Monthly Archives: October 2012

Petition to save RCI Sackville from being dismantled

Dear SWLing Post readers,

I don’t often ask you for favors, but over the past few days, I’ve been working hard in the background to stop the Radio Canada International Sackville, New Brunswick transmission site from being dismantled.

Now, I need a favor.

Could you please take a few moments out of your day to sign this petition I started? Your voice will be added to the petition and it will automatically email the appropriate Canadian politicians who could, at the very least, put a halt to the destruction of the RCI Sackville site.  Canada–indeed, the world–needs this vital shortwave resource.

You don’t have to be Canadian to sign (after all, I’m not), but just someone who cares about radio and believes in its role in domestic security and international relations.

Click here to  sign the petition at, or use the embedded form below. Also, please consider sharing this with your radio enthusiast networks and email groups. The more voices, the better!



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Radio World looks at DRM

(Source: Radio World)

By: Ernie Franke

Once touted as the “Savior of Shortwave,” Digital Radio Mondiale has not lived up to its hype. Proposed in 1988, with early field-testing in 2000, inaugural broadcasting in 2001 and its official rollout in 2003, DRM has had a lackluster career over the last decade.

With the allure of FM-quality audio and fade-free operation, it had appeared that DRM might revive the shortwave community. Unfortunately, it has been overcome by other events, some technical and some social. The main weakness has been alternate sources of information and entertainment, fueled by the very technology that gave DRM hope.

Additionally, in areas of the world without ubiquitous social media, DRM has yet to realize receivers at a moderate cost with adequate battery life. The very processing technology that allows improved operation using the more complex DRM waveform costs more and consumes more power than the standard AM receiver. A quick look at standalone DRM receivers over the past decade shows almost a dozen companies entering the market, only to retreat when the promise didn’t materialize.

[…]The rise of the Internet has influenced many broadcasters to cease their shortwave transmissions in favor of broadcasting over the World Wide Web. When BBC World Service discontinued service to Europe, North America, Australasia and the Caribbean, it generated many protests. The shifting of resources from shortwave to Internet and television by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S. international broadcasting, further reduced broadcasting hours in the English language. […]Although most of the prominent broadcasters continue to scale back their analog shortwave transmissions or completely terminate them, shortwave is still common and active in developing regions, such as parts of Africa and South America.[…]

The article then goes into an in-depth look at both the reasons for and technology behind Digital Radio Mondiale–both on the broadcasting and receiving ends.

Read the full article at Radio World’s website.

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Video: Building RNW Bonaire

(Source: Jonathan Marks)

This black and white film was made in 1968 at the moment when Philips shipped two 300 kW transmitters from the factory in the Netherlands to the island of Bonaire, then part of the Netherlands Antilles. The film had no sound – I just thought the music fitted for an internal presentation because it does look as thought they are building a secret rocket launcher for Dr Evil rather than a shortwave relay station to improve the audibility of Radio Netherlands in the Americas and West Africa. I’m guessing that this film was used for promotional purposes by Philips since the shipping containers carry rather obvious ads plastered on the containers.

The Building of Radio Netherlands Bonaire Relay Station from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

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BBC internal memo outlines year three cuts and changes to the BBC World Service

This BBC internal memo, sent to employees by World Service Director, Peter Horrocks, outlines the unfortunate pending cuts and changes in much greater detail than those presented by the press.

Here is the memo in its entirety–it concludes with further comments from internal sources:

Dear colleagues 

Today we are announcing Year 3 Savings from the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review settlement for the World Service.

We took quick action last year to deliver the bulk of the required savings immediately after funding cuts were announced in 2010. As a result, we have already achieved nearly £30m of our £42m three-year savings target. However, this still leaves £12m of savings for 2013/14, the final year of Grant-in-Aid funding.

We will be making changes to programming, staffing, scheduling and distribution. We have tried to avoid job losses wherever possible. Of the £12m savings, a significant £4.8m will be achieved via reductions in shortwave and medium wave distribution, details of which will be announced next week. However, it is impossible to make cuts of this scale without impacting on jobs and the plans announced today will result in 73 post closures. Affected teams and individuals have, of course, already been informed and we will work with them to help them through this.

The main changes today are as follows:


  • We are simplifying the World Service English global schedule to have fewer regional variations, creating a more coherent offer which we can also promote and cross-trail more effectively. Being able to link together all the programmes in an hour will also make it easier to fit our content into partner stations’ schedules.
  • A new programme, The Newsroom, will replace World Briefing. This new programme will be live and reactive and it will showcase the best of our Newsgathering presence across English and WS Languages. There will be six editions of The Newsroom across the schedule, with World Have Your Say and The Newsroom coming together each day at 11:00 and 11:30 BST, a prime spot in the schedule.
  • Schedule changes mean fewer full hours of news output – down from about eighteen hours each weekday to about fourteen hours. As a result, there will be post closures in WS News. Further savings will be found in WS News through efficiencies and by integrating some functions across BBC News. In addition, there will be some reductions in Newsgathering, resulting in some post closures.
  • World Service English is also creating a smaller single management team working across distribution, channel management and scheduling. There will be a reduction in the number of specialist announcers on WS English.
  • From April, we will close our daily arts programme, The Strand, and at the same time extend Outlook to an hour long format, offering a new approach to covering Arts, Music and Humanities. A daily 10 minute section will look at the people behind the world of music, entertainment, film and the performance arts.

Every Friday, The 5th Floor will run in the Outlook time slot. The move of this programme to a more prominent slot in the schedule is an indication of its success after less than a year on air and it is a great way of bringing the work of our Language Services to an English audience. The 5th Floor will include a 10 minute arts segment drawn from the Language services’ coverage across the week.

We are also making space in the schedule for The Slot: an hour long programme dedicated to arts and culture coverage across the BBC and the Language Services.

These scheduling changes will enable a significant saving, but will ensure that arts coverage maintains prominence and relevance on the World Service, while making best use of our connections across Languages and the broader BBC.

  • There will be a reduction in the number of documentaries: instead of having four weekly documentary strands, we will now have three with Your World ending. There will be no post closures as a result of this change.
  • Bottom Line will no longer be reversioned for the World Service. Again, this will not result in post closures.

These changes in WS English will result in the closure of 25 posts.


Year 3 savings affect those Services which were not required to make changes in Years 1 and 2 of the Spending Review settlement.

  • There will be a change in the editorial purpose and remit for the English Language Teaching team. For the last four years, the team has been asked to earn revenue from commercial sources. In the future, the team will focus on public service provision. This change in remit will result in post closures.
  • There will be post closures in BBC Afghan, BBC Burmese, BBC Bengali, and French for Africa. In some services, this will be mitigated by the creation of new posts in bureaux overseas driven by new editorial and operational considerations.
  • A number of currently vacant posts in the Near East hub, African English, BBC Swahili and BBC Brasil will not be filled and will therefore close.
  • In 2013, BBC Swahili morning radio production will move to Dar es Salaam, and the dawn transmission for BBC Somali will move to Nairobi. This will deliver savings for these two services. One vacant Swahili post will close. There will be no impact on Somali posts.
  • BBC Hausa and Great Lakes will be making changes to their schedules to deliver savings. There will be no impact on posts.

The changes to WS Languages, including a few extra post closures outside the UK to be announced at a later stage, will result in 44 post closures.

In addition to the above, now that we have moved out of Bush House, we will be closing four posts in WS Property.

Despite financial pressures, we have continued to adapt our services in response to changes in our audiences and this strategy will continue. We have already seen the successful launch of new TV programmes, Focus on Africa in English for partners and on BBC World News, and Dira Ya Dunia in Swahili, carried by partner broadcasters across sub Saharan Africa. We plan to develop similar programmes in Hindi and Urdu and hope to be able soon to announce a successful conclusion of negotiations with our partners on this new programming.

As we prepare to move to Licence Fee funding, we will be able to demonstrate that the World Service remains strong despite the funding cuts of recent years, is more efficient than ever, and remains a vital force in today’s complex media world. As the new Director General stated in his opening address to staff, he is very supportive of the World Service, as is the BBC Chairman. No doubt, following two major reductions in two years to the size of the World Service, many of you will have questions about its future.

Before 2014, the BBC Trust will prepare a licence describing the purpose, remit, strategy and budget of the World Service in the Licence Fee. The Trust will consult and publish on this licence ahead of transfer to the Licence Fee. This licence will be the key document that will, from April 2014, govern the size, shape and character of the future World Service. All World Service staff will have the opportunity to share their views with the Trust and this will include opportunities to hear from and question individual Trustees.

As I said above, the changes we are announcing today do impact on individuals and teams. We have notified the NUJ and BECTU of these proposals and will consult both them and staff affected so that we can look for ways to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies where possible. I know you will all be supportive of your colleagues through what will be a difficult time and I and the World Service management team will do all that we can to help them through this.


Internal sources also suggest:

  • nearly all Arabic on shortwave is to end (apart from broadcasts targeting Sudan)
  • the BBC Cyprus relay on SW is to close and English MW from Cyprus is also closing
  • BBC English World Service to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is to be cut from 18 hrs a day on SW to 7 hours a day

It seems much of the monies are being diverted from shortwave to fund TV ventures, instead.

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BBC World Service to make further cuts in third phase of “savings”

Note that these cuts are a continuation of the overall £42m the BBC announced in January of 2011.

Follow World Service cuts on the SWLing Post with the tag BBC World Service Cuts.

(Source: The Guardian)

A further 73 posts will be lost at the BBC World Service following its cut in funding by the government with a number of programmes on its English-language service axed.

The cuts, which were announced to staff on Thursday lunchtime, are the third phase of £42m of savings at the global broadcaster after its budget was cut in the government’s comprehensive spending review in 2010.

A total of 25 jobs will go on the English-language service with arts show The Strand to be axed and World Briefing replaced by a new programme, The Newsroom.

News coverage will shrink from 18 to 14 hours a day during the week, with a “simplified” schedule and “fewer regional variations”.

The number of documentaries will also shrink, from four weekly strands to three, with Your World axed, and Evan Davis’s The Bottom Line no longer aired on the World Service.

None of the 27 foreign-language services will be dropped in the latest round of cutbacks, saving about £12m, which will come into effect by April next year. Some £30m of cost savings have already been made.

[…]A total of 44 posts will be closed in foreign-language services including BBC Afghan, BBC Burmese, BBC Bengali and in Africa.

The director of BBC Global News, Peter Horrocks, said: “By making these changes, we are achieving the savings required whilst crucially, ensuring our audiences continue to receive the best programming.

“As we prepare to move to licence fee funding, by focussing on key strategic objectives, we will be able to demonstrate that we have clear direction and purpose and are as efficient as possible.”…

Read the full article on the The Guardian website.

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RCI Action: Stop CBC from dismantling our transmitters to the world

A few of RCI Sackville’s curtain antennas–soon to be dismantled

October 31st is quickly approaching and the CBC has requested that the remaining employees at Radio Canada Internationals Sackville transmission site begin dismantling antennas and transmitters that are not currently being used for their remaining three broadcaster clients (NHK, KBS and the Voice of Vietnam) and the CBC North Quebec Service. To be clear, once this transmission infrastructure is dismantled, there will be no going back.

RCI Action posted a plea on their website with a request to contact Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore [email protected] and tell him to stop CBC/Radio-Canada from dismantling the Sackville transmitters:

(Source: RCI Action)

In the next few days the transmission lines that allow Canada to broadcast to the world will be taken down one by one. For more than 67 years Radio Canada International’s shortwave transmitters have guaranteed that Canada’s voice would be heard despite the Cold War, despite natural disasters, and Internet blocking. Now this efficient, cost effective communications tool will be dismantled by Canada’s public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada.

Those of us who understand how important this lifeline to the world is to world communication are sick to our stomachs at the rapidity with which the broadcaster wants to make the transmitters disappear. Shortwave broadcasts of Radio Canada International ended on June 24, 2012. Other countries’ use of our transmitters will end on October 31.

But CBC/Radio-Canada has already started the process of dismantling unused transmitters, and will start taking down still functioning transmission lines very shortly.

[…]The transmitters are there, they don’t cost much to maintain. Why do we want to cut ourselves off from being able to communicate with the world? Who should be making these decisions?

Please contact Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore [email protected] and tell him to stop CBC/Radio-Canada from dismantling our transmitters.

And please send us any suggestions you may have [email protected]


The above is a clip for RCI Action’s post, read the full message on RCI Action’s website. Please, if you feel strongly about the value of RCI’s Sackville site, contact Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore [email protected] and tell him to stop this process.

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