Australia — Palerang Council could offer to pay the national broadcaster to keep residents updated with information during a bushfire emergency.
The extraordinary offer is contained in a report and recommendation to the council’s meeting on Thursday, 10 months on from a bushfire emergency at Bungendore, and after years of badgering for a repeater station at Braidwood.
Palerang says if it were successful in lobbying for reliable radio reception, it was highly likely a contribution would be sought for re-transmission services. The council quotes an estimate of $25,000 per transmission site.
Mayor Pete Harrison said past attempts to uncover the cause of coverage issues had been met with ”silly answers”.
”It’s a case of getting to the bottom of what’s stopping this and I don’t think we have got the same answer from two people yet.
”At one level it may be the strength of the signal, as it’s been broadcast, at another level it may be what requirements exist [for] relaying signals.
”When we originally asked about relaying signals we were told that it was a regulatory issue and that the ABC was not able to broadcast repeat signals that had been broadcast across a state border.”
Mr Harrison said people’s safety during an emergency was more critical than money. ”We said all right, if we were to pay for everything, what would we need to do? We are trying to get the answer to the problem.”
The problem had been raised with former member for Eden Monaro Mike Kelly, former communications minister Stephen Conroy and newly elected member for Eden Monaro Peter Hendy.
Mr Harrison said he did not care how the problem was fixed. It was important that the emergency broadcaster could be accessed by people with battery-powered radios in Palerang. Problems with radio reception, mobile phones and the internet stretched down to the Cooma region because of terrain. Solving one aspect would probably solve all three.
Mr Harrison said during emergencies people were encouraged to tune into the ABC, rather than commercial stations. When the issue arose in January the ABC said 666AM was primarily designed for the ACT but due to its transmission configuration, reception was available well outside the borders and into parts of NSW. ”In relation to ABC radio coverage in Braidwood, the only ABC service available there is ABC Digital TV from Mount Gillamatong,” it said.
”The ABC provided comprehensive bushfire coverage on January 8 on both News24 and ABC1 in the Braidwood area.”
Mr Harrison said in Bungendore and Braidwood most people’s car radios were tuned to ABC 666, and expecting them to tune into other stations on battery-powered radios was unacceptable during a bushfire emergency.