Why shortwave radio makes an idea “a powerful weapon”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Rich Cuff and Mike Hansgen who share the following Op Ed piece from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Warning: put down any power tools and ensure you’re not operating heavy machinery before you read the next sentence. We’ve been outflanked!

Of course, unless you’re completely benighted or under some sort of strange, personal news blackout that prevents you even glancing at the front pages of newspapers, you’ll probably have already realised that China is extending and developing its relations with our close Pacific neighbours. This was, after all, only to be expected. Beijing and Taipei have long recognised the value of these countries’ votes in the United Nations; it’s not much of a step from there to glance at the map and recognise the islands’ have other significance as well. As China began expanding its international reach it was only natural it would similarly strengthen other relationships, including defence links.

[…]Nature abhors a vacuum and so, as we’ve been demonstrating less and less interest in this region, others have occupied the space.

The clearest example of this has been the strategically idiotic, fiscally-driven and wilfully blind destruction of Canberra’s lone voice in the region, the (once vital) ABC shortwave service, Radio Australia.

Sure, the internet’s better than a crackly radio signal. But simply to access the net requires computers and bandwidth, neither of which are readily available to the audiences in the South Pacific. And even if someone can manage to obtain a connection, the next problem is finding services, particularly news and information ones, that are relevant to your situation.

Someone in Apia (Samoa) is unlikely to be transfixed by events in Adelaide (South Australia) unless, of course, it’s their Seven’s team playing at the oval. Similarly a person in Buka (Bougainville) is likely to be bored by reports from Belgrade or Bulgaria, although not information about BHP Billiton. RA provided an independent, reliable news service specifically dedicated to the needs of its audience. Critically, it offered a vital, secure and trusted way of connecting islanders to their capitals and, through that, to the world.

The big advantage of shortwave services was that they could be heard; were relevant; and formed a starting point for a community. But as far as the ABC was concerned the broadcasts were nothing more than a big bag of money to raid in order to boost its domestic budget.[…]

Read this full article at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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7 thoughts on “Why shortwave radio makes an idea “a powerful weapon”

  1. Erik

    Too bad Australia decided to cut their shortwave service. Telling listeners that they are not important enough, or “worth it” to broadcast to, does have its repercussions. Like has been said before, listeners will just tune elsewhere.
    Listen on the internet? Meh.

  2. Bill L

    You might compare Nicholas Stuart’s piece with the earlier ASPI story by Margaret Cassidy

    [ and the earlier SWLING post HERE https://swling.com/blog/2018/10/michelle-guthrie-sacked-as-board-seeks-fresh-leadership-and-focus-on-long-term-interests-of-abc-engagement/ ]

    Call for new Australian international broadcaster
    Thursday 18 October, 2018 by Margaret Cassidy
    Three Asia-Pacific media specialists have proposed a new publicly funded Australian International Broadcasting Corporation at a Panel Forum hosted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra on 16 October.
    The Forum launched the new ASPI special rep ort ‘Hard news and free media as the sharp edge of Australian soft power’ by the three former ABC journalists Graeme Dobell, Geoff Heriot and Jemima Garrett (pictured) which also forms a submission to the current Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Soft Power Review.
    …Freelance journalist and specialist Pacific communications consultant Jemima Garrett said that the AIBC would need $64 million in additional government funding per year.
    Garrett said that there are now 10 Pacific island countries which have no radio service, “radio is the main form of media for debate for public policy”.
    She said that without the radio service the countries of the Pacific cannot come together to debate policy issues because there is no one media forum.
    [ about 800 words ]

    Read more at: Call%20for%20new%20Australian%20international%20broadcaster%20_%20radioinfo.htm

  3. Barnaby

    What a rag the Sydney Morning Herald is. “Oooohhhhh, the Chinese are stealing our frequencies” What a joke. Aussies love to rip off their pacific neighbours, who stole the gas fields from East Timor? China?

  4. John C.

    I think one of the main problems with the demise in Shortwave Broadcasting and listening involved a lack of advocating for the hobby and just what benefits one could acrue from listening. Most of the SW DXers I’ve had contact with are older gentlemen who had no interest in promoting the hobby to a younger generation. This was evidenced first hand by me in the lack of participation in DX Contests and lack of member activities and outreach in the few active SW Clubs. I was personally told by a SW Cub Director the Board was not interested in new member activities.

    SW broadcasters were able to predict listener bases and found rightly so in most cases a lack of a large ongoing targeted listener base. The only time you’d hear a peep out of hardcore SW hobbiests was when a station announced it was closing down. Even then few actually wrote in to advocate for continuing the SW broadcasts. The few who did in many cases were not the targeted base of the broadcasts. Why spend money on SW when you got a bigger bang from on line content?

  5. James McDonald

    I find myself in a bit of a paradox.

    I now live in a world that is far more connected than at any other time in history.

    And yet I feel more disconnected from the world without the view I had from the plethora of
    shortwave stations in years gone by.

    All these country’s voices have gone.

    Many country’s don’t have extensive or interesting news outlets or anything, and their voice is now
    lost to me.

    This is a pragmatic view, a real one, not just someone who wants to hear crackles and pops
    like the old days, but because I want to HEAR their voice !

  6. Jake Brodsky

    It amazes me that even as shortwave radios become less and less expensive, even as the performance of these inexpensive radios offer vast improvement over older portable radios, even as they get easier than ever to use, that shortwave broadcasting as a whole is disappearing.

    Everyone seems to think that the Internet is somehow an improvement. I would like to think so, but it’s just one medium and it’s not any more reliable than radio. Furthermore, while critics point to the fact that radio can be jammed, Internet traffic can be hijacked and blocked (read about border gateway protocol hijacking in https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1050&context=mca ).

    The beauty of radio is that it IS a wireless medium, from the transmitter to the receiver, even over thousands of miles. There will be a day in the not too distant future when people will look at radio and reinvent it all over. The only question is when and how.


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