In Pacific Islands, newspapers are a “luxury item”, radio remains the “staple medium”

Vanuatu-MapMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff, who shares the following article from The Saturday Paper. The article speaks to how important radio
is to Pacific Islanders, and the challenges Radio Australia faces with its budget:

“For many Pacific islanders, newspapers are a luxury item. On average, each newspaper in the Pacific will be read by seven people, which helps explain why the daily paper’s print run is so low. While mobile phones are ubiquitous – top-up booths can be found in the most remote areas of the Pacific – the cost and patchy coverage of internet and TV mean radio is still the most accessible form of media.

“…?radio remains the main staple medium for the Pacific,” says Suva-born Francis Herman, who has worked in the Pacific media industry for more than 30 years as journalist, broadcaster and pre-coup CEO of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation. “Radio stations across the Pacific are actually opening up.”

I’m speaking to Herman from a conference phone in the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) office at Port Vila, where Herman works as program manager. PACMAS, a four-person team funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and supported by ABC International Development, works with local and Australian media to deliver 74 programs in media training and development throughout the 22 Pacific islands.

[…]The Australian government’s lack of regard for the development of international media was made clear last year by the cancellation of a 10-year $220 million contract to deliver the international broadcasting service, Australia Network, to the Asia-Pacific region. The most worrying effect of this cut for many was the ABC’s decision to compensate for their losses by ravaging Radio Australia.

After axing three correspondents and Pacific-focused programs, Radio Australia content was replaced by translated domestic ABC programming, restricting the interaction of Radio Australia in the region and the news Australians were getting back from it.

“If the story doesn’t fit the paradigm of paradise (swaying palm trees, blue water, sandy beaches) or paradise lost (coups, corruption, climate change), voices from the islands rarely get a run,” wrote past Radio Australia correspondent Nic Maclellan for Inside Story shortly after the cuts were announced.

Shallow international content doesn’t bode well for the development of Pacific media, with a 2013 PACMAS study showing that while Ni-Vanuatu journalists self-censor to avoid retaliation from the government, they will still run investigative pieces from other news outlets.[…]”

Click here to read the full article on The Saturday Paper website…

Vanuatu’s radio services restored

Vanuatu-Map

(Source: Radio Australia)

Broadcast communications that were knocked out by Cyclone Pam have been fully restored.

Francis Herman, the ABC’s program manager for the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, says transmission engineer Steve White and local technicians have fixed Radio Vanuatu’s short and medium wave service to a level better than before the cyclone.

Listen to the interview on Radio Australia’s website.

Radio Australia antenna azimuth settings

RA-PropMap

SWLing Post reader, George, recently asked about the new Radio Australia antenna settings accompanying the modified (trimmed) broadcast schedule.

The following are the new azimuth settings for the antennas at the Shepparton transmitter site:

  • 9,580 kHz: 070 degrees 0900-2100 UTC
  • 12,065 kHz: 355 degrees 0900-2100 UTC
  • 12,085 kHz: 030 degrees  0900-2100 UTC
  • 15,240 kHz: 030 degrees 2100-0900 UTC
  • 15,415 kHz: 355 degrees 2100-0900 UTC
  • 17,840 kHz: 070 degrees 2100-0900 UTC

Radio Australia back on 9,580 kHz this morning

Elad-FDM-S2-RadioAustralia-9580It appears it may have indeed been a transmitter glitch that kept Radio Australia from broadcasting into North America with their typical blowtorch signal on 9,580 kHz yesterday.

After publishing a post about this yesterday, I received quite a few reports confirming that RA could not be heard in North America. I even received a  report from Mike in New Zealand who couldn’t hear RA on 9,580 kHz with his Yaesu FT-817.

I did, however, receive two reports from listeners stating that they could hear a very faint signal from RA on 9,580 kHz–long after I had tuned off frequency. This might explain the carrier I saw on my spectrum display yesterday. Perhaps Shepparton turned down the power on 9,580 kHz for maintenance purposes?

Either way, I’m simply happy to hear my old friend back on 9,580. Since we are officially under the new (reduced) broadcast plan, I hope this means that we’ll at least Radio Australia until they change the plan again.

Radio Australia silent on 9,580 kHz this morning

Fullscreen capture 1312015 25334 PMThis morning, when I tuned to Radio Australia on 9,580 kHz, they were not transmitting–or, at least, I couldn’t hear them.

I hope this is merely a transmitter glitch (they do happen).

You see, Radio Australia recently issued their new shortwave broadcast schedule which included cuts to the Pacific broadcast footprint. The changes take effect today. 9,580 kHz, however, should still be on the air between 09:00-21:00 UTC–this morning, I was listening at 15:00 UTC.

I can’t think of the last time I couldn’t hear Radio Australia on 9,580 kHz in the morning hours here in the eastern USA. Indeed, some of my earliest memories of listening to shortwave radio include RA on 9,580 kHz.

I need to look further into the changes to the broadcast plan. I’m beginning to wonder if the transmitter output and orientation have been changed. As you can see in the screenshot from my Elad FDM-S2 (above), there is a faint carrier on 9,580, but it’s much too weak to hear. I’ve no clue if it’s Radio Australia or not.

Fortunately, Radio Australia is quite loud on 12,065 kHz and very audible on 12,085 kHz (see below), which means I still get my Saturday morning dose of Saturday Night Country.

Fullscreen capture 1312015 25452 PM

Fullscreen capture 1312015 25537 PMI’ll post an update about 9,580 kHz as soon as I have more details.

Radio Australia closes shortwave service to Asia

Radio-Australia-BannerMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, David, who passes along this announcement from Radio Australia via Pacific Beat:

On Sunday, Radio Australia’s shortwave signal to Asia will be turned off, another result the ABC says of recent government funding cuts.

Shortwave broadcasting into the Pacific will continue, but signal strenth outside Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji may be degraded.

Alex Oliver from the Lowy Institute has contributed evidence to Australian parliamentary inquiries and committees on foreign affairs, defence and trade for many years.

So does she view the switch off as a big step back from international broadcasting by Australia, or simply the retirement of some old technology.

Presenter: Adam Connors

Speaker: Alex Oliver from the Lowy Institute

Listen to audio of the full interview by clicking here.

Revised B14 Radio Australia schedule

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

I just received the revised B14 RA schedule (above–click to enlarge) which shows the reduction of broadcasts this year. The Brandon, QLD transmission facility has been closed and Radio Australia has also moth-balled the newest Continental transmitters at Shepparton.

For comparison click here for the current English HF schedule (PDF).

For what it’s worth, I’m still grateful to see that RA will continue their broadcasts on 9,580 kHz–a staple frequency in my part of the world.