Radio Waves: Radio and Education, Border Blasters, FM Switch Delayed per DCMS, and A Quick Temporary AM Antenna

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Can Radio Really Educate? (JSTOR Daily)

In the 1920s, radio was an exciting new mass medium. It was known for providing entertainment, but educators wondered if it could also be used for education.

It was mid-1922 and America was in the midst of the radio craze. Commercial broadcasting had emerged in a handful of cities in 1920, but at that time, few people had a receiving set—except for amateur radio operators, who knew how to build one. It wasn’t even called “radio” back then—newspapers referred to it as “radiophone” or “wireless telephone.” But only two years later, there were several hundred radio stations on the air, and you could purchase a radio in a store—although hobbyists still had fun trying to build their own, with varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, the word “radio” had become the common term for that wonderful new invention that everyone wanted in their home.

Today, we tend to take radio for granted; it is one of many ways to hear music or news or sports. But in 1922, radio was unique: it was the first mass medium to take people to an event in real time, and listeners were amazed by it. Suddenly, they could hear a popular orchestra coming through the radio set. Without leaving their home, they could listen to a baseball game, or an inspirational talk from a preacher; some stations even had the latest news headlines. In an era when traveling from one city to another could take hours (the popular Model T Ford had a top speed of 40-45 mph, and superhighways had not yet come along), listeners could travel by radio, hearing stations from distant cities. Before radio, only the wealthy could attend a concert featuring a famous vocalist, but now, anyone who had a receiving set could hear that singer’s music. And in an America that was still racially segregated, radio gave some musicians of color the opportunity to be heard by thousands of listeners. In magazines and newspapers, radio inspired “utopian hopes and bold predictions.” Writers referred to it as a cure for loneliness—especially for people living in rural areas or on the farm. It was also praised for helping the blind gain greater access to the world around them. More than one writer claimed radio would bring world peace, since everyone would unite around their favorite programs. And of course, as a sign of American progress, it was something no home should be without, not even the White House: President Harding was an enthusiastic radio fan, and had a set installed near his desk, so he could listen whenever he wanted to. [Continue reading…]

Psychics once ruled the airwaves thanks to the Texas-Mexico border and the magic of radio (KUT)

A new book includes details of how powerful radio stations along the border helped former vaudeville actors reach larger audiences.

In the 1920s and ’30s, some of the most popular radio programs in the United States featured radio psychics. The most successful among them made hundreds of thousands of dollars reading the minds and predicting the futures of eager listeners. To do it, they took advantage of a new and mysterious medium: radio.

Georgetown-based author John Buescher dove deep into this history in the book “Radio Psychics: Mind Reading and Fortune Telling in American Broadcasting, 1920-1940”. He told the Texas Standard many of these programs originated at so called border blaster stations located on either side of the Texas-Mexico border, in an effort to avoid regulation.

Listen to the player above or read the transcript below to hear more of this under-explored history. [Continue reading…]

[Note that the author is the former head of VOA-Tiber.]

No FM switch off in the UK until at least 2030 says DCMS ( & Digital Radio And Audio Review (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

FM should continue until at least 2030 in the UK according to a Digital Radio and Audio Review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The review has been welcomed by the BBC, Global and Bauer saying FM plays an important part in people’s lives and radio should remain free at the point of use.

It would put the UK at least 13 years behind Norway, which switched off most of its FM services in 2017.

Previously, the Digital Radio Action Plan proposed that the earliest date that the government could consider setting a switch-off timetable for FM and AM networks was when digital accounted for at least 50 percent of all UK radio listening.

Digital listening currently accounts for more than 58 percent of listening according to the latest RAJAR data.

The review found analogue radio listening will account for just 12 to 14 per cent of all radio listening by 2030, but FM, in particular, remains highly valued by many listeners, especially those who are older or more vulnerable, drive older cars or live in areas with limited DAB coverage.

AM services, accounting for less than 3 per cent of all listening, should develop a plan to retire national medium wave services, given the cost of running duplicate networks. [Continue reading…]

Click here to download the full DCMS report (PDF).

Quick, We Need a Temporary AM Antenna (Radio World)

Here’s what happened after a crew declined to climb WJMC’s old stick

Mike Murrey hired on as engineer at WJMC(AM/FM) and WAQE(AM/FM) in Rice Lake, Wis., back in 1998. He took one look at the 459-foot tower serving WJMC on 1240 kHz and knew it would need to be replaced someday.

Well, that someday came in late 2019 when a crew refused to climb the 63-year-old structure. That started a chain of events to replace the tower.

Heavy and consistent rains made site preparation exceedingly difficult. Temporary roads were built with rock and gravel so concrete could be poured at the new tower base and guy anchor points. The original concrete could not be used because towers are now “engineered” so they can be insured by insurance companies.

It was beginning to look like the project would extend into 2020 when the tower crew announced they were starting “right NOW” to take the old tower down. Rather than disassemble the old tower a section at a time, they elected to cut a guy anchor and let ’er fall. (Watch the video.) People were evacuated from the studio/transmitter building and a nearby business for the tower to come down. Besides, who would want to be inside working while a spectacle was going on outside? [Continue reading…]

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4 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Radio and Education, Border Blasters, FM Switch Delayed per DCMS, and A Quick Temporary AM Antenna

  1. mangosman

    Unfortunately, this article has stopped with analog broadcasting in a first world country. There are other parts of the world where education is difficult to obtain. Digital Radio Mondiale has the answer These facilities are not available using the USA’s HD radio.

    On the UK, the Norwegians had to get over the problem of old cars. was written in 2018, so this is not an excuse. Also all of these adaptors and all new cars, and portable radios after 2009 are also DAB+ capable. This would mean that the UK can convert all their mono DAB programs to stereo and for those programs use DAB+’s superior error correction to stop the ‘bubbling mud’ effect when there is excessive errors.
    The UK Prime Minister is pushing to lower carbon dioxide emissions. This can be done in a large way by switching off all AM and FM transmitters in the UK. A DAB+ transmitter can carry 18 stereo programs allowing the switching off of 36 FM transmitters per site and leaving 2 DAB+ transmitters on air!

    1. Ken

      Yup — just turn off all the old transmitters and there will be a HUGE savings (for the broadcasters) and those old radios that no longer work will end up in the landfill trading one problem for another.

      There is no ‘simple’ answer if people insist on changing to digital for no well defined reason. Does analog FM and AM somehow no longer work? What’s the issue?

      RATHER than simply change for change’s sake or ‘it’s newer thus it must be better’ “logic” we need to actually DEFINE the issues. WHY is digital better? Why can’t we continue with analog? “We can’t find parts to repair the old equipment” isn’t an argument. If the demand was there to make the parts, companies would make them. There is a rather significant ‘chicken and egg’ aspect to this, and much of the ‘argument’ seems subsumed with ‘experts’ assuming the proposition they wish to prove. IS digital ‘better’? In most regards, particularly in ‘weak signal’ areas outside of major metropolitan sectors, the answer is ‘no, it is not’. Inside strong signal areas, the answer is ‘yes, it is.’

      DEFINE your terms and be honest about what you’re trying to do. And take ALL the costs into account. It will matter. (As one small example, if you don’t take the data center power bills into account, the internet looks ‘cheaper’ than running a transmitter. If you DO take the data center electrical bills into account, it becomes a wash. I have NEVER seen a broadcast ‘expert’ explore that.)


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