Sunday, October 30, 2011

In praise of ComRadSat and community broadcasting from space

For many years, I was a broadcaster in the community radio sector. I loved it. I started out with 2ARM in Armidale, NSW, Australia's oldest community radio station, which began in 1976. I won't bore you with the details of the shows I worked on, but suffice it to say that I met people I consider among my dearest friends in the world (even if we rarely communicate - I still completely love you), acquired a rather massive CD library, and had an absolute ball. I also worked with the University of New England on their distance education radio shows through 2SER in Sydney.  This was one of the few times I did talkback, and let me tell you, it's hard, hard work (fancy talking evolution to a born-again Christian student live on air with no preparation?  Well, never again, thanks very much). Then there was a hiatus of a couple of years, and I found myself on Radio NAG in Yeppoon, Central Queensland, with my first solo show, The World According to Alice. (I made my first website for that show too!) Again, I had the most fantastic time working with such wonderful people (ditto as above. I do love you even though I am a terrible emailer sometimes).

And I threw it all away to pursue space archaeology.  This happened maybe a year after the beer/verandah/satellite episode described in this post on How I Became A Space Archaeologist (so you see there is a bit more of the story to tell yet).

In my early wanderings through the vasty halls of space history, I became interested in amateur and public space, particularly the AMSAT programme, and even more particularly the Australis Oscar V satellite. But strange to say, in all of this it never occurred to me to put my radio days together with my current research interests and wonder how the community broadcasting satellite ComRadSat fitted into all of this.

The - what is the word I want here? - zenith of community broadcasting was to have your show sent out to all the community stations across Australia via satellite - in other words being syndicated on a voluntary basis. I aspired to it, and I like to think I was maybe not as far from that goal when I left Radio NAG as I had been previously. I'll never know now. And broadcasting has changed so much. No need to cue vinyl, or edit on reel-to-reel (and it wasn't THAT long ago, just so we're clear about that).

Changed so much, that in this google age I do a quick search and find in some small print somewhere that ComRadSat is not a stand-alone satellite launched by a bunch of hippies from Bellingen, as it might have been in the true history of community broadcasting in Australia, but actually Optus B1. And I have written about the Optus and Aussat satellites, particularly about the impact of satellite television on Aboriginal communities in northern Australia (Gorman 2009), and I didn't think to explore this avenue.

In this FoxNewsedUp world, community broadcasting is more important than ever. So many passionate people are out there sharing their visions with the world, and I want them to continue. They are, as I once was myself, part of the story of space that I want to tell.

 Gorman, A.C.  2009  Beyond the Space Race:  the significance of space sites in a new global context.  In Angela Piccini and Cornelius Holthorf (eds)  Contemporary Archaeologies:  Excavating Now.  Bern:  Peter Lang

For more information, go to the website of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia


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