The BBC World Service would like your feedback

Abdalla S, a Strategy Analyst with the BBC World Service, is asking for your feedback via email. He posted the following message today on his Twitter feed:

Are you able to hear BBC programmes in English on shortwave radio clearly? If not, was it because of interference from another signal or mechanical noise? Please write to us at [email protected] and let us know!

Let’s follow up with his request and offer him useful feedback via email.

Many thanks!

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13 thoughts on “The BBC World Service would like your feedback

  1. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

    I miss the BBC thundering in from Sackville NB every morning. I would lay in bed for 30 minutes most mornings and listen to a version of the news that I didn’t get on any radio station here in the US. I knew who Megawati Sukarnoputri was, months before her name showed up anywhere in the US media.

    But, even the mighty “Beeb” couldn’t avoid the problem that all shortwave broadcasters faced: their audience was getting smaller and smaller every day. Then the Sirius and the XM radio satellites launched, and that was pretty much the end of their shortwave service in North America. People were hearing them from their cars and, well, the documented audience was far larger there than they could ever have shown on Shortwave.

    I miss being able to hear them on a portable shortwave radio by my bedside. But the background noises are higher, and the signals are weaker. I can hear them on satellite radio if I really want the programming. But these days, the news feeds go back and forth over the ocean so fast that, aside of interesting local content, their version of the news might as well have come from NPR in the US.

    So the motive to seek them out just isn’t the same as it was in decades past.

    1. Mangosman

      The only high frequency broadcasting originating in the USA has been from the Government owned Voice of America and is aimed at other countries. There are also religious broadcasters targeting other countries. ie no domestic HF broadcasts.

      Where is the evidence that short wave listening audience is shrinking? This is often promoted, probably by the telco industries trying to promote their profits.

      Another issue is the lack of technical knowledge in the management level of state financed broadcasters who have no idea how far a radio signal will travel.

      Often promoted by the telcos is that they will replace AM/FM and digital radio. Recently the BBC research department did an in depth, microphone to speaker cost analysis and found that for large audiences DAB is way cheaper than any other transmission system including the internet. Not included was DRM, however now that there is a 6 channel DRM modulator to feed a single transmitter its cost is even lower, because it will operate between 47 – 108 MHz. The DRM transmissions under 30 MHz reduces power consumption in the transmitter by more than 50 %.

      As far as satellite radio goes, it has never been adopted outside of the USA/Canada and it only has 33 million subscribers and slightly dropping. When you consider that the USA/Canadian population is around 360 million. 10 % of the population is one of the reasons why it has not been adopted elsewhere.

      1. Laurence N.

        “Where is the evidence that short wave listening audience is shrinking?”
        The people who paid to broadcast to them tend to ask that question too, but in a less biased way. The reason: they want people to hear their content, not to keep shortwave alive because it’s fun. Instead of insisting that people must listen to it just as much now even though new technology gives most of them a ton more options, it might be worthwhile to actually find out who uses shortwave and when.
        The answers vary depending on where the listening occurs. Despite your claims, the shutdown of shortwave broadcasters isn’t usually because telcos convinced the stations that they could do it better. Usually, the governments didn’t want to spend the cash anymore keeping hundreds of kilowatts firing audio into the atmosphere when a lot of their former listeners weren’t listening. A lot of developed areas have almost entirely shifted away from shortwave because we do have better options. I can listen to the BBC world service with an internet connection, without using much data, at the BBC’s expense, on equipment I was going to have anyway, without having to care about the sun cycle or memorize frequencies. Fifty years ago, I didn’t have any of those options, and there are some places where not everyone has them today, but for the large chunks of the world which do, the BBC figured they could afford to lose the few listeners who didn’t want to use that tech. Until we can recognize that those are in fact rational decisions for the listener and broadcaster to take, we can’t do anything to keep shortwave alive, because we’ll instead be tilting at windmills trying to prove that nobody chose to make those rational decisions.

        1. Mangosman

          I am yet to see an international broadcaster find an effective way of measuring the size of their audience. You have not answered how you know that listening numbers have dropped? For example if you are in North America there is no broadcasts aimed at that market so you would expect no listeners. There is still large areas of the world with inadequate internet coverage and with mobile (Cell) phone towers with a coverage of around 10 km radius once out of cities coverage can be patchy or non existent. In the Pacific Ocean there are many islands. HF radio is the only way to distribute program to them eg Radio New Zealand Pacific. It also means that those on boats and yachts can get hurricane and tsunami warnings regardless of location. Remember that satellite phones will not work in dense cloud or inside. Satellite coverage is also very expensive and requires large dishes for retransmission. These are vulnerable to storm damage and power supply failures are common.

          How accurate are domestic ratings.

          Contrast this with the internet. The broadcasters can measure the number of downloads which gives real numbers, but are they measuring it like the ratings. Ie the number of listeners per 24 hours in hourly blocks to make a real comparison?

          Make no mistake running high powered AM high frequency transmitters is an expensive business, particularly when over 67 % of the transmitted power which is the carrier contains no information at all. DRM overcomes this problem and the total transmitted power is half that of AM. The sound quality is just as good as the internet.

          The telcos are not saying they can do it better or cheaper, they just want the business. For example Apple phones will not receive FM off air because they own Itunes.

          International broadcasters who switch off their high powered transmitters such as Radio Canada International, Radio Australia in favour of the internet then close down international coverage as has happened to those broadcasters. They expect the international listeners to listen to domestic programming. There is virtually no coverage aimed for an external audience.

          1. Laurence N.

            No, most of the time, they expect the international listeners to find something else to listen to. RCI and RA relayed domestic broadcasts for a while, but both chose to power off their expensive transmitters. They made the decision that providing information to people who use shortwave wasn’t valuable to them.
            You are correct about some of the areas where shortwave is still in heavy use. They are, primarily, places without the economic ability to provide internet access to most or all of the people. Those places still use shortwave because it’s a more certain way of getting information there. No contest. The BBC still broadcasts there using shortwave. It’s where we live where they don’t think that’s worth it.
            For developed countries, it’s possible to determine the level of interest in such broadcasts because everyone there can express their opinions. When the BBC shut down shortwave broadcasts to North America and the Pacific, they got letters complaining about it. They could judge for themselves whether the quantity of complaints was enough to start it back up. Evidently, they decided it was not. This indicates a quantity of listeners who A) used shortwave, so knew it was shutting down and B) cared enough to contact the BBC to request its restoration. Simple extrapolation can estimate the size of group A, and metrics of usage of other media can estimate how much of group A shifted once shortwave wasn’t available.

  2. Mangosman

    The BBC website makes it extremely difficult to find out what broadcasts are available on high frequency (Short Wave). If you search using a search engine you can find “BBC World Service Global short Wave Frequencies” Their program guide in the areas where their HF coverage is aimed makes no mention of broadcasts only their online program.

    Their current transmitter sites are;

    There is no mention including in the program guide of the crystal clear DRM broadcasts from UK, Woofferton aimed at NW Europe (3955 kHz, 06:00 – 07:00 UTC daily) or Singapore, Kranji aimed at India which now has wide spread, high powered DRM coverage from All India Radio.

    The lack of publicity both on broadcasts and on line was then used by the ABC to say there was no listeners and they shut the service. It is extremely difficult to know how many listeners there are because there are no “ratings” particularly over multiple countries and languages.

  3. John Figliozzi

    Frankly, I don’t think the BBC will give much sympathy to stateside and Canadian listeners who can’t hear it on shortwave.

    1. DanH

      Probably not. I can receive BBC WS in English reliably once or twice a day in Northern California. Woofferton is heard once in a while but the relays at Kranji, Ascension, Talata-Volondry and Pinheira usually provide the best reception for me. None of these transmissions are targeted for North America and are usually good for a season or two before I need to search the schedules again.

    2. Ted

      I agree. The times have changed along with my geographic location. I had the pleasure of hearing BBC World Service when I lived in eastern Canada but here in the prairie flatlands of Alberta I have never been able to receive the BBC or pretty much any other broadcaster, even RHC is lost in this dead space. DXing am medium waves will have to suffice, sadly.

      1. Colin S

        I sort of disagree. I live in southern Alberta and received BBC,RHC,VOA and other broadcastets with not much problem.
        It was when BBC, Radio Australia shut off their transmitters.
        I can hear them online but not the same.

  4. Paul Evans

    I last used (in USA) SW reception for the BBCWS in 2004. In 2003/4 when living in Grenada we used my IC706 to listen to 9MHz BBCWS. Since then a Nokia N800 (Unix) was used for a short time, followed latterly by a 21 year old Asus netbook running Linux on 24hr/day streaming (it’s running right now). I haven’t bothered to listen on SW. I suppose there’s some feed from Ascension and maybe St. Helena?? I think all the Caribbean feeds went ‘west’. My dad got his local V29 (Antigua licence) through the local BBC employee/Govt agent. Must be getting old because things seemed much better in the 1980s and 1990s when radio was real radio 🙂 When it wasn’t limited by HOAs, planning permission and QRM from aDSL (exceptionally bad in the UK, ironically).

    1. Paul Evans

      I wonder if anybody has the sales figures on SW RXes these days? Perhaps the Beeb are really trying to tap just what is out there plus ‘legacy’ receivers? I know the Beeb is in huge difficulties over numerous issues, some of which are a result of the extreme 300 year hit to the UK economy brought about by SARS-Cov-2. Please try to support them with positive answers!

      1. John

        Most of the BBC’s problems are entirely of their own making.

        A once revered and respected UK institution, they’ve managed to alienate huge chunks of the UK population with numerous scandals and an institutional political bias that’s often overt and barely disguised.

        Their many local radio stations also severely distorts the private radio station marketplace.


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