End of Radio Australia shortwave service, Mark compares final moments

This morning, I woke up, tuned to 9,580 kHz and all I heard was static.

Other than when the Shepparton transmitting station has been silenced for maintenance in the past, 9,580 kHz is one of the most reliable frequencies I’ve ever know on shortwave. Radio Australia has met me there every morning I’ve listened since I was eight years old.

I feel like I’ve lost a dear friend and certainly a staple source of news on shortwave radio. I know I’m not alone–a number of readers have shared similar sentiments this morning.

Archiving Radio Australia’s final days on the air

Listening to Radio Australia on 12,065 kHz with the Titan SDR Pro.

Since the beginning of the year, a few of us have been making a concerted effort to thoroughly archive Radio Australia’s final days on the air. Mark Fahey, London Shortwave, Richard Langley, Rob Wagner and I (to name a few) have been making both audio and/or spectrum recordings.

At 0100 UTC on January 31, 2017, we heard the “Waltzing Matilda” interval signal for one last time. As I understand it, the crew at the Shepparton site left the transmitter on a few extra seconds extra so their famous interval signal would be, in essence, the final sign-off.

Our friend and contributor, Rob Wagner, from Mount Evelyn, Australia, posted an excellent recording/video of the final minutes earlier today.

Due to propagation and the time of day when the shut down happened, I was unable to make a recording, so I’m pleased others could.

Mark compares shortwave and satellite feeds

Mark Fahey’s Wellbrook Mag Loop antenna.

I’m grateful to friend and contributor, Mark Fahey, who lives near Sydney, Australia, and was also able to record the final moments of Radio Australia as well. Mark recorded the shortwave service and RA satellite feed simultaneously.

Mark shares the following recordings and notes:

Recording 1

This is RA’s final few minutes on shortwave – it was recorded on 17840kHz.
The file picks up the regular program ending, then into a Promo for RA “Pacific Beat” (a Pacific current affairs program), then the classic RA Interval Signal then the transmitter clicks off and the void is heard.

Click here to download the MP3.

Recording 2

The file starts at exactly the same time as the first file, but in this example we are monitoring the Network Feed from Intelsat 18 at 180.0 degrees east (above the equator right on the international date line). This satellite feed is the way Radio Australia gets to the network of FM Transmitters they have scatted around the Pacific Region (which is why they feel they don’t need shortwave anymore for – most populated areas of Radio Australia’s target area now is covered by a network of Radio Australia FM transmitters).

Click here to download the MP3.

Some differences to the first file – Radio Australia is produced in FM quality stereo, though of course DXers only ever heard it in shortwave quality mono. So this network feed is in stereo and has a wider dynamic range that what DXer’s are familiar with from Radio Australia. At the end of the Pacific Beat Promo, Radio Australia goes straight into News, the closing of the shortwave service was not an event that would have been noticed for the typical listeners of RA who now listen via FM in Pacific capitals and major towns.

Thank you Mark for your comparison–I’ve never heard RA so clearly. Only you would’ve thought to simultaneously record the satellite feed! It gives the moment that much more context.

A number of SWLing Post contributors have been sharing recordings this morning. I will plan to collect these and put them on the Shortwave Archive in the near future.

Moving forward

Though senator Nick Xenophon says he will introduce legislation to Parliament to force the ABC to reinstate its shortwave radio service, we have to assume we’ve heard the last of Radio Australia and ABC on shortwave. (With that said, I understand Xenophon is a determined fellow.)

Rest assured: if Xenophon’s legislation gains traction, we will post updates!

No doubt, Radio New Zealand International’s shortwave service has just become that much more important in remote Pacific Islands. Click here to view RNZI’s schedule.

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9 thoughts on “End of Radio Australia shortwave service, Mark compares final moments

  1. Ross Wood

    Found 2 static filled spots in the memories of my tranceiver/receivers as of Tuesday,
    My Brisbane built Sneider tapped whip on the truck has a 4835khz tap that is no longer useful !

    It is indeed a sad end to a service with a great history.

    I can only hope that the transmitters and antennas are mothballed and preserved rather than being dismantled.
    A good HF signal may one day soon be required when some clandestine hacker downs the digital/satellite networks.
    Luckily I awoke to live Kookaburra’s sounding off this morning however I miss the sound of them and “Waltzing Matilda’ on the airwaves.
    In my travels the R’ Australia signet tune and Kooka’s was so recognisable when looking for a bit of home from far away.
    One can only trust that actions by some of the less Canberra and metro centric aware politicians can put the govt on notice and encourage funding to reinstate the service.
    PS the govt has approved a $237 ,000,00 rebuild of the Australian Embassy in Washington DC!
    the good will generated by R’Australia’s pacific service at a a cost of $1.500,000 is uncalculable.

  2. Cap

    Maybe something can be done like when Deutsche Welle in Europe vacated 6070kHz in 2013. A band of German radio amateurs applied for and were allocated 6070kHz and now have an operational 10kW/25kW station called Channel292 ( http://www.channel292.de ), using the driver stages from the old Deutsche Welle transmitter. Transmitter site is Rohrbach Waal.
    Although they pretty much operate the transmitter at 15 euros an hour airtime that I imagine would cover power costs. If some radio amateurs could get together with some crowdfunding to get a transmitter on the air, I would certainly throw some AUS dollars their way.
    Alternatively someone could rent airtime on other transmitters? would not need to be 24/7, just a few hours a day, would need to be fixed hours so folk know when to tune in. Suspect running your own smallish transmitter would be more cost effective in the longer term, like how they are doing it in Germany on Channel 292.
    The link below is well out of date and they operate more than just weekends, check out the schedule on the Channel292 website. When they are on air you can tune in here: http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/?tune=6070am

    More info: http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2015/february/amateur_radio_based_group_rescues_released_broadcast_frequency.htm

  3. dave pete

    Yup. Did the same thing this morning also. Had that same empty feeling as you guys. We’ve lost a lot over the years, but this one hurts more than most

  4. Luke Perry

    Yep, tuned in early this morning to their domestic service on 4835 and nothing but static ?. On a positive note though there was good DX and I picked up Solomon Islands BC on 5020 for the first time in years.

  5. Rafman

    You’re not alone Eric… I’ve been having morning coffee over RA on 9580 for 40+ years.
    I didn’t even turn up the audio this morning. I just stared at the waterfall which was blank in the 9580 spot…
    I know I’m not in their audience or target area but I snuck in every chance I got.
    I also used RA to educate boy scouts on getting their ham license by showing them how far they could reach with radio…
    Just depressing but I’d be up in arms if I lived in the NWT…


    1. Eric J. Smith

      Great post, Rafman. I did the same this morning. Turned my receiver to 9580 and listened to static. 😉

      It’s a shame what’s happened to the shortwave medium in the last 15 years. So many stations that were mainstays such as Radio Canada International, Radio Japan, KBS Seoul, Voice of Russia, most of the BBC World Service, to name a few, have been eliminated in the name of budget cuts and technological advances. With digital media subject to content filters and other methods of control, the continuing value of shortwave cannot be understated. Yet the cuts continue.

      Like you I’ve been a regular listener for about 40 years. I was fortunate to have been old enough to appreciate and experience the glory days of the medium which were the late-70s through the advent of the internet. As a youngster I believe that I developed a unique sensitivity to global concerns due to my exposure to stations like Radio Australia. The value of other sources of news beyond those available in the United States cannot be understated.

      I hope that Nick is successful in forcing the ABC to re-think the issue.

  6. Eric J. Smith

    Go Nick. Should the need for financial support for Nick’s campaign arise, perhaps a GoFundMe account can be set up? I’d willingly throw some money his way for the opportunity to hear Radio Australia on shortwave again. My wife thinks I’m nuts when I described to her the emptiness that I felt this morning without my daily dose of RA on 9580 Khz. It’s nice to see that I’m not alone in feeling like, as one quite accurately put it, like I’ve “lost an old aunt.”


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