High-Speed Broadband Access -Case Studies: Media

Access Radio broadcasters on air

Access Radio broadcasters on air

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Interview with: Kedron Parker - Station Manager, Access Radio Wellington

High-speed broadband has transformed Wellington's Access Radio.

The local radio station, which became New Zealand's first community access radio station when it was launched in 1981, now provides live streaming, audio on demand and podcasting from its website.

Internet Broadcasting

General Manager Kedron Parker says that high-speed broadband makes "all the difference" for the station, listeners and community broadcasters by enabling internet broadcasting, and other improvements to the traditional 783AM broadcasting service.

Access Radio downloads material from international broadcasters including the BBC and Radio New Zealand International Dateline Pacific.

Every day new programming is uploaded onto the station's website. Faster broadband means more material can be uploaded.

It also enables "time-shifting" by storing programmes for later access. "Before broadband we couldn't time shift," says Kedron. "Now people access shows any time via our website."

Presenter Robert Spencer on Access Radio

Presenter Robert Spencer on Access Radio

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Vital Community Messages

Access Radio benefits many sectors of the community from the elderly to ethnic groups.

Health programmes cover a wide range of issues.

National and local organisations, and community workers use Access Radio to relay vital community messages, such as health worker Rachel O'Brien's monthly Tongan-language show about diabetes, and the No Labels show exploring the diversity of disability issues.

The diabetes programme has had 700 website hits, and is "raising awareness of health issues for a tremendous amount of Tongan people," Kedron says.

Robert Spencer, who is intellectually impaired, presents the Brooklyn Galleria Half Hour show. This has attracted more than 500 hits including internet listeners in England.

Allan Jones, who is visually impaired, is a No Labels coordinator. A late-starter on computers, Allan is learning to edit material on a laptop and says that "high-speed connectivity gives much better sound quality".

"It's vital to get these messages into the community - broadband must be affordable so the community can access resources such as this."

Connecting Communities

Shows are broadcast in 25 languages, promoting cultural links. When Access Radio began streaming in 2004, Pacific Island stations immediately picked up the streams for re-broadcasting.

Speed has also "unleashed a wave of collaboration" with other Access stations enabling group and online chats.

Access Internet Radio connects communities with streaming and downloadable content from Access Radio Wellington, Community Radio Hamilton and Fresh FM in Nelson.

Further Opportunities

Some broadcast content also appears on relevant websites. This includes a radio programme on the New Zealand Council of Social Services website.

One spin-off opportunity has been Access Radio's newly developed content management system (CMS) - Media Manager - a finalist in the 2007 Open Source Awards.

Internet Costs

Access Radio uses a CityLink 10-Gigabit service so speed and bandwidth are not problematic, but cost is.

"Broadband costs are increasingly difficult to manage," says Kedron. "We need to ensure staff and programme makers can get online but our bills for internet traffic are huge.

"When you tune into Access you may not understand the language. Video postcards on our website and on YouTube introduce internet users to the programme presenters but some people cannot access these clips without broadband.

"Broadband is essential infrastructure for the well-being of communities. Current costs create huge barriers for participation especially for new and migrant communities."