Macleay Valley Community FM Radio Station Incorporated, to use our official name, was spawned at a public meeting held in 1992. From this meeting emerged a dedicated team that forged forward towards the ultimate goal of obtaining a Community Broadcasting license for the Macleay Valley.
The next five years leading up to our first test transmission in March 1997 meant a lot of hard work and dedication for the tireless volunteers who had to sell the idea of the valley's own radio station to the community, and raise much needed money to finance the proposal.
And there was a mountain of government red tape and paperwork, naturally!
A series of test transmissions over the next two years proved fruitful when the station was granted a Community Broadcasting license in 1999.
Although licenced as 2WET, the station is known locally as Tank FM because the studio complex was housed in a disused concrete water reservoir, some 40 feet in diameter, in Rudder Park, overlooking the Macleay River and the township of Kempsey on the mid north coast of New South Wales.
Kempsey is a rural town located on the magnificent Macleay River, around halfway between Sydney and Brisbane.
THE MOVE TO 59 ELBOW STREET
Tank FM relocated the shop and studio from Central Kempsey in February 2016 and then relocated the Studio from within the tank at Rudder Park in September 2017.
The decision to relocate was a hard and emotional event, given that the station's studio was operational at the Rudder Park site for over 18 years.
The cost to relocate to temporary accommodation, rebuild the complex within the tank structure and to move back in was cost prohibitive and was some eight times the cost of finding a suitable commercial location within the Kempsey districts.
The site at 59 Elbow Street was chosen given it's flood free location, in close proximity of West and Central Kempsey and having enough space and safe and convenient off street parking for the presenters.
Australian broadcasting regulations permit the establishment of community owned and operated radio stations by suitably qualified, not-for-profit organisations. The criteria for ownership and operation of such stations is rigidly scrutinised by the licensing authority, The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Community broadcasting is known as public broadcasting in some countries.
There are hundreds of community broadcasting stations across Australia and most, if not all, are members of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA). Tank Radio is no exception.
The CBAA provides guidance to member stations and also operates the ComRadSat, the Community Broadcasting satellite service. This service provides program that can be fed live to air, or recorded for later playback. In addition, a national news service is also available via ComRadSat.. Many stations use this news service and an even greater number of stations rely on the ComRadSat overnight service to maintain a 24/7 service.
Most community radio stations are operated entirely by volunteers. The presenters who go to air, the people who work in the office, the people who maintain every aspect of the station, they are all volunteers. Very few community radio stations are able to afford any paid staff.
Tank FM Radio broadcasts from a purposely built studio complex located in West Kempsey.
There are two on-air studios which are fitted out with equipment typically found at a radio station.
The studios comprise of three microphones, two CD players, a sponsorship/music playback service, two laptop or external audio inputs and a Digital Delivery Network (DDN) computer. The latter is used to capture programs from the CBAA satellite receiver for delayed playback. It is also used for storage and playback of sponsorship announcements and, station promos and Community Service Announcements (CSAs).
Being a 24/7 based station, Tank FM also relies on our TDN, or Tank Digital Network. This computer based service provides the station music, news and sponsorship automation facilities that is used regularly throughout each day.
The broadcast consoles are AEQ 12 Channel Forum IP (Audio-over-IP) units. They are telephone "talk-back" capable and this facility is slowly being made operational through ongoing training.
Separate from the studios is a small equipment room that houses such items as our Stereo Tool audio processing server. This is a computer based compressor, limiter, audio restorer, stereo generator and RDS insertion package and also sends a separate processed audio feed to our Internet Streaming facilities. The room also contains a UHF Studio/Transmitter Link (STL) transmitter, satellite receivers for CRN-1, CRN-2 and BBC World News, off-air receiver, studio monitor amplifier, AEQ Phoenix and Tieline OB audio link devices, UPS with external battery storage and other bits and pieces that are all conveniently located securely and out of sight.
The multiplexed signal from the studio complex is transmitted to the main transmitter site at Greenhill, about 3km to the west of Kempsey.
The Greenhill transmitter site, at an elevation of 30m ASL, is the location of a large, steel water reservoir upon which is mounted, at a height of 30m AGL, our main transmitting antenna, as well as our UHF STL receiving antenna. The antenna is an dipole array with a gain of 3dB and this antenna is shared with 2KY/SKY Racing Radio, a commercial sports service. The signal is transmitted with vertical polarisation (polarity). Tank's main antenna is at the top far left in the photo.
The STL and FM transmission equipment is all of RVR (Italy) manufacture and comprises the UHF STL receiver and a FM exciter/transmitter running at 500 watts. The antenna gain of 3dB (that gives Tank FM a 2x power output factor) effectively gives us an Effective Radiated Power (ERP) of our licensed output - 1000 watts.
We currently are in the process of reviewing sites to relocate our main transmission site too. Our goal is to try improve our coverage area to both up the valley to cover beyond Bellbrook and down the valley to cover South West Rocks, Belmore River, Hat Head and Crescent Head regions better.
Compared with some community radio stations that are fortunate enough to be able to transmit from a very high location, Tank FM is currently disadvantaged.
The location of a broadcasting transmitter is determined by the licensing authority, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and it was this organisation which selected the location of Tank Radio's main transmitter at Greenhill.
Given that we must transmit from a less than ideal location, and given that, compared with our commercial broadcasting cousins who are permitted to run ten or twenty thousand watts, some listeners may have difficulty receiving the one thousand watt signal from Tank FM.
The effective range of an FM broadcasting station is affected by four primary factors:1. the height of the transmitting antenna above sea level2. the transmitter power level in watts3. the nature of the receiving antenna - is it indoors or outdoors, is it a special FM band antenna, is it's polarisation correct4. the nature of the terrain between the transmitter and the receiver - is it flat, hilly, mountainous.
Since the first two items are dictated by the ACMA, and the fourth by Mother Nature, the only factor over which you, the listener, has any control is the receiving antenna.
Just as television signals are affected by hills, trees and house walls, so too are FM radio signals. And just as you need an outdoor antenna for television reception, particularly in fringe areas, an outdoor antenna for FM radio can be the difference between receiving Tank FM properly, and a weak, noisy signal - or no signal at all!
Most electronics outlets, and many appliance retailers and electrical wholesalers sell suitable antennas and associated hardware, that can be installed quite easily by the home handy person.
In selecting an antenna for FM radio the most important parameter is that it is made specifically for the FM band. Some outlets will sell "do everything" antennas that are supposed to work for both television and FM radio. Most of them are a waste of money. They are at best a poor compromise and often cost considerably more than a dedicated FM band antenna.
When erecting an antenna for the reception of Tank FM, the elements (rods) of the antenna need to be vertical, and the antenna needs to be aimed in the direction of Greenhill.