On the coastal crook of a quiet Australian peninsula sits Cooktown, a small town with big plans. Last year, this town of 2,300 heard something new for the first time: a mix of local news, local weather and local transit updates for travelers exploring the peninsula’s mash of tropical rainforests and coastal mangroves as Black Star Cooktown 96.9 FM went on the air for the first time.
|From Left to Right: Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture and Mike Adams, host of AgriTalk broadcasting with the ViA.
The debut was a breath of fresh air — local news, taking place at local business sponsors, led by on-the-scene interviews with local personalities. From the very first broadcast, it was a hit for the Black Star Radio Network.
The success came in part from technology behind the scenes. The broadcaster is one of dozens in Australia and the United States that have adopted IP remote codec technology that’s proving to be as cost effective as it is reliable.
Broadcasters have traditionally relied on ISDN and POTS networks; they are standardized and mature. But questions began to surface over the intermittent quality of POTS, the comparatively high cost of deployment of ISDN and fewer ongoing ISDN installations.
IP technology meanwhile is filling the breech, offering both small and large broadcasters a flexible and reliable means of transporting remote broadcast audio. Its benefits are well defined: superior data capabilities, reduced operating costs, streamlined workflows and remote control functionality, among others.
It was in Cooktown that Black Star first put IP to the test, even though they were facing an all-too familiar dilemma: “Cooktown is a small town, and on most days the cellular network was flooded and can be very unreliable,” said Gerry Pyne, general manager of Queensland Remote Aboriginal Media, which runs the Black Star network.
The station road-tested IP by setting up its very first broadcast using a Tieline ViA portable codec. Pyne set up the ViA through an ADSL IP link with Tieline’s proprietary Music algorithm, which provided high-quality audio at lower bit-rates, with automatic jitter buffering.
The station was able ensure rock solid remotes via a number of Tieline IP strategies, which are designed to safeguard broadcasts and guarantee reliable transport of broadcast audio over the open Internet. Those include dual redundant streaming via Tieline’s SmartStream PLUS; Fuse-IP network bonding, which uses proprietary IP bonding technology to aggregate data from multiple IP transports to increase connection bandwidth; and automated jitter-buffer strategies and error concealment techniques.
“We were overwhelmed by the response to the broadcast,” Pyne said, with visits from the ranger’s office, drop bys from council workers, and even a packed school bus stopping to greet the broadcasters at their live remote. “The take-up of radio is amazing in Cooktown and everyone seemed to be listening to the show,” he said. “It was one of the best I have been involved in.”
|Announcer Greg Reid (left) interviews local residents in Cooktown.
IP remote codec technology has also been a game changer for niche radio broadcasters like Farm Journal Radio, which has carried its ViA hundreds of miles across America’s farmland to set up remote on-the-spot broadcasts for the agriculture program AgriTalk. For Farm Journal Radio, ViA is able to connect over a DSL or LAN connection when available, use a wireless router, or connect to the codec’s built-in WiFi to a hotel or convention center hotspot. A key feature for Farm Journal Radio is the ViA’s support for WiFi browser portals, meaning engineers no longer must stumble over hotspot browser login firewalls to get connected.
The technology has been put to the test far and wide: in major market broadcasts for the NFL; for local high school play-by-play broadcasts. For the station in Cooktown, a radio broadcast from the Outback means simply arriving minutes before a broadcast, setting up headset mics, checking the connection and going live.
“There’s no need for a truck with loads of equipment anymore,” Pyne said. “In the bush, you don’t have much choice when it comes to technologies, so the fact that ViA can use cellular, WiFi and LAN connections delivers the flexibility we require,” he said. “[This] technology [adds] a new dimension to local broadcasting throughout our network.”
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