Pacific Beat: ABC decision to halt shortwave broadcasts criticised

Radio-Australia-Banner(Source: ABC News)

ABC decision to halt shortwave broadcasts criticised

A decision by the ABC to halt shortwave broadcasts early next year has been criticised by a former manager of Radio Australia.

The shortwave transmissions to Asia and the Pacific will cease from January 31st next year, as alternatives such as FM and internet become more prevalent.

Former head of Radio Australia and subsequently a consultant on international broadcasting in the Pacific, Jean Gabriel Manguy, tells Bruce Hill the decision is short sighted.

Click here to listen and read on Pacific Beat’s website.

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27 thoughts on “Pacific Beat: ABC decision to halt shortwave broadcasts criticised

  1. TomL

    Amazing that with all the “new internet technology”, new **radio** technology is growing by leaps and bounds. New receiver and transceiver systems are making in-roads into traditional designs (SDR types). New power technologies are and will continue to develop into more feature-rich portable radios into the future (lithium and whatever replaces lithium 15+ years from now). And digital transmissions making it more clear than ever. So, just now, bean counters in governments decide to “herd” the masses of dumbed-down citizens into ghettos of google-manipulated search results to find pretty much only what they want you to find. More control, more dependence on government to make up your mind for you. Radio has that special flavor of publicness that is lost now on people who only believe what the government wants you to hear.

    In the past, if I did not like the propaganda from VOA, I could turn to other sources of opinion. Now I have actually less choice because most of the “content” is sanitized and marked for dissemination by only “approved” outlets. You watch and see. With the death of shortwave radio will come the death of free inquiry over the internet. They go hand-in-hand as public/social outlets. They are going to sanitize the internet and take out every dissenting voice, every investigative query, and every source of income that does not meet central government approval!!!

    Just look at the whole “fake news” outcry by whining Democrats! They are angling to take away, through force of law (and lawsuits), anyone who disagrees with their narrative. Without radio helping to give alternate voice, the internet will become **MUCH** more censored.

    I think it is time for Regional Radio to start staking a claim to keeping free speech and free opinion alive. There needs to be avenues for ordinary people to listen to various opinions without fear of being “shutdown”, threatened with lawsuits and physical harm, and let people make up their own minds about what is important to listen to. Shortwave and other forms of radio can aid in revitalizing free speech and opinion through creative use of new technologies, including digital broadcast over a multi-state or multi-country area. The technology is available now to make it happen.

  2. J Sanger

    Keith ! Cease and Desist your contemptuous cacophony ! Your negativity about the broadcasters and this spectrum are no longer welcome here ! Go crawl back into your shoe box of a TV studio and give us all a break ! This site is for those who enjoy the Shortwave spectrum ! Just remember all that new digital technology you are embracing can be hacked, manipulated and shut down, and we have all witnessed too much of that lately ! Shortwave may be old technology but it works and is effective in covering vast distances .

  3. Luke Perry

    Yeah Keith, but a lot of the people who might listen on a mobile device most likely are not the target audience for ABC. Do you think the average person today who was weaned on iPods, texting, and video games gives one rip about Radio Australia? Or for that matter, would even seek it out even if they knew it was there?

    1. Keith Perron

      Thats why most of the ABC RN programs on RA are for the audience 20 to 45. I spend a number of weeks a year in the Pacific and people know RA and RNZI. Pacific islands residents and not the same as people of the same age group in the North America or Europe.

      1. Luke Perry

        But their broadcasts cover an area much larger than just the Pacific Isles. Here in Oregon Radio Australia comes in like a local. Same with RNZI. And you are telling me that every listener in the pacific will now be listening with a smartphone or FM? Heck, I live a stones throw litterally from a city with a metro of close to 2 1/2 million people and I can’t get a TV or FM signal to save my life. I live at the base of a large hill. No hills or Mountains in the Pacific is there Keith?

        1. Keith Perron

          The money will be channeled into expanding networks. Throughout nearly every populated part of the Pacific island nations mobile phone coverage has grown from 5% coverage 10 years ago to 80% coverage and is growing still.

          Cheap mobile phones from Xiaomi and Huawai are everywhere. Costing between 20 to 50$ depending on the model.

      2. DanH

        Audience 20 to 45 is the disposable income spending audience. Yes, I know this fact hurts for audiences younger or older than this part of the spending spectrum but that is what the stats show. For the radio broadcasting virgins who don’t realize this fact understand that this is why commercial and public (NPR and PBS, especially) broadcasting has dumbed-down so much during the last 15 years. I worked 35 years in public broadcasting. That’s the way it goes folks in Lake Woebegone. I’m glad to be retired from that mess.

        1. DanH

          I must admit that I didn’t retire from an employer-provided retirement plan. This was not available to talent and programming people like me. I didn’t receive that kind of benefit from public broadcasting. My employer contributed to my retirement plan which included my own retirement investments.

        2. Luke Perry

          NPR is commercial free. Are you telling me that 25-40 year old men and women listen to “Wait, Wait don’t tell me”? I don’t work in the industry and I could tell you that. I’m would bet NPR’s average listener is at least 50 plus if not 55 plus.

  4. William

    I just finished a class on international business that pointed out the reality – that for many people around the world, shortwave exists as the only form of entertainment and news they have. There is no internet. FM and TV are line-of-sight. AM might work, but only sporadically. Satellite is too expensive for many developing nations’ citizens to afford. Shortwave still exists as a viable communication tool around the underdeveloped, rural, globe. That’s especially true in areas vast distances from urban bases.

    I can’t believe so many outlets are closing down their shortwave.

  5. Luke Perry

    What these government bean counters don’t get is that shortwave service is a more than just a numbers thing. In a big world that is not so big anymore due to recent technology, shortwave radio is a great tool to showcase what a country represents and to not only serve the interests of locals but to pique the interest of outsiders.

    Listening to a broadcast coming from Australia in crystal clear audio right next to crystal clear audio fro Germany, etc. fails to bring up romanticized images in a listeners mind. Some things you cannot put a price tag on and shortwave listening is one of those.

  6. Tom Reitzel

    Personally, I don’t really mind too much if RA leaves shortwave. I loath globalist propaganda pushed by governments anyway including the VoA. I hope killing the VoA is next … I see a role for government in transmitting maritime data, though.

    I remain confident that the current situation on shortwave will eventually improve as digital (DRM) becomes more common. The USCG is wisely considering the use of DRM for their transmissions and is currently experimenting with the technology as a replacement for WEFAX.

    Several DRM receivers are on the market now and commercial digital broadcasts on shortwave will eventually replace the void previously filled by governmental propaganda.

    Frankly, the shortwave bands are STILL too crowded and I hope China kills CRI before the USA kills the VoA. The world doesn’t need CRI broadcasting their propaganda every 5 kHz on the shortwave bands!

    1. RonF

      RA is/was about as far away from “globalist propaganda pushed by governments” as you could get, and – unless you’re also saying the BBC World Service, RNZI, AIR, etc are too – suggesting it is/was shows a complete lack of understanding of the ABC’s position, function, and relationship to the Australian government.

      If you take away anything equivalent to your level of ‘propaganda’, you’re pretty much left with numbers stations, hams, pirates, & utility broadcasts. Now I happen to like copying utilities, and I can accept that some like the mystery surrounding numbers stations, but it hardly makes for a riveting hobby to most people. Hams – especially on HF – are just boring 99+% of the time (except maybe to other/potential hams), and pirates are just a niche hobby of a niche hobby, of interest only to other pirates & QSL-chasers.

      As much as I like the idea of DRM, “it’s dead Jim”. It could maybe have taken off if it had been properly handled (plenty of broadcasters & a wide choice of radios across different price levels) 10 years ago – but they’ve missed the boat. Now they’re up against not only the sill-high cost & very limited supply of DRM receivers, but the exact same pressures & thinking that are leading to the winding back or shutting down of most other SW broadcasters.

      Right with you on CRI though…

    2. Keith Perron

      Radio Australia “globalist propaganda”. Can you give examples from the ABC RN programs or Pacific Beat of that?

      What part of VOA broadcasts? Now the VOA does has a section, which is the last 2 minutes of their program. That clearly states “The following is an editorial expressing the view of the United States Government”. Normally the point where people tune away.

      Digital Radio Mondial (DRM) or Doesn’t Really Matter, could have given new life to shortwave as a distribution platform. But it failed. Several DRM receivers? Really where?

      As for CRI. Just because they use a number of frequencies at one time does not mean listeners. The AIB (Association of International Broadcasting) based in London, puts their audience size at very small. Unlike Radio Australia, VOA and others. China Radio International does not have budget concerns. They get their budget from three government departments. The Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Defense and the Central Committee. Even if CRI was to have only one listener they would still get the money. On the top floor of their building Babaoshan, Beijing. They have CRI Television, with a staff of 320 people. The only people that have seen CRI are in CRI. Just like the magazines and newspapers published by CRI. Never been seen by anyone outside CRI. CRI started television, because they say other international broadcasters like BBC World Service and Deutsche Welle start television and thought they should have the same. But China already has two international television channels. CCTV 4 in Chinese and CCTV 9 in English.

      CRI’s main concern is it’s domestic service. When it comes time for asking for money from the National People’s Congress, CRI leadership will tell Central Government leadership things like we have more frequencies than VOA and BBC combined. then CRI is given a blank check. This has to do with more of the Standing Committee members of the Central Committee and Central Government have not paid much attention to changes in international broadcasting and don’t ask questions. But towards the end of Hu Jintao’s administration and now with Xi Jingping’s administration the younger members are asking questions, which CRI is finding very difficult to answer.

  7. svscoa

    Good English language and European SW broadcasting has been dead for ages where we live and we never could get the tropical bands. All we receive now is garbage: Evangelists, rap and alternative or heavy metal noise. Everything was moved to bad websites.

    As a DX’er for decades, I resent being regarded as a “QSL chaser”. I’ve never asked for a QSL card and I don’t intend to.

  8. Ed McCorry

    This is a another real shame. Pretty soon there won’t be anything to listen to besides Brother Stair and shortwave infomercials . No thanks. I feel bad for the new people just getting into the hobby, unfortunately they missed the best years. And I’m starting to get real tired of hearing “but you can listen to the programs on the internet”. I’m sorry, I started listening to the programs because of the shortwave hobby not vice versa. Most of us logical non-politicians know that everyone doesn’t have access to the internet but that doesn’t matter I guess because it’s assumed they don’t have money to spend either. This is what happens to every company once the bean counters get control.

    I have always tried to send very detailed technical reports to the stations hoping to help them understand who’s listening out there. I have not listened on the internet to any of the stations removed from shortwave and I don’t intend to. That’s not playing radio!

    1. Luke Perry

      Ed, what would be great is if the ARRL or other Ham association would promote something like what a Ham group locally does. They run a low-powered FM station that plays oldies and will have live DJ’s on the weekend. God knows there is enough empty HF real estate now and if was sponsored by a reputable organization the FCC would give OK.

      You could have the content produced in one place and have maybe 3 different transmitter sites on different frequencies spread out across the U.S. God knows that hams have then know how and the spare equipment to pull it off and it could take donations from hams and SWL’s. I am not a ham so I can’t get the ball rolling on this but this seems the logical next step.

  9. jay

    I do enjoy tuning ABC in mornings and on long path in PM on its 100kw Shepperton site. I do however realise how shortwave has become almost a cult culture and few actually need receive using it. None the less, the service will be missed here in South Carolina. I believe Air India had such concerns as well, but so far they continue a full schedule.

  10. Kire

    I’m always late to the party, having discovered shortwave 2 years ago, due to the absolute dearth of decent radio in my part of the USA, semi rural California.
    Am I the only one who has poor internet service?
    Sorry folks, but for me at least, internet radio doesn ‘t cut it.

  11. Keith Perron

    I heard this today. But Jean Gabriel Manguy like the former head of the BBC World Service John Tusa are living in the past and talk about international broadcasting as it was 30+ years ago.

    Never take to much of what old excs say. Most have been out of the game for a long time.

    1. Dean

      “Living in the past”???

      Mate! Aren’t you the same Keith Perron who invested in building a shortwave transmitter in Taiwan? If I recall you only got it on the air 3 years ago. I remember messages on the boards about your test transmissions. I also remember how the weather interfered with the construction and launch date.

      That was three years ago.

      Who’s living in the past? I think you are and I think you are probably feeling pretty sour about it. This is how you found out shortwave isn’t “profitable”.

      1. Keith Perron

        The difference when you sell airtime it just about coverers the cost. We don’t lost money. But it never was a long term plan. Only for a few years so we can turn around and sell the land to a property developer. Also he airtime we least it’s the consumer that is paying not us. So if nothing is on air. There are no costs. Also when it comes time to sell the land it will make a profit. Targeting places like Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma is different. In the last 3 years lots has changed. For China the hours have been cut back dramatically. By the end of next year that will also be switched off. But nothing will be lost we anything technical will be sold as scrap metal.

        Developments in the last 3 years have been very dramatic. What we did three years ago no longer is viable in 2016/17. That how business is.

        1. Dean

          That is interesting that you could build a new transmitter site, have it on air for a few years, leasing time, fully recuperate your ROI, turn around and sell it to a property developer at a profit. I would not be able to manage that in my country and I own 7 residential investment properties. Developers either have to use the existing structure as a part of their plan, or demolish it completely–scrap metal is profitable, but there is a lot of lost investment in there surely.

          I’m not in broadcasting, but I could have thought of many other ways to create cash flow off of that property without that large capital investment.

          All of this to say: it is easy for you to criticize RA and blame “DXERS”–I think you are just sour about the whole thing since you yourself are heavily invested. It is pretty transparent.

          1. Keith Perron

            I’m not heavily invested in Radio Australia. the original purpose to buy the land was to use for at least 5 years with a different zone, so it could be then sold for property development. Also the tax breaks.The value has is worth more now, because of the zoning change. Also the site does not cost much to operate as we only use a 20kW and 5kW directed to Southeast China. Capital investment was not much as the 20kW is an old Continental that was sold to Taiwan in 1978 and MOC just wanted to get rid of it along with the Orban processors.

            Also I should mention that radio accounts for less than 10% of what PCJ does. Most of our work is for television and film production and adverising

            As for DXERS let’s take Radio Netherlands as an example. Just in the last 3 hours I saw posted on FB a DXER saying that when RNW left shortwave he never went to the website to listen. That would be hard to do as they stopped producing content.

            Then you have DXERS who send reports with man spoke woman spoke. On a program that was not even on air. How did they hear it? To my favorite one. I first heard you on Deutsche Welle in 1986. Impossible in 1986 I was not even involved in shortwave. When I did spend time at DW it was summer replacement work on the French service to Africa. Where I used my middle name which is French.

            Our programs are for the 100+ partner station through the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

  12. Tim Marecki

    This is terrible! Another Top , Highly Respected broadcaster calls it quits! I’ve been a Radio Australia listener since the mid seventies.


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