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Old January 6th 05, 02:23 AM
Mike Terry
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Default Radio had no warnings of killer waves

Wed, Jan 05, 2005

By Nick Higgins

An around-the-clock transmission capacity would not have helped Radio
Australia warn people of the tsunami, the broadcasters head said yesterday.

Mr Jean-Gabriel Manguy, who divides his time between homes in Melbourne and
Bethanga, said there had been no warnings to broadcast.

"It took everybody by surprise ... although I understand that in some
reports people in India were aware of the tremor and expected a tsunami," Mr
Manguy said from Bethanga yesterday.

Mr Manguy is anxiously waiting for contact from his older brother, Jacques,
who was in southern India when the tsunami struck.

Until severe budget cuts in 1997, Radio Australia had a 24-hour shortwave
broadcast to Indonesia and other parts of Asia.

The shortwave service was partly restored in 2000 and there are now daily
nine-hour shortwave broadcasts throughout Indonesia.

Mr Manguy said the shortwave broadcasts were supplemented by Radio Australia
being available through 155 Asian FM stations,|which broadcast in English,
Thai, Indonesian, Cantonese, Japanese, Vietnamese and French.

Thirty of those stations are in Indonesia and reach an estimated seven
million listeners.

Mr Manguy said the disaster had shown 24-hour transmission would have been
valuable in the aftermath and during rescue and relief operations.

"Natural disasters and political violence are difficult to predict or
forewarn but as soon as they happen people need to know what is going on and
local coverage is often censored," he said.

Just hours after the tsunami Radio Australia journalists spoke to the
Indonesian Vice-President, Mr Jusuf Kalla.

Budget cuts in the late 1990s resulted in a halving of Radio Australias
staff, which now number 76.

Radio Australias annual budget is $13.5 million but in 1997 it was twice
that amount.

A transmitter near Shepparton broadcasts to eastern parts of Indonesia and
Pacific Ocean countries while a transmitter at Darwin broadcasts to Indian
Ocean regions.

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