In Korogocho, Koch FM focuses on water sanitation

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(Source: BBC Media Action)

On Global Handwashing Day, Diana Njeru looks at how a radio station constructed from a shipping container is helping people improve their health in one of Kenya’s largest slums.

On the banks of a slimy grey river, a man is using a handcart to dump a barrel of human waste into the water. Sliding down the slope, the cart slips from his grasp and it tumbles in, forcing him to wade through the sludge to retrieve it.

This was the scene before me as I visited Korogocho slum last week, one of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements and home to over 150,000 residents.

A shipping container turned studio

Just up the road from the river is Koch FM, a popular community radio station BBC Media Action is helping to support through tailored mentoring to improve the technical skills of its staff. The station’s studio – constructed from an old shipping container and sound proofed with egg boxes – has been run by a team of passionate volunteers since 2006.

[…]Clean water is very hard to come by. In slums like Korogocho, people must either rely on rainwater or water vending points run by cartels. This toxic environment paired with limited awareness of good hygiene means life-threatening but preventable illnesses like diarrhoea are all too common.

To help tackle this, BBC Media Action mentor Davie Njuguna is currently working with staff at Koch FM to help them produce programmes that address water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues.

Continue reading on the BBC Media Action blog…

Video: “The very particular world of amateur radio”

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Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Nick, for sharing this 2013 video produced by the BBC. Here is the description from YouTube:

“In the face of the internet, mobiles and instant messaging you might expect the hobby of amateur radio – or HAM radio as it’s also known – to be on the decline.

But in the last three years, the number of amateur radio licences has risen by over 8,000 – with 80,000 currently issued in the UK.

Using designated frequencies, amateur radio enthusiasts communicate with people over the world. Many prefer the relaxed approach of ‘rag chewing’ or chatting at length with people, who often become friends – while at the opposite end of the spectrum ‘contesters’ compete to make as many contacts as possible in a given period.

The hobby is also a public service, with Raynet (in the UK) stepping in during emergencies when regular communication networks fail. Amateur radio enthusiasts are currently contributing to relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.”

Shortwave Radio Recordings: RCI, BBC, VOA circa 1979 & 1981

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Many thanks to SRAA contributor, Tom Laskowski, who shares the following recording and notes:

A few snippets from my old shortwave tapes that were too short to upload individually. These were made using a GE portable multi band that had poor selectivity, hence the annoying ute during the BBC clip.

Times of individual clips are:

  • 00:00 – 01:59: 1979, July 19 – RCI, frequency announcements in English and french.
  • 01:59 – 09:51: 1979, July 20 – BBC, newscast, bothered by an annoying utility station.
  • 09:51 – 11:38: 1981, August 28 – VOA, science news item about Voyager 2
  • 11:38 – 14:52: 1981, August 29 – VOA, science news item about Voyager 2

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

BBC sets plans for next decade

BBC-AT-WARMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Bill, for sharing a link to this article which summarizes the BBC’s plans for the next ten years.

BBC director general, Tony Hall, said the corporation will become an “open BBC for the internet age”.

While Hall was quick to add that funding cuts would equate to “the loss or reduction of some services” he also highlighted several efforts that would include shortwave and mediumwave broadcasts, including:

  • “Significant investment” in the BBC World Service, including a daily news programme for North Korea and more broadcasts to Russia, India and the Middle East
  • A news service for Ethiopia and Eritrea on medium wave and short wave

Of course, we can expect more cuts to BBC World Service shortwave broadcasting over the next ten years even if it wasn’t specifically mentioned in Hall’s speech. If we’re lucky, the BBC will continue to broadcast into those parts of the world that still rely on shortwave. Specifically mentioning North Korea, Ethiopia and Eritrea appears to be a nod in that direction.

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

Also, The Guardian has posted the full text of Tony Hall’s speech. It’s worth reading.

BBC World Service as a lifeline and making radio as “a symbol of resistance”

BurundiMany thanks toSWLing Post contributor,  Richard Cuff, for sharing this article from the NewStatesman:

In the week when Apple’s Beats 1 radio station was launched – “Worldwide. Always on . . . It broadcasts 24/7 to over 100 countries from our studios in Los Angeles, New York and London” – there was also discussion of the BBC’s latest global audience measurement figures. The most striking thing in the report, which tracked listening habits and how they had changed over the past year, was how short-wave radio – in rural and poorer areas where there is no FM, no cable and no electricity, it’s still the only way of tuning in – is under increasing threat from something as basic as jamming.

Apple’s idea of radio as digital and impermeable never felt more breezily First World. Listeners to the English-language programmes on the BBC World Service, for example – in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, in particular – have almost halved in number because of deliberate disruption on the short-wave signal, apparently from China, forcing stations to rotate frequencies on the same band to at least attempt a slot.

“Tune around . . . You’ll find us. We will be there,” advised a technician on Over to You (4 July, 5.50pm). It conjured that most antiquated and urgent of images: a person clutching their temples, coaxing a dial, trying and trying to find a signal.

“I grew up with short-wave radio,” insisted a caller to the show, “and I got to understand the world, got to understand life. If you don’t know short-wave radio, you don’t know life.” Only moments later, there was talk of the closure of all the non-state-run radio stations in Burundi (one of the poorest and least connected countries in the world). Before the recent coup attempt, independent radio stations played a huge role in holding the government to account but many radio journalists are now forced to report using what social media is available.

“The exercise of making radio matters,” said a caller. “It’s a symbol of resistance.” And another, with some disdain, said: “Doing it on the internet is just a way of keeping it on record.” The more than century-long act of turning a dial and finding a signal, with a human voice hitching a ride on electromagnetic energy through space, is something it seems our species now feels in the bones. But worldwide? Always on? Only for some.

Read the full article at the NewStatesman.

BBC At War: new series sheds light on WWII broadcasting

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Many thanks to several SWLing Post readers from the UK who have pointed out this new BBC Two documentary: The BBC at War, Presented by Jonathan Dimbleby.

BBC Two describes the documentary as, “[a]n enthralling series exploring how the BBC fought not only Hitler but also the British government to become the institution it is today.”

Of course, the BBC iPlayer is region-locked, so you either need to be resident in the UK or using a proxy server in order to view. The first episode is available to view now; the second will be soon.

Click here to view Episode 1: The War of Words.

National Radio Quiet Zone featured in BBC Radio 4 series

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Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, David Freeborough, who shares this brilliant, in-depth radio documentary featured on the BBC News and BBC Radio 4.

This BBC News Magazine article introduces the documentary:

“Anyone driving west from Washington DC towards the Allegheny Mountains will arrive before long in a vast area without mobile phone signals. This is the National Radio Quiet Zone – 13,000 square miles (34,000 sq km) of radio silence. What is it for and how long will it survive?

As we drive into the Allegheny Mountains the car radio fades to static. I glance at my mobile phone but the signal has disappeared.

Ahead of us a dazzling white saucer looms above the wooded terrain of West Virginia, getting bigger and bigger with every mile. It’s the planet’s largest land-based movable object – the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) – 2.3 acres in surface area, and taller than the Statue of Liberty.

But it needs electrical peace and quiet to do its job.”

[Continue reading…]

The story continues on the BBC News site, but I would encourage you to listen to the five part radio documentary series on BBC Radio 4 first. Green Bank, WV, is certainly one part of the planet where a shortwave radio listener would be quite happy: residents have virtually no radio interference or obnoxious electrical noises that plague the rest of the modern world.

telescopes-1911The radio documentary can be streamed on the Radio 4 website.  I’ve included links to each episode below. As far as I can tell, there are no expiration dates on the Radio 4 streams:

My wife and I have camped near the NROA site in Green Bank–it’s a beautiful part of the world. I’m certainly long overdue to return!

Again, David, many thanks for sharing this!