Monthly Archives: May 2011

VOA criticized for dropping Mandarin service to China

I just noticed this article from the VOA website regarding criticism it recently received from the Heritage Foundation for shutting down VOA’s Mandarin language shortwave radio service to China.

It’s may be once in a blue moon when I agree with a Washington think tank, but in this case, the argument is certainly valid.

VOA, following the lead of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and possibly other broadcasters, decided that it’s much more cost-effective to cut shortwave service and increase its web-based presence in China. Unfortunately, there are still many in China who rely on shortwave radio service for their uncensored view of the rest of the world. Indeed, China’s ruling party is concerned enough about this that they routinely jam VOA transmissions as a form of censorship. Of course, when it comes to shortwave radio, jamming is not often effective. But if broadcasters in the western world (meaning VOA, BBC, DW) decide not to bother broadcasting into China, limitation of service is 100% effective. Indeed, we’re “jamming” the service before it ever has a chance to leave our respective countries.

Access to the internet, on the other hand, is completely controlled by the Chinese ruling party. Should they decide to, they can simply pull the plug and leave their citizens in the dark, informationally speaking. If you question this, simply ask people in Fiji, Egypt and Burma–and, oh, yes– Iran is now tinkering with the idea.

China is an amazing country, not to mention a technological leader in communications; its government simply has a track record of filtering information in a manner which many view as a violation of a basic human right. And censorship is a thriving business:  just ask Google. Or try to view VOA’s Manadarin website while traveling in China: you, too, may find yourself a victim of Chinese censorship.

Let us leave some information access available to those in China by keeping shortwave service alive there. There must be other cost-effective means of information sharing that doesn’t require throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Read the original VOA article here.

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BBC report on the restoration of a WWII Tunny Machine

Close up of Tunny wiring. (Photo Source: BBC)

Occasionally, I happen upon news articles that are only marginally shortwave radio related but certainly embody the spirit and nostalgia of radio. This is such an article.

Kudos to the BBC for reporting on the full restoration of a WWII era Tunny decipher machine.

Click here to read article and watch video report.


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DXpedition in Lapland? Finnish DXers offer their DX cabin for rent

Photo of Saariselkä courtesy of

If you have the time and money, this DXpedition site–owned and operated by several hard-core Finnish DXers–could offer up a week of exotic AM and Shortwave DXing. Rent for one week is very reasonable at 500 Euros, but travel expenses (especially if visiting from outside of Europe) can be pricey, so do your flight research well in advance.

Mika Mäkeläinen does a great job writing up what a week could offer you at their little cabin. Well worth the read even if you don’t intend to visit this Arctic listening post.

Click hear to read more.

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Ten-Tec RX-320 and RX-320D software gets updated for Windows 7

Fans of the RX-320D should note that Ten-Tec has just updated the GUI (Graphic User Interface) for this fine radio.  According to Ten-Tec Engineer, John Henry, this mainly makes it work better with the 64 bit version of Windows 7 and Windows 7 comm ports.

You can get the new software from the Ten-Tec download center.

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WRTH Summer A11 Schedules Available

The World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) summer (A11) schedules file is now available to download, free of charge, from the WRTH website. This is a comprehensive update and supplement to the printed 2011 WRTH.

This is what I love about WRTH–though they are a printed publication, they keep their readers informed with the latest changes in schedules via downloads from their website.  To me, this is the best of both worlds.

Click here to go to WRTH’s website and download your copy. Consider giving them a small donation as well.

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SWLing Book Review–Lisa Spahr’s World War II Radio Heroes

This year I had the pleasure of meeting author Lisa Spahr at the Winter SWLfest in Plymouth Meeting, PA.  There was considerable interest in her new book, World War II Radio Heros, at the event, and after speaking with Ms. Spahr for only a few minutes, I knew I wanted to read it, too.

World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion is the story of Ms. Spahr’s grandfather, Robert Spahr, who was captured by German forces and held as a prisoner of war. After the death of her grandfather, she discovered letters written to her family during the war some sixty years ago, from total strangers, telling her great-grandmother that her son had been captured and was being held as a POW.

In the process of reading through these letters, she discovered a forgotten fraternity of shortwave radio listeners who routinely listened to German propaganda stations in order to hear and pass along news from POWs to their families.

Though one might think that these were condolences–describing that a loved one has been captured and is being held against his will–Spahr demonstrates that such letters (derived from the act of listening to propaganda radio broadcasts) were actually the opposite:  these were messages, she explains, of reassurance, that a loved one is alive, and has not fallen on a battlefield. These propaganda broadcasts inadvertently translated to a form of solace, and the radio listeners knew this.

WWII Radio Heroes is a slim volume, but a wonderful bit of radio history.  I liken it to having a good friend spending the afternoon showing you an album of original letters and photographs that, own their own, tell a heart-warming story. Spahr provides insight into each letter, photograph, and details the curiosity that lead her on this original journey into her family’s and America’s past.

You can purchase WWII Radio Heroes directly from the book’s dedicated website.


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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 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.

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