“I listen to NPR…on my shortwave radio”

npr_logoLast year, National Public Radio (NPR) asked listeners when and how they listen to NPR. Their goal was to put together clips into a short spot for the network’s spring fund drive. After telling them that I’ve been known to listen to NPR on shortwave, they asked for me to record a short clip stating this fact. I amiably complied.

Last week, I rediscovered the clip. The spot would have been aired on local member stations in the first half of 2013:

Have you listened to NPR on shortwave? Both the American Forces Network and Radio Australia broadcast NPR news content.

And now, the Shipping Forecast…

shipping-forecast-locations

When I lived in the UK, I would often fall asleep and/or wake up to the Shipping Forecast: a BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles.

Though I had, of course, no real need of the Forecast, on many occasions it lured me like the voice of a hypnotic siren (especially, I must admit, when read by a woman). When I moved back to the US in 2003, I missed hearing the Forecast on the radio, but thankfully one can listen to it at Radio 4 online. Although the online stream lacks the delectable sonic texture of long wave radio, the Forecast still has the power can still reel in its listeners.

Last December, I followed a brilliant series on NPR which highlighted the BBC Shipping Forecast.  I intended to publish it here on the SWLing Post at the time, but somehow lost it in the shuffle of a busy travel season. Fortunately, NPR has archived audio from the series online. I love their introduction:

“It is a bizarre nightly ritual that is deeply embedded in the British way of life.

You switch off the TV, lock up the house, slip into bed, turn on your radio, and begin to listen to a mantra, delivered by a soothing, soporific voice.

“Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger ….” says the voice.

You are aware — vaguely — that these delicious words are names, and that those names refer to big blocks of sea around your island nation, stretching all the way up to Iceland and down to North Africa.

The BBC’s beloved Shipping Forecast bulletin covers 31 sea areas, the names of which have inspired poets, artists and singers and become embedded into the national psyche.

Your mind begins to swoop across the landscape, sleepily checking the shorelines, from the gray waters of the English Channel to the steely turbulence of the Atlantic.

Somewhere, deep in your memory, stir echoes of British history — of invasions from across the sea by Vikings, Romans and Normans; of battles with Napoleon’s galleons and Hitler’s U-boats.

Finally, as the BBC’s Shipping Forecast bulletin draws to a close, you nod off, complacent in the knowledge that whatever storms are blasting away on the oceans out there, you’re in your pajamas, sensibly tucked up at home”

You can listen to the series on NPR, or via the embedded player below:

Click here to listen to the Shipping Forecast on the BBC Radio 4 website. Also, check out the history of the Shipping Forecast on Wikipedia and from this excellent article by Peter Jefferson in Prospero (PDF, page 10).

Own a piece of National Public Radio history

STUDIO 2A - THE HOME OF BOTH NPR FLAGSHIP PROGRAMS MORNING EDITION AND ALL THINGS CONSIDERED,

NPR Studio 2A, home of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, is one of the lots up for auction.

National Public Radio (NPR) is moving to a new building in Washington, DC.  They’re auctioning off all of the studio equipment and furniture they’re leaving behind.

Here’s your chance to own a piece of radio history–and, perhaps, start your own radio station or recording studio!

Click here to view the list of items up for auction.

 

NPR: WWII ‘Canteen Girl’ Kept Troops Company From Afar

(Photo source: NPR)

(Photo source: NPR)

Long before the Internet and satellite phone, Phyllis Jeanne Creore Westerman brought soldiers home at Christmas via shortwave radio:

(Source: National Public Radio)

American service members have long spent holidays in dangerous places, far from family. These days, home is a video chat or Skype call away. But during World War II, packages, letters and radio programs bridged the lonely gaps. For 15 minutes every week, “Canteen Girl” Phyllis Jeanne Creore spoke and sang to the troops and their loved ones on NBC radio.

Her Christmas shows were morale boosters. America must “use more sentiment and less tinsel, and that’s the way it should be,” she told her listeners during one wartime Christmas broadcast. Now 96, Phyllis Jeanne Creore Westerman sits in her apartment on New York’s Fifth Avenue, remembering those seasonal broadcasts she recorded 70 years ago.

[…]She did a bit of radio work, found singing jobs with various bands at hotels like the Biltmore, and volunteered at the Stage Door Canteen. That’s where she got the idea for a regular radio show — to reach more troops — across the U.S., and in Europe by short wave.

Read the full article and listen to Susan Stamberg’s interview on NPR.org.

National Radio Day 2012

Click to enlarge. (Source: NPR)

Today in the US, it’s National Radio Day–a day to acknowledge the significance of radio technology and the way it has shaped our past, shapes our present, and continues to shape our future.

National Public Radio and its member stations typically celebrate with some fanfare. I especially love their vintage-inspired graphic this year, featuring Guglielmo Marconi.

In fairness, we should also acknowledge Nikola Tesla, whose 17 patents may have helped Marconi win his Nobel Prize as the father of radio.

In Zimbabwe, “if you want to hear the truth…listen to Shortwave Radio Africa…listen to VOA”

This is a brilliant piece on the lack of press freedom in Zimbabwe and the importance of shortwave radio. It was broadcast yesterday on Weekend All Things Considered. Links to the show and audio are below.

(Source: NPR)

In Seke, a rural community 40 miles outside Harare, James Chidakwa and his father eat roasted nuts and cornmeal inside a small brick hut. They’re farmers who rely heavily on maize and chickens to survive. James Chidakwa says that like many, his family refuses to listen to government TV or radio broadcasts.

“They always lie to the people,” he says. “Everything they say is a lie.”

So at 6 p.m. most evenings, they turn on a battery-powered, short-wave radio and tune in to a “pirate radio station.” Chidakwa says Shortwave Radio Africa and Voice of America are their favorites.

“If you want to hear the truth, wait for the end of the day to listen to Shortwave Radio Africa, to listen to VOA,” he says.

The stations, which are based in the U.K. and the U.S., send their signals through radio towers in countries that border Zimbabwe. That means Zimbabwean officials — who claim these broadcasts are illegal — have little recourse. In the past, they’ve confiscated short-wave radios. Chidakwa says that forces some people to listen undercover.

“Some of them, they will take the radios into their bedrooms and, low volume, they listen to the news. But the truth is, there is fear in them,” he says.

But for Chidakwa and his father, it’s a risk they are prepared to take.

The stations, which are based in the U.K. and the U.S., send their signals through radio towers in countries that border Zimbabwe. That means Zimbabwean officials — who claim these broadcasts are illegal — have little recourse. In the past, they’ve confiscated short-wave radios. Chidakwa says that forces some people to listen undercover.

“Some of them, they will take the radios into their bedrooms and, low volume, they listen to the news. But the truth is, there is fear in them,” he says.

But for Chidakwa and his father, it’s a risk they are prepared to take.

You can listen to the full story from Weekend All Things Considered, by clicking here (mp3), or read the transcript on this page.

This is just one more story we’ll file under “Why Shortwave Radio.”

RCI, and others, I wish you were listening. Those in Zimbabwe certainly are.

NPR brings amateur radio spectrum threats to light

Click image to go to ARRL page for HR607.

(Source: National Public Radio)

Across Alabama, emergency communications systems fell silent this week when tornadoes knocked down antennas and cell phone towers. Amateur radio operators are helping to restore emergency communication in some of the areas hardest hit by the storms. But those volunteers say their ability to provide that help is threatened by a new bill in Congress.

Listen to full report at NPR.

As a ham radio operator, I ask that all SWLing.com readers (who live in the US) please take action by contacting your member of congress and asking them to protect the radio spectrum which is vital to emergency communications.