Monthly Archives: October 2012

BBG: Hurricane Sandy Fails To Stop VOA Broadcasts

Though this press release rightfully focuses on the staff at VOA headquarters in DC, we should take our hats off to the good folks that kept the Edward R. Murrow Transmission site running in North Carolina as well.

(Source: BBG)

Pounding rain and 80 mile an hour winds from Hurricane Sandy shut down U.S. government offices and the Washington, D.C. public transportation Monday and Tuesday, but it didn’t stop VOA journalists, technicians and support personnel from delivering news around the world in 43 languages.

“We had people sleep on couches around the building, and one used a cot, but the cots are not very comfortable,” English Branch Chief Terry Wing says.  “Some folks came in early on Monday, some stayed late, a couple are still here, I think some are going on 30 hours or more.”

VOA Director David Ensor says every show aired on schedule.  “It was extraordinary, hundreds of programs went out, we never missed a beat.”  Ensor says many language services provided constant updates to network affiliate stations around the world.

Executive Editor Steve Redisch says, “The Spanish Branch did more than 50 live shots to affiliates in Latin America and had a reporter on the New Jersey beach. The Russian Service was on with their affiliate, and the Indonesian Service filed for 20 radio and TV affiliates.”  Redisch says those are just some examples of what went on during the storm.

Newsroom Deputy Managing Editor David Jones, who spent the night at a nearby hotel, says it was all hands on deck.  “People were great.  We had TV and radio packages on the weather, and our political reporter did a story on how the hurricane affected the campaign, but most of our coverage was international — the fighting in Syria, Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton’s trip to the Balkans, the Ukrainian Election, and   there was something on South African politics,” Jones says.

Executive Editor Redisch says there was a lot of resourcefulness.  The French-to-Africa Service found a French speaking meteorologist at the National Weather Service, and the Mandarin Service TV show was anchored by an alternate who borrowed clothes so she could host the program.

While VOA journalists were hunkered down in Washington, videographer Daniela Schrier managed to capture something that nobody else had, footage of flood waters rushing through streets of Lower Manhattan Monday night.  Schrier, who was trapped in her apartment in New York’s East Village, managed to upload the video to Washington just before she lost power.

VOA broadcasts more than 1,700 hours of radio and television programming around the world each week from its headquarters in Washington.  The programs are delivered on satellite, cable, shortwave, AM, FM, the Internet and on a worldwide network of affiliate stations.

CRTC revokes Sackville’s CBC North license

A few of RCI Sackville’s curtain antennas

Occasionally, I have the opportunity to report good news on the SWLing Post. Unfortunately, this news is of a very disappointing turn:  According to the CBC’s plan, Sackville’s shortwave broadcasting license for the CBC North Quebec service has been revoked by the CRTC. This was announced today on the CRTC website; it is an eventuality in the wake of the 80% cut Radio Canada International received in April of this year.

What’s most sad about this revocation is that communities in North Quebec and Northern Canada who rely on this service, many representing First Nations (American Indians), probably do not even realize that they’re about to lose that service–the only service capable of bringing news to their vast Northern region.  The “replacement” for the service will be low-powered FM, which will just not have the same reach as shortwave.

If the three provinces that make up north Canada were a country, it would be the 7th largest country in the world by land mass. Five low power FM transmitters cannot cover this region. (Map: WikiMedia Commons)

A closer look

How vast is this territory? After all, we’re talking about an area where most of us have never traveled. Well, the North Quebec administrative region, alone, is 747,161 sq km (288,480 sq miles)–that’s about the size of Afghanistan, or 200,000 sq km larger than France.

The three provinces which make up northern Canada have a combined area of 3,921,739 km2 (1,514,192 sq mi)–an area larger than India. If northern Canada were a country, it would be the 7th largest in the world.

The Sackville shortwave service covers the entire North Quebec region with ease, and probably most of Northern Canada.

FM can’t replace this service

The CRTC decision states:

The CBC also requested the revocation of its broadcasting license for the shortwave radio undertaking CKCX-SW Sackville, New Brunswick. It indicated that the new transmitters will ensure that the population of the aforementioned locations [Puvirnituq, Kuujjuarapik, Inukjuak, Salluit, and Kuujjuaq] continues to be served by the news and regional information programming of its Radio One service when CKCX-SW Sackville ceases operation.

Five low-power FM stations, one for each of these communities will, at best, cover a total land area of 500 square miles combined.  That equates to a land area about the size of New York City. Note that this is a very generous figure and assumes ideal FM transmission conditions.  Clearly, vast areas of the enormous region–where people live, travel, or hunt–will not be covered; in these areas, radios which once received programming from Sackville will receive only static.

Our petition lives on

Last week, I spearheaded a petition to Canada’s Heritage and Public Safety Ministers and the CBC management asking them to stop dismantling the RCI Sackville site –at least, we asked, please keep this site in a state that could support Canada’s domestic security and the North Quebec Service. While I’m fully aware that this petition is unlikely to alter the course of this previously-made decision (made before anyone could voice disagreement), the petition could still make a positive difference.

There is still time to save Sackville from being dismantled. This petition makes it clear that there is a large community of people who are aware of this arbitrary cut. Only last week, Senator Hugh Segal made a motion on the senate floor that the CBC be made accountable for their unfair 80% cut to RCI (while the whole of the CBC was only cut 10%).

This petition also validates the efforts of those who work at the Sackville site, with whom I’ve been in contact.  They are humbled and appreciative of the extraordinary outpouring of support, in the form of nearly 500 signatures from individuals all over the world. Among the countries represented:  the United States, Mexico, India, Taiwan, and various countries in both Europe and Africa.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign the petition and share it with your friends.

Another Mighty KBC transmission into North/South America–Nov 4th

KBC Propagation Map (Source: The Mighty KBC)

The Mighty KBC is once again broadcasting into North and South America on 9,500 kHz, Sunday, November 4th (00:00-02:00 UTC).

This is their third 2 hour broadcast in the 31 meter band this year.

Try to catch them! If the past is any indicator, their signal is strong (easily heard on a portable in eastern NA) and their music mixes are fantastic.

Please comment if you hear this KBC broadcast outside of North and South America.

Pirate Radio Recordings: Grizzly Bear Radio

A few weeks ago, I found a pirate I had never heard before: Grizzly Bear Radio. They quickly nullified my claim that Radio Appalachia was the only pirate I knew of that broadcasts bluegrass music. According to Grizzly Bear, they transmit from the northwest US, so the fact that I hear them at all speaks of good propagation and Grizzly Bear’s antennas.

At any rate, I did manage to capture almost their entire broadcast–nearly 5 hours!–on October 6th. Unlike many of my recordings, this one is faint at times and you’ll have to listen through the static.  Still, this is what I enjoy about pirate radio, hearing some unique audio through the static. As grandpa used to say, this “builds listening skills.”

You can download an mp3 of the full recording, or simply listen in the player embedded below.  Enjoy:

Hurricane Sandy: Getting prepared

Self-powered radios can be your link to your community and to the world in the wake of a hurricane or other natural disasters.

I don’t know of many people living in eastern North America who aren’t a little nervous about what Hurricane Sandy could bring in the next few days. Several models point to some pretty severe weather and predict power outages in the wake of storm surge, high winds and rising water levels.

Of course, it’s difficult to prepare this close to a weather event as supplies are typically low and demand is high. We radio enthusiasts are well aware of the importance of radio supplies, but there’s so much more to include to have preparedness basics in place.

Sandy may or may not pan out to be a memorable weather event, but we can take this opportunity as a reminder to be prepared.

No matter where you live, spend some time preparing for natural disasters or interruptions to public utilities. We have several helpful posts on the SWLing Post which can help you with this very thing. If you do nothing else, make sure you at least read this post and this post.

Here’s a full list of relevant posts from our archives: