China Radio International’s overwhelming AM bandwidth via Havana

Scott-Marine-SLR-M-Dial

This morning, I listened to Radio Australia on 9,580 kHz with my WWII era Scott Marine Radio SLR-M (above).

Radio Australia provides a reliable, strong signal into North America every morning and it’s where I typically tune for the morning news at the top of the hour.

China Radio International also fires up on the adjacent frequency of 9570 kHz around 1200 UTC–their signal is also incredibly strong here as it’s relayed from Radio Havana Cuba at 250 kW. CRI’s bandwidth is almost always wider than 10 kHz–indeed, it’s often 20 kHz–which means that it completely wipes out any average adjacent signal.

Indeed, when I’m testing selectivity on portable shortwave radios, I’ll often tune to Radio Australia and wait for CRI to fire up on 9570 kHz. If the portable radio can still lock onto Radio Australia after CRI is on the air–or, better yet, if an upper side band sync lock can eliminate all traces of CRI–I know the receiver has decent selectivity.

This morning, when CRI began transmitting at 1200 UTC, their signal completely wiped out every trace of Radio Australia. Though the SLR-M’s narrow AM filter is still quite wide, it can typically cope with the adjacent CRI carrier.

I fired up the TitanSDR to see what CRI’s signal looked like on a spectrum display–here’s what I found:

China-Radio-International-Bandwidth

CRI’s AM bandwidth was 30+ kHz wide! 

In my book, that was an abusive use of the band.

This was, by no means, an isolated event. It was just particularly annoying for me this morning as I was enjoying a good cup of coffee and the morning ABC news.

I’ll send a message to CRI and RHC about this, but I have my doubts anyone will take action.

Okay–sorry about the rant!

Reuters: FCC and Justice Department investigate Chinese radio network

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Wow–seems the FCC and Justice Department took notice of Reuters’ CRI investigation reported earlier:

(Source: Reuters via Mike Terry)

The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department are investigating a California firm whose U.S. radio broadcasts are backed by a subsidiary of the Chinese government, officials said.

Both investigations come in response to a Reuters report published on Monday that revealed the existence of the covert radio network, which broadcasts in more than a dozen American cities, including Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston and San Francisco. (reut.rs/1Wrflt4)

“Based on reports, the FCC will initiate an inquiry into the facts surrounding the foreign ownership issues raised in the stories, including whether the Commission’s statutory foreign ownership rules have been violated,” FCC spokesman Neil Grace said.

The California firm is owned by James Su, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Shanghai. Reuters reported Monday that Su’s company, G&E Studio Inc, is 60 percent owned by a subsidiary of Chinese state-run radio broadcaster China Radio International (CRI).

The FCC doesn’t restrict content on U.S. radio stations, except for rules covering indecency, political advertising and children’s programming.

But under U.S. law, the FCC prohibits foreign governments or their representatives from holding a radio license for a U.S. broadcast station. Foreign individuals, governments and corporations are permitted to hold up to 20 percent ownership directly in a station and up to 25 percent in the U.S. parent corporation of a station.

G&E does not own any U.S. stations, but it leases two 50,000-watt stations: WCRW in Washington for more than $720,000 a year, and WNWR in Philadelphia for more than $600,000 a year.

Through a different set of limited liability companies, Su owns, co-owns or leases virtually all the air time on at least a dozen other U.S. stations. Those stations carry G&E content, which is produced largely by his West Covina, California studios or by state-run CRI in Beijing….

Read the full article at Reuters…

Reuters: How China exerts soft power through a global radio network

CRI-China-Radio-International

Many thanks to several SWLing Post readers for sharing a link to the following investigative story from Reuters. I’ve included an excerpt below–you can read the full article, and watch a video at Reuters online.

(Source: Reuters)

In August, foreign ministers from 10 nations blasted China for building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. As media around the world covered the diplomatic clash, a radio station that serves the most powerful city in America had a distinctive take on the news.

Located outside Washington, D.C., WCRW radio made no mention of China’s provocative island project. Instead, an analyst explained that tensions in the region were due to unnamed “external forces” trying “to insert themselves into this part of the world using false claims.”

Behind WCRW’s coverage is a fact that’s never broadcast: The Chinese government controls much of what airs on the station, which can be heard on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

[…]A typical hour on most stations begins with a short newscast that can toggle between China news and stories about violent crimes in the United States. Besides the overtly political coverage, topics range from global currency fluctuations and Chinese trade missions to celebrity wardrobe analysis and modern parenting challenges.

[G&E president and CEO James Su] declined to describe how he makes money when most of the U.S. stations air virtually no commercials. He also declined to say how he got the money to finance his radio leases and acquisitions.

His stations, Su said, offer the American public an alternative viewpoint on Chinese culture and politics. He has “no way to control” what CRI broadcasts on the stations, he said, nor is he part of any plan to spread Chinese propaganda.

“We are only telling the unfiltered real news to our audience,” he said.

On Oct. 29, WCRW carried a program called “The Hourly News.” Among the top stories: Senior Chinese and U.S. naval commanders planned to speak by video after a U.S. Navy ship passed close by China’s new artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Washington and its allies see the island-building program as a ploy to grab control of strategic sea lanes, and the Navy sail-by was meant to counter China’s territorial claims.

WCRW omitted that side of the story.

The admirals are holding the talks, the announcer said, “amid the tension the U.S. created this week.”

Read the full article at Reuters online…

CRI, RFA, Sputnik, and the BBC: an “information battle?”

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff, for sharing this article from The National:

Radio wars: information battle heats up as Russia and China muscle in

For about 70 years it was the base of the BBC World Service. Bush House, with its grand marble entrance in central London, stood as a powerful symbol of the BBC, home to the short-wave radio services that delivered news to dozens of countries in more than 40 languages. But the lights went out in 2012 when the World Service moved to the more prosaic Broadcasting House; two years later it lost its annual £245 million (Dh1.341 billion) grant from the UK’s government.

Both changes are symptomatic of the BBC’s less certain place in the broadcasting world as other countries significantly ramp up recruitment and funding for their own equivalent services.

Last December, Peter Horrocks, the BBC World Service’s former director, warned that the West was losing the “information war” with Moscow as the old Cold War foe pumped out wave after wave of pro-Kremlin propaganda on its rapidly expanding radio, TV and online platforms.

Horrocks had called for a rethink on financial assistance from the UK government as, even before the grant was ended, cutbacks in 2011 forced the closure of five language services and some short-wave broadcasts.

“We are being financially outgunned by Russia and the Chinese. Medium to long term there has to be an anxiety about the spending of others compared to what the BBC are putting into it,” he said.

It is now all too clear that established broadcasters that are based in the West, such as Radio Free Asia, Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe (RFE) – funded mainly through an agency of the US government – and the BBC are facing increased competition. Last November, Moscow rebranded its international English-language radio service: Radio Sputnik replaced the Voice of Russia and funding was increased for a new state-owned global news agency, Rossiya Segodnya.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s China Radio International (CRI) is an important part of the Communist Party’s foreign policy. CRI uses internet, short wave and satellite to broadcast around the world in dozens of languages, while Radio Sputnik has ambitions to broadcast in 30 languages across more than 130 countries by the end of the year.[…]

Continue reading on The National website…

The Straits Times: “Western radio broadcasters tuning out”

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Richard Cuff, for sharing this article from The Straits Times which interviews our friend Victor Goonetilleke. This is one of the first articles I’ve seen in the international press which gives a listener’s perspective on recent cuts to shortwave broadcasting.

Analog Radio Dial(Source: The Straits Times)

For 67-year-old Victor Goonetilleke, sitting with his headphones on in his house in the lush green Sri Lankan countryside, June 30 was the end of an era.

Voice of America’s (VOA) short-wave broadcasts to Asia abruptly went off the air, raising howls of protest from many of the US government-funded broadcaster’s listeners across the region.

But as the broadcasts had already been greatly diminished, this was not a surprise. The big Western radio broadcasters have gradually ceded the political “soft power” space they once dominated to a new heavyweight: China Radio International (CRI).

In recent years, Radio Canada International and Radio Netherlands Worldwide have shut down while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and VOA have cut back on their range of languages and hours of programming. Now, the VOA has left Asia.

Mr Goonetilleke is not just an avid radio listener. He professionally monitors radio frequencies for the VOA. He is also a former veteran radio correspondent with Radio Netherlands for 24 years in an era when short-wave radio broadcasts from the likes of the BBC, VOA, Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle were often lifelines to other worlds for hundreds of millions especially in times of conflict and misery.

The BBC now broadcasts in 29 languages across the planet, down from a peak of 69 in the 1970s. CRI broadcasts in 65, up from a reported 43 in 2006. Some programmes are run by local FM stations.

These days, Mr Goonetilleke can listen to four hours of CRI broadcasts in Sinhala and Tamil daily, compared with 30 minutes each on BBC.

CRI’s Tamil language broadcast is one of its oldest, run by fluent Tamil speaker Zhu Juanhua, a Shanghai native better known by her tens of thousands of listeners as Kalaiarasi.

According to the CRI website, it has 3,165 listener clubs around the planet, including CRI netizens’ clubs.

[Continue reading…]

 

China Radio International warbling on Dave’s home brew receiver

IMG_7078My buddy and SWLing Post reader, Dave Richards (AA7EE), wrote several weeks ago with an interesting comment:

“I was just now  tuning around the 31M band on a [regenerative receiver] that I am putting the finishing touches on, and noticed that the audio from China Radio International on 9790KHz was not only cutting in and out, but was also warbling, as if the program was being played from a tape machine with a slipping pinch wheel.

I’m finding it a bit hard to believe that in this day and age, a country like China would be using tape machines in their studios still, but am trying to figure out what other explanation there could be for this. The warbling doesn’t sound as if it is being caused by the propagation. Have you heard this before?

I have attached a short recording. Please excuse the bassy audio – I need to modify the receiver circuit to provide some bass roll-off.”

Click here for Dave’s recording or listen below:

I agree with Dave; it sounds like CRI is playing from a tape deck with a slipping pinch wheel. I’m not sure this could be a modulation issue. Perhaps it’s both? Curious what other readers think.

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Warble aside, I was also very intrigued by Dave’s home brew 31 meter broadcast band regenerative receiver. I asked him for more details; he replied:

“I built another version of the WBR. The original version, as well as the first version I built, was for the 40M amateur band. I was intrigued to see how it would perform on other frequencies, so I built a version for the 31M band.  The only change I need to make now is a bit of filtering to provide some rolloff of the bass frequencies, as they are hurting the intelligibility in my opinion.”

IMG_7111Wow! What a cool little home brew project! And many thanks to Dave for the brilliant photos of the WBR. I should mention that Dave has an excellent ham radio blog where he documents his radio projects. Indeed, check out this page for more information about the WBR broadcast band receiver.

Dave told me that he is currently working towards his goal of designing and building the “ultimate” regenerative receiver with  plug-in coils for many different bands. I’ll be following him, so I encourage you to do the same by bookmarking his website.

Many thanks, Dave!