Radio Waves: Pacific Broadcasting, Podcasting Ancestor, Spamming Russia Comms, WRMI Tour, Shortwave Necessary, and SW Revival a Non-Starter

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!


Good news for Pacific regional broadcasting – bad news for locals (Asia Pacific Report)

Good news — an Australian parliamentary review recommends a more “expansive” media presence in the Pacific.

Bad news — little of that expansion envisions a role for island media.

Instead, the committee endorsed a proposal for “consultation” and the establishment of an independent “platform neutral” media corporation, versus the existing “broadcasting” organisation.

That proposal was among several points raised at two public hearings and nine written submissions as part of Australia’s “Pacific Step Up” programme, aimed at countering the growing regional influence of China.

Former long-time Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney last month told the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade that Australia was previously leading regional media spaces.

“But the vacant space that was left there when Australia Network disappeared, as people have said, has really been taken over by China,” he said.

“Throughout my time as the Pacific correspondent for the ABC, I saw this Chinese influence growing everywhere.”

[…]Taking up ten of 176 pages, the report’s media section is nonetheless seen as relatively comprehensive compared with the dismantling of broadcasting capacity in recent years.

This includes the literal dismantling of shortwave equipment in Australia despite wide protest from the Pacific region.

Nearly three years previously, a 2019 Pacific Media Summit heard that discontinuation of the shortwave service would save Australia some $2.8 million in power costs.

A suggestion from a delegate that that amount could be spent on $100,000 for reporters in each of 26 island states and territories was met with silence from ABC representatives at the summit.

However, funding would be dramatically expanded if the government takes up suggestions from the submissions to the joint committee. [Continue reading the full article…]

Pay Your Respects To Radio, The Ancestor Of Podcasting (Rolling Stone)

In the 1890s, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi left a lasting legacy when he sent a wireless telegraph message via Morse Code to a recipient. By the turn of the 1900s, Marconi’s innovation would give rise to an entirely new industry, one focused on creating new ways for people to communicate even across vast distances: radio.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, radio would not only play a major role in the international correspondence of countries fighting in both World Wars but it also became a widely popular phenomenon amongst the general public. By the mid-1920s, there were hundreds of licensed radio stations hosting news broadcasts, comedy shows, dramas, live music, sports programs and other forms of entertainment.

A century later, it’s not hard to spot the parallels between what made radio one of the most popular content mediums in history and the explosive growth of radio’s evolution in podcasting. Though there are some unique differences between the two mediums, I believe podcasters should still pay respect to how the evolution of radio gave rise to the advent of podcasting.

The Rise of Contemporary Audio Entertainment
On October 30, 1938 — the evening before Halloween — Orsen Welles hosted a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds, “converting the 40-year-old novel into fake news bulletins describing a Martian invasion of New Jersey.” While Welles and his team reportedly had no intention to deceive listeners into believing the broadcast was in any way real, Welles would later go on to say in a 1960 court disposition about his desire to release the broadcast, “in such a manner that a crisis would actually seem to be happening…and would be broadcast in such a dramatized form as to appear to be a real event taking place at that time, rather than a mere radio play.” [Continue reading at Rolling Stone…]

Why Russian radios in Ukraine are getting spammed with heavy metal (The Economist)

Ukrainians are eavesdropping on the invaders and broadcasting on their frequencies

One of the many surprising failures of the Russian invasion force in Ukraine has been in radio communications. There have been stories of troops resorting to commercial walkie-talkies and Ukrainians intercepting their frequencies. This may not sound as serious as a lack of modern tanks or missiles, but it helps explain why Russian forces seem poorly co-ordinated, are falling victim to ambushes and have lost so many troops, reportedly including seven generals. What is going wrong with Russian radios?

Modern military-grade radios encrypt signals and change the frequency on which they operate many times a second, making their transmissions impossible to intercept. But many Russian forces are communicating on unencrypted high-frequency (HF) channels that allow anyone with a ham radio to eavesdrop. The Russian army does have some modern tech. It started receiving Azart radios, which have built-in encryption and can operate on much higher frequencies, in 2012. Thomas Withington, a military analyst specialising in electronic warfare, says that the Azart system seems adequate, if inferior to the equipment used by NATO forces. But there are not enough radios to go around. [Continue reading…]

A Look Inside WRMI (Radio World)

Once again, Russia has dropped an Iron Curtain across the flow of independent news from the West. Add the millions of Ukrainian refugees on the move and damage to the country’s infrastructure, and the need for reliable, objective information in this war zone is as pressing now as it was at the height of the Cold War.

Yesterday, we published a conversation with Jeff White, General Manager of WRMI and Secretary-Treasurer of the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters, about WRMI’s pivotal role in transmitting much-needed content to Eastern Europe via shortwave radio.

Today, we have an inside look into WRMI’s broadcast space. [Continue reading and view the photo gallery at Radio World…]

Shortwave radio proves simple, powerful — and necessary (Red Tech)

LONDON — The recent events in Ukraine, with its tragedy of human casualties, extensive destruction or disruption of local broadcasting infrastructure, and new levels of censorship of the internet and journalism have brought shortwave broadcasts sharply back into focus, even though, they never stopped — the British Broadcasting Corp. alone has 40 million shortwave listeners worldwide.

Shortwave listening received a boost recently when broadcasters rapidly reinstated shortwave broadcasts to provide information and support to dislocated people and those eager to access uncensored external information in Ukraine and Russia.

The BBC World Service ended its shortwave broadcasts to Eastern Europe in 2008, after 76 years of broadcasting. In 2022 after the banning of its popular Russian language websites and the persecution of journalists in Russia, the BBC quickly increased transmissions of the BBC World Service via shortwave radio to four hours per day to ensure that people in affected parts of Russia and Ukraine can access its news service. BBC director-general Tim Davie said, “In a conflict where disinformation and propaganda are rife, there is a clear need for factual and independent news people can trust.” This is clearly the view of the UK Government, which just allocated an additional 4 million pounds (4.2 million euros) funding for the BBC World Service to provide such services. Referring to the funding, UK Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, commented, “The BBC will ensure that audiences in the region can continue to access independent news reporting in the face of systemic propaganda from a dictator waging war on European soil.” [Continue reading…]

Why Reviving Shortwave is a Non-Starter (Radio World)

Is there a shortwave radio revival taking place? If you never listened to shortwave and know nothing about the medium, it would be very easy to believe this.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a flurry of articles gave the impression that shortwave is about to be reborn, especially after the BBC announced it would beam shortwave to the region for 4 hours a day.

In Florida, a commercial station (Radio Miami International) used public donations to beam Voice of America and Radio Free Europe programs. Romania (which still possesses transmitters) puts on Ukrainian language news. Vatican Radio does the same. There are calls in Australia to restore that country’s shortwave broadcasts.

Here lies the problem: who is listening? Thousands, much less millions, of shortwave radios are not somehow hidden away in attics, though some commentators assert that people in Russia, particularly those with Cold War memories, will suddenly begin using shortwave to get around Putin and Xi Jinping’s firewalls.

Shortwave used to be a key tool to get news and information to areas where television and radio were highly censored. But after 1991 things started to change. Audience numbers started to drop around 1993 and this continued into the 2000s. BBC cut all shortwave broadcasts to eastern Europe. Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, and others sharply reduced or dropped use of shortwave. [Continue reading…]


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9 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Pacific Broadcasting, Podcasting Ancestor, Spamming Russia Comms, WRMI Tour, Shortwave Necessary, and SW Revival a Non-Starter

    1. Thomas Post author

      If you open them up in private browser windows, you’ll often get around the paywall. It’s true, though, that many publications now charge subscriptions, but typically give away a certain number of free articles per month.

      Reply
  1. John Drake

    Tyrants stop shortwave radio all the time. Cubans can’t hear ‘Radio Marti’ and North Koreans can’t listen to ‘BBC News Korean’ because those broadcasts are jammed by the governments of those countries.

    Reply
  2. William Pietschman

    Shortwave is a “standard” band found on MOST radios outside of North America, so shortwave radios didn’t disappear with the advent of the Internet.

    SETTING ASIDE Radio “hobbyists”, Shortwave radios are STILL being built by manufacturers such as Tecsun (and others) and they wouldn’t be producing them unless “someone” other than “radio hobbiests” was purchasing them.

    The very fact that they are indeed ubiquitous Worldwide acts as a deterrent to any Tyrant who tries to control the flow of information. Try as tryants have, it’s pretty hard to disrupt by jamming a shortwave broadcast that blankets an entire country with the truth.

    Quite simply, VPNs are easily shut down by any government, as they are a business model with a subscription. Just like a rifle shot, pun ABSOLUTELY INTENDED, using the internet is a really good way to get hunted down, and if you think differently, you are just kidding yourself!

    Shortwave radio remains robust: No infrastructure required, and the wide availability of cheap digitally tuned radios makes reception easier than ever. These radios also work in time of natural disaster, easily powered by battery, and today many are also wind up and solar and available for very short money, indeed!

    The FACT is that Shortwave radio is a very well tested old reliable and cost effective ROBUST and ANONYMOUS technology, and the Internet is a quite FRAGILE expensive and easily disrupted technology that allows governments to track its users.

    While various governments have decreased or shut down (or in the case of Radio Canada International, sadly demolished) Shortwave services to “reduce costs”, this is akin to shutting down military bases after a war under the illusion that there will never be another war, or at least a war not as bad as “the last one”. The fact is, there’s always a new up and coming Tyrant who tries to control information, just as sure as the fact that there is always a New War following that certainty!

    It’s not cost effective to shut down and then rebuild shortwave infrastructure because of this reality, as a matter of fact, it’s naive and foolish to not have adequate shortwave facilities activity broadcasting information worldwide. Now on the brink the like of which hasn’t been seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis, citizens abroad, armed with information might have acted as a deterrent to keep this war from starting in the first place.

    Sincerely,

    William Pietschman, RN (W8LV)

    -Best Regards from radio station W8LV located in Pickaway County, Ohio USA. Station Info: http://www.hamqth.com/w8lv

    Reply
    1. Keith Perron

      Tescun is a state owned enterprise (SOE) and under, which falls under the PRC’s five year economic planning. Its mandate is to produce and provide employment. Even if they sold nothing it would not matter. Just like in former communist states like the GDR and so on.

      Website like Alibaba and others. You can find hundreds of manufactures who can make shortwave radio only because they have all the parts. But, they don’t need to make money from selling them. Every 5 years during the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), budgets for state owned enterprises are planned and mandates given. When these SOEs hand in what the have been doing over the previous 5 years. It isn’t about sales. Its about what they have been producing, how many they have been producing, how many new employees they have hired and what is their plan for the next 5 years. They are given a budget depending on how many employees they have and what their plans of grown are in the area they are located.

      Tecsun, Red Sun and others fall under the SASAC (State-owed Assets Supervision Administration Commission, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education and the China Investment Corporation. The leadership at the Central Committee level are interested not in profit, but how many people are working and employment and land development for expansion.

      You can’t use 1970s solutions in 2022.

      Reply
  3. William Pietschman

    The Perron/Robinson article is complete nonsense: Shortwave is a “standard” band found on MOST radios outside of North America, so those shortwave radios didn’t disappear. SETTING ASIDE Radio “hobbyists”, Shortwave radios are STILL being built by manufacturers such as Tecsun (and others!) and they wouldn’t be producing them unless “someone” other than “radio hobbiests” was purchasing them! The very fact that they are indeed ubiquitous Worldwide acts as a deterrent to any Tyrant who tries to control the flow of information. Quite simply, VPNs are easily shut down by any government, as they are a business with a subscription model! Shortwave radio remains robust: No infrastructure required, and the availability of cheap digital radios makes reception easier than ever.

    Reply
    1. Keith Perron

      “Shortwave is a “standard” band found on MOST radios outside of North America, so those shortwave radios didn’t disappear.” What year are thinking about 1980 or 1970? That use to be the case, but not anymore.

      Reply
  4. Vladimir

    Good daytime,

    About the Perron/Robinson article:
    Their arguments could be considered valid as long as it concerns public broadcasters concerned with efficiency and its measurement. But these are absolutely no reasons for enthusiasts, whose main motivation is “because I can.” If some can broadcast, while others can pay for it, then there will definitely be others who will listen.

    73! de R4HAP (Vlad)

    Reply

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