Tag Archives: Canada

Thump interviews filmmaker Amanda Dawn Christie

View of the western cluster of curtain antennas from the roof of RCI Sackville's transmissions building. (Photo: The SWLing Post) --Click to enlarge

View of the western cluster of curtain antennas from the roof of RCI Sackville’s transmissions building in 2012. (Photo: The SWLing Post) –Click to enlarge

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Barraclough, who shares this Thump interview with Amanda Dawn Christie:

For her latest documentary, Spectres of Shortwave, Moncton-born experimental artist and filmmaker Amanda Dawn Christie spent the last seven years exploring this otherworldly phenomenon. While working at Sackville’s Struts Gallery in 2009, she heard stories from local residents about voices in sinks where “pipes acted like antennas and the bowl became a gramophone speaker.” Christie was jealous that hers didn’t pick it up, so she spent her pay cheques for the rest of the summer at a plumbing store, extending her pipes to bring the sink to the marsh.

Sackville is also home to SappyFest, a beloved music festival taking over the town every August since 2006, with performances from local and internationals artists. Fred Squire is one of the former, and it’s his story of dreaming in foreign languages—due to transmissions from an amp in his bedroom entering a hypnagogic mindstate—that provides the documentary’s centerpiece.

“Fred would fall asleep and dream perfectly coherently in Chinese or Russian,” [film maker Amanda Dawn] Christie explains. “He decided to call the radio towers to see if they were doing anything that would cause it. Then about 40 minutes later in the film there’s a story from a technician who describes his call from a guy dreaming in different languages. The stories are similar but contradict each other, leaving the viewer wondering which one is telling the truth.”[…]

Click here to read the full interview on Thump.

The Snowbirds in Québec City

DSC_4513Maybe it’s my radio-loving fascination with technology, travel, and what at times seems like sheer magic–-but for some reason I’ve long been something of an aviation enthusiast, as well. Over the years, I’ve discovered quite a lot of SWLs and ham radio operators share this interest…and if you’re one of these folks, well, have I got a post for you.

Aerien-Quebec

Wednesday in Québec City, as the sun dipped in the sky, viewers standing on the city’s walled fortifications were treated to an amazing aviation display which included a CF-18 Hornet, the CH-146 Griffon and last but definitely not least, the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron––aka, the Snowbirds.

In the first act, helicopters:  four CH-146 Griffon helicopters in neat formation, and then the Canadian Coast Guard demonstrated lowering a guy from a emergency helicopter onto a Coast Guard boat in the middle of the St. Lawrence, , then drawing him back up into the chopper a few minutes later––with, of course, maneuvers throughout.

For the second act, the CF-18 Hornet pounded the sky with an assault of black-and-yellow speed, twice turning and showing both back and belly.

And for the finale, the Snowbirds skimmed into view in exquisite formation, and with tight, astonishing precision, glided around the ramparts of the old walled city, leaving perfectly drawn contrails of colored smoke.

Here are a few photos I snagged of the demo:

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The Snowbirds

This particular public event wasn’t granted permission for a full acrobatic show, but the Snowbirds were in the air at least thirty minutes and showed off every one of their nine-plane position formations.  And were they ever precise!

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The Snowbirds gave us a flawless and graceful show, one I’ll never forget. Canadian readers, you should be mighty proud of your Snowbirds; they’re an aviation team to be reckoned with.

Wally Crouter, Canada’s longest serving radio man, dies at 92

Wally Crouter (August 5, 1923 – March 28, 2016)

Wally Crouter (August 5, 1923 – March 28, 2016) Image: News Talk 1010

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors, Richard Langley and Bill Patalon, who note the passing of legendary Canadian radio man, Wally Crouter.

Richard Langley comments:

I fondly remember listening to him over the years, particularly when I was working (during a couple of my undergraduate degree co-op program work terms) for Philips Electronics in Toronto as a QC inspector at the end of an assembly line for car radios. Yes, these used to be made in North America in the good old days. 😉 Of course, he was on shortwave, too, via CFRX.

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/wally-crouter-canadas-longest-serving-radio-man-dies-143336247.html

http://www.newstalk1010.com/news/2016/03/28/in-memoriam-wally-crouter

Like Bill and Richard, I’ve certainly head Wally Crouter on CFRX in the past–I’m sure many Post readers/SWLs have as well.

Thoughts after the Canadian RCI/CBC Senate hearing

CBC-RCI-HearingLast night, I listened to a live stream of the Canadian senate hearings regarding last year’s Radio Canada International cuts to shortwave radio. CBC president Hubert LaCroix and RCI director Michelle Parent met remarkably little criticism or resistance in the hearing, and it appears the report to the senate will be nothing short of cheerleading for the CBC. Indeed, the hearing’s tone overall was one of self-congratulation.

The decision to cut RCI in this manner is a prime example of a few officials with all-too-limited knowledge making decisions in the absence of experts’ input.  The business decision seemed to them essentially sound, and yet the impact of the decision has far-reaching negative consequences–for Canadians and as well as the rest of the world–that these officials may never fully comprehend.

Notes from the hearing:

  • All but one senator patted CBC and RCI management on the back for becoming more innovative in the wake of devastating budget cuts; only one suggested that such innovation could have been achieved prior to them
  • No one asked if the CBC explored the possibility of scaling back shortwave services without closing the Sackville, NB transmitter site and eliminating shortwave broadcasts altogether, which would have been a much better use of funds as well as maintaining foreign relations and domestic security
  • Hubert LaCroix basically suggested that people living in oppressed regions could gain access to RCI via mobile platforms (sadly, this is not the case)
  • When asked how cuts to shortwave have effected their listenership and demographic, LaCroix basically shrugged his shoulders and pointed out how difficult it is to judge how many people listen on shortwave.  (My response: What areas of our world lack a power grid infrastructure? Fully 1/4 of our planet.  These are the underserved who rely heavily on shortwave)
  • No one inquired about the impact upon their Chinese audience, as RCI’s website is blocked in China; meanwhile, shortwave continues to be comparatively impermeable to firewalls and is untraceable in restrictive countries

Monsieur LaCroix made it clear that the primary CBC mandate is to be a creative, innovative media force within Canada. For him, and most of CBC management, Radio Canada International must have felt like a leech to their dwindling budget. Were I in his position, with limited information and a mandate to protect his main “client” set (Canadians living in Canada)–I might have made the same decision.   And yet…it was the wrong one.

What would have solved the problem in the first place?  Radio Canada International should have been its own entity, with its own budget to manage, however modest–and if anything, funded through the foreign office rather than the domestic public news/entertainment body. After all, what RCI accomplished on shortwave was far more humanitarian and diplomatic in nature.

I’ve written at length about the RCI cuts and will not go into them further on this post. But I do believe RCI Sackville could have been a more efficient and productive operation if it employed some sensible changes. Sackville had just finished installing a (paid-for) technology infrastructure to remotely operate the entire transmitter site. Moreover, Sackville management told me they had planned to cut their staff to a skeleton crew (of three people, if memory serves), only to be there if something mechanical on site needed service. These new adjustments were not even tried.

Additionally, using a market model, RCI/Sackville could have offered their relay services to more broadcasters at competitive (even market) rates. Their hourly rate to broadcast on shortwave was simply too high, thus potential customers sought more efficient cost-effective transmission sites. Sackville was never given the tools to become a self-funding operation like so many private broadcasters have become.

Sackville’s infrastructure was an incomparably valuable resource in which many millions in taxpayer money was already invested and paid in full; sadly, these cuts have destroyed this investment.  The Sackville site, moreover, had the potential of a sleeping army, both in foreign affairs…and in Canadian security.  But it’s gone.  Simply because a few politicians doing their near-best didn’t have all the relevant information.

RCIFor what it’s worth

RCI still has some great talent on board. Canadian expats living abroad, and those  who are connected to the web, can still enjoy RCI via the website or on mobile platforms. That is an audience that may actually expand through a social media presence–something they could have done more effectively prior to the budget cuts last year.

I was also encouraged to hear that there is a serious effort to distribute RCI’s online audio content–free of charge–to broadcasters in local radio stations around the world. This is very positive: FM, though not as accessible as shortwave in Africa, has a strong community following and stations are appearing everywhere. I hope RCI has a dedicated employee whose sole focus is to identify and build connections with these local outlets for their content.

Barring a takeover or drastic re-organization, it sounds like Radio Canada International over shortwave is now destined for the history books. To honor this history, I sincerely hope the new RCI innovates and penetrates new markets. And I hope RCI employees, many of whom have long memories, find challenge and renewed confidence going forward. We certainly appreciate all of the years during which they graced the shortwaves, and wish them all the best.

CBC News: RCI looking for Sackville transmitter site buyers

The vast, open Sackville site will most likely become a wind farm.

Just posted by CBC News:  a breaking news item which focuses on the closure of the Sackville RCI transmitter site and reveals the fact that site owners are now looking for buyers.

During my recent visit to the Sackville site, I spoke with their Transmission Operations Technologist, Marcel Cantin; we both agreed that the most likely future of the transmitter site is to become a wind farm, much like one visible from the site in neighboring Nova Scotia. Evidently, the province has been talking with farmers whose property borders the Sackville site in hopes to procure more land for wind farm development. The Sackville site’s 280+ acres would represent a great portion of the land they wish to procure. The only obstacle I see to this not becoming a reality would be local opposition–and they may have good cause. The two main arguments against wind farms are the noise they produce (not really a problem where RCI is/was located) and the fact that they can harm migrating bird populations. The site is very close to the Sackville Waterfowl Park, a local bird sanctuary which is home or host to innumerable varieties of water birds, and which I also had the good fortune to visit when in Sackville. Opposition in this regard may be substantiated.

(Source: CBC News)

After decades of service, the transmission towers outside of Sackville, N.B are no longer broadcasting Radio Canada International to the world.

The international broadcasting service ended its shortwave transmission Sunday night.

“I find myself, on behalf of all of us, saying goodbye to 67 years of radio,” said host Marc Montgomery, breaking down on air.

[…]”There’s no denying the importance of the internet. There’s also no denying that it can be and is regularly blocked by authoritarian regimes. Shortwave broadcasts on the other hand, almost always get through to people hungry for information,” said Montgomery.

Martin Marcotte, director of CBC Transmission, said he’s now looking to sell the New Brunswick towers and land.

He said he’s focussing (sic) on selling the site to other shortwave broadcasters or wind farm companies.

“It will be fairly costly to dismantle and as a last resort we would dismantle the facility, return it to bare land as it was when we first acquired that site,” said Marcotte.

As for broadcasters, the only one of which I am aware who has both the funds and ambitions to purchase such a transmissions site, is China Radio International.

Of course, I would hope that a broad-sighted private purchaser or even non-profit could keep the site running much as it has been, recognizing its vital relevance to Canadian international relations and to the developing world generally–especially in light of the recent addition to the site of a remote operation system.

Too bad, the Canadian government couldn’t recognize this in time.