IP Audio in the outback

When the team at Wheatstone learned there would be a new radio station in the Cooktown, they didn’t immediately think of modern IP audio gear.

“Rather, we imagined backpacking in military-issue gear with sensible metering and saucers for knobs.”

Cooktown is one of the last frontiers nestled in the hills just above the rainforest in the Queensland Outback. The small community of 5,000 people, many of them members of the Guugu Yimithirr aboriginal tribal nation, has one road into it – when weather permits. It is one of the more active cyclone regions in the world. 

To say that the area in and around Cooktown is inhospitable to broadcast media is an understatement, but that didn’t stop Queensland Remote Aboriginal Media (QRAM) from building a transmitter site on Mount Tully and installing what is believed to be the first remote transmission site in Australia operating from an all-digital backend platform.

With technical help of Agile Broadcast, the station went on the air on 96.9 FM last month with a WheatNet-IP audio I/O BLADE and RCS Zetta playout system into a Nautel VS transmitter atop Mount Tully, all of which is networked to the group’s main hub studio about 325 km away in Cairns where programming originates.

“We spent two years researching the equipment,” says Gerry Pyne, the General Manager of QRAM, which has a reputation for keeping information and programming going during local emergencies.

QRAM has more than a dozen other sites in the remote regions of Australia that are part of its Black Star radio network, an AC/CHR format originating from Cairns and piped to each site by way of a virtual private network out of Sydney. QRAM inserts local programming, often voice tracked from Cairns, as well as separate spot loads and weather reports targeting each.

For many in these remote communities, Black Star is the only local interest radio service for miles around and the only voice in the event of an emergency.


Originally published on the Wheatstone website.

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