Tag Archives: Thomas Witherspoon

Happy World Radio Day 2015: several ways you can celebrate


Today is World Radio Day, a time “to remember the unique power of radio to touch lives and bring people together across every corner of the globe,” UNESCO reminds us. As shortwave radio listeners, we understand this power of information without borders.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate World Radio Day 2015…

Ears To Our World (ETOW)

In Belieze, ETOW works with visually impaired children through our partner and friends at the Belieze Council for the Visually Impaired. Photo by ETOW volunteer/supporter, David Korchin K2WNW

In Belize, ETOW works with visually impaired children through our partner and friends at the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired. Photo by ETOW volunteer/supporter, David Korchin (K2WNW). Click to enlarge.

Of course, at my non-profit, Ears To Our World, we celebrate the unique power of radio everyday as well.

Indeed, we’re in the process of preparing at least another 100 radios for Sierra Leone, where children are receiving education over the airwaves as schools have been closed in an effort to stop the spread of Ebola.

If you would like to help us, please consider a donation of any amount.  Certainly a meaningful way to give the gift of radio and education.

On air events

If you can get on the air today, there are a few events happening around the world you might be able to catch:

Alexanderson Alternator Station SAQ

Alexanderson alternator in the SAQ Grimeton VLF transmitter.

Alexanderson alternator in the SAQ Grimeton VLF transmitter.

SWLing Post reader, Greg (VA7BC), passes along this announcement from the ARRL:

“The World Heritage Grimeton Radio SAQ in Sweden plans to fire up its Alexanderson alternator on 17.2 kHz on the occasion of UNESCO World Radio Day, Friday, February 13. The station will begin tuning at 1430 UTC, and a message will be transmitted at 1500 UTC.

A message with a theme of “peace” has been put together by more than 200 citizens of Varberg, Sweden, via the “Varberg Calling for Peace” project.

SAQ will not be issuing QSL cards nor post a list of reports, but it will accept brief listener reports. The Grimeton site’s Amateur Radio station SK6SAQ will be active, using a special event World Radio Day call sign — 7S6WRD. Frequencies: 7035 kHz or 14,035 khz, CW, and 3755 kHz SSB. QSL to 7S6WRD via SM bureau.

Read the full article at the ARRL website. I will certainly attempt to hear this broadcast on 14,035 kHz CW.

If any SWLing Post readers are able to record the SSB transmission on 3,755 kHz, I would love to add the audio to our audio archive.

Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union relay

ABU-logoThe Southgate ARC reports that ABU members will particiapte in a round-the-world broadcast relay:

“On Friday 13 February 2015, participating broadcasters around the globe will devote at least half-an-hour of their programming to the WRD 2015 themes “Innovation and youth in radio”.

The main organisers, the European Broadcasting Union, in partnership with the ABU and other broadcasting unions, will also offer three short optional pre-recorded radio features devoted to Radio and Youth, Radio and Innovation and the History of Humanitarian Use of Radio: UN Radio.

The segments can be used whole or in part in a time slot of each station’s choice. Most of the features will also be available with scripts in French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese, thanks to the UN.

Speeches by UN personalities will also be available ready to use on air, plus a one-hour rights-free concert live from Geneva by the UN Jazz Orchestra will be made available.

Organisers say that, as this will be a relay following the world’s time  zones, there will be a succession of radio stations each handing over to the next participant throughout the day.

To give listeners around the world the chance to follow this special WRD program, the broadcasts will be put on an Internet stream, coordinated via the EBU in Geneva.


4U0ITU on-air for World Radio Day

ITU-Club-LOGOAgain, the Southgate ARC reports via the ARRL:

“The ITU International Amateur Radio Club station in Geneva will use the special call 4U0ITO to mark World Radio Day on Friday, February 13

The ARRL report this event also marks the kickoff for the International Telecommunication Union 150th anniversary.

International Amateur Radio Union President Tim Ellam, VE6SH, will inaugurate special call sign 4U0ITU at 0900 UT. He will be accompanied by ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao, other elected officials and VIPs.

The IARC will use the 4U0ITU call sign until the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015, November 2-27.

World Radio Day commemorates the first broadcasts of UN Radio in 1946.”

Send listener reports to your favorite shortwave broadcasters

DW Kigali QSL CardMany of your favorite shortwave broadcasters will dedicate a portion of their programming to World Radio Day.

This is the perfect day, as a listener, to let your favorite broadcasters know you’re listening! Send in a proper QSL report–mention the time, frequency and type of programming you heard. Give the broadcaster a proper signal report as well (click here to read about the universally accepted SINPO code). Broadcasters love to hear about any insight you pulled from their news items or reports–the more detail, the better. And thank them for broadcasting over shortwave.

You can typically find contact information on the broadcaster’s website.  If you have any difficulty, please comment and I, or another reader/contributor, will try to help.

Happy World Radio Day!

It’s been fun to see how World Radio Day has grown over the years. I believe it’s a wonderful reason to celebrate all that we love about radio.

To celebrate  World Radio Day 2013, UNESCO asked me to record why I believe radio is relevant today. Here was my response:

Click here to read more about World Radio Day.

“Less plug” and much “more play”–!

Aw, gee–you know you’ve made it the in the world when the talented and inimitable Jeff Murray (K1NSS) takes the Mickey out of you with his quirky vintage-style imagery.  This time, it was yours truly that got a dose of the Murray treatment…
K1NSS-meJeff, you inject this hobby with the requisite dose of whimsy. Thanks so much for “plugging” Ears To Our World!

Merry listening, friends! If you would like to support Ears To Our World with a tax-deductible donation, click here!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–if you want to hire a talented artist for graphics or a unique QSL card, Jeff is clearly the guy to call upon.

October 10: Let’s talk shortwave…and astronomy


I’ve been invited to speak at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a non-profit educational radio astronomy observatory (and former NASA tracking station as well as one-time NSA installation), in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I’ll be speaking about shortwave radio, of course–both its technical and cultural aspects–on October 10, 2014, at 7:00 pm EDT.  Afterwards, there will be a tour of the PARI campus, and an opportunity to stargaze with both amateur and professional astronomers.

Many thanks to my buddy, Ken Reitz, who shared this article about my presentation in the area’s local county newspaper; here’s my statement about the presentation:

“Shortwave radio is an international communications medium that has been in existence for nearly one hundred years,” said Witherspoon, “yet this vintage technology supports an ever-evolving multicultural landscape that, remarkably, remains relevant today. The Internet and mobile technologies have made the dissemination of information more readily accessible to many, yet shortwave radio remains viable and dynamic, and in many ways still outstrips the Internet.

“I plan to share some of shortwave radio’s diverse voices and investigate some of the technology used to receive them. So, if you are a shortwave enthusiast, or simply interested in learning more about shortwave, this program is for you and will be suitable for all ages.”

Read the full article here–and if you can make the journey, join us for shortwave and astronomical fun. There is a small charge for the evening; all proceeds go towards PARI’s mission of providing public education in astronomy.

PARI is a stunning radio astronomy campus which will no doubt be accentuated by the mountains’ fall leaf colors on October 10. For PARI’s location, click here.

Could software-defined radios empower citizen journalists in North Korea?

USB SDRs like the FunCube Dongle Pro could inspire a generation of SDRs that transmit information across the North Korean border.

USB SDRs like the RTL-SDR could inspire a generation of SDRs that not only receive, but transmit information across the North Korean border.

I was recently interviewed and quoted in an article by Ole Jakob Skåtun at NK NewsSkåtun is exploring the possibility of using inexpensive SDR dongles as a means for citizen journalists to receive and potentially send information across the North Korean border:

(Source: NK News)

“While North Korea recently ranked second-to-last on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, new ways of using digital radio broadcasting might prove a valuable tool for those who wish to increase information flows into and out of the country.

So-called software-defined radio (SDR) technology, brought into the country on USB devices, could be used for receiving and, potentially, sending data – text, audio and video files – on radio band frequencies.

SDR technology is a radio communications system where all components typically implemented via hardware for standard radios have been made into software. Loaded onto a flash drive-sized USB-dongle, they have the potential to turn any computer with a USB port into a receiver and transmitter. 

Radio experts and NGO representatives said that something like this might have potential as a new way of bringing information into North Korea, and in certain cases provide a tool for citizen reporters working inside the country to bring information out.”

[Continue reading…]

Click here to read the full article, How digital radio could break North Korea’s information blockade at NK News.

(NK News is an independent, privately owned specialist site focused on North Korea.)

The Spectrum Monitor: a new radio magazine finds a home in the digital world

The SpectrumMonitorI’m happy to announce that there is a new radio magazine on the horizon: The Spectrum Monitor (TSM).

The Spectrum Monitor, an e-magazine, will cover  amateur radio, longwave and shortwave listening, public service scanning, AM/FM/TV broadcasting, satellites, WiFi radio, vintage radio and more.

I have agreed to be the shortwave radio columnist for The Spectrum Monitor.

Why? TSM is picking up where Monitoring Times (MT) left off, and is being edited and published by MT‘s former managing editor, Ken Reitz (KS4ZR). Reitz has done a fantastic job of retaining the majority of MT‘s excellent writers and columnists. When he asked if I would be interested in taking over the shortwave radio column, his integrity and that of Monitoring Times helped me make a confident decision.

Best yet, I will have free reign to write about in-depth topics that I choose. Like Monitoring Times before it, The Spectrum Monitor will allow their columnists true editorial freedom.

The Spectrum Monitor Press Release

Ken Reitz published the following press release today at noon; if you enjoy the topics here, I encourage you to check out The Spectrum Monitor.

TheSpectrumMonitorPRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ken Reitz
e-mail: ks4zr1 [at] gmail.com
Phone: 540-967-2469


A new electronic publication, The Spectrum Monitor, will follow the final issue of Monitoring Times, a paper and electronic publication covering amateur, shortwave and scanner-related topics, which ceases publication after a thirty-three year run following the retirement of its publisher, Bob Grove.

Managing editor, Ken Reitz KS4ZR, made the announcement in the November issue of Monitoring Times. “As the accolades poured in, all readers, regardless of how long they had been subscribers, expressed sadness and dismay at the closure of the magazine. I came to believe that there might be enough interest to warrant continuing the publication in some other form. I took it upon myself to explore the possibility of a follow-on magazine, not connected with Monitoring Times or Grove Enterprises, it’s publisher.”

The Spectrum Monitor will debut with the January 2014 issue, on December 15, 2013, and will carry virtually all of the current Monitoring Times columnists and feature writers. Reitz noted, “These are the experts in all facets of radio who have helped make MT the best, full-spectrum magazine available and we are all excited about continuing our work for the new publication.”

The Spectrum Monitor will be available only as an electronic publication in PDF format which may be read on any desktop, laptop, iPad™, Kindle Fire™ or any other device capable of opening a PDF file. Details on how to become a charter subscriber may be found at www.thespectrummonitor.com.