Can't stop signal: 2cbd radio Glen Innes braves minefield of bureaucracy for upgrade

Geoffrey Black, Caroline Dunn and David Donnelly outside radio 2cbd FM in Glen Innes.
Geoffrey Black, Caroline Dunn and David Donnelly outside radio 2cbd FM in Glen Innes.

The Glen Innes community radio station signal might be stronger than ever, but the journey to installing their new transmitter wasn't easy.

Hindered by and between bureaucracy, bushfires and Murphy's law, they nearly didn't make it - and what could have been a one year project blew out to triple that length.

"People have stuck with us knowing that one day it'll be fixed, and it went for three years!" said 2cbd secretary David Donnelly.

The old tower, featuring an undersized transmitter, bad cabling, low power gain and a puny studio transmisson site, was only meant as a stopgap measure, he said.

But the decision to upgrade was inevitable when their electric system was wrecked by rain and a building fault - their drain holes being installed at the top, not the bottom of what was supposed to be a waterproof equipment.

Some 2cbd presenters have gone on to broadcast professionally.

Some 2cbd presenters have gone on to broadcast professionally.

They made the decision to build back better, and set their sights on Carpenter's Hill outside town, which also contains a number of TV antennae.

They won a grant from the Community Broadcasting Foundation to do the job, and started planning.

But it wasn't that easy. What was expected to be a one-year project dragged on and on.

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Their first hurdle: energy providers.

"You'd make an inquiry of Origin (energy) and they'd say well you've got to get another box ticked at Essential (energy) first and you'd go to Essential (and they'd say) why haven't you don't this with Origin? And back and forth and back and forth," said David Donnelly.

The energy giants complained about putting power in a rural area, which is restricted for bushfire safety reasons.

The station needed just 18 metres of wiring; too bad.

The area they could site the tower was tiny. If they were forced to move they'd lose line of sight and it'd be unusable.

After months of arguing, and the intercession of Adam Marshall, they were finally allowed to install in an existing unused tower.

Of course, they needed the tower owners, a big Sydney company, to let them - but the station was able to contact and convince them.

This process took over a year. In the meantime they'd blown by their acquittal deadline for their CBF grant. They were "raked over the coals" for this, said David - but ultimately were able to fend off total disaster for a little longer.

Then they had land access issues, with further delays.

Then another issue raised its head: they needed a fire plan.

When council was approving that they realised the tower was close to the airport, which brought the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Air Transport Safety Council on board. But they were able to prove reopening an existing tower wouldn't be a problem.

But finally they had approvals.

But what happened next, David Donnelly said, was enough to drive anyone to drink.

"Murphy was out there resident at that tower site all this time," he said.

In order to connect the tower to the grid they were relying on a single contractor, the only person with the skills north of Tamworth.

James Goodwin of Goodcom communications is based in Walcha. David has nothing but praise for the guy.

"But he just happens to be the group captain of the Walcha fire brigades and we had massive fires."

He couldn't get the job done day one, so he hopped back in his truck and head back to Walcha to fight bushfires.

But a few days later he was back and the job was done.

The exhausted team, now more expert in approvals, regulations and evading the catch-22 than radio, flipped the final switch - and the radio sprung to life.

Their celebration lasted just 20 minutes. Everything went black. They'd lost power.

But what appeared to be a fiasco was just an extremely unlucky lightning strike. With energy restored the next morning, they'd finally done it. Tests prove the new transmitter covers the entire shire.

"After three years it was - finally we've done it, and we can pay the bills for all this we think!" said David Donnelly.

Total cost: $78,000, not including thousands of volunteer hours.

"Getting across the line, it allows us to get back into the swing of more mundane things which is having fun and putting out new music," said station volunteer Geoffrey Black.

"It really was a long, hard grind. To get across the line was really great."

The station is asking listeners from outlying areas to report back quality and reception issues to info@radiocbd.com.au