Melbourne’s Water Police obviously don’t listen to Nova!

I have just finished watching the final episode of the Channel 9 TV program “Search and Rescue”. The show is primarily centred on the Victoria Police’s Search & Rescue unit and the Water Police. On this episode, there was a rather comical incident. At least it would have been comical if it wasn’t so serious.

One of the jobs of the Water Police is to monitor marine radios in case of an Emergency. However on this occasion, someone had jammed the emergency channel with music. Someone was transmitting a radio station’s music on the emergency channel. Unlike a telephone, a 2 way radio works on the premise that one person can talk at a time. Unlike some other systems that I have worked with, there seemed to be no timeout of the transmitter. It seems as though until the person at the other end realised what was happening or the police managed to figure out who it was, the channel would be jammed.

Eventually, the Police figured out that they were indeed listening to radio station Nova. It would be seemingly easier to call the radio station and put a message on air for any person on a boat who is listening to Nova to check their marine radio rather than try to figure out where the person was. After all, marine radio is known for it’s range and as the Police Officer explained, the person might not even be on the water but repairing the boat on land.

In this case, it would be easier to contact the radio station. At least that was the plan. It took ages for the Police to be able to speak to a human rather than an answering machine. A competition winner was even able to get through to win a competition. Eventually the Police managed to get through and Nova wanted confirmation that the person on the line was indeed from the Water Police. As the Police Officer said “they want to confirm who I am but I’m being put through to a guy called Jabba”. Jabba is an announcer on Nova.

Soon enough, the message was put on air and it was a matter of time before it would be known if the tactic worked. Then a female voice could be heard saying over the radio “do you think they are talking about us?”. Obviously if the boat radio’s push to talk button was jammed on, you’d be able to hear the person as well as the radio. Then there was a discussion between the people on the boat and then they went looking at the radio. Someone observed that a light marked “Tx” was on.

With my radio communications experience, I’d figured out ages ago that the radio was transmitting. The people on the boat probably did not and probably did not know that Tx stands for “transmit”. Obviously if the Tx light is on, your radio is transmitting. The talk button was released and then it was quiet. No more Nova on the marine emergency channel and the channel was now free to be used for it’s intended purpose.

This reminds me perfectly of the discussion that I had with Leigh the Voice Over Guy and Natalie on Erk Pod Round Table 3. In the current state of Australian commercial radio, a lot of networking occurs on a daily basis, particularly over the weekend and at night. There might be a network of stations in the country (for instance) with a main station in a capital city that operates it. In the country stations, there probably would not be anyone at the station so if there was some sort of emergency while the station is in network mode, calling that station might not be much use. So depending on procedures, there might be an emergency contact within the station or indeed it might be better to contact the main station that is controlling the network.

Even in the Nova example in this post, there are Nova stations in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. At times, there may indeed be networked programs on the Nova network out of one location across the network. For the message to get on air like happened in this instance, it might have meant a phone call needed to be made to Melbourne or Sydney, for instance. I wonder how many people in the Emergency Services who need to contact the media release this.



Filed under radio

2 responses to “Melbourne’s Water Police obviously don’t listen to Nova!

  1. Here in the U.S., we used to have something called the Emergency Broadcast System. If something bad happened, local radio/TV stations would broadcast a long “emergency” tone, followed by relevant information and instructions. Back when I worked in radio, there was actually a channel on the board marked, “EBS.” It was always set to mute, but if we ever noticed the light on that channel lighting up, we were supposed to IMMEDIATELY put it into preview to see what it was. If it was a true bulletin, we were supposed to cut the music (or whatever was playing) and switch to EBS. Fortunately for me, nothing ever came down the EBS pipe while I was working. Anyway, over time, more and more stations became automated, meaning fewer stations were manned with people. So now we have the new Emergency Alert System. EAS sends a very modem-like tone across a network to radio stations, and if a station’s equipment picks up the signal, the equipment cuts away to EAS. Overall, it’s a good system. But I’ve heard EAS break-ins that were just basic weather bulletins. Things that didn’t really need the “break-in” treatment. In the old days, a human could’ve sorted out whether or not to go live with the bulletins. But sadly (for the most part), those days are over.

  2. Erk


    On Round Table 3, Leigh the Voice Over Guy and Natalie covered some of what you are talking about here. They are doing that here in relation to missing and/or abducted kids and also (I think) if things go really pear shaped in terms of terrorism etc. There have been cases here where a faxed weather warning has been faxed to a station over a weekend where there is no one at the station and the warning has gone un-broadcasted.

    What did you used to do in radio? I dabbled in community radio (one step under commercial radio) for a while but gave that up to work on the railways. Now I have a bigger audience and a wider ranging audience in podcasting than I ever could when I was on radio!

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