Tag Archives: Why Shortwave Radio

New Shortwave Station in South Sudan

Radio-TamazujThere’s a new shortwave station in South Sudan!
Kudos to Eye Media for their Shortwave Radio efforts in South Sudan to complement and extend their reach beyond local FM radio. And I must add, kudos to the United States for their part in helping to fund the venture. While I am quick to criticize my country for their cutbacks in SW funding, I have to be fair and say “well done” when something like this comes along. Here is the news report as posted April 26 (yesterday) on Radio Tamazuj and which was reported by Alokesh Gupta New Delhi on the Cumbre-DX  Yahoo Group:

Eye Media, the parent organization of Eye Radio, has announced that it has launched a new shortwave broadcast service to complement its existing FM broadcasts in South Sudan.

The broadcasts starting today will bring listeners news and information in Arabic, as well as Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Bari, Zande and Lutoho.

According to a press release today from Eye Media, “the Eye Radio Shortwave will cover the whole of South Sudan including remote areas in which communities are not able to access FM radio stations.”

Eye Radio is one of the fastest expanding media houses in South Sudan after launching FM repeaters in several state capitals last year, expanding the station’s reach beyond Juba where it is based.

In its press release, the station noted that the funding for this initiative came from USAID, the international development agency of the US government.

Shortwave radio is used for long distance communication by means of reflecting or refracting radio waves back to Earth from the ionosphere, allowing communication around the curve of the Earth. It was a popular means of long-distance news sharing before the advent of the Worldwide Web, and it is still used for reaching remote areas.

Only two other media houses broadcast on shortwave with content specifically for South Sudan: Radio Tamazuj, which operates two hours daily on the shortwave, and Voice of America, which produces the 30 minute program South Sudan in Focus.

Radio Tamazuj broadcasts from 6:30 to 7:30 each morning on 11650 kHz on the 25 meter band and 9600 kHz on the 31 meter band, and 15150 kHz and 15550 kHz on the 19 meter band each evening from 17:30 to 18:30.

Eye Radio’s new broadcasts will run from 7:00 to 8:00 each morning on 11730 kHz on the 25 meter band and 17730 kHz on the 17 meter band from 19:00 to 20:00.


Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Guest post: The future for radio broadcasting in Australia

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who shares the following guest post–an article he originally authored for the Australian DX News:


WHKY-AM-Radio-Tower

What Future for Radio Broadcasting in Australia?

By Phil Brennan, Darwin, NT

As we witness the worldwide decline in long wave, medium wave , shortwave and indeed FM broadcasting, it can be at times a slightly depressing exercise to ponder the future of our hobby.  As I write, just last week Radio France announced that it will soon cease all LW broadcasting.  There’s an on-line petition to save the service: this morning it had collected 770 signatures after one week. It was 769 until I sent my modest click across the universe L.

On the domestic front we’ve seen the pointy-headed bean counters in Canberra and their political masters take the knife to our national broadcaster to the point where Radio Australia now seems to be little more than a relay station for the ABC with barely any in-house production tailored for its audience.

With all this doom and gloom it was with some trepidation that I spied a recent Australian Government report entitled Digital Radio Report [1] which arrived via my email in-box through the excellent Australian Policy On-line resource.  The report was published in July 2015 by the Department of Communications and was conducted by the Minister for Communications under the Broadcasting Services Act and the Radiocommunications Act. Note: the Minister for Communications then was Malcolm Turnbull who is now Australia’s Prime Minister.

The report makes for an interesting read (for nerds like us) and provides some great insight into the bureaucracy’s thinking on the future of radio broadcasting in this country.  So while the report ostensibly considers the current and potential state of digital radio in Australia, in so doing it looks at the other forms of radio broadcasting and gives us a peek into the future.

The report broadly considers the following issues:

  • The current state of digital broadcasting and alternative forms, eg streaming services through the interwebs
  • Whether Australia should set a digital switchover date and close off analogue services; and
  • The legal and regulatory framework for digital services.

Like you would have dear reader I quickly scrolled through the report to see if it was recommending a full switchover to digital.  The good news is that this won’t happen anytime soon and perhaps not ever.  Phew! It seems Australia’s geography and sparse population works in our favour (for once).  Anyway, more on that later.

So what does the Australian radio broadcasting landscape look like at present?  Well for lovers of analogue radio it’s still looking pretty strong and it’s likely to remain that way for some time to come.  In the five big cities the 2014 average weekly audience for commercial radio services grew by 4.13 per cent to 10.1 million people.  That’s pretty impressive given the quality of the stuff they serve up each day.  Aunty’s (that’s the ABC to foreign folk) radio service reached a record 4.7 million people in 13/14, an increase of 155,000 listeners on the previous year. Well done Aunty!

All up there are 273 analogue commercial radio services (104 on AM, 152 FM and 12 outside the broadcasting service bands.  Community radio is going strong with 357 analogue services (13 AM and 344 FM) plus 244 narrowcasters (33 AM and 211 FM).  There’s lots of stuff still out there it seems.  Perhaps too much as the FM band is becoming very crowded in the major metropolitan areas.

There are 142 commercial digital services in the big capitals plus the two trial sites in Canberra and Darwin.  Interestingly a good proportion of the digital services are simulcast analogue services, for example 11 out 29 of the commercial digitals in Sydney.  Listenership of digital radio is growing slowly and steadily, reaching 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, primarily due to the growth of receivers in motor vehicles.

Streaming services are rapidly gaining ground with services like Spotify, Pandora and the new Apple Music picking up new subscribers each week.  The move by Aunty and the Special Broadcasting Service’s (SBS) to mobile apps for streaming content is also showing good growth. It would appear that to some extent this growth has been at the expense of terrestrial digital services, but audience data in this area is pretty sketchy it seems.

So what of the future for digital radio? Well it seems that for the present the public does not show a preference for digital radio over other forms. And while some European countries such as Norway with near total digital coverage are looking to switch off their FM services, some countries such as the UK have postponed their planned switchover to digital due to slow uptake by the listening public.

In Australia there are big interests such as SBS, Commercial Radio Australia and Broadcast Australia pushing for a switchover to digital as soon as possible.   Thankfully the report’s authors have listened to other bodies that advocate for a multi technology approach.  Significantly the report notes that while digital could match FM for coverage with a similar number of transmitters, it will struggle to match the coverage provided by the medium and high powered AM transmitters that reach the remaining population.  Digital Radio Mondiale and satellite digital radio technologies could increase digital’s coverage but are not considered viable.

Internet based services are not seen as a realistic alternative in the medium term due to high data costs, restricted wifi coverage, likely interruptions in high traffic areas and poor battery life on mobiles.  It’s likely that this will be a niche medium for some time.

So what does the report conclude and recommend?  Well, digital radio was only ever introduced as a complimentary technology and that will continue to be the case.  In saying that the report makes a series of recommendations to free up the rules so broadcasters can take up the digital option more readily.  DAB+ is the preferred technology so don’t go ordering a DRM set anytime soon.

Perhaps most interestingly, the report makes a major finding that there may be an opportunity to consider how analogue terrestrial radio coverage can be improved pending the roll out of digital radio.  This includes further research into how AM coverage can be improved in metropolitan areas and whether the FM spectrum can be made available in regional areas for new analogue services or switching existing AM services over to FM, potentially in lieu of the rollout of digital services.  For us lovers of analogue radio this is certainly good news, particularly if more high powered AM broadcasters hit the band.

Does this actually mean that analogue radio services are safe?  Well, governments have been very good at ignoring reports advocating for the public good and succumbing to the commercial interests with other agendas, particularly when it comes to media.  That said, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the government to pull the plug on analogue anytime soon given the coverage issues in regional Australia.  However, when it comes to governments, the sensible thing to do is often viewed as the last option.

[1] © Commonwealth of Australia


Thank you, Phil, for your article and opinions! I agree–in a country with such vast expanses, analog radio still has advantages over other mediums. Comments?

What to broadcast after a nuclear attack? The BBC had a plan.

Peter Donaldson (23 August 1945 – 2 November 2015) Image source: BBC

Peter Donaldson (23 August 1945 – 2 November 2015) Image source: BBC

If you live in the UK and listen to the radio, you’ve probably heard that long-time announcer/broadcaster Peter Donaldson died earlier this week. For years–decades actually–Donaldson was a prominent voice on Radio 4.

Donaldson was also well-loved by his listeners, and his colleagues at the BBC (read this touching tribute).

Donaldson had a familiar, calming voice; perhaps that’s why he was asked by the BBC to record a series of informational messages in the event of a nuclear war.

Yes, to be clear, the BBC had a plan.

This article in the BBC Magazine explains (thanks, Andrea):

“BBC newsreader Peter Donaldson, who has died aged 70, was to have been the voice of radio bulletins in the event of a nuclear attack. What would have gone out on the UK’s airwaves if the Cold War had turned hot?

“This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known.”

So began the script, read by Peter Donaldson, which was to go out on British airwaves in the event of nuclear war.”

Castle_Union-Mushroom-Cloud-Nuclear

Here’s an audio clip from Peter Donaldson’s pre-recorded announcement:

While I’m an avid radio listener, I should hope I never hear a similar message over the air (even though Donaldson’s voice is indeed quite calming).

If you’re curious, here is the full Wartime Broadcasting Service official post-attack statement, courtesy of Wikipedia:

This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger. If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.

Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.

Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don’t waste it.

Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for fourteen days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.

If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The “all clear” message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.

Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the “all clear” on the sirens.

Here are the main points again:

Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for fourteen days or more.

We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours’ time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.

PRI’s The World featured a story about Peter Donaldson as well, and it was mentioned that perhaps the US has a similar “official” post-attack statement. I’m willing to bet we do, but I’m not sure how it would be disseminated over radio. Unlike the UK, we don’t have local relays of a government broadcaster. We do have the Emergency Alert Service which is directly tied to local and national broadcasting outlets–assuming satellite feeds are still functioning, that is.

Enough apocalyptic thoughts today?

Back to your regularly scheduled program…

Russia’s attempt to test Runet by shutting down Internet

"Russian Federation (orthographic projection) - Crimea disputed" by FutureTrillionaire - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg#mediaviewer/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Robert (AK3Q), who shares this news item:

“This was first reported by the Telegraph and picked up by Fox News website:”

(Source: The Telegraph)

Russia has run large scale experiments to test the feasibility of cutting the country off the World Wide Web, a senior industry executive has claimed.

The tests, which come amid mounting concern about a Kremlin campaign to clamp down on internet freedoms, have been described by experts as preparations for an information blackout in the event of a domestic political crisis.

Andrei Semerikov, general director of a Russian service provider called Er Telecom, said Russia’s ministry of communications and Roskomnadzor, the national internet regulator, ordered communications hubs run by the main Russian internet providers to block traffic to foreign communications channels by using a traffic control system called DPI.

The objective was to see whether the Runet – the informal name for the Russian internet – could continue to function in isolation from the global internet.

The experiment, which took place in spring this year, failed because thousands of smaller service providers, which Roskomnadzor has little control over, continued to pass information out of the country, Mr Semerikov said.

Continue reading at The Telegraph…

Kim Elliott on shortwave radios & signal jamming in 2015

"Russian Federation (orthographic projection) - Crimea disputed" by FutureTrillionaire - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg#mediaviewer/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg

(Source: USC Center on Public Diplomacy)

BBC Russian Wants to Expand, But It’s Not So Easy

The BBC, as part of its 2015 Charter Review document, announced proposals to “invest” in BBC World Service. This includes a desire for a “bigger digital presence in Russian through a new digital service on platforms such as YouTube and the Russian equivalent Rutube, together with TV bulletins for neighbouring states. We would also start a feasibility study for a satellite TV channel for Russia.”

[…]The feasibility of BBC satellite TV for Russia is problematic. Very few Russians have rotatable satellite dishes, surfing the Clarke Belt in search of outside news. About 25% of Russian homes have fixed Ku-band satellite dishes to receive proprietary domestic direct-to-home services such as TricolorTV and NTV+. Western Russian-language news channels are not included in these channel packages and are unlikely to be invited aboard. Content from Western Russian-language broadcasters, including Voice of America and Radio Liberty, is also legally not welcome on Russian domestic terrestrial television and radio stations.

[…]So far, Russia has not blocked the Internet content of Western international broadcasters, at least not on a continuous basis. The Kremlin’s repeated denials of any intent to block Internet content suggest that it has at least been thinking about it. And recent press accounts indicate that Russian authorities may even try to ban anonymizers and other methods used to work around online censorship. Circumvention tools would have to become even cleverer, and Russian users would have to be willing and able to use them. In an extreme scenario, Russia could physically cut off the landlines of Internet traffic into the country. Then no circumvention tool within the Internet Protocol would work.

This could bring BBC Russian full circle to the venerable but unfashionable medium of shortwave radio. To be sure, Russians are out of the habit of listening to shortwave. Shortwave is no longer used for domestic broadcasting in Russia. BBC Russian eliminated its shortwave broadcasts in 2011. But, if need be, Russians could dust off their Cold War era shortwave radios. Or they could purchase inexpensive Chinese-made portable radios with shortwave bands.

In addition to traditional voice broadcasts, text, images, and even formatted web pages can now be broadcast using existing shortwave transmitters, and received on any shortwave radio. The audio must be fed to a PC or mobile device equipped with appropriate (free) software. Such a method allows reception of content even in difficult reception conditions, and allows unattended reception. This new capability of existing shortwave broadcast technology has been demonstrated through the VOA Radiogram experiments.

If Russia blocks Internet content from abroad, it will also probably try to jam shortwave radio content from abroad. Most jamming transmitters of the Cold War era have been dismantled or have fallen into disrepair. Many of the jamming transmitters are outside of Russia, in former Soviet republics. Reviving a shortwave jamming apparatus would be a much more expensive proposition than blocking Internet content. Various Cold War anti-jamming tactics, using various tricks of ionospheric propagation, can be employed. Text via shortwave would be even more resistant to jamming than voice broadcasts.[…]

Read the full article by Kim Andrew Elliott at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy online.