   It’s like Spectrum Tetris:  after the dust has settled, the remaining spectrum will be able to be managed more effectively.   In most cases (especially where there were empty channels) existing licensees have been moved into the lower segment of the band transparently.   Some stations took the opportunity to move from analogue FM links to class-licensed digital links.   Other stations opted to stay in the STL/SOB block.

Despite some very good messaging from the regulator (and notwithstanding open publication of a clear long-term view, which is worth a read), many of our members are still confused about what they might do, what they must do, and whether they need to do anything at all.

So let’s answer a few questions, like:  what’s the current status of the 850MHz restack?  Are licenses still being issued?  Is it sensible to replace an existing FM link with another one?   Do all stations have to go digital?

What’s the current status?

The ACMA has been very helpful, and gave Technorama an update on 23 April 2019.  Quotes from this document are in red-violet.

  • Existing STL operators must cease operating in the 849-852 MHz segment by 30 June 2019. The ACMA has notified affected licensees on several occasions to inform them of these requirements.

TR comment: this applies to existing users of the upper part of the band, the part that was sold to Telcos.  It doesn’t apply to the lower segment of the band (845-849 MHz).   If you’re operating there, you are protected.  You can expect an existing licence to be renewable, and you may replace your equipment.

  • Embargo 64 only allows new services into the 845-849 MHz segment if they are relocating from either the 849-852 MHz or 857-861 MHz segments. This helps preserve access to the 845-849 MHz segment for licensees who are impacted by the band restructure (noting that services which are relocating still need to successfully coordinate with existing services in the 845-849 MHz segment). The ACMA considers exemptions to Embargo 64 on a case-by-case basis.  Embargo 64 does not apply to existing services in 845-849 MHz.

TR comment:  if you’re there, you’re there.  However if you’re not there already, just be aware that Embargo 64 was put in place to give existing users a measure of protection from potential users who have come to the party late.  It doesn’t mean you won’t be allowed to jump on board.

Annoying rumour mill

Some of the negative press might have come from misreading of the Embargo.  For instance, there are statements in Embargo 64 which indicate very clearly that existing apparatus licences in segments of the 800MHz band will not be renewed beyond defined dates.  However the Embargo also states quite specifically:

This embargo does not apply to Sound outside Broadcast (SOB) assignments in the frequency band 845-850.5 MHz

and also
Any applications for case-by-case exemptions are to be referred to the Manager, Spectrum Planning Section for consideration.
So Embargo 64 doesn’t mean that no new licences will be issued.   New licences can be issued, especially where an applicant can demonstrate that technical operating conditions will allow the spectrum to be used effectively, and existing users won’t be impacted.   This might well be the case in rural areas where the number of channels available in the 845-849 MHz exceeds the number of users.  Like all spectrum planning, getting the best out of the available bandwidth is tricky but not impossible.
Applications for SOB licences may be made in the usual way, and the time to issue a licence will depend on usual factors, like how many people are ahead of you in the queue and how complex the spectrum use is in your area.
  • The 800 MHz band plan (also known as RALI MS 40) details the frequency allocations in the band. It contains four appendices which detail the band configuration at set dates in the future – these align with the implementation plan of the 803-960 MHz review (detailed in Chapter 3 of the ACMAs long-term strategy for the 803-960 MHz band). The long-term frequency arrangements for STLs (which are included under the fixed point-to-point (single frequency) allocation) and SOBs are included in the band plan.

Clear message:  read the strategy document!

  • Please note that the arrangements currently in Embargo 64 may be transferred to the 800 MHz band plan as part of a future update, in order to simplify documentation.

Exactly what it says.   Administering multiple documents gets messy over time, and is simplified when all of the rules and regulations are put in the one place.

Summary

If you believe that an FM link is the way to go for your station, and you don’t have a licence currently, you may apply for one.   Exceptions may be made to the Embargo on a case-by-case basis, once the request is known, understood, and assessed.

If you’d like more advice on this topic, check out the Technorama Q&A Facebook Group.  There are many people there who have successfully implemented FM links, and who would be happy to provide information.

TR19 congratulates this year’s Represent! Bursary awardees

Once again we’ve been able to offer young, female, and gender non-conforming people an opportunity to apply for the Represent! Bursary, and show how inclusive a group of technologists can be.  The Bursary aims to improve the age and gender diversity imbalance that exists in the typical Technologist demographic, and allows an awardee to attend Technorama 2019 by covering all the costs.  The Bursary is awarded through a merit-based assessment.

TR19 is very pleased to announce this year’s eight recipients and welcome as our guests:

  • Nikki Marcel (SA)

A Totally Women Powered Radio project run by Radio Adelaide’s student radio in 1996 got Nikki hooked on radio. Since then she’s fed her audio addiction and been on a steep learning curve by doing a bit of everything:  from music, art and political programs, to OBs, training, scheduling, IT and broadcast maintenance.  Now, as People and Program Manager, she is a professional multi-tasker and trouble-shooter. In her spare time Nikki works as a Trainer for the CMTO and mentor for the National Features and Documentary Series, and loves sharing her knowledge and enthusing new people into the creative world of community radio. Nikki is also Secretary for the South Australian Community Broadcasting Association supporting 32 member stations across SA.

  • Charlotte Bedford (SA)

Charlotte is a community broadcaster, trainer and researcher with over 25 years of designing radio projects alongside diverse communities, primarily focusing on prisoner radio development across Australia and the UK. She is the current President of the SA Community Broadcasters Association, presents a weekly music show on sub-metro station WOWfm, and recently began coordinating a national sector development project with the CMTO.

  • Roz Chapman (TAS)

Roz is the Station Manager at 7TYG, which covers the Derwent Valley in regional southern Tasmania. Roz has been with the station since its inception in 2009 in various roles, including technical support, and has been station manager since March 2012. 7TYG is moving and upgrading their transmission site this year and Roz is excited to attend TR19 to get a handle on all aspects of managing the logistical and technical aspects of the move.

  • Gemma Lipman (NSW)

Gemma is an experienced radio presenter and producer,  having worked on the national CBAA Award winning show “Breaking Bands” for the past 4 years.  She volunteers at her local radio station, 2RRR, and has recently participated in their Tech Blitz with Technorama.   Gemma studied Music Production at UNSW, and has recorded and mixed for local bands.

  • Nathan Vogt (ACT)

Nathan volunteers at Radio 1RPH Canberra to assist with their IT needs which has included migrating the primary internet connection to the NBN.   By day he is an ICT Network engineer.  Nathan has been working in the public service for 3 years, having completed his Bachelor of Computer Systems and the Australian Government ICT Graduate program.

  • Declan James (VIC)

Declan is a volunteer for PBS 106.7FM in Melbourne. Having formally studied Audio Engineering, Declan is now completing his Advanced Diploma in Electronics and Communications Engineering to fully round out his passion for community radio and to be able to contribute to PBS more broadly both on and off mic.  Declan hopes to learn as much as possible from Technorama prior to helping PBS in its upcoming move in the new year, and is happy for any advice or suggestions in relation to this.

  • Hannah Rogers (TAS)

Hannah is the Training Coordinator and Station Coordinator at Edge Radio 99.3, Tasmania’s only youth broadcasting service. She started out at Edge four years ago as a keen volunteer and quickly developed a passion for community radio. As well as the everyday running of the station she goes into schools as part of Edge’s youth outreach program to teach kids about media. “I’m looking forward to enhancing my tech knowhow at Technorama this year and being able to share my knowledge with our local volunteers!” 

  • Sibylle Reisch (QLD)

Sibylle wrote and produced her first radio story when she was eight years old; it was a murder crime story on the river Thames in London.
Many years and many other careers later, and by mere chance only three years ago, she came to volunteer at reception for Noosa FM 101.3 Community Radio. Being a big pet and wildlife lover she noticed there wasn’t a program on the radio station that would cater for like-minded people in the community. Co-incidentally the opportunity for presenter training came up and she decided to take the chance. In September 2017 she presented her first own program: “Pet Purri”, a music program concerned with pets and wildlife for the Noosa Shire.
In September 2018 she was elected VP and took on the coordinator position of the technical area of the station. Since April 2018 she has been President.

In 2018 Sibylle was the proud receiver of the Technorama “Rising Technical Star” Award.

Would you like to know more about the Represent! Bursary?

You can read about it here.

The Represent! Bursary is an initiative of Technorama, and is supported by the CBF.

Rydges Campbelltown: 72 hour flash sale came and went

16 April 2019: Despite no dates on the website, Rydges really did mean 72 hours.  The sale is over.

We’re still working on better deals, but word on the street is: book now.   A better deal might not come, and if it does you can generally change.

What you missed:

14 April 2019: yesterday Rydges kicked off a 72-hour Flash Sale across their network.

During the sale, rooms are a flat rate $117/night (ie: the discount $130 rate, less 10% for Priority Guest Rewards members – and there’s no reason not to be a PGR member).

The catch is that it’s pay in full, in advance,.  Not normally something that we’d recommend, but this close to the event it should be low risk.   Plus you save around $50/night on the rack rate at the best and closest hotel.

Two warnings for their website:

  1. make sure you really do get the discount before you commit.  The Rydges website is confusing, and even if you think you’re logged on, you might not be.   Check the final rate before committing.
  2. book at Campbelltown, not Camperdown.  You don’t want to get that one wrong.

Earlier on 14 April Trivago said that there were only 8 rooms at that rate, and booking.com shows “high demand”.   Given the way that aggregator sites work, that might or might not be fake news.

The Rydges website cleverly avoids saying when the 72 hours starts and ends, so you might have another 48 hours…  or you might have more time, or you might have less.  Just assume the deal won’t last forever.   Be quick.

By the way, this is really great news.  If you were following Rydges website, their “Easter Sale” had two months of discount that finished THREE DAYS before TR19.   Josh tried hard to get Rydges to cut us a break and extend the discount one week, to no avail.   Ironically this deal is significantly better than anything we’d expected or have seen, so things have worked out.

Richard Fleming is our TR19 Special Guest of Honour

Technorama is very pleased that this year’s Guest of Honour is Richard Fleming.

Richard is a most experienced broadcasting engineer, with over 49 years in the industry. He looks after the technical support for many Sydney community stations, including 2SER, 2OOO, 2RPH, and smaller stations such as Radio Skid Row and 2RES, as well as extending as far as Vox-FM in Wollongong.

Richard has also worked on many innovative community broadcasting projects, such as the award winning Star Observer Digital, a queer pop-up digital radio station.

Richard Fleming is an all-rounder in radio broadcasting, and is best known for his studio build and integration work, for creating software solutions to support the stations in which he works, and for creating a mentoring/training process to encourage development of the next generation of broadcast engineer.

Richard was the winner of the 2017 Technorama Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution through Mentoring. In working with that diversity of stations, Richard has always been very generous with his time and knowledge in encouraging others in their understanding and interest in broadcasting and IT technology.

He is based in Sydney, and operates through Radio Support Services Pty Ltd.

Did you come here from our Twitter feed?

This is very technical, but bear with us.  Especially if you’re not heavily into the machinations of Social Media.

Last night we put a story on our Facebook page – the one we hardly ever update.   That page is set to automatically trigger a post to our Twitter feed.   The one we almost never send anything through.  All things being equal, when we post news to the TR FB page, you get a tweet.

So what’s the problem?  You got the tweet, didn’t you?  Well, tweets are short – that’s the point.  In this case Twitter truncated a long post, losing the useful part of the message in the process, and points everyone here where there was no sign of the rest of the message.

Hence, this article, created just in case you’re about to expire from FOMO.

Here’s what should have been in the Tweet:

Hey, you might be wondering what’s going on at Technorama. Well, most of what we do is announced on the webpage and through the Technorama Q&A group. But in case you’ve missed the news, here are some highlights:

  • Technorama TR19 has been announced for 3-5 May this year, and we’re back at Campbelltown
  • The topic for TR19 Education Day is Project Management.   If you’d like to know how projects are run at the big end of town, and how you can use some of the same technique in your station, this is one for you. Put a hold on all of 3 May for that one.  The class will start at 0930 in Campbelltown.
  • Technorama Tuesdays are back in action for 2019, on the last Tuesday of each month. We’re starting the year with an intro to WHS, one of the most practical non-technical focus areas for your station.
  • We’re congratulating John Maizels who received the Michael Law Award at the CBAA conference in November 2018.
  • Technorama is working with the CMTO to develop technology training streams for techs and non-techs alike. In October 2018 we rolled out the first “Tech for the Non Technical” and at the start of 2019 we delivered the first
    “Studio Blitz” class.

Did you get all that?   Good.  Now you’re up to date!

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