Tag Archives: Why Shortwave Radio

Kim Elliott on shortwave radios & signal jamming in 2015

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(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.

The vital role of radio in North Korea

North-Korea-Propaganda

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Ulis, who recently shared a link to this story in the DailyNK.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the case of loudspeaker broadcasts, which roiled the North, eventually leading to artillery fire, it can only be heard 25km into the North from the demilitarized zone, but in the case of radio broadcasts, many North Koreans can gain access, which is why it’s believed to a play a larger role in psychological warfare.

“After listening to the radio, I naturally found myself comparing things with the reality in North Korea,” Chae Ga Yeon (50), a North Korean defector who used to enjoy tuning into radio broadcasts, told Daily NK on Wednesday. “Having learned about things that are different from state propaganda, I took on a more critical way of thinking toward the state, and I started to realize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are not gods as the state claims. They started to look like average human beings,” she said.

“People who have tuned into broadcasts like these don’t keep the information to themselves. They share it with others,” Chae explained. “This makes other people listen in on the broadcasts as well, and they start being more critical against the state that is blocking out the information.”

Kim Seong Yeob (45) is another escapee who also tuned into these broadcasts. “North Korean broadcasts are not interesting since all they do is focus on idolization, so I enjoyed listening to South Korean broadcasts since they would share different news stories and air radio dramas as well,” Kim said. “Then I came to open my eyes to the false propaganda and developed this desire to learn more about society in North Korea and study it,” he recalled.[…]

Experts believe these broadcasts can expedite change in people’s awareness in North Korea. Given that state dominance over information is the control mechanism used over North Koreans, they believe information from outside can deal a severe blow to the North Korean system.

Click here to read the full article at the DailyNK…

Daily NK and Unification Media Group will post a series of nine articles on the effects of broadcasts to North Korea. Check the DailyNK website for updates.

As we mentioned in a previous post, the BBC has announced plans to broadcast to North Korea in the near future via shortwave. Bloomberg Business reports, however, that these broadcasts may never happen due to the potential for political backlash.

To follow all of our North Korea posts, bookmark this tag.

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…

BBC World Service as a lifeline and making radio as “a symbol of resistance”

BurundiMany thanks toSWLing Post contributor,  Richard Cuff, for sharing this article from the NewStatesman:

In the week when Apple’s Beats 1 radio station was launched – “Worldwide. Always on . . . It broadcasts 24/7 to over 100 countries from our studios in Los Angeles, New York and London” – there was also discussion of the BBC’s latest global audience measurement figures. The most striking thing in the report, which tracked listening habits and how they had changed over the past year, was how short-wave radio – in rural and poorer areas where there is no FM, no cable and no electricity, it’s still the only way of tuning in – is under increasing threat from something as basic as jamming.

Apple’s idea of radio as digital and impermeable never felt more breezily First World. Listeners to the English-language programmes on the BBC World Service, for example – in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, in particular – have almost halved in number because of deliberate disruption on the short-wave signal, apparently from China, forcing stations to rotate frequencies on the same band to at least attempt a slot.

“Tune around . . . You’ll find us. We will be there,” advised a technician on Over to You (4 July, 5.50pm). It conjured that most antiquated and urgent of images: a person clutching their temples, coaxing a dial, trying and trying to find a signal.

“I grew up with short-wave radio,” insisted a caller to the show, “and I got to understand the world, got to understand life. If you don’t know short-wave radio, you don’t know life.” Only moments later, there was talk of the closure of all the non-state-run radio stations in Burundi (one of the poorest and least connected countries in the world). Before the recent coup attempt, independent radio stations played a huge role in holding the government to account but many radio journalists are now forced to report using what social media is available.

“The exercise of making radio matters,” said a caller. “It’s a symbol of resistance.” And another, with some disdain, said: “Doing it on the internet is just a way of keeping it on record.” The more than century-long act of turning a dial and finding a signal, with a human voice hitching a ride on electromagnetic energy through space, is something it seems our species now feels in the bones. But worldwide? Always on? Only for some.

Read the full article at the NewStatesman.

Nigeria’s Freedom Radio to broadcast via shortwave

Nigeria-Map2

(Source: Albawaba)

Residents of Nigeria’s north-east have lived in isolation for two years. Terrorists frequently target phone lines in order to cut off communication. Traders avoid the region. Journalists live under threat.

But a new radio programme is now bringing important information to three states – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – which have been under a state of emergency since May 2013 and turned by the army into a battleground against Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram.

[…]Most radio stations in north-eastern Nigeria are government-owned and broadcast in Hausa or English. For the tens of thousands of Kanuri-speaking people, there is no independent source of information, only state-sanctioned news and Boko Haram propaganda.

“Boko Haram controls people by inducing fear. Without alternatives, people are very much under the influence of Boko Haram’s propaganda,” says Wada. “Through Dandal Kura, we try to work against the propaganda by giving listeners objective information.”

Dandal Kura, which means “the big hall” in Kanuri, was initially set up in January as a three-month pilot project funded by United States development agency USAID. Since April, the programme is managed and run by Freedom Radio, a private broadcaster based in Kano.

[…]What is special about Dandal Kura is not only the language. The programme is transmitted by shortwave, on 9940 kHz, instead of the commonly used FM frequency band.

Shortwave is especially important in rural areas across Africa where FM waves hardly reach, but shortwave radios are easily available for an affordable price. In northern Nigeria they can be bought at any marketplace for about 600 Naira (3 dollars).

There is another key advantage: The shortwave transmission system is located hundreds of kilometres away – on the Atlantic island of Ascension – which means it cannot be destroyed by Boko Haram.

An FM transmitter, in contrast, would have to be installed on the ground in northern Nigeria.

“If we had set up FM transmitters, there would have been a high chance that Boko Haram would take them out,” says Smith, who has experience in setting up radio stations in African conflict zones, including Somalia and Central African Republic.

Click here to read the full article at Albawaba.