Monthly Archives: June 2012

A glimpse of Radio Canada International’s Sackville, New Brunswick transmission site

The large RCI sign that has long stood beside the Trans-Canada Highway in Sackville, New Brunswick. (Click to enlarge.)

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to receive an extensive tour of the Radio Canada International transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Of course, in light of the extensive cuts looming over this facility, the visit was bittersweet. It was an honor to see the transmitters and antennae I’ve listened to since I was eight years old, when I began listening to shortwave. But more impressive, still, are the people behind the scenes: despite a gloomy outlook, the site is busy and even humming due to their dedicated professionalism. The staff actively maintains the transmitters, antennae, and grounds, and it shows–the equipment, building and even floors are immaculate, demonstrating a palpable pride in a remarkable and still very useful site.  I thank them all, and wish them well…

Soon to come:  I’m writing a much more extensive post, outlining the tour and all that I learned.  I took hundreds of photos in an effort to photo-document the site.

Stay tuned!  Until then, here are a few teaser images:

The Sackville offices and transmitter building. I enjoyed a complete photo tour of this building, covering every hallway and office. (Click to enlarge.)

The new control station--completed only recently--allows for full remote operation of the site via the internet. (Click to enlarge.)

Shown above: the Harris transmitter, which almost exclusively carries the North Quebec service on 9,625 kHz. One of their oldest transmitters. (Click to enlarge.)

The right side of this double curtain antenna is used for transmissions to North Quebec on 9,625 kHz. (Click to enlarge.)

Yes, they use their RCI 4x4 truck all the time. The Sackville site is located on a marsh and experiences various challenging weather conditions. (Click to enlarge.)

The main floor, gleaming as ever. (Click to enlarge.)

When I post an article with the full tour and photos, search for the tag: Sackville

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Telegraph operations in the Great Auroral Storm of 1859

Sunspots of September 1, 1859, as sketched by Richard Carrington A and B mark the initial positions of an intensely bright event, which moved over the course of 5 minutes to C and D before disappearing. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

These days, CMEs and solar flares get a great deal of media attention. But it’s mostly speculation–for even with our advanced abilities to measure the potential impact, we can’t be sure what will happen each time this occurs. Might this solar flare be strong enough to damage our satellites and electrical infrastructure? we may wonder. Could it ‘fry’ our electrical grid?

The concerns are merely speculative. But is there actual cause for concern? Surely. A massive solar flare could damage much of our technology in space–such as our satellites–and could also certainly cause headaches for those who manage our electrical grids.

But do we know how powerful solar events can be? History may hold the answer.

In September of 1859, a solar flare was so massive that there were newspaper reports of it across the globe, and many found the strange light it created baffling. Of course, now, there’s no speculation as to what happened then–eyewitness accounts and plenty of written evidence in this pre-internet era paint a clear picture of a massive coronal ejection. This event has been referenced many times as a benchmark–one that, should it happen now, would certainly give us serious pause.  Technologically, that is.

I happened upon a fantastic article about the 1859 flare on ARS Technica called: 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth.

The following is an excerpt:

It hit quickly. Twelve hours after Carrington’s discovery and a continent away, “We were high up on the Rocky Mountains sleeping in the open air,” wrote a correspondent to the Rocky Mountain News. “A little after midnight we were awakened by the auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common print.” As the sky brightened further, some of the party began making breakfast on the mistaken assumption that dawn had arrived.

Across the United States and Europe, telegraph operators struggled to keep service going as the electromagnetic gusts enveloped the globe. In 1859, the US telegraph system was about 20 years old, and Cyrus Field had just built his transatlantic cable from Newfoundland to Ireland, which would not succeed in transmitting messages until after the American Civil War.

“Never in my experience of fifteen years in working telegraph lines have I witnessed anything like the extraordinary effect of the Aurora Borealis between Quebec and Farther Point last night,” wrote one telegraph manager to the Rochester Union & Advertiser on August 30:

The line was in most perfect order, and well skilled operators worked incessantly from 8 o’clock last evening till one this morning to get over in an intelligible form four hundred words of the report per steamer Indian for the Associated Press, and at the latter hour so completely were the wires under the influence of the Aurora Borealis that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the telegraph stations, and the line had to be closed.

But if the following newspaper transcript of a telegraph operator exchange between Portland and Boston is to be believed, some plucky telegraphers improvised, letting the storm do the work that their disrupted batteries couldn’t:

Boston operator, (to Portland operator) – “Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes.”

Portland operator: “Will do so. It is now disconnected.”

Boston: “Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?”

Portland: “Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually.”

Boston: “My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets.

Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble.”

Portland: “Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?”

Boston: “Yes. Go ahead.”

Telegraphers around the US reported similar experiences. “The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual batteries on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries connected,” said the Washington Daily National Intelligencer. “Who now will dispute the theory that the Aurora Borealis is caused by electricity?” asked the Washington Evening Star.

Read the full and fascinating article, 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth on arstechnica.

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Glenn Hauser’s calendar of shortwave radio specials and farewells

Since I’m travelling, I was very pleased to find that Glenn Hauser outlined the many special broadcasts and farewells over the next couple of weeks. Frankly, there are so many, I’ve had trouble keeping them organized in my calendar.

(Source: Glenn Hauser – DX Listening Digest, via SW Programs)

CALENDAR OF SW SPECIALS, FAREWELLS

Dates, days and times are strictly UT

MONDAY JUNE 18 +

This is the final week for Radio Canada International, probably also for CBC NQ 9625, and relays via Sackville. You may want to make an effort to listen more than usual before the Last Days scheduled below.

THURSDAY JUNE 21

2130-2145 British Antarctic Survey special, 9850 & 5950 Skelton UK, 7360 Ascension; or may be 2130-2200, and possibly on WED JUNE 20 instead

FRIDAY JUNE 22

2100 until 2100 SATURDAY JUNE 23 “MidsummerRadio”, special from Scandinavian Weekend Radio, Finland, low power on 25 and 49m; hard to hear beyond Europe

http://www.swradio.net/index2.htm

SATURDAY JUNE 23

1200-1214, final Vatican Radio English via Sackville: 13730

SUNDAY JUNE 24

0000-0059 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale from RCI: 11700 via Kunming

1500-1559 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale from RCI: 11675 via Kunming; 15125 via Urumqi, East Turkistan

1800-1859 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale from RCI: 17810 Skelton UK (should be audible in NAm), 11765 Skelton, 9530 Kashi, East Turkistan

2000-2059 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale2 from RCI Sackville: 17735, 15330, 15235

RCI Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese final broadcasts should also be June 24, ending at 2330* UT on 11990, 13760, 15455:

http://www.hfcc.org/data/schedbybrc.php?seas=A12&broadc=RCI

June 24 also appears to be the final day on air for Sackville relays of other stations. It is unclear whether all of these will be gone once the UT day June 25 starts, but assuming they are, listen UT June 24:

NHK World Radio Japan: English 0500-0530 on 6110, 1200-1230 on 6120; Japanese 0200-0500 5960; 1300-1500 11655

Vatican Radio: English 0250-0315, Spanish 0320-0400 both on 7305, 9610; Spanish 1130-1214 13730

Voice of Vietnam: English 0100-0130, 0230-0300, 0330-0400 on 6175

KBS World Radio, English: 0230-0300 9560, 1200-1300 9650; Spanish 0200-0230 9560, 0600-0700 6045; Korean 1400-1500 9650

China Radio International: who cares? Too many and plenty will be left from elsewhere

Radio República, 2300-0200 on 9490 [or only until 0000?]

1100-1127 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 9895 & 6165-Bonaire
1130-1157 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 6165- Bonaire
1200-1227 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 9715 & 6165-Bonaire

MONDAY JUNE 25

0000-0057 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 6165- Bonaire
0100-0157 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 6165- Bonaire
0830-0900 Fiji Democracy & Freedom Movement, 11565 via WHRI, weekly

This is the final week for Radio Netherlands. You may want to make an effort to listen before the Last Show special scheduled below

FRIDAY JUNE 29

0200-0400 PCJ Radio Special farewell to RNW, on WRMI 9955

For more details visit http://www.pcjmedia.com

A bit cheeky to schedule this at the same time as RN`s own Last Show!

0159-0257 RNW`s Last Show special to ENAm, 6165-Bonaire [not 11640]
0259-0357 RNW`s Last Show special to CNAm, 6165-Bonaire
0459-0557 RNW`s Last Show special to WNAm, 6165-Bonaire; NZ/SEAu 12015-Bonaire

In case there are any further changes from the `final` schedule:

http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/were-changing

Will Tom Meyer appear on this one? He does in Spanish:

1000-1057, RNW farewell broadcast in Indonesian: 17840 & 21485 Madagascar, 15300 & 15565 Sri Lanka; maybe also at 1100, 2100 [or June 28]
1330-1430 RNW Spanish farewell program with live video stream, including interview with Tom Meyer; repeated on SW the following evening on usual frequencies; see SAT
1400-1457 RNW`s Last Show special to Asia, 9800-Sri Lanka
1800-1957 RNW`s Last Show special to Africa, 17605-Vatican [audible in NAm]

1859-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Eu 6065
1900-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Af 7425-Madagascar
1900-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Af 11615-France
1900-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Af 15495-Vatican [maybe audible in NAm]. 2057 UT is really The End, for English

SATURDAY JUNE 30

0000-0057 & 0100-0157, RNW Spanish Farewell program [that`s what they say, unlike English which will end the previous night. Also check UT Friday June 29 in case that is correct date for Spanish too], 6165- Bonaire. See

http://www.rnw.nl/espanol/radioshow/cartasrn-en-v%C3%ADsperas-del- %C3%BAltimo-programa

VATICAN RADIO is also canceling most of its SW and MW broadcasts to Europe, and SW to Americas as of July 1. Presumably many of them will last be aired on June 30, altho the Sackville relays may have ended a week earlier. See

http://www.hfcc.org/data/schedbybrc.php?seas=A12&broadc=VAT

Many of the SMG transmissions to elsewhere are audible in NAm; also via Madagascar; and especially BONAIRE: 0030-0200 15470 in Portuguese, Spanish; 0230-0250 6040, 9610 in French. Since these are after 0000 UT, will their last day be UT June 30 or July 1?

2359-2400, LEAP SECOND, the 61-second minute on WWV, WWVH and all the world`s timesignal stations

http://hpiers.obspm.fr/iers/bul/bulc/bulletinc.dat

FRIDAY JULY 6

2100 until 2100 UT July 7, Scandinavian Weekend Radio monthly broadcast expected, not confirmed; see June 22

THURSDAY JULY 12-SUNDAY JULY 15

R. Hami, Finland, low-power special on 6170, 1584, 94.7. Details:

http://radiohami.fi/

FRIDAY JULY 13

BBC Radio 3 Prom Concert season starts, until September 8

http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms

This calendar will be updated and reissued as needed

Latest edition: http://www.w4uvh.net/calendar.html

(Glenn Hauser, 1640 UT June 18, DX LISTENING DIGEST)

I will try to record some of these, but would love your recordings if you catch them.

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Cabinet silences Canada’s international voice, RCI Action responds

Yesterday, as I toured Radio Canada International’s Sackville, New Brunswick transmission site, the Canadian press discovered that the Cabinet approved an order that paves the way for RCI to be dismantled. The Metro News reported:

Heritage Minister James Moore recommended an order in council, approved on June 7, that deleted a requirement for RCI to maintain a shortwave service.

That change removed an obstacle to the steep cuts the CBC had announced for RCI in April — $10 million of $12.3 million budget will disappear along with at least three-quarters of its work force.

RCI had planned to file an injunction this past week to prevent CBC from shutting down its shortwave broadcasting facilities, but the new order thwarted their lawyers.

“I don’t know how this happened. I’m just shocked that it did happen. I’m shocked that the minister would make this decision two months after CBC announced the budget cut, two months after the CBC announced they were cutting shortwave,” said Wojtek Gwiazda, spokesman for the RCI Action Committee, a union-supported lobby trying to save the international service.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted RCI Action spokesman, Wojtek Gwiazda, extensively:

“As of June 25, most of the original content will disappear,” he said, “because we won’t have the people to do it.”

Thirty of 45 permanent employees are being laid off, along with a dozen or more contract workers and other regular freelancers.

Gwiazda, spokesman for a group inside RCI attempting to salvage the short wave service and its original programming, said a proposed injunction on behalf of RCI employees was thwarted last week when the Conservative cabinet quietly and quickly changed two key rules under which RCI operates.

Under previous rules, RCI was legally obliged to provide a shortwave service and to consult regularly with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The government, in its June 7 rule change, has dropped both those requirements.

A spokesman for the Department of Canadian Heritage confirmed the change had been made, but refused to say why.

The Department of Foreign Affairs did not respond to questions about the issue.

[…]NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar accused the CBC and the Conservative government of “taking Canada’s voice off the world stage.

“It is sneaky,” he said in an interview with the Citizen. “They are pretending they aren’t killing it, but they are. Our Commonwealth cousins and others in the G8 have made a commitment that the world should hear their voices. Why not Canada’s?

“How will we keep people in other countries informed about Canada and how will Canada’s voice be heard by the international community.”

Dewar says he’s hearing negative reaction to the RCI cuts from MPs in all parties, and the NDP has written to both Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Heritage Minister James Moore urging a reversal of the decision.

“We are appealing to them to find the money and put this essential service back where it belongs,’ added Dewar. “Canada needs its voice heard and we have to figure out a way to do it. It’s not a lot of money. Let’s find it. Let’s not leave RCI orphaned.”

The Metro News also quoted me:

Thomas Witherspoon, founder of an American non-profit organization called Ears to Our World, said it is shortsighted to cut RCI’s shortwave service because it represents a cost-effective way of showing Canada to the world.

Witherspoon, whose organization distributes shortwave radios to communities in the developing world, recently wrote an impassioned opinion piece defending RCI.

“Here on the overly-lit, information-saturated North American continent, it’s easy to forget that an estimated 1.6 billion human beings — a full one quarter of us — still lack access to reliable power and to the Internet,” he wrote.

“In remote, impoverished, often war-torn regions, radio has become a familiar voice in the darkness. Without radio broadcasters such as RCI — and the light of information they can relay — the night can become very dark, indeed.”

RCI Action formed a response to the Cabinet’s decision:

Hon. James Moore,

A little more than 24 hours ago we at the RCI Action Committee found out that on June 7, 2012, you changed the Order in Council that directs CBC/Radio-Canada in its obligations under the Broadcasting Act in dealing with Radio Canada International.

You have eliminated CBC’s obligation to provide programming on shortwave, depriving almost all Chinese listeners of uncensored news from Canada, since the website of RCI is blocked by the Chinese authorities. And you have made it impossible for most listeners in the world to stay abreast of what’s going on in Canada via radio, because most people do not have easy access to the Internet.

You have also abolished CBC’s obligation to consult with Foreign Affairs about the geographic target areas and languages we broadcast in. Letting it continue in the slashing of services to the Ukraine, Russia and Brazil.

And you have done this after two months of CBC being in contempt of the 2003 Order in Council. Just as we were preparing an injunction to stop the shutting down of shortwave transmissions.

You have cleared the way for the CBC’s destruction of a 67 year old institution. An institution that CBC/Radio-Canada has never understood. It does not understand international broadcasting, the importance of it, and the impact of the 80% cut you are letting them get away with.

It is ironic.

Chinese authorities block RCI’s website. They have not jammed the shortwave frequencies of Radio Canada International. So you’ve done it for them, by shutting down RCI’s Chinese radio programming.

Why have you done this?

Yours truly,

Wojtek Gwiazda

Spokesperson, RCI Action Committee

rciaction@yahoo.ca
rciaction.org/blog

Follow our tag, RCI Cuts to follow these developments.

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North Korea is testing digital shortwave broadcasting via DRM

As Vatican Radio pulls out of DRM, North Korea moves in. What a strange and shifting international broadcasting landscape:

(Source: North Korea Tech)

North Korea appears to be testing digital radio broadcasting.

Hiroshi Inoue, a radio monitor in Japan, received on Wednesday the country’s international radio service, Voice of Korea, broadcasting on shortwave using DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). DRM is a digital broadcasting technology developed for use on AM and shortwave services.

[…]The broadcasts are taking place on 3,560MHz, a frequency used by the Voice of Korea in the past for conventional analog shortwave broadcasts.

[…]North Korea’s testing of DRM comes at a time when the country appears to be upgrading its international radio broadcasting system.

In mid-June 2011 the country’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications signed a deal with Beijing-based BBEF Tech for several new radio and television transmitters. The Chinese company trained North Korean engineers in how to install them.

At least one of those transmitters now appears to be on the air. North Korea’s transmissions on 11,680kHz shortwave are now broadcast spot-on that frequency. In the past they drifted a little either side of the correct channel. (Thanks to DX Aktuell for the tip!)

DRMNAinfo comments:

Here are some cool videos of the English language June 7th broadcast and the June 8th broadcast in Korean. As you will hear, the high production values, overly aggressive compression and sibilant laden distortion present in VOK analogue broadcasts translate well to the digital medium of DRM. Now all we have to do is convince Kim Jong-un to aim the antennas our way for some NA reception opportunities!

Additional info here.

I would like to thank Kim Elliott for the news tip on North Korea.

Note that this will be a difficult broadcast to hear and decode in North America, but many regions within Asia will be within the broadcast footprint.

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PCJ Radio: Special shortwave broadcast to honor Radio Netherlands Worldwide on June 29

(Source: PCJ Radio press release)

PCJ Radio will present a special two hour edition of Happy Station Show targeting North America and the Caribbean on June 29th, 2012 from 0200UTC to 0400UTC (Local time June 28th, 2012 10:00pm to 12:00am) on 9955khz. This special is to coincide with the departure of Radio Netherlands Worldwide from shortwave and will be a tribute to what was once one of the most respected international broadcasters. A special QSL Card will be issued to those in the Americas who tune in on 9955khz. If your outside this area you can listen to the live stream on June 29th 2012 from 0200UTC to 0400UTC VIA www.wrmi.net. I’m not going to tell you just yet what we have in store. The only thing I will say is you will need to tune in.

Regards,
PCJ Radio International

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Vatican Radio: “from Short Waves to new communications strategies”

Thanks to SWLing Post reader, Mike, for the tip:

(Source: Vatican Radio)

Announcing Vatican Radio’s intention to reduce its Short and Medium Wave transmissions to most of Europe and the Americas, starting July 1st, the Director General, Fr Federico Lombardi, today spoke of what he called, “A new chapter in the history of Vatican Radio” as it evolves “from Short Waves to new communications strategies”.

[…]Webcasting and satellite transmissions, along with rebroadcasting by local, regional and national radio stations, guarantee the widest possible outreach to Vatican Radio’s programming and services. Which is why Vatican Radio believes the time has come to reduce its reliance on traditional technologies, like Short and Medium Wave broadcasts, and to develop its resources in new directions.

On July 1st, Short and Medium Wave broadcasts from Vatican Radio’s Santa Maria di Galeria Transmission Centre, to most of Europe and the Americas, will be suspended. These areas of the world are already well served by Vatican Radio’s local rebroadcasting partners and by widespread internet access to its services and language programming.

The reduction of Short and Medium Wave broadcasts to these areas accounts for about 50% of the Centre’s transmission time and will allow Vatican Radio to restructure the Centre according to more innovative technological criteria. Short Wave broadcasts will be further reduced over the next few years – but not at the expense of those poor, needy and suffering parts of the world (like Africa, the Middle East and Asia) which have no alternative means of receiving news of the Church and the voice of the Pope.

Over the next few days, Vatican Radio’s language programmes will be informing their listeners of these changes, indicating alternative ways by which traditional Short and Medium Wave users can listen and benefit from Vatican Radio’s services.

Vatican Radio’s international Short and Medium Wave broadcasts have made a priceless contribution to the history of the Church, especially in 20th century Europe where they were a source of strength and encouragement for nations oppressed by war and totalitarian regimes. As this unique service is gradually phased out, making way for new communications technologies, it is important to thank those who dedicated their hearts and minds to it for so long – and for the good of so many.

Read the full article on Vatican Radio’s website.

As Mike also pointed out, this is certainly an unwelcome development for those who promote DRM. Vatican Radio is one of the few broadcasters that uses DRM over shortwave.

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