Radio Waves: Absolute Radio Turns Off AM in UK, Carlos Latuff Interview, X-Class Flaring, and Morse Code Is Back!

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Absolute Radio to switch off all AM transmitters across the UK (Radio Today)

Bauer is removing Absolute Radio from Medium wave this month as it turns off all AM frequencies for the station across the country.

Absolute Radio launched exclusively on AM (as Virgin Radio) 30 years ago in 1993 using predominantly 1215 kHz along with fill-in relays on 1197, 1233, 1242 and 1260. Some of these have been turned off in recent years in places such as Devon, Merseyside and Tayside.

Whilst this is a historic milestone for the radio industry, it shouldn’t affect many listeners as just two percent of all radio listening currently takes place on AM.

Absolute Radio also lost its FM frequency in London in 2021 in favour of the ever-expanding Greatest Hits Radio network.

The move makes Absolute Radio a digital-only service, broadcasting nationally on DAB and online. [Continue reading…]

Coffee and Radio – with Carlos Latuff (Radio Heritage)

[…]Carlos Henrique Latuff de Sousa or simply “Carlos Latuff”, for friends, (born in Rio de Janeiro, November 30, 1968) is a famous Brazilian cartoonist and political activist. Latuff began his career as an illustrator in 1989 at a small advertising agency in downtown Rio de Janeiro. He became a cartoonist after publishing his first cartoon in a newsletter of the Stevadores Union in 1990, and continues to work for the trade union press to this day.

With the advent of the Internet, Latuff began his artistic activism, producing copyleft designs for the Zapatista movement. After a trip to the occupied territories of the West Bank in 1999, he became a sympathizer of the Palestinian cause in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and devoted much of his work to it. He became an anti-Zionist during this trip and today helps spread anti-Zionist ideals.

His page of Instagram ( currently has more than 50 thousand followers, where of course you can see his work as a cartoonist and also shows his passion for radio. [Continue reading…]


A large and potentially dangerous sunspot is turning toward Earth. This morning (Jan. 6th at 0057 UT) it unleashed an X-class solar flare and caused a shortwave radio blackout over the South Pacific Ocean. Given the size and apparent complexity of the active region, there’s a good chance the explosions will continue in the days ahead. Full story @ (

Looking to Ditch Twitter? Morse Code Is Back (Smithsonian Magazine)

For almost 20 years, Steve Galchutt, a retired graphic designer, has trekked up Colorado mountains accompanied by his pack of goats to contact strangers around the world using a language that is almost two centuries old, and that many people have given up for dead. On his climbs, Galchutt and his herd have scared away a bear grazing on raspberries, escaped from fast-moving forest fires, camped in subfreezing temperatures and teetered across a rickety cable bridge over a swift-moving river where one of his goats, Peanut, fell into the drink and then swam ashore and shook himself dry like a dog. “I know it sounds crazy, risking my life and my goats’ lives, but it gets in your blood,” he tells me by phone from his home in the town of Monument, Colorado. Sending Morse code from a mountaintop—altitude offers ham radios greater range—“is like being a clandestine spy and having your own secret language.”

Worldwide, Galchutt is one of fewer than three million amateur radio operators, called “hams,” who have government-issued licenses allowing them to transmit radio signals on specifically allocated frequencies. While most hams have moved on to more advanced communications modes, like digital messages, a hard-core group is sticking with Morse code, a telecommunications language that dates back to the early 1800s—and that offers a distinct pleasure and even relief to modern devotees.

Strangely enough, while the number of ham operators is declining globally, it’s growing in the United States, as is Morse code, by all accounts. ARRL (formerly the American Radio Relay League), based in Newington, Connecticut, the largest membership association of amateur radio enthusiasts in the world, reports that a recent worldwide ham radio contest—wherein hams garner points based on how many conversations they complete over the airwaves within a tight time frame—showed Morse code participants up 10 percent in 2021 over the year before.

This jump is remarkable, given that in the early 1990s, the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses all U.S. hams, dropped its requirement that beginner operators be proficient in Morse code; it’s also no longer regularly employed by military and maritime users, who had relied on Morse code as their main communications method since the very beginning of radio. Equipment sellers have noticed this trend, too. “The majority of our sales are [equipment for] Morse code,” says Scott Robbins, owner of ham radio equipment maker Vibroplex, founded in 1905, which touts itself as the oldest continuously operating business in amateur radio. “In 2021, we had the best year we’ve ever had … and I can’t see how the interest in Morse code tails off.”

Practitioners say they’re attracted by the simplicity of Morse code—it’s just dots and dashes, and it recalls a low-tech era when conversations moved more slowly. For hams like Thomas Witherspoon of North Carolina, using Morse code transmissions—sometimes abbreviated as CW, for “continuous wave”—offers a rare opportunity to accomplish tasks without high-tech help, like learning a foreign language instead of using a smartphone translator. “A lot of people now look only to tools. They want to purchase their way out of a situation.”

Morse code, on the other hand, requires you to use “the filter between your ears,” Witherspoon says. “I think a lot of people these days value that.” Indeed, some hams say that sending and receiving Morse code builds up neural connections that may not have existed before, much in the way that math or music exercises do. A 2017 study led by researchers from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and from University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands supports the notion that studying Morse code and languages alike boosts neuroplasticity in similar ways. [Continue reading…]

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7 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Absolute Radio Turns Off AM in UK, Carlos Latuff Interview, X-Class Flaring, and Morse Code Is Back!

  1. Wornout

    Congrats, Thomas, on your appearance in the Smithsonian article.
    I finally got around to reading the Jan/Feb issue and there you were!
    Great story.

  2. 13dka

    Looks like the 23rd of January is the day:

    Of course I hate seeing yet another station vanishing from my beloved MW dial. On the other hand the synchronous network on 1215 kHz was a mess to listen to outside of the UK because it was absolutely not synchronous at all and that made it for the most part a heavily distorted and echoing multipath disaster during nighttime. For actual listening to that station I had to tune to the much weaker “fill” stations on 1233, 1242 or 1260.
    That would also mean that on the 23rd, a pretty large window for DX might open up between 1200 and 1300 kHz, giving way for more distant Region 1 stations and transatlantic DX beyond Talk 1200 (WXKS) from Boston, MA. Well, lemons -> lemonade I guess.

    1. mangosman

      There is no current excuse for non synchronous AM any more.
      The reason GPS system works is the extreme accuracy of the signals, which is why East-West (longitude) accuracy is down to metres is available world wide.
      The GPS second time is very accurate and can generate a 1 Hz signal. The transmitter’s carrier oscillator is divided by the transmission frequency which will also give a 1 Hz signal. The frequency and phase between these signals is compared and used to change the carrier frequency until they are identical. This is done in each transmitter site ensuring all transmissions are exactly the same carrier frequency.
      I addition the sound signal should be delayed to all but the most distant transmitter from the studios. All other sound signals need to be electronically delayed to match. Then the only location to have poor reception is half way between a pair of transmitters.
      This is the principle of a single frequency network, which is commonly used for TV and DAB+ radio.

  3. mangosman

    Morse Code is the original digital communications method, I say this because there is either a signal present a 1 or 0 which is no signal present. The longer signal duration is a ‘dah’ and the shorter is a ‘dit’. Preceding the morse key is a human encoder and a human decoder who is succeeding the sounding device. Nowdays, computers can do the encoding and decoding for us.

  4. mangosman

    Statistics are being manipulated by many people with axes to grind (over money!) in the radio industry, particularly around broadcast technologies. The classic ones are those promulgated by the telcos and the audio and video on demand companies. They always talk in either percentage change which can be on a tiny base or as a percentage of their total audience which is happening here. The population of the UK is 67.33 million, so 623,000 people is 0.9 % of the population are listening to Absolute Radio on AM.
    In Australia GFK does the job of RAJAR, I have filled in one of their radio rating surveys. They ask and collate which of the following is used, AM, FM, DAB+, mobile phone, smart speaker, the name of the station, where you were listening ie in car, home, work, listening method ie speaker, headphones….

    They publish for free, (so that the advertisers can see) it the number of listeners in time slots and age groups, for all methods of delivery and for digital only. In all capital cities there are DAB+ transmitters broadcast all city programs which are also transmitted on either AM or FM, along with additional programs. You have to pay a subscription if you want to know what the numbers are for the splits of how many on the internet, DAB+ or analog. Does RAJAR collect the number listening on DAB, DAB+, FM, AM, smart speaker, mobile phone?

    One of the biggest axes to grind is in the USA. For example Sirius satellite pay radio, cannot be received from the satellite inside buildings so they deliver most of its programs via the fixed internet and cell phone networks. The number of subscribers are only 10 % of the population. HDRadio always talks of the number of brands of vehicles, not the number of new vehicles entering the road as a percentage of the licenced vehicles on the road. They don’t talk of portable/home radio sales because they are virtually non existent. They cannot talk of the percentage listening to digital because on HD1 if the reception is poor the receiver blends back to analog or if is HD2 – HD4 it just mutes. This is common because the power of the digital signal is very low to prevent interference to other broadcasters and their own analog signal.

  5. qwertyamdx

    Switchoff of Absolute Radio’s MW network will certailny affect much more listeners than the Radio Times article suggests. According to recent (Q3 2022) RAJAR survey, 623,000 people (25%) listen at least some of the time to Absolute Radio on AM, spending 4.5m hours which represents 25% of all of Absolute Radio’s listening hours. And that’s despite the fact that the network has been out of sync for few years now (most likely a deliberate decision of the management), resulting in echo-ridden reception in numerous areas. The two other nationwide AM stations got similar figures: BBC Radio Five Live still has 35% of its audience listening to at least some of the time on AM, accounting for 30% of listening hours. For talkSPORT those numbers are also very similar, with 34% of its reach listening at least partially on AM, and 31% of listening hours. So while AM may in fact account for 2% of UK’s radio listening, simply because there are much more stations on FM and DAB, it doesn’t matter in case of individual stations that still have a considerable number of AM listeners.

  6. mangosman

    Absolute Radio AM switch off. If you read the twitter replies in the link they are mostly uniformed rubbish.
    The comparison of cost and the number of listeners is valid but the savings are far greater.
    The advantage of DAB+ is that you can transmit at lease 18 programs on a single transmitter. So divide the energy consumption by 18 not 1. In the mainland capital cities in Australia, there are high powered DAB+ transmitters (50 kW effective radiated power) which have their antennas near the top of tall TV towers. The coverage area is similar to 5 kW AM with the exception of terrain producing black spots. They use a repeater on the same frequency! The problem with DAB+ is the frequency which must be between 173 – 230 MHz. The higher the frequency the greater the loss in the atmosphere. DRM can transmit 6 channels on a single FM transmitter carrying 3 audio channels each. The efficiency of a transmitter reduces as the frequency increases. DRM can also operate in the 47 – 66 MHz band which increases the coverage area over DAB+ for the same radiated power by 12 times.
    Neither DAB+ or DRM contain the wasteful carrier of AM. It contains no information and is between 67 and 100 % of the transmitted signal power. DRM can also operate in the low, medium and high frequency bands (LW, MW, SW). The statements about receivers is also untrue. Whilst digital radio uses a small amount of extra power, the use of class D audio amplifiers has made a much larger reduction of power consumption. Also remember that a receiver will generally only be on part of a day where as most broadcast transmitters are running continuously regardless of the number of listeners.

    For UK posters, when are you going to switch over completely from DAB to DAB+. Your planners and broadcasters have never surveyed to find out what proportion of DAB receivers cannot receive DAB+ which has all stations in stereo with better error correction. DAB uses a much less efficient audio compression, which has meant many programs are in mono.


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