Category Archives: International Broadcasting

Talking shortwave and spectrum on the Radio Survivor podcast

Last week, I had the honor of speaking with Eric Klein and Jennifer Waits on the excellent Radio Survivor podcast. It’s rare that in one show I get to spread so much shortwave radio love–thanks for making that happen Radio Survivor:

Perhaps you are like me and you have wished that you could go back in time and spin a radio dial and just listen to and browse the full radio spectrum from another time and place. Our guest on the show, Radio Anthropologist Thomas Witherspoon, is building a website for just such a thing. It’s called the Radio Spectrum Archive and it is not magic, it uses a piece of technology called a software defined radio that makes recording a full spectrum of Shortwave, AM and even FM radio (if you have the computing power to handle the load) a very real possibility. Thomas Witherspoon is also the primary contributor to The Shortwave Listening Post (www.swling.com) so we are going to learn a few things about the wonder that is shortwave radio on planet earth.

Click here to download the podcast audio.

Click here to listen via Radio Survivor.

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Editorial: Need for ABC HF service to remote Australian communities

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Nigel Holmes––formerly of Radio Australia––for the following op ed.


The Shepparton transmitter site of ABC/Radio Australia

Developments in the Australian domestic HF broadcasting scene

by Nigel Holmes

Radio broadcast on HF (high frequency or shortwave) has a solid role to play in the pantheon of media in the Australian and pan-Pacific context. It might be off the radar for the urban masses, but HF radio is the proven, economical alternative to satellite and cable for communication over continental or oceanic distances. Our commercial airlines use HF radio every day. So do our mining companies and emergency services. People holidaying in our remote areas buy or rent HF transceivers for their cars. Australia has the largest number of civilian users of HF radio in the world.

For thirty years a simple system of three HF transmitters quietly provided Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio to remote populations across inland Australia, the Northern Territory (NT). Centered on Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine each transmitter reached out nominally 450 km, covering an area of nearly 2 million square kilometres. In practice the area serviced was larger, extending into Queensland and Western Australia. Such is the utility of this versatile medium. The audience was small, only a couple of hundred thousand, living or moving through the most remote places in Australia, but this was their lifeline.

During the cyclone season, storm alerts and flood warnings would reach people in the inland beyond the call of AM and FM networks. Yes, such people do exist in Australia and elsewhere in the Pacific.

Like many marginalised communities the HF radio listeners of the outback struggled to make urban elites understand their very real world. So in 2016 when the ABC announced the closure of the domestic HF transmitters in order to fund its DAB+ radio rollout in Canberra and Hobart, the backlash from the remote communities was shrugged off and the closures proceeded in 2017. ABC pointed at its satellite as an alternative, but had no answer when asked how to equip a jillaroo’s horse, a dusty 4WD or an offshore tinnie with a fragile satellite dish, an expensive receiver and the power point to run it all.

People who are used to an effective service tend to take its loss badly. So it has been in the NT. Politicians were pursued by the inland listeners wanting a better deal. The matter has culminated with the main opposition Australian Labor Party pledging to restore the HF distribution of ABC within Australia if it wins the forthcoming the federal election.

Let’s hope political expediency at the federal government level and within ABC doesn’t foul this up. We don’t want a half-baked resurrection as a sop to fend off critics of the ABC or to let politicians grandstand.

The three domestic HF sites in the NT cost a lot more than AUD$1.9 million p.a. to run. That was a figure bandied about by ABC after criticism of its DAB+ expansion costs. But for a sum in the order of half that, plus re-establishment costs, a service can be implemented which would have greater coverage, better reliability and lower outgoings. What’s not to like? The key is the former Radio Australia HF station at Shepparton, Victoria.

The cost of electricity at the NT sites was horrendous. Apart from feeding three thirsty 50 kW tx, huge air conditioning plant was required at each site to pull out waste heat and combat 50°C summer temperatures. Maintenance costs were savage. On-air availability was lousy (worst in the ABC network) because of environmental challenges and long maintenance travel times.

So here’s a plan: re-locate a near-new Continental 418G HF 100 kW transmitter from Tennant Creek to Shepparton. Electricity is much cheaper and more reliable at Shepparton. It’s a cooler site and has permanent, trained staff. The consolidation of spares and expertise with the other Continental transmitters at Shepparton makes engineering and economic sense. Re-locate the two small 6-12 MHz HR2/2/0.4 and HR2/2/0.6 aerials from the former RA station at Brandon. Erect them both as AHR2/2/0.4, align one on a boresight of 000°T and the other one on a boresight of 320°T. Feed both aerials from the transmitter via a splitter, run the transmitter at 80 kW so each array receives 40 kW. Run a 5.9 MHz channel at night and a 9 or 11 MHz channel during daylight. Bingo. You now have a two-frequency network covering the sector between 020° & 300° at a range of 1500 km -> 3000+ km. What a great conduit for cyclone/flood alerts, quality news and entertainment and if the ABC can manage that then it might just get back to meeting its charter obligations to all Australians.

Nigel Holmes
November 2018

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If elected, Labor commits to provide $2 million to restore ABC shortwave radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ian P, who shares the following story and interview via ABC News Northern Territory Country Hour. I strongly suggest listening to the full seven plus minute interview via the embedded audio player below:

Click here to download audio.

If elected next year, Federal Labor says it will provide the ABC with $2 million in funding to help re-establish shortwave radio services across the Northern Territory.

The ABC controversially switched off its shortwave service in January 2017, and defended the decision by saying it would “only affect a very, very small amount of people” and save taxpayers up to $1.9 million.

The decision was heavily criticised by industry groups such as the NT Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) and the NT Seafood Council.

NTCA president Chris Nott welcomed today’s announcement by Labor and said the ABC’s decision was short-sighted.

“What people take for granted in the cities is a luxury for those of us in the bush,” Mr Nott said.

“We rely on the HF shortwave radio transmitters because we don’t have mobile and data coverage for AM and FM radio stations.

“The ABC can expand its modern day platforms all it likes but the truth is we don’t all have access to it and the ABC did not care at all about the impact of its decision.”

Federal Member for Solomon Luke Gosling, said the axing of shortwave had angered a lot of people and community groups.

“Many thousands will benefit from this [bringing back shortwave],” he told the Country Hour.

“I was lobbied by a really large cross-section of the community that spends time in remote areas and when shortwave was cut there was a lot of angst, so it will be a good thing to bring it back to keep people on the land and waters connected.”

Click here to read via ABC News.

Many thanks, Ian!

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Celebrating ten years of the SWLing Post––and a chance to win a piece of broadcasting history!

Ten years ago, I created a blog.

I designed the SWLing Post as a simple site where I could share a few links and articles about my favorite topic: radio.  And maybe educate a few new listeners about the hobby.

Never would I have imagined that within a few years, the site would grow to over 7,000 daily readers.

It’s still hard for me to comprehend. It’s also hard to believe that ten years have passed since I started the Post. Incredible.

Of course, what makes this site so special is the community of dedicated SWLing Post readers, contributors and supporters. People who show up to share in the radio discussion everyday.

For this reason, I want to make the following twelve months special for the SWLing Post community.

And so…let’s have some fun!

Starting this month, until November 2019, we’re going to put together a series of contests and activities to help celebrate ten years of the SWLing Post.

Let’s get started today!

Our first prize is phenomenal…

RCA Window from MI-7330 (note that wooden base is not included)

This exceptional prize, an RCA transmitter window has been generously donated by our long-time friend and contributor, Dave Porter (G4OYX). Thank you so much, Dave!

Dave describes this unique prize as “a piece of broadcast history” from the Wooferton Transmitting station in the UK;

Click to enlarge

At 75 years old it is a round plate glass window that was fitted in the central main door of the RCA senders, installed in 1943.

The window is 12.25,” 315 mm in diameter, and is 5 mm thick. The glass is tinted in a shade of light blue and the RCA trademark letters are etched out in sunken relief.

It was one from the last pair of senders, either Sender 85 or Sender 86, both retired and removed in 1980. (S81 – S84, the previous four were removed in 1963.)

The pair of windows were retrieved by Jeff Cant and one was presented to long-time BBC/VOA staffer Mr Dick Lett on his retirement in 1988. Jeff kept the other. Mr Lett has recently died and his daughters returned the plate to Jeff. It is this plate that is the [prize] gift in this competition.

Jeff gave it to Dave Porter who thought [that] rather than keep it himself, it would be a good donation to this celebration of ten years of the SWLing Post.

Wow…when Dave volunteered this as a prize for the SWLing Post, I almost fell out of my seat. Frankly, I’m already envious of the lucky winner!

Here’s how you can enter to win this piece of shortwave history!

Each week, starting today–at the bottom of this page–we’ll post a question about the Woofferton Transmitting Site. There will be a total of five questions with the final question posted on December 10th. The contest will close on December 14 and a winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

We’ll embed a Google quiz form with each question, and provide a space for you to answer the question. This is the only way to enter the contest as the Google form exports the results to a spreadsheet that we’ll use to pick a winner. Note: Please don’t email or comment with your answer, as the system won’t count it as a valid entry.

Each correctly answered question will count as an entry in the contest. Since we’ll have a total of five questions, this means you could have a total of five contest entries.  Good luck, Post readers!

Details & Fine Print

This contest is open to all SWLing Post readers and contributors, with the obvious exception of myself and Dave Porter, who donated this piece.

Each entry will require your name, email address, and shipping address. These details will be used to contact you and ship your prize to you, should you win. These details will also be one means of making sure multiple entries aren’t being made by one individual for each question (if we suspect someone of doing this, we would simply delete all of their associated entries.).  But I’m sure we’re all good sports here.

All email addresses, names, and shipping addresses will be deleted once a winner is selected, to protect your privacy.

All correct entries will be entered on a spreadsheet, which will assign each entry a sequential number. We will then pick a random number with the random number generator and thus choose the winner.

Please note: If you read the SWLing Post email digest, you will need to view our prize questions on the web to see the embedded form.

Ready?  Let’s get started! (FYI: Question #2 will be posted next week.)

If the form below does not display, click here to open it in a new window.

Our first question:

Many thanks again to Dave Porter for his generosity in offering us this wonderfully unique piece of broadcasting history and for kindly agreeing to ship it to the winner! 

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