Category Archives: Schedules

How to Identify Changes in Station Schedules

The shortwave bands are in a constant state of flux. And radio reception varies with the seasons. As a result, radio stations often need to alter their frequencies and times for best all-year-round reception at the listener’s location. There are two seasonal changeovers: the “A” transmission period coincides with the northern hemisphere summer (March to October), and the “B” transmission schedule for the winter period (October to March). Leading up to these changeovers, broadcasters plan their schedules for the coming season. The B16 transmission season began last weekend.

Want to improve your understanding of shortwave propagation characteristics? Study a few of the strategies employed by broadcast engineers at international radio stations during the twice yearly schedule changeovers. You’ll quickly learn much about how it all works!

Frequency changes by international broadcasters allow you the opportunity to observe the factors that come into play at BOTH the transmitter site and the reception target zone in another part of the world. Broadly speaking, we know that when winter arrives reception of the higher frequencies declines and the lower frequencies provide better reception. The reverse applies in summer – reception on the higher frequencies are enhanced and ionospheric absorption of signals increases at lower frequencies.

In addition, these characteristics change for both daytime and nighttime reception in summer and winter. Furthermore, some interesting reception opportunities occur in certain regions of the world during the summer and winter equinoxes. On top of this, factor in the 11-year sunspot cycle and the current monthly smoothed sunspot number (SSN). So, station engineers have quite a few variables to consider while selecting their preferred shortwave bands when targeting their signals to the listener’s location in some other part of the world! Perhaps one could even consider that these calculations as both a science and an art!

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Next, the engineers representing each station have to sit down with their colleagues (competitors?) from other broadcasters and negotiate suitable frequency allocations in each of the preferred bands. This is why we have the existence of the High Frequency Coordination Committee (HFCC). Working together to find and register suitable frequencies that don’t interfere with other transmissions is an important part of successfully ensuring that everyone “wins”. The HFCC describes its role this way:

The main objective of the HFCC is to provide the representation and services for the promotion of an efficient and economical use of the short-wave radio spectrum, and the improvement of radio reception of shortwave broadcast transmissions worldwide……

HFCC’s main activity is a direct coordination of frequencies among frequency managers and specialists of broadcasters, administrations, transmission service providers and other organisations with the aim to facilitate the resolution or minimisation of mutual interference on short waves…..

Membership of the HFCC is open to all individuals and organisations that provide frequency management and planning for recognised shortwave broadcasters.

And it has to be said that the HFCC does a very good job at trying to resolve potential conflicts and clashes in frequency registration. But we didn’t always have this informal governing body. HFCC was only formed in 1990. Prior to that, there was much “rough and tumble” as stations tried to sort it out for themselves and avoid getting in each others way. Remember also, in the 1970s and 80’s there were many more shortwave broadcasters than there are today, each with very large operating schedules. For younger readers here, imagine the international bands being six or seven times busier than they are today!

Understanding propagation characteristics, frequency allocation, antenna beam headings, different time zones and many other aspects of international broadcasting have been a source of fascination for me, both as a shortwave listener and as an amateur (ham) radio operator.

Here are some things to consider when monitoring the change in transmission seasons:

    • Learn the basics of shortwave propagation and the characteristics on display over a 24-hour period, seasonally, annually, and within the sunspot cycle. It’s a big topic and takes a while to really absorb it all!
  • Familiarise yourself with which part of the spectrum the broadcaster can be expected to successfully utilise during a certain season.
    • When finding a station on a new frequency (NF), try to locate and note down the formerly used frequency. Sometimes, that same station will return to the deleted frequency at the start of the next season (the next half of the year).
    • Noting the deleted frequency often reveals that another station has taken up position on that channel.
    • Check to see if the same transmitter site is used for the NF. With so many stations using a variety of relay sites these days, you cannot just assume that the same relay is being used for the NF as it was for the old frequency.
    • Some station schedules are complicated and can be hard to decipher. Time changes, language changes, an increase or decrease in the number of frequencies the station employs for a particular service, daily broadcasts, weekends only, weekdays only, or only certains days of the week can make it tricky to reveal how the NF relates to the old frequency. Expect that you might sometimes get it wrong!
    • A few stations (e.g. China Radio International or Radio Free Asia) use so many outlets for some broadcasts that it can be too hard to tell what was the replaced frequency. In those cases, I just throw up my hands and move on!
  • Maybe the target location of the broadcast has changed. Checking the transmitter’s azimuth beam headings can help here.

Like other “old dudes”, I have spent many years observing and documenting the schedule changes of shortwave broadcasters. This is a part of the hobby that I personally find quite absorbing. However, I’m aware that it’s probably NOT something that some others might enjoy quite so much!

Since the B16 changes came in one week ago, I have been busy monitoring the bands to find the NFs and the deleted frequencies (the ex’s) and any other variations to the broadcasting schedules of each station.

There are HUNDREDS of changes to discover. But I can’t find them all – I also have to eat, sleep, and get on with life!

However, here is a list of the 93 observations I have made over just the past few days:

NOTE: Frequencies in kHz, Times in UTC
ABBREVIATIONS: NF = New Frequency, ex = deleted frequency, QRM = interference, // = another or parallel frequency used at the same time, As = Asia, SEAs = South East Asia, etc. Af = Africa, WAf = West Africa, etc. Eu = Europe, EEu = Eastern Europe, etc. NAm = Nth America, ENAm = Eastern Nth America, etc. Oc = Oceania
FORMAT: Freq – Country of Transmitter site – Station Name – Transmitter Location – comments.

5885 NTH MARIANA IS. RFA – Tinian. Korean to EAs at 1710, NF and good signal, Nov 4.

5910 OMAN. BBC – Al Seela. S/on 1700 in Dari to SEAs, NF, good signal, Nov 4.

5955 ROMANIA. RRI – Tiganesti. Italian to SEu, 1715, NF (ex 5910) and fair signal, Nov 4.

5965 NTH MARIANA IS. RFA – Tinian. Mandarin at 2030, NF and heavy jamming, Oct 31.

5970 TURKEY. VoT – Emirler. French to Eu, 2035, NF (ex 9635), fair signal Oct 31.

5980 TURKEY. VoT – Emirler. Turkish to Eu 2005, NF (ex 9460), good signal, Oct 31.

5990 ROMANIA. RRI – Galbeni. Romanian to Eu, 2040 to s/off 2100, NF (Believed to be ex 9500), good signal, Oct 31.

6010 CHINA. CRI – Urumqi. S/on 1800 in Amoy (Min Nan Chinese), NF (ex 13700) fair signal but QRM from Korean jamming on 6015, Nov 4.

6025 IRAN. VOIRI – Sirjan. German to Eu at s/on 1720, NF (ex 9660), good signal, Nov. 4

6040 CHINA. CRI – Urumqi. Russian to EEu at 1745 to s/off 1757, NF (possibly ex 11875 for this txer site) and excellent signal Nov 4.

6050 TURKEY. VoT – Emirler. English to Eu at 2015 to s/off 2025, NF (ex 9785), fair signal, Oct 31.

6060 IRAN. VOIRI – Zhaedan. Arabic to NAf at 1802, NF (ex 7285), fair signal, Nov 4.

6070 CHINA. CRI – Beijing. Russian to EEu at 1815, NF (ex 9560), very good signal Nov 4.

6090 OMAN. BBC – Al Seela. English WS to CAs and ME, 1820, NF (ex 7375), good signal and // 6195 also heard via Al Seela, Nov 4.

6100 CHINA. CRI – Beijing. English to Eu at 1800-1900, NF (ex 9600), excellent signal and // 7405 (via Beijing) which is also a NF and well heard on Nov 4.

Click here to continue reading the remaining 78 new frequency observations

 

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Part of Rob’s shack. Top Row: Two power supplies. Middle Row: Bose powered speaker, Kenwood R5000 receiver. Bottom Row: Kenwood TS2000 transceiver, Yaesu FRG100 receiver.

Rob Wagner, VK3BVW, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. He also blogs at the Mount Evelyn DX Report.

From the Isle of Music for June 21

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The next edition of From the Isle of Music:

The June 21 (June 20 in the Americas on WBCQ) program features special guest Ethiel Failde, whose album Llego la Failde was nominated in the Opera Prima and Traditional Popular Music categories in Cubadisco 2016; we will also play some of the winner of the Traditional Afrocuban category, Soy de la Tierra Brava by Yoruba Andabo. We’ll finish Popularmente Sinfónico Vol II by Orquesta Sinfónica de Matanzas, and we will play some Los Van Van from the 1970s.
Two listening options on shortwave:
WBCQ, 7490 KHz, Tuesdays 0000 UTC (8pm EDT Mondays)
Channel 292, 6070 KHz, Tuesdays 1900 UTC (2100 CEST)

Update: From the Isle of Music

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Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Bill Tilford, who shares this From The Isle of Music update:

Since the addition of Channel 292 we are now getting excellent reception reports from as far east as Moscow.

Our April 11 (in the Americas) / April 12 (for the rest of the world) program will have more dance music than usual, with special guests Jesus Chappottin and Miguelito Cuni Jr. of Conjunto Chappotin, some classic dance tracks from Conjunto Los Bocucos and some Timba from El Niño y la Verdad. On the Jazz front, a new release by Brenda Navarrete, and more beautiful Cuban concert music from the album Danzas Para Piano de Ignacio Cervantes.

Two listening options on shortwave:

  • WBCQ, 7490 KHz, Tuesdays 0000 UTC (8pm EDT Mondays)
  • Channel 292, 6070 KHz, Tuesdays 1900 UTC (2100 CEST)

See the NOTES section of our Facebook page for program updates and other information.

Upcoming shows on the Isle of Music

Many thanks to Bill Tilford,who updates us on some of his upcoming Isle of Music broadcasts:FTIOMPROMOFEB29

Greetings. Update for From the Isle of Music on WBCQ, 7490 KHz, 0100-0200 Tuesdays (Monday nights 8-9pm [EST] in the Americas)

The next few weeks of From the Isle of Music will feature, in addition to an eclectic selection of music from Cuba:

Feb 29: Special Guest is Juan Carlos Marín, on of Cuba’s best Jazz saxophonists

March 7: Special Guest is Ethiel Failde, director of Orquesta Miguel Failde, which preserves the Danzon, one of Cuba’s most important popular musical genres (it helped give birth to the Mambo and influenced North American Jazz)

March 14: Special Guest is Leo Garcia, leader of the group Timbalive, which plays Timba, one of Cuba’s best genres of modern dance music. Timbalive is based in Miami but regularly works with musicians on the island in its recordings.
A graphic for our Feb 29 show is attached…..

Thanks for all you do for radio……

And many thanks to you, Bill, for broadcasting the excellent tunes!

DigiDX: a new digital broadcast via Channel 292

DigiDXMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Stephen Cooper, who shares the following news about the new DigiDX broadcast:

DigiDX is a 30 minute MFSK32 broadcast covering shortwave and DX news, radio related reviews, schedule information and listeners letters and after a success test broadcast to Europe, a broadcast for North America is planned for 0200 UTC Sunday.

Broadcasting from Channel 292 in Germany on 6070 kHz the time has been chosen to maximise chance of reception on the East Coast of North America and beyond.

The programme features the majority of the broadcast in MFSK32 but around 10 minutes of the broadcast is in the slower Olivia 64-2000 mode to test for resilience against bad propagation to North America and interference on 6070.

The tests to Europe on Channel 292 earlier this week showed good reception and near perfect decodes despite Radio China International and Vatican Radio being on the same frequency during some of the test.

To decode use FlDigi, MultiPSK or the Tivar Android app, just putting your radio next to the PC microphone or phone/tablet is enough to decode the broadcast. If you have decoded the VOA Radiogram before, DigiDX uses the same digital modes.

Please send reception reports and decodes of the text/images in the broadcast to reports@digidx.uk, an e-QSL will be sent by email and on the next broadcast an e-QSL card will be broadcast over the air in MFSK32 mode as well.

For European listeners the second edition of DigiDX with an include e-QSL card from the last episode will be broadcast on 6070Khz at 1100 UTC. For information on further broadcast times like DigiDX on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/digidx/) or follow on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Digi_Dx)

This is brilliant, Stephen! I’ll attempt to log DigiDX this weekend if conditions are fair!