Ed Royce to champion “new approach” to US international broadcasting

US Representative, Ed Royce

US Representative, Ed Royce

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Michael, for sharing a link to this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Ed Royce (R), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Here is a short clip from the piece:

“Vladimir Putin has a secret army. It’s an army of thousands of “trolls,” TV anchors and others who work day and night spreading anti-American propaganda on the Internet, airwaves and newspapers throughout Russia and the world. Mr. Putin uses these misinformation warriors to destabilize his neighbors and control parts of Ukraine. This force may be more dangerous than any military, because no artillery can stop their lies from spreading and undermining U.S. security interests in Europe.

Neither can the U.S. international broadcasting services that performed such a valuable service during the Cold War. They have withered until they are no longer capable of meeting today’s challenges. Until this changes, Russia’s president and his propaganda will flourish.

[…]From its inception, the BBG has drawn criticism from right, left and center. A part-time board that is supposed to oversee and spend $740 million a year, it has a fundamentally flawed structure. A 2013 Inspector General report for the State Department found the BBG to be dysfunctional. The same year, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the BBG as “practically defunct.” No wonder the agency isn’t coming close to competing with Mr. Putin.

Righting this ship must be an urgent foreign-policy priority. I will soon introduce bipartisan legislation to do just that. The bill would charge one U.S. broadcasting organization (VOA) with reporting U.S. policy and other global news, and another, including RFE/RL and similar services, to act as the free press in repressive societies like Russia. Each organization will have its own CEO and its own board, with accountability that is clear to all[…]”

Read Ed Royce’s full Op Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal online.

Update: Dan Robinson also points out this piece, by Ron Nixon, published in the NY Times.

Posted in Articles, Broadcasters, International Broadcasting, News, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sangean WR-15: great looks, but poor performance?

Sangean-AMFM-RadioJeff, over at the Herculodge, writes with some disappointing news:

What a shame John bought the WR-15 and thinks it stinks: http://herculodge.typepad.com/herculodge/2015/04/john-cannot-recommend-the-sangean-wr-15-radio-due-to-subpar-am-and-fm.html

Oh, that is a shame. An AM/FM radio with poor AM/FM sensitivity has little appeal (even if it has a great chassis).

John (the reviewer) mentions what sounds like a squelching effect during tuning as well–when a strong signal is received, volume increases with the “lock.” Perhaps a sign this Sangean receiver is powered by a DSP chip and isn’t analog at all?

I expected something better from Sangean. At least the WR-15 is one thing I can safely pull off of my Amazon wish list!

Posted in AM, Mediumwave, News, Radios | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Tinkering with the Credit Card Crystal Radio

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio-2

A few weeks ago, we published a short post about a credit card crystal radio from an eBay seller in the UK.

I purchased a kit–at $17-18 US shipped, it’s quite a modest investment for what might be a fun little project.

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio

The crystal radio arrived while I was traveling during Easter break, but my free time has been so (extremely) limited lately, I was only able to unpack and try out this new arrival yesterday.

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio-1

The biggest surprise for me was the fact that this isn’t really a kit–the board is fully populated and requires no soldering whatsoever. The board feels of very good quality.

All that is required is connecting the high-impedance earphone, earth/ground and aerial/antenna to the board. Since all of these components can be connected with the supplied alligator clip cables, getting it on the air took all of 20 seconds. I simply hooked up the ground and connected the aerial to my sky loop wire antenna.

I instantly heard a signal and station ID which confirmed it was our closest local broadcaster on 1010 kHz.  This station isn’t of the blowtorch variety, but is the strongest one I receive on the MW band simply due to its proximity. Audio was quite faint through the earpiece, but I believe if I tinkered with antenna length and the two variable capacitors, I could improve reception.

SWLing Post reader, Richard Langley, received his crystal radio and had a very similar experience with reception.

Credit-Card-Crystal-Radio-4

With any crystal radio (especially one this small), performance is directly correlated with antenna length, availability of a good ground connection and, of course, strong broadcasters in your vicinity.

I plan to spend an evening tinkering with this little receiver and see if I can pick up some of the night time powerhouse AM stations on the east coast.

I can say this: if you’re looking for a simple, uber-compact emergency receiver for your go-bag, bug out bag or emergency kit, this one will certainly fit the bill. This crystal receiver and all of its components weight no more than a few ounces and could easily fit in compact pouch or sleeve.

Have any other readers have enjoyed tinkering with this little emergency crystal radio?

If you would like to purchase one, try searching eBay with one of the links below. The product will only appear in the search results if currently available.

Posted in AM, How To, Kits, Mediumwave, News, Radios, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Dave Zantow’s Grundig G2 Notes

(Photo source: Eton Corporation)

(Photo source: Eton Corporation)

After posting the recent mini review of the Grundig G2 Reporter, Dave Zontow (N9EWO) notes:

I just completed updates on my reviews page regarding these models.

http://webpages.charter.net/n9ewo2/g2reporter.html

Owners should take note for the cure with excessive battery consumption when OFF . It’s not covered well in the owners manuals (if at all depending on the variant). One toggled in the menu’s, it pretty much squashes the issue.

Many thanks, Dave for your very detailed review of the Grundig G2!

Posted in News, Radios, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Victor’s detailed handwritten QSL Card

Noted DXer, Victor Goonetilleke, recently posted this circa 1971 QSL on Facebook and has kindly allowed me to share it here on the SWLing Post:

Victor-QSL

Click to enlarge

Victor comments:

“The Glory Days of Short Wave Radio. Can you imagine someone hand writing all this today?”

Indeed! I’m very impressed with the detail this Central African Republic broadcaster included in this QSL card–very neat handwriting! Certainly a gem and wonderful memory of hearing this domestic shortwave radio service so far outside its intended broadcast footprint! Thanks for sharing, Victor.

Posted in News, QSL Gallery | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A source of Sangean shortwave radios in New Zealand

ATS-909X

In response to a post last year where we asked about sources of shortwave radios in New Zealand, SWLing Post reader, James Patterson, writes:

I have now found a very good importer of very good quality shortwave portable radios here in New Zealand.

[T]here is an importer of the Sangean ATS 909X portable radios. He has a shop and warehouse. He imports all Sangean radio products, is excellent to deal with and will ship them anywhere in New Zealand.

I have just recently bought the ATS 909X. I must say that I did buy one off him and found the frequency band coverage on that one [unit] was very limited. [This unit] got mixed in with a batch sent to him, but was meant for a different country with government restrictions on band coverage. The one I have now is “full band” and an excellent portable receiver in every way. I’m very pleased to be able to share this with anyone either living here in New Zealand or wanting to come here for a holiday and in need of good quality shortwave radio with very good SSB.

The importer’s internet site is : www.mayogroup.co.nz

The website will give the full details and contacts of the importer, who is a well-known and trusted person to deal with. He does not advertise on sites like TradeMe. However, he does deal through electronics stores such as 100% Appliances here in NZ.

Many thanks, James, for the report on the Mayo Group as an importer of the Sangean ATS-909X. Very encouraging to hear as there are so few local sources of shortwave radio products in New Zealand.

Of course, those living in New Zealand can always purchase shortwave radios through sellers on eBay, but delivery time may be as long as two weeks or more, depending on the parcel service chosen.

Posted in News, Radios, Retailers, Shortwave Radio | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

O’Rielly proposes a new way to fight pirate radio

fcc_logo

Many thanks to an SWLing Post reader who shares this blog post by FCC Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly. In his post, Commissioner O’Rielly expresses his hatred of pirate radio stations and how he believes action should be taken against pirate stations. Worth reading, especially in light of potential FCC Enforcement Bureau Field Office closure plans.

(Source: FCC Blog)

Consider a New Way to Combat Pirate Radio Stations

Everyone should agree that pirate radio stations – by any definition – are completely illegal. Given other responsibilities and obligations, however, the Commission’s resources are stretched, and it seems that stopping pirate radio is not at the top of the priority list. While this reality is not surprising, we need to consider other ways to remove the scourge that is pirate radio. One approach would be to give broadcasters a new right to use the legal process to go after such stations, letting loose broadcasters’ legal bloodhounds to root out the violators. This isn’t a new idea as it has been done in other circumstances outside of spectrum policy, such as to combat email spam, and we should consider it here, too.

It is important to start by recognizing the truth about pirate radio stations. They are not cute; they are not filling a niche; they are not innovation test beds; and they are not training grounds for future broadcasters. If broadcasting were a garden, pirate radio would be poisonous crabgrass. Put another way, pirate radio participants are similar to outlaws who rob a retail store and then sell the stolen inventory online. In practice, pirate radio causes unacceptable economic harm to legitimate and licensed American broadcasters by stealing listeners. Pirate operators also cause “harmful interference” that inhibits the ability of real broadcasters to transmit their signals and programming, which provide such vital services as emergency alerts, critical weather updates, political information and news. And, pirate radio can disproportionately impact minority-owned stations as they undercut their financials and can cause harmful interference to legitimate stations serving minority populations.

Let’s also dispel another myth: pirate radio does not increase media diversity. From time to time, arguments have been made that we should look the other way because some pirate radio operators may be minorities, or the stations’ content appeals to minority listeners. To be clear, the race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or any characteristic of a pirate radio operator should be completely irrelevant to the discussion. Their operations are illegal – end of story. Just imagine if we allowed this argument to be persuasive in other spectrum enforcement decisions: Commission spectrum and licensing policies would be thrown into complete chaos and wireless systems would cease to operate.

Instead of embracing pirate radio, approaches like the NAB’s Broadcast Leadership Training Program should be encouraged to prepare underrepresented populations for leadership and ownership positions in broadcasting. Alternatively, those truly interested in operating a legal broadcast station can seek to participate in the Commission’s July 2015 auction, in which 131 FM construction permits will be available, many in smaller and less expensive markets.

If there are unmet needs or underserved populations, the solution is not to condone an illegal station, but to convince the applicable existing broadcaster to be more responsive. Collectively, broadcasters are uniquely attuned to the needs of their communities and promoting localism because the success of their stations and ultimately, their livelihoods depend on it. Moreover, there are other technologies available to target broadcasts to a distinct group within a community, such as low power FM stations or Internet radio stations, which are free, easy to establish and not regulated by the Commission.

To combat pirate radio, I am suggesting that we replicate a concept contained in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Specifically, section 7(g) authorizes an Internet Service Provider to “bring a civil action in any district of the United States with jurisdiction” against (1) false or misleading header information; (2) aggravated violations relating to commercial electronic mail; (3) failure to place warning labels on commercial electronic mail containing sexually oriented materials; or (4) a pattern or practice involving deceptive subject headings, failure to include return address, or continuing to transmit after a recipient objection.[1] This provision provides a mechanism for ISPs to enjoin further violations and recover actual and aggravated damages and attorney fees. In other words, it authorizes ISPs to seek out the bad actors for a host of illegal activity and recoup their losses. The framework serves as a good model to provide additional options – outside of the FCC process – for eliminating and deterring pirate radio.

There is no doubt that pirate radio stations are often highly mobile, making tracking and finding such stations tedious and sometimes futile. But with the right technology to pinpoint signal strength and a little luck, the origination point of the pirate radio broadcast can be located, often leading to some back office or mobile van. In fact, broadcasters have told me of instances where they were able to accurately detect and locate pirate radio stations, meaning it can be done. And locating mobile pirate operators, while difficult, is no more so than trying to locate the purveyors of unwanted spam who can be stationed anywhere in the world with Internet access and a server. If it can help in the case of spam, or even if it acts as a further deterrent, why not give it a try here? Who do you think would cause more concern to a pirate station: the busy FCC or a broadcaster seeking to protect its station’s rights and revenues?

In all fairness, the CAN-SPAM’s private right of action for ISPs hasn’t been used all that often and hasn’t magically eliminated spam. No one who worked on the law ever expected it to do so. Instead, the private right of action was meant to be one more tool in the toolbox. In practice, the provision has been used by a select number of companies determined to be ISPs by the courts, including Yahoo!, Facebook, and My Space. Facebook has been of the more frequent users of the provision, using it to obtain judgments in no fewer than three cases leading to statutory damages and injunctive relief.

On a side note, pirate radio has been mentioned recently in conjunction with the Commission’s proposal to reorganize and close certain FCC field offices. To be clear, I am not taking a stance on that matter at this time, and my proposal should not be seen in any way related. Few details have been made available to me regarding the field offices, and I was not a party to the plan’s development. The field office discussion should remain completely separate because the problem with pirate radio and lack of attention exists today under the current enforcement structure. Whether altering the field offices would further denigrate our enforcement efforts against pirate radio is a debate for another time.

Private enforcement of spectrum license rights in court should remain limited in any event. I am in no way suggesting that the Commission transfer its spectrum enforcement authority to the court system, and any private right here would be in addition to, not supplanting, the Commission’s responsibilities, nor undermining any common law rights of broadcasters. And to allow for some private action in this specific case should not be interpreted as my support for more lawsuits and certainly not more class-action suits. As in the case of spam, I would not recommend allowing consumers (e.g., a station’s listeners) to file lawsuits. But if we can narrowly permit a limited and targeted private right of action here to be used only by broadcasters, it could provide a valuable tool to tackle a persistent problem in some radio markets. To the extent that this idea garners consideration, it may require a change in current law, which is solely within the purview of Congress. At such a point, I would leave the discussion in the capable hands of our elected representatives.

Though I know commissioner O’Rielly is mostly focusing on local FM and AM pirates, I can say that I’ve never heard shortwave pirates interfere with commercial stations; they occupy rather unoccupied parts of the bands.

Click here to view this post on the FCC Blog.

Posted in News, Pirate Radio | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments