Category Archives: International Broadcasting

Defense One interviews Sound of Hope founders

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, RBC, who shares the following article from the website Defense One:

For more than four months, Hong Kong has been in the grips of a civil crisis. Protestors have taken to the streets to challenge the Hong Kong government’s growing acquiescence to Beijing while Chinese government forces and their allies have used militias to attack protestors and electronic tools to disrupt their communications. But media censorship means that few mainland Chinese know what’s going on.

A Silicon Valley-based organization has found a way to get information into China and out to Chinese speakers around the world: shortwave radio.

“Shortwave broadcast is kinda like a grey area,” said Sean Lin, one of the co-founders of the Sound of Hope radio network. “There’s no law that says you cannot do it. It depends on if governments want to keep [a particular radio station] going or shut it down based on Beiging’s pressure,”

Shortwave radio has been used for decades to broadcast news, information, political messages, and disinformation. During World War II, the Germans and the British both used radio waves between 3–30 MHz (10 to 100 metres) to try to persuade listeners around the world.

Sound of Hope, co-founded by Lin and Allen Zeng in 2004, looked to take the same technology and broadcast messages into China. Zeng originally set up the station to broadcast to the Chinese language population in Silicon Valley. It was his response to a dearth of Chinese-language news coverage that wasn’t heavily influenced by the Chinese government. “You would expect them [Chinese language news and media in the United States] to have some basic media decency and do their job. They don’t. They all have family in China. They need to go back to China. They need to do business in China,” said Zeng.[…]

Continue reading the full article at Defense One.

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Radio World: “The Internet’s Impact on International Radio”

The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station Control Room

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors, Dennis, Eric, and Michael who share the following story from Radio World. Please note my comments below following a short excerpt from this piece:

OTTAWA — During the height of the Cold War (1947–1991), the shortwave radio bands were alive with international state-run broadcasters; transmitting their respective views in multiple languages to listeners around the globe.

The western bloc’s advocates were led by the BBC World Service, and included Voice of America, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, Radio Canada International and a host of influential European broadcasters. The eastern bloc’s de facto team captain was the USSR’s Radio Moscow (with its unique hollow, echoing sound), supplemented by broadcasters in Soviet satellite countries (like East Germany’s Radio Berlin International) and allies like Fidel Castro’s Radio Havana Cuba.

Then 1991 arrived, and the Cold War apparently ended with the fall of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

In the seeming peace that followed, many governments no longer saw the sense in spending millions on multi-megawatt transmitters and vast antenna farms to keep broadcasting their messages globally.

The leader among them, the BBC World Service (BBCWS), trumpeted the web and webcasting as modern, cost-effective alternatives to expensive shortwave broadcasting (along with satellite radio and leasing local FM airtime in the countries they used to broadcast to). This is why the BBCWS ceased shortwave transmissions to North America and Australia in 2001 and Europe in 2008, while retaining SW broadcasts in less-developed parts of the globe.[…]

The full article is available here and quite a good piece exploring how the Internet has had an impact on shortwave radio broadcasting.

I, along with a number of fiends in the shortwave community–Bob Zanotti, Jeff White, Colin Newell, and Ian McFarland to name a few–we’re quoted in this piece.

As with most any published piece, quotes and statements are trimmed and edited to fit the print space. If you read the full article, you will have noticed some quotes from me. Here’s a larger portion of my full statement for this piece:

Most audience analysts agree that the number of shortwave listeners has been on the decline at the same time Internet access has been on the rise. Moreover, shortwave listener numbers are hard to quantify due to the very nature of anonymous listening; no one can truly “track” a shortwave radio listener. On the other hand, there is nothing anonymous about those who listen to or watch Internet content–not only can the audience be measured by numbers, but a much deeper and more invasive set of data can be gleaned from an online audience. Thus the decline in shortwave also denotes a loss of anonymity on the part of the listener.

This is not to say there aren’t shortwave listeners. A significant number of listeners are radio enthusiasts/DXers who appreciate the shortwave medium. But perhaps more meaningfully, shortwave listeners are those living in rural and remote parts of the world who benefit from the instant, free, and anonymous information shortwave provides.

At Ears To Our World, we received this photo from a school in rural Tanzania in June 2019. The teacher has been using one of our self-powered shortwave radios to listen to news and improve language skills.

Some broadcasters effectively target both of these audiences. Large government broadcasters, however, have always tried to reach the “influencers” in a country–those who might eventually help guide a country’s policy and international relationships. And the great majority of these influencers, according to audience research, have moved to social media and the Internet as a source of information.

Note that I received the photo above in June. At Ears To Our World, we still work with communities that appreciate the accessibility of radio. Perhaps our partners are more the exception than the rule, but there are still those who benefit from radio–especially those living in rural and remote areas. Where large government shortwave broadcasters are pulling out of the scene, often community-driven stations are taking their place. We’ve been working with Radio Taboo in Cameroon, for example, and they are an amazing case in point.

As a radio enthusiast, I’ll also add that I love the homegrown nature of shortwave broadcasting these days. As private broadcasters have a larger market share of the airwaves, individuals have an opportunity to buy their own broadcast time and produce amazing, unique shows like VORW, Free Radio Skybird, Encore, From the Isle of Music and Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot. These are just a few examples–if you’d like more, just check out the latest edition of Alan Roe’s guide to music over shortwave.


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VOA exhbition: “a fascinating look at early shortwave radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, George Herr, who shares the following item from the LA Times:

Long before cell towers started sprouting up everywhere, the federal government commissioned telecommunication companies to build five massive fields of shortwave radio antennae. The structures, which reached up to 450 feet, were located in out-of-the-way places in California, Ohio and North Carolina. Each was designed to bounce radio waves off the ionosphere, allowing federally produced programming to be transmitted all over the globe.

The U.S.’ international radio broadcaster Voice of America was born during World War II. It expanded during the Cold War. As technology advanced, its programs were carried via television and digital platforms. Today it is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, providing news and information in 50 languages to a weekly audience of 275 million.

Its early years are traced in a fascinating exhibition at the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City. “Voice of America: The Long Reach of Shortwave” takes visitors back to the predigital world, before our political leaders began tweeting their innermost sentiments and policy decisions. Back then, international audiences were addressed more formally, via carefully scripted programming.

[…]The antennae are the stars of the show. They appear in photographs, in videos and on touch-screen monitors. Arranged in grids, arcs and asymmetrical arrays, they resemble high-tech fishing nets, impossibly spindly bridges, supersized spirit catchers and otherworldly telephone poles. Sculpturally impressive, they make Land Art look fussy, precious and small.

All but one of the five transmission stations have been abandoned. The most haunting component of the exhibition is a three-minute video documenting the destruction of the antennae. In sequence after sequence, little puffs of smoke appear before the towering antennae yield to the tug of gravity and topple to the earth in seemingly slow motion. Some crash into others, causing them to fall like skyscraper dominoes. It’s a sad ballet that marks the end of an era.

A pair of touch-screen slideshows is also bittersweet. It takes visitors on a virtual tour of Transmission Station B (the only one still functioning) and Transmission Station A (its twin). Both are near Greenville, N.C. To see the up-and-running station alongside its vandalized, disused doppelganger is to glimpse a living world next to a dying one.

Both are ours.

Click here to read the full story at the LA Times.

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USAGM: questions about journalistic and financial management

(Source: New York Times)

WASHINGTON — The United States Agency for Global Media, the government’s foreign broadcast service, already struggling to clean house after a series of scandals last year at flagship operations like Voice of America and TV Martí, is now being rocked by two new cases that have raised further questions about its journalistic and financial management.

In one, Tomás Regalado Jr., a reporter for TV Martí, which broadcasts into Cuba, and a cameraman for the network, Rodolfo Hernandez, were suspended amid allegations that they faked a mortar attack on Mr. Regalado during a broadcast from Managua, Nicaragua, last year.

That incident surfaced only days after Haroon Ullah, the former chief strategy officer at the global media agency, which operates Martí and foreign-language networks around the world, pleaded guilty on June 27 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to stealing government property.

A former deputy to the agency’s chief executive, John Lansing, Mr. Ullah admitted to fleecing the government of $37,000 between February and October last year by claiming reimbursements for expensive hotels he did not book, double-billing the government for official travel and forging a doctor’s note to allow him to fly business class. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

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The new problems are unrelated to each other; in the case of Mr. Ullah, the agency said its internal controls flagged the expense fraud. But along with many others over the past two years, the scandals have brought intensified scrutiny and criticism to the agency, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Created during World War II to be an objective, trusted source of information in nations where freedom of the press is under attack, the agency has 3,500 journalists who reach more than 345 million people in 100 countries each week.

The United States Agency for Global Media initiated an investigation into the allegedly faked segment at TV Martí “immediately after these concerns about the footage in question were raised,” the agency said in a statement. “As the agency has made clear, we have zero tolerance for failing to honor clear and universally accepted standards of professional journalism. We also owe it to all involved to conduct a thorough and clear investigation to get all of the facts.”

“I take seriously any breach of professional journalistic standards at any U.S.A.G.M. network. I have asked for a thorough and swift investigation,” Mr. Lansing said in an emailed statement. “I expect all U.S.A.G.M. networks to adhere to truthfulness, fairness and accountability in their reporting.”

Click here to read the full article at the New York Times.

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FTIOM & UBMP, July 7-13

From the Isle of Music, July 7-13:
This week, we listen to some of the International Prize winners of Cubadisco 2019. Some of the music is classical, and some of it is for dancing.
The broadcasts take place:
1. For Eastern Europe but audible well beyond the target area in most of the Eastern Hemisphere (including parts of East Asia and Oceania) with 100Kw, Sunday 1500-1600 UTC on SpaceLine, 9400 KHz, from Sofia, Bulgaria (1800-1900 MSK)
If you don’t have a shortwave radio or are out of range, you can listen live to an uplink from a listening radio in the Netherlands during the broadcast at
http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/?tune=9400am
2. For the Americas and parts of Europe, Tuesday 0000-0100 UTC (New UTC) on WBCQ, 7490 KHz from Monticello, ME, USA (Monday 8-9PM EST in the US).
If you don’t have a shortwave or are out of range, you can listen to a live stream from the WBCQ website here (choose 7490)
http://www.wbcq.com/?page_id=7
3 & 4. For Europe and sometimes beyond, Tuesday 1900-2000 UTC and Saturday 1200-1300 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 KHz from Rohrbach, Germany.
If you don’t have a shortwave radio or are out of range, you can listen live to an uplink from a listening radio in the Netherlands during the broadcast at
http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/?tune=6070am

Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, July 7 and 9:
Episode 120 examines US protest songs from different decades.
The transmissions take place:
1.Sundays 2200-2230 UTC (6:00PM -6:30PM Eastern US) on WBCQ The Planet 7490 KHz from the US to the Americas and parts of Europe
If you don’t have a shortwave or are out of range, you can listen to a live stream from the WBCQ website here (choose 7490)

Listen Live


2. Tuesdays 2000-2030 UTC on Channel 292, 6070 KHz from Rohrbach, Germany for Europe.
If you don’t have a shortwave radio or are out of range, you can listen live to an uplink from a listening radio in the Netherlands during the broadcast at
http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/?tune=6070am

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