Monthly Archives: March 2014

BBC World Service longevity vs. commercialization

(Image source: BBC)

(Image source: BBC)

Back in October 2010, we learned that the BBC would take over the cost of the World Service from the Foreign Office from April 2014. Shorty thereafter, the BBC World Service was dealt a 20% budget cut which eventually lead to the loss of 550 jobs. Now April 2014 is upon us.

The BBC, which is largely funded by a mandatory TV license fee, must now share its budget with the World Service. But even after the announcement of this consolidation, the TV license fee was not increased accordingly.

And then there’s another over-arching question: Will the BBC be a good steward of the World Service? BBC World Service boss, Peter Horrocks was recently asked this question by The Guardian:

“The switch from government to licence fee funding prompted fears that if the BBC faces further downward pressure on budgets – surely inevitable – it will be the World Service that suffers rather than a domestic channel such as BBC2. “Of course there may be people who make those arguments,” concedes Horrocks. But he argues that licence fee payers directly benefit from the World Service’s role as an ambassador for the UK and from its journalists who increasingly contribute to the BBC’s domestic output. Plus, it has nearly 2 million listeners in the UK every week (including its overnight broadcasts on Radio 4).”

Horrocks is being optimistic. After all, while not on the scale of the BBC, the death of Radio Canada International had much to do with the fact that the domestic news arm, the CBC, found RCI an easy cut. When the CBC was dealt a 20% overall budget cut, it cut RCI’s budget by 80%, effectively firing Canada’s radio “ambassador.”

Moving forward, the BBC World Service is dipping its feet into commercialization to prop up their relatively meager budget and to lighten the load on the TV license payee. As my buddy Richard Cuff says, this is a slippery slope–and as Peter Horrocks states, It’s not that easy to get advertising in Somalia.

If you would like to read more about the changes at the BBC World Service, check out these most recent articles:

You can also follow our tag: BBC World Service Cuts

A second life for the VOA Delano site?

VOA-Delano

VOA Delano campus

Much like VOA Site A, the VOA Delano, California site has been turned over to the Government Services Administration (GSA). After consideration for federal use, the GSA reached out to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who expressed an interest in the site. If approved, HUD could use the site to house the homeless or, possibly, create an affordable housing campus. We won’t know the future of the site until later this year.

Many thanks to several of you who sent a link to this recent article in The Bakersfield Californian which not only talks about the history of the Delano site, but also its future.

Though I know it’s not in the realm of possibility, I would love to see the site donated to a non-profit broadcaster or university who could carry out HF broadcasts and/or research.

On a side note, several months ago, I came across a declassified 2005 Report of Inspection for the Delano Transmitting Station. It makes for a fascinating look into Delano when it was once fully operational.

Click here to download the Report of Inspection as a PDF.

Listener Post: Chris Freitas

Analog Radio DialChris Freitas’ radio story is the latest in a our series called Listener Posts, where I will place all of your personal radio histories.

If you would like to add your story to the mix, simply send your story by email!

In the meantime, many thanks to Chris for sharing his personal radio history (note that Chris has also posted this story on his new blog):


Chris Freitas

I have an interesting story on how I got into shortwave radio. Let’s hop into the Tardis and go back to 1997. Being 13 years old, a young Chris Freitas was a member of the Boy Scouts.

Because I was a part of this organization, Boy’s Life magazine shipped to my mailbox each month. In the December 1997 issue, there was an article titled “Tune In To The World.” This printed piece literally changed my life.

BoysLife-Shortwave

While reading the article, I was amazed that there were radios capable of receiving global signals. There had to be more information. Thus, I went to the Millington Public Library (Millington is a suburb north of Memphis, TN and my hometown).

Using slow dial-up internet and reading Passport to World Band Radio, I learned more about shortwave radio, international stations, and frequencies. Before buying one at Radio Shack, there was an epiphany.

I already owned a shortwave radio and just realized it at that moment. Months before reading the article, my next-door neighbor friend sold me his radio for $25.

BBC-WorldServiceI thought it was neat. It was my first shortwave radio: the Worldstar Multi Band Receiver MG 6100 sold by Sears.

My first two years as an SWL were amazing. I would sit outside on weekends with my radio and listen to the BBC, RTI, RCI, HCJB, VOA, RNW, and many others.

A QSL collection grew and station stickers littered the top of my radio. I wrote to Boy’s Life about it and they paid me some money for the article.

There were great programs like Musical Mailbag, live sports, DX Partyline, and Play of the Week that I would tune into every week. My parents “loved” it, as I annoyed them with loud static.

Chris' DX-397

Chris’ DX-397

Unfortunately with all good things, the band knob on my Worldstar radio broke. However, my father conceded to a birthday wish and bought me a Radio Shack DX-397 (my dad told me that he still has it).

I also bought a book from Radio Shack titled Listening To Shortwave. Even for the late ’90s, it was a bit outdated but there were some interesting tips about shortwave.

It also came packaged with a cassette tape (Yes, I still remember them). It was called “Sounds of Shortwave.” If you want to listen, here’s Side A and Side B.

After three years of shortwave radio listening, it was not long before changing my childhood dream of becoming a TV weatherman (I had a crazy fascination with weather and still do). Instead, I wanted to be a radio announcer (or at least work at a station).

In 2000, the Delta Amateur Radio Club was present at a “Scout Base” on Naval Support Activity Mid-South. It was there that I earned my radio merit badge and perhaps my first on-air appearance.

Since then, I’ve been to college and earned my Bachelor’s of Arts in Communications. I am now working part-time at a local radio station. I have yet worked at an international station, but still pursuing that endeavor.

Chris' Tecsun PL-660

Chris’ Tecsun PL-660

Several stations like the BBC, Radio Canada, and Radio Netherlands left shortwave in North America. I have also been through various radios including the Grundig Mini World 300 PE, Eton E5, and Sony ICF-7600GR.

As of now, I am using a Tecsun PL-660 and I love it. Although there are fewer stations on shortwave these days, I still enjoy tuning the bands to catch some exciting sounds halfway around the world.


Many thanks, Chris, for sharing your story.  I think it’s wonderful that you learned about shortwave radio through Boy’s Life magazine. I attend the Dayton Hamvention every year and one of the highlights is that SWLing Post readers stop by my ETOW table to introduce themselves. A number of younger listeners have told me that they learned about shortwave radio through Boy Scouts–no doubt due to the number of Scout Masters who are hams that “propagate” their love of radio.

I encourage you to check out Chris’ new blog and his page on Facebook.

Readers: Please click here to read our growing collection of Listener Posts, and please consider submitting your own story!

The Voice of Korea and an inspirational story

FlagNorthKoreaMany thanks to Frank, a contributor at the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive, for this recording of the Voice of Korea’s English language service.

Frank recorded VOK from his home in Europe on March 27, 2014, on 7,570 kHz, starting at 21:00 UTC, using a Kenwood R-5000 receiver and a Wellbrook ALA 1530+ antenna.

Click here to download the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Of course, the Voice of Korea is all about broadcasting hard-core propaganda–a type of broadcast I find incredibly fascinating. But let there be no mistake, to live in the DPRK is to live under one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. If you want to hear a moving, inspirational story about one North Korean woman’s escape from the DPRK, check out Hyeonseo Lee’s: My escape from North Korea, a TED Talk:

Remember, you can subscribe and download the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive collection (free!) as a podcast via iTunes or the SWAA RSS feed.

WBCQ celebrates Radio Caroline this weekend

wbcq-logo(Source: WBCQ)

WBCQ  celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Radio Caroline with special programming

On March 28, 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting on 199 meters (1520 KHz) from the MV Caroline , anchored off the coast of England. Radio Caroline went on to revolutionize radio and popular music in the United Kingdom and the world, and influenced an entire generation.

WBCQ will be airing special programming celebrating the legacy of Radio Caroline and offshore free radio starting Friday night, March 28, 2014, at 8:00pm US eastern time (0000 UTC Saturday) on 5.110, 7.490, and 9.330 MHz with Allan Weiner Worldwide. Special programming will continue on 5.110 MHz following Allan’s show this evening and for the next week.

Also check out the special Radio Caroline broadcast from IRRS this weekend.