Category Archives: Radio History

The Voice of America celebrates 75 years

Willis Conover interviewing Louis Armstrong (Photo source: Inside VOA)

(Source: VOA News)

A little more than seven weeks after the United States officially entered World War II, a live, 15-minute shortwave radio broadcast was transmitted into Germany from a small studio in New York City on February 1, 1942.

It was introduced by the American patriotic song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Then, announcer William Harlan Hale’s voice could be heard saying: “We bring you Voices from America. Today, and daily from now on, we shall speak to you about America and the war. The news may be good for us. The news may be bad. But we shall tell you the truth.”

That was the very first broadcast from what, 75 years later, is now the Washington-headquartered Voice of America.

By the end of the war, VOA was broadcasting in 40 languages, with programming consisting of music, news and commentary.

Since then, VOA has grown into a multimedia international broadcasting service, with programming and content in 47 languages on multiple platforms, including radio, television and mobile.

On that first broadcast, announcer Hale’s words set the standard for future programs.

?And since 1976, his words have carried the weight of the VOA Charter, which by law requires VOA to “serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news.” What’s more, it says VOA news must “be accurate, objective and comprehensive.”

“It’s been 75 years since we first began broadcasting objective news and information around the world,” said VOA Director Amanda Bennett. “And now, I think what we do here is more important than ever.”

Over the years, VOA correspondents and freelance reporters in many parts of the world have been on the scene to cover major world events.

In 1989, VOA East European correspondent Jolyon Naegele reported on demonstrations in Czechoslovakia and the fall of the communist government. Later that year, on the other side of the world, VOA increased programming and added staff to its Beijing bureau to cover the student-led demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Beijing Bureau chief Al Pessin was expelled from China for his reporting.

Today, VOA broadcasts news and other programming through 2,500 television and radio affiliates around the world. At the same time, it provides content for mobile devices and interacts with audiences through social media.

As of 2016, VOA’s weekly audience across all platforms averaged more than 236 million people worldwide.

Check out more information on our VOA 75th anniversary page.

Click here to read this article on the VOA News website.

75 years ago today, VOA started German broadcasts

Voice of America Bethany Relay Station, May 2015

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alexander (DL4NO), who writes:

Hello Thomas,

I just heard a short feature on Deutschlandfunk: 75 years ago today VoA started transmitting – in German.

vy 73
Alexander
DL4NO

Many thanks for the tip, Alexander!

The Deutschlandfunk article, of course, is in German. I found, that Google Translate did an acceptable job translating it into English.

 

End of Radio Australia shortwave service, Mark compares final moments

This morning, I woke up, tuned to 9,580 kHz and all I heard was static.

Other than when the Shepparton transmitting station has been silenced for maintenance in the past, 9,580 kHz is one of the most reliable frequencies I’ve ever know on shortwave. Radio Australia has met me there every morning I’ve listened since I was eight years old.

I feel like I’ve lost a dear friend and certainly a staple source of news on shortwave radio. I know I’m not alone–a number of readers have shared similar sentiments this morning.

Archiving Radio Australia’s final days on the air

Listening to Radio Australia on 12,065 kHz with the Titan SDR Pro.

Since the beginning of the year, a few of us have been making a concerted effort to thoroughly archive Radio Australia’s final days on the air. Mark Fahey, London Shortwave, Richard Langley, Rob Wagner and I (to name a few) have been making both audio and/or spectrum recordings.

At 0100 UTC on January 31, 2017, we heard the “Waltzing Matilda” interval signal for one last time. As I understand it, the crew at the Shepparton site left the transmitter on a few extra seconds extra so their famous interval signal would be, in essence, the final sign-off.

Our friend and contributor, Rob Wagner, from Mount Evelyn, Australia, posted an excellent recording/video of the final minutes earlier today.

Due to propagation and the time of day when the shut down happened, I was unable to make a recording, so I’m pleased others could.

Mark compares shortwave and satellite feeds

Mark Fahey’s Wellbrook Mag Loop antenna.

I’m grateful to friend and contributor, Mark Fahey, who lives near Sydney, Australia, and was also able to record the final moments of Radio Australia as well. Mark recorded the shortwave service and RA satellite feed simultaneously.

Mark shares the following recordings and notes:

Recording 1

This is RA’s final few minutes on shortwave – it was recorded on 17840kHz.
The file picks up the regular program ending, then into a Promo for RA “Pacific Beat” (a Pacific current affairs program), then the classic RA Interval Signal then the transmitter clicks off and the void is heard.

Click here to download the MP3.

Recording 2

The file starts at exactly the same time as the first file, but in this example we are monitoring the Network Feed from Intelsat 18 at 180.0 degrees east (above the equator right on the international date line). This satellite feed is the way Radio Australia gets to the network of FM Transmitters they have scatted around the Pacific Region (which is why they feel they don’t need shortwave anymore for – most populated areas of Radio Australia’s target area now is covered by a network of Radio Australia FM transmitters).

Click here to download the MP3.

Some differences to the first file – Radio Australia is produced in FM quality stereo, though of course DXers only ever heard it in shortwave quality mono. So this network feed is in stereo and has a wider dynamic range that what DXer’s are familiar with from Radio Australia. At the end of the Pacific Beat Promo, Radio Australia goes straight into News, the closing of the shortwave service was not an event that would have been noticed for the typical listeners of RA who now listen via FM in Pacific capitals and major towns.

Thank you Mark for your comparison–I’ve never heard RA so clearly. Only you would’ve thought to simultaneously record the satellite feed! It gives the moment that much more context.

A number of SWLing Post contributors have been sharing recordings this morning. I will plan to collect these and put them on the Shortwave Archive in the near future.

Moving forward

Though senator Nick Xenophon says he will introduce legislation to Parliament to force the ABC to reinstate its shortwave radio service, we have to assume we’ve heard the last of Radio Australia and ABC on shortwave. (With that said, I understand Xenophon is a determined fellow.)

Rest assured: if Xenophon’s legislation gains traction, we will post updates!

No doubt, Radio New Zealand International’s shortwave service has just become that much more important in remote Pacific Islands. Click here to view RNZI’s schedule.

Radio Australia – The Last Two Minutes – January 31, 2017

Hi Folks,

Today I listened to Radio Australia for the very last time. 15240 kHz and 15415 kHz were plagued with local noise and not especially strong signals. So 17840 kHz was the best option for my final moments with this grand old shortwave broadcaster. Mount Evelyn is about 200 km south of the Shepparton transmitter site – not far enough for proper F layer reflection and off the side of the beam, so the signal was a bit scratchy. But I was there for the end and that’s the important thing!

Thank you to all the SWLing readers who have been so kind in their comments about our national broadcaster. I know RA meant much to so many people around the globe. But I’ll have more to say on this in the near future. Thanks to Thomas for helping to promote the Save Radio Australia cause. The fight is not over yet!

Here are the last two minutes of the broadcast today, including the audible switch-off click and a few parting comments from me.

73 and good DX to you all.

Rob Wagner VK3BVW

The company and history behind the Boeing 707 HF antenna coupler

(Source: Boeing)

Many thanks to David Giba who shares the following via the Gary J. Cohen’s Shortwave Listeners Global Facebook page:

The Boeing 707 is my favorite commercial jetliner. If one looks at the tail they will see a probe pointing forward off the top of the tail. That is the HF shortwave antenna.

(Source: VIP Club)

It was matched by an antenna tuner/transmatch much like we have in our HF radios. This is the story of the Univac Coupler. Very interesting.

Click here to read on the VIP Club website.