Listening to BBC “Click” on shortwave

PL-680-BBC-Click-Frequency

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who writes:

“Last January, I wanted to see if I could hear the BBC World Service’s technology program “Click” via shortwave.

BBC_ClickI was and still am a regular listener to the podcast but I was home on a Tuesday afternoon stranded by a snow storm and tuned to one of the frequencies used by the World Service for west and central Africa, which usually come in reasonably well in eastern North America. To my disappointment, another program was aired at the time “Click” was going out on the real-time online streamed service. I kept listening but “Click” didn’t appear on shortwave later that afternoon either. In general, the programs going out shortwave were not the ones being streamed over the Internet.

I made enquiries to Bill Thompson, the knowledgeable co-host of “Click” and to others about when “Click” aired on shortwave but came up empty.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I got an e-mail from Bill asking me if I’d heard back from the BBC about the airing of “Click” on shortwave as he’d passed on my request for information. Unfortunately, I hadn’t, but his e-mail reminded me of my effort and so I did some more digging.

I once again scoured the BBC website and eventually found the World Service FAQ page. And, on that page, we find the answer to the question “Where can I find a schedule and frequency for BBC World Service programmes?”with the online program schedule as well as the program schedules for radio transmissions to the various world regions, including local AM and FM radio, DAB radio, satellite radio, and, for some regions, shortwave radio.

I noticed that, according to these schedules, “Click” is broadcast by radio at various times on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, depending on the target region, including some broadcasts by shortwave.

So, on Tuesday afternoon this week, I took one of my portable shortwave receivers (a Tecsun PL-880) to work and operated it from the back of my SUV in the parking lock of my building with a short wire antenna fed out through the rear window and recorded the audio.

Low and behold, I heard “Click” at 19:32 UTC on 15400 kHz from one of the transmitters on Ascension Island. Reception was not bad given the fact that the signal is beamed in the opposite direction to us and there’s a fair degree of radio-frequency interference (RFI) from various electrical and electronic devices in and around my building. The signal would have been much stronger in the African target zone. A short audio clip of the start of the program is [below] (lasts one minute).

I’m sure I could find a quieter location RFI-wise like one of the university’s playing fields and might try that next week.

After confirming that “Click” is indeed still on shortwave, I decided to make a chart of all the “Click” broadcast times including those via shortwave as the “Click” website only gives the times of the online streamed broadcasts. [Click here to download a] PDF-version of the chart. A “bullet” indicates a broadcast of “Click” by any transmission method for each target region. If, in addition to other types of radio broadcast, shortwave is used, then the frequencies (in kHz) and transmitter locations are listed. I think all the information is correct but I’m happy to receive corrections. The schedule should be good until October and I’ll try to produce an updated version after that.

It is good to see that the BBC technology program is still available via shortwave – a still-useful technology in many parts of the world. And, although I’ll still listen to “Click” via the podcast, it’s nice to know that I can still catch it on a Tuesday afternoon with a shortwave receiver.”

Click here to download Richard’s PDF chart of Click shortwave broadcasts.

Many thanks, Richard! Like you, I’ve been a long-time fan of Click. Indeed, five years ago, I had the honor of being interviewed for the program [then known as Digital Planet].

I’ve heard Click a number of times via the BBC World Service on shortwave, but never noted the times and frequencies.  Thank you so much for compiling this info for us, Richard, and happy listening!

Readers: Note that if Click’s shortwave schedule doesn’t work for you, you can always subscribe to Click’s podcast, or listen online

Note: This post was updated December 3, 2015 with current broadcast schedule.

Shortwave Radio Recordings: BBC to the 2014 British Antarctic Survey

800px-Antarctica.svgAs promised, here are the recordings of the BBC World Service’s thirty minute broadcast to the British Antarctic Survey. The broadcast started at 21:30 UTC on June 21, 2014 and was broadcast on 5,875, 5,985, 7,350 and 9,890 kHz.

British_Antarctic_Survey_Logo

As in previous years, this broadcast was lighthearted, filled with humorous shout-outs from the team’s family and friends. Even a couple of special guests were included. Listen for yourself:

This excellent recording was made by SWLing Post reader, Dominik, in Europe:

Click here to download Dominik’s recording as an MP3.

Post reader Rob Wagner (VK3BVW), in Australia, could receive the broadcast on three frequencies (5,875, 5,985, and 7,350). He’s included clips of each broadcast on his excellent blog, The Mount Evelyn DX Report.

As for me, I was traveling to visit family yesterday afternoon when the broadcast started.  I knew from listening endeavors on previous visits that receiving a broadcast indoors at their home is not feasible; there is some sort of power line noise in that area that overwhelms anything on the short or medium wave bands, unless the station is very strong.

To cope with this noise, I knew I would need to move my operation outdoors, away from the house, and employ an outdoor antenna. So I packed the following, all into my small flight case: the CommRadio CR-1, a NASA PA-30 15 foot passive wide-band wire antenna, and the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder
.

CommRadio-CR-1-Zoom-H2N-BBC-Antarctica

I hung the PA-30 antenna in a nearby tree, spread a wool army blanket on the ground for lounging, and put the mini flight case to use as a stand to hold the radio and recorder. The CR-1 required no external power supply, as its internal battery had been charged in advance (one of the reasons I love this little receiver for travel).

To try out the set-up, I tuned around the bands. Conditions were rough, thunderstorms were in the region, but I was most impressed that I could hear several broadcasters on 31 meters. I knew that the BBC broadcast would be a tough catch; after all, none of their transmissions were targeting my part of the globe–rather, the opposite!

When I tuned to the BBC broadcast on 7,350 kHz, here’s what I heard:

This is (very) rough copy; for five or so minutes, you’ll hear me switching between AM/USB and LSB to find the best mode for the signal. I also check the other BBC frequencies to see if any were more audible.

In the end, using ECSS (zero-beating the signal in USB) seemed to work best.

For fun, I had also brought along the Tecsun PL-660–a choice portable radio for weak signal DX. I tuned to 7,350 and could just hear the BBC signal in the noise, but voice and music were unintelligible.

Tecsun-PL-660-BBC-Antarctic

What did I get out of the experience?  Good copy?  Alas, no.

But there’s nothing like the fun of playing radio outdoors! Even though the copy was rough, propagation deplorable, and static crashes abundant, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Moreover, I was amused to note that while I listened (and sweated) outside in the very hot, muggy conditions of the American southeast, a few scientists huddled near the extremely chilly southern pole at that exact moment, were tuning in the exact same broadcast.  It somehow made the heat bearable.

That’s the remarkable camaraderie of radio: truly, a wireless community.

Today: Catch and record the BBC’s broadcast to the British Antarctic Survey Team

Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey's new base (Source: BBC)

Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey’s new base (Source: BBC)

Every year, the BBC broadcasts a special program to the 41 scientists and support staff in the British Antarctic Survey Team.

The BBC will play music requests and send special messages to the team who winter over in this isolated post. The broadcast is guaranteed to be quirky, nostalgic and certainly DX worth catching. Click here to listen to the 2013 broadcast.

The winter program will air today, June 21, 2014 at 21:30 UTC on the following frequencies:

  • 7,350 kHz; Ascension; 207°
  • 9,890 kHz; Woofferton; 182°
  • 5,985 kHz; Dhabayya; 203°
  • 5,875 kHz; Wooferton; 184° (updated)

Readers: If you have a chance, try to record the broadcast as I’m uncertain if I’ll have a chance to catch it this year. I would like a good recording for the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

Many thanks!

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

BBC World Service ‘can make a difference’ in North Korea

NorthKoreaMap

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Ulis, for the tip:

(Source: The Independent)

One of the world’s experts on North Korea has called on the BBC to “be part of the solution” in fighting human rights abuses under Kim Jong-un’s repressive regime by initiating Korean-language broadcasts by the BBC World Service.

Michael Kirby, the eminent retired Australian judge who chaired a recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea for the United Nations Human Rights Council, told The Independent that the BBC could make a difference to the lives of people in “a country that has been largely cut off from the rest of the world”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr Kirby said the BBC was in a position to make a difference in North Korea.

[…]He told The Independent: “The strict controls on sources of information in North Korea, revealed in the COI report, surely add to the arguments for an increased outreach by the civilised world to the people of North Korea. With its hard won reputation for truthful reporting, fair coverage and proper priorities, the BBC has a special potential to be part of the solution.”

[…]Funding of the World Service has passed from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to the BBC. Previous BBC studies have identified problems in providing a Korean service, especially in relation to the difficulties of the North Korean population tuning in and defying the ban on listening to foreign broadcasts.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said recently that it was “not currently possible for the World Service to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service”. But last week Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire gave renewed hope to campaigners for a Korean service when he said: “We have approached the BBC and are waiting for its detailed response.”[]

Read the full story at The Independent.

Shortwave Radio Recordings: BBC World Service to the British Antarctic Survey

View of Bird Island, South Georgia, where one of the British Antarctic research stations is located. (Source: British Antarctic Survey)

View of Bird Island, South Georgia, where one of the British Antarctic research stations is located. (Source: British Antarctic Survey)

Mentioned earlier today, here is the recording of the BBC World Service’s thirty minute broadcast to the British Antarctic Survey. I was able to receive a relatively strong signal at 21:30 UTC on 9,890 kHz from the World Service’s Wooferton transmission site.

Click here to download the full recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below.  I will also post this on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

Catch the BBC’s annual broadcast to the British Antarctic Survey Team

Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey's new base (Source: BBC)

Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey’s new base (Source: BBC)

Every year, the BBC broadcasts a special program to the 41 scientists and support staff in the British Antarctic Survey Team.

The BBC will play music requests and send special messages to the team of 41. It’s guaranteed to be quirky, nostalgic and certainly DX worth catching.

The British Antarctic Survey celebrates today (their longest, darkest winter day) with the same enthusiasm as Christmas. The BBC noted:

The base commanders rise early to cook breakfast for their staff, presents are exchanged, there are sports and even, weather permitting, a mad streak in the snow! Feasting continues before they gather round a shortwave set to listen to the traditional broadcast packed with greetings from their family and friends back home together with music requests and messages from the British Antarctic Survey and a few celebrities. Finally the Antarctic horror movie The Thing is screened. For those who know the plot, perhaps it is just as well there are no longer sledge dogs in Antarctica…

The great part? You too can catch the broadcast if you’re in the right part of the world to hear it.  I’ll attempt to record either the Ascension Island or Woofferton broadcast myself, if conditions make it possible.

The program will air today, June 21, 2013 at 21:30 UTC on the following frequencies:

  • 7,350 kHz; Ascension; 207°
  • 9,890 kHz; Woofferton; 182°
  • 5,965 kHz; Dhabayya; 203°

Many thanks to Sheldon Harvey for the reminder and for especially confirming the broadcast time.  Even though this event happens on the same day each year (ironically on my birthday) I often forget to catch it myself.

Please submit your recordings of this broadcast to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.