Not passing the “buck’


Through his Cape Town-based company Matt Buck designs, constructs and equips radio and television stations across Africa with state-of-the-art facilities.
Implementing sustainable broadcast solutions in Africa continues to present many challenges according to Matt Buck of Buck Broadcast. However, with these challenges come many rewards, especially in the community media and development sectors.

“The goalposts keep shifting so one can never become complacent. You can’t treat the continent as a generic territory as each country has different operational conditions. Comprehensive logistical and technical preparation is vital to success,’ stresses Buck.

He notes that designs for rurally located projects differ to urban systems due to the harsher environments and lack of grid power. User skills can also vary, so rural systems may be specified with less sophisticated user friendly equipment, while urban designs may feature the latest in AoIP technology.

Over the years certain brands have proved their worth in the African environment and Buck offers what he believes to be the best range of products for clients’ needs. He provides the BSE range of FM transmitters which are made in and designed for Africa and have proven reliability, as has the Italian RVR range.
Buck notes that the OutBack inverters are preferred to some of the other competing brands. The company has also had reliable results with the Axel Technology range of studio equipment. Telos hybrid equipment has always performed well and the many Rode broadcaster microphones they have supplied have never failed.

Regulatory challenges

Licensing requirements sometimes present a huge challenge to independent and community radio stations though this varies greatly between countries. Buck gives the example of Malawi which “enjoys a relatively relaxed licensing environment whereas stations in Namibia have struggled to obtain the necessary permission’.

He states that regulations, criteria and standards also vary widely, with some countries utilising very high standards of technology, while some regulators will license basic, non-professional solutions.

Environmental conditions in Africa can be extreme. “For example,’ continues Buck, “the transmission sites in Namibia can experience extreme heat and cold, while Sudan can have dry and wet seasons in rapid succession. This means that technical designs should accommodate all the worst case environmental scenarios to ensure sustained operation.

“As specific examples in desert climes, we have had good results with OutBack power equipment. In humid climates we like to avoid condenser microphones and have favoured the sturdy Shure SM7 dynamic microphone.’

Community broadcasters

About 90% of Buck Broadcast’s work is within the community radio sector, which often acts as the unofficial training ground for the independent commercial sectors.
In 2011 Buck Broadcast was contracted by Zambia’s Breeze FM, a community-based, commercial radio station, to supply and install the station.

Upon licence approval from regulator ZICTA, national telecommunications company Zamtel was engaged as a strategic partner to host transmission equipment at their developed sites and accommodate antenna systems on their existing towers and masts, setting a new precedent in Zambia.

The final approved plan saw new equipment installed at four Zamtel sites, while existing equipment at the Kanjala Hill primary transmission site was also upgraded. Good coverage in the west is ensured by the 1KW rebroadcast systems at Katete and Petauke, while a solar powered translator link delivers a signal for rebroadcast in the northern town of Lundazi.

On-line UPS systems were installed at all sites alongside superior DEHN VENTIL surge arresting systems. To ensure a consistent and professional output, the crew installed an Omnia One FM processor in the studio and optimised the microwave link to ensure a superior stereo signal was delivered to the transmitter network.


Since 1993 Buck has personally overseen the installation of more than 150 radio stations in Africa. Some of these contracts have been larger in scale than others and very often the client relationship is expected to continue through the expansion and development of services and stations. Buck cites the work done for Internews Sudan, where his company continues to provide equipment and installation services to its growing FM network.

Buck also worked with UNESCO Mozambique to commission seven community radio stations throughout the country. More recently he expanded the FM transmission network of Breeze FM.

In Mozambique Buck Broadcast expedited the complete installation of the country’s first Protools HD studio facility at the Apolitecnica University in downtown Maputo. The centre’s HD system is based around an AVID C24 control surface and 16×16 AVID HD i/o running the latest ProTools software and plug ins.

To minimise interference, the Mac Pro host computer is installed into its own machine room. The system was supplied with a full set of quality instrumentation that includes Fender / PRS guitars, Yamaha acoustic drum kit and MIDI controlling keyboard. Floor / wall carpeting, LED downlighting, signal / power skirting, painting and air-conditioning were also installed.

For a new radio station in South Sudan, (Magwi County), Buck Broadcast developed a viable and reliable technical design that included acoustic treatment, studio equipment, high capacity battery / inverter system and 250 Watt FM transmission system with full redundancy.

The next big thing

“Many overseas suppliers see Africa as the next big market as they are already actively promoting their products to the various sectors. There is no denying the potential of the African broadcast sector and trade shows like Mediatech Africa and CABSAT Dubai have reflected this.

“The next decade will see great activity as African broadcasters embrace digital migration and in many cases jump to the top of the curve as new users,’ predicts Buck.


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