Black Star is an integrated radio network and program support service.
Black Star is owned by the Queensland remote stations and managed by QRAM Central in Cairns, North Queensland, Australia. The Black Star network stations are Aurukun, Black Star Tablelands, Doomadgee, Hope Vale, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Mornington Island, Napranum, NPA, (Bamaga, Injinoo, New Mapoon, Seisia and Umagico), Pormpuraaw, Woorabinda, Wujal Wujal and Yarrabah. To find out more about each station, go to the Radio Stations menu above and pick a station.
An innovative way to support and connect local radio in remote areas, Black Star provides benefits on many levels. Watch the video and then read below!
Music for the whole community, news and local weather on the hour and information relevant to the local community, rather than re-transmitted programs designed for audiences in other cities.
Black Star station have tailored information for each community – for example cyclone information, road conditions, health service visits – rather than blanket information for all communities in this vast area.
Designed for the convergent media environment, Black Star uses broadband, with satellite back up. Black Star delivers the latest music updates, tailored news and weather, information segments and programs quickly and seamlessly online. Program logs update each night at midnight and new content is there each morning for the local broadcaster. This saves time and admin in each local station, freeing up the local broadcasters to produce local content. And because it’s a two-way highway, they can also feed their local content back into the network for use by other broadcasters in the network.
We can offer placement of spots across the whole network, or just to a specific community, or any combination of audiences across the network. We also offer improved feedback with specific broadcast logs for each station available.
To discuss your communication needs please contact the Manager – contact details here.
History and Development
The technology behind Black Star was developed by Gerry Pyne, working with QRAM Manager Jim Remedio. With their long experience in Indigenous broadcasting, both knew there had to be a better way to provide programming support for remote broadcasters. Like other broadcasters, they need digital exchange systems, content that is relevant for their local audience and more control and flexibility at the local level.
QRAM developed the formal concept during 2010/2011, with the first trial site established at NPA Radio in Bamaga on 24 th August 2011. The trial was successful and plans made to roll out the system to other stations during the 2012 dry season; a big travel schedule over the vast distances of the Cape and Gulf.
In July 2012, Jim Remedio delivered a presentation on the Black Star service to representatives of remote Indigenous broadcasters from around the country, gathered for a meeting in Alice Springs. Other remote service hubs are reliant on satellite only, a send-only option to distribute centralised programming, and the postal service to deliver program material to be inserted at a local level. You can read more about the history or remote area broadcasting below.
The Black Star network service rolled out through 2012 to Wujal Wujal, Woorabinda, Mornington Island, Hope Vale, Pormpuraaw, Doomadgee, Napranum, Kowanyama and Lockhart River, with Aurukun the last of the 11 original RIBS services to connect, in March 2013. This was a huge achievement for the QRAM team and a huge step forward for remote broadcasting.
Inspired by what Black Star is offering, further communities contacted QRAM with a view to getting their very first radio services. Yarrabah, south of Cairns, was the first cab off the rank, with planning beginning in the second half of 2012 and the station going to air in April 2013. Around the same time an Atherton Tablelands repeater service was established, providing services for the first time to the many Aboriginal people living in the region. The Normanton community, in the Gulf of Carpentaria approached QRAM in 2012 and the parties worked together to submit an application for a licence and transmission equipment. Funds for transmission facilities came through in July 2013, so the community is now targeting a 2014 start date. Communities in Burketown, Mossman, around the Lakeland region and Coen in the northern part of Cape York have also started discussions.
2013 also saw the launch of the Black Star app, which provides mobile device access to the core Black Star service webstream.
Want to know a bit more?
Since the beginning of remote broadcasting, systems have been developed that provide coverage to the smallest and most remote communities by taking advantage of what was once the cutting edge of delivery technology – satellite. Satellite has been a cost-effective method of getting a program signal out there, and it has been embraced throughout the land. Unfortunately, satellite also comes with disadvantages, but until now, it has been generally accepted that any disadvantage is outweighed by the cost-effectiveness of the technology.
Typically, satellite technology has been a uni-directional delivery system and this has inhibited or restricted choice for those at the receiving end of these systems. We have heard the good intentions of many, as they talk about delivery of programs that suit the needs of all. But the reality is, that the programs going out on these satellite systems are largely a cherry-picking of programs from regional centres, that lack sufficient resources to cater specifically for the needs of listeners, at the distant end of their satellite services.
These larger stations are primarily responsible to members of their own local communities. The only effective way to meet the needs of more distant listeners is to have parallel programs developed, specific to the needs of remote communities. Yet funding to larger regional stations often falls well short of allowing them to be effective within their immediate community, let alone those remote and distant communities that they are also trying to program for. We often heard people in remote regions asking ‘why can’t we hear a local weather forecast?’; ‘what about cyclone updates? During Cyclone Yasi in 2011, people in remote communities were completely isolated as satellite networks ran bed programs, no news updates and no warnings.
A teenager living in Townsville, or Brisbane, has a selection of services where they can hear their latest favourite performing artists. Adults living in major centres have a choice of mainstream news services, that inform them on all things they show an interest in. Community Stations, including Indigenous Stations within large regional centres, try to program away from the traditional mainstream formats as a result – rightly so! BUT, when these same stations are sending their formats via satellite, to distant areas where mainstream programming in not available, it is less appropriate that the only radio format is a minority format, such as country music. This has historically been what has been sent to remote communities at the end of a satellite service.
Likewise with news; in larger centres an Indigenous news service is an important addition to the range of mainstream news services people can listen to. But if that is the only news service going via satellite to the remote area, people in those areas are disadvantaged. People living in remote areas need to know about mainstream issues that affect them, not just Indigenous issues.
QRAM has developed Black Star, in consultation with our community members, to support these local stations to concentrate on the needs of their own local communities. Their broadcast licence, awarded by ACMA, requires them to serve their local community, just as licencees in larger centres are required to serve their own community. This new network allows remote Queensland stations, for the first time, to access support programming that is created for their needs. These new programs often feature the latest main stream music and news, and why shouldn’t they? People living there enjoy the same popular songs and artists as people living within larger centres. It is not reasonable to impose minority formats on people living in remote areas where they do not have a choice to listen to something else if they happen not to like a minority format.
The bed programs are developed at QRAM, where a daily data log with the schedule of events is produced and sent via broadband to the “Black Box” at the local radio station computer . The” Black Box” techonology was developed by Broadsoft and QRAM, it is designed to open gateways and give a direct tunnel back to QRAM Central in Cairns. The station computer takes over, reads the log then plays out the event. That event may be Music, News & Current Affairs, Sport, CSA’s, Sponsorship, Weather, Emergency Alerts or specialised programs.
The log is programmed to arrive at the local station around midnight every night. This ensures clear internet access. When the broadcaster arrives to do the shift, the log is there for them. They can use the log, or come into or out of the log as they choose. When the station closes for the night or weekend, it will continue to play out the scheduled events. The broadcaster is free to add or take away music to suit what their community may want to hear. New music is constantly updated onto the QRAM server and then sent to the stations via the Black Box, guaranteeing that the station is always kept fresh with new music. The time-consuming job of managing a music library is managed centrally, with each station having access to a far wider range of music.
Black Star’s music programs appeals to young people, middle aged people and our elders; there is Youth music, Golden Oldies, Country music, Island music. There is national news, with local weather 7 days a week, supplemented with local news and sport produced by the local broadcasters.
Black Star is not a replacement for the local RIBS station. Black Star is a supplement for the local programs. Black Star is great overnight, and on weekends; it has a strong youth focus, as well party mixes.
Black Star is streamed from the QRAM website and broadcasters will have further backup access via a satellite service from QRAM Central, scheduled to commence in 2013