4BH back on air

Brisbane’s 4BH is now back on air after a deliberate attack felled the station’s two transmitter towers earlier this week. The station is broadcasting from an undisclosed site on low power until its own transmission facilities can be restored.

DMG’s Mark Spurway told radioinfo about the events of the last few days:

Spurway: At 8.41 on Monday night we knew we had a major issue at the transmitter site. The first tower was deliberately felled by someone cutting the guy ropes. The main transmitter immediately went off and the system switched over the standby transmitter and our second tower. Then at 9pm the second tower was knocked out and we went off air altogether.

radioinfo: When a tower falls over the transmitter has nowhere to send its load and usually fries. Is that what happened? Spurway: Our standby transmitter is in pretty bad shape because of that, but because our main transmitter switched itself off after the first tower went down, it is probably OK. But the towers are gone. We will be needing new masts.

radioinfo: Who was first on the scene? Spurway: Out techs were there first and they thought it was an electrical failure at first, but then they realised it was more than that. You’ve got to remember it was the middle of the night, so they could not actually see that the towers had fallen down. In the morning they discovered the full magnitude of what had happened. It was a deliberate and well orchestrated act of vandalism. The two towers have been destroyed.

radioinfo: Is it a criminal matter? Spurway: Yes, the police were called and since it was a crime scene we were not really allowed to have access until mid afternoon the day after. The police have now mounted a criminal investigation.

radioinfo: Did you get help from your competitors. Spurway: Yes, it has been great to have the support of the other local media in this city. All the TV and newspapers covered what happened and other radio stations, such as 4BC, also reported the story in their news bulletins, letting people know why we were off air. I would like to thank other media and our competitors for their support. I would also like to thank Channel 9 and Telstra for their help and community radio.

We are now on air because another station has shared their spare tower and transmitter with us. We had to retune it to AM882, but we are back on air now at 1Kw low power from the new site. radioinfo: Where is it? Spurway: I can’t say, because we don’t want to tip off whoever did it in case there is another attack.

radioinfo: How long were you off air? Spurway: 26 hours. We were back on air at 11.30 last night (Tuesday 20 August).

radioinfo: Who do you think did it? Spurway: It’s impossible to say. It will be very hard to prove anything, but the police are investigating and have been getting some information from local residents about unusual activity at the site in the last few days. You know it was a very dangerous thing to do – when they cut the ropes any one of them could have swung back and hit them, or the tower could have fallen on them, or they could have been electrocuted, so it was a very foolish thing to do.

radioinfo: Does this have implications for other stations? Spurway: It sure does. In this business you often wonder what would happen if something went wrong with your transmitter, but you never think it will happen. It is eerie when it does. I think this has implications for every station in the country – we will all have to rethink security at our transmitters.

radioinfo: In the last survey you had 7.6% of listeners. Did any of them react to the outage? Spurway: We had 3652 calls in 8 hours to our main switchboard from people trying to find out what happened, and about the same number ringing our studio line. When we told them most were supportive, but one rude man was very abusive and told us we should have broadcast the reason why. If only we could have!

radioinfo: Do you have your own team fixing the towers. Spurway: No. There are very few engineers who know much about AM transmitters these days and we were lucky that a few of them are still in Brisbane, so we had their help and the help of various contractors. You know its hard to get transmission techs in this industry now, it is something we should think about as an industry.