Category Archives: International Broadcasting

Radio Waves: Plant-powered Satellite Comms, BBC Pips, Filter Basics, and Replacing Shortwave

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’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Marty, Dennis Howard, Dennis Dura, Kris Partridge and Richard Langley and for the following tips:


Plant-powered sensor sends signal to space (Phys.org)

A device that uses electricity generated by plants as its power source has communicated via satellite—a world first.

[…]The device can inform farmers about the conditions of their crops to help increase yield, and enable retailers to gain detailed information about potential harvests.

It transmits data on air humidity, soil moisture and temperature, enabling field-by-field reporting from agricultural land, rice fields or other aquatic environments.

The extremely low power device sends signals at radio frequencies that are picked up by satellites in low Earth orbit. It was developed by Dutch company Plant-e and Lacuna Space, which is based in the Netherlands and the UK, under ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES).[]

The eccentric engineer: a tale of six pips and how the BBC became the national arbiter of time (Engineering and Technology)

This edition of Eccentric Engineer tells the story of the BBC Time Signal and how, over the years, it has just got more complicated.

Every engineer needs to know the time, if only so as to not miss lunch. Since 1924, many Britons have been checking their watches against the BBC time signal, known affectionately as ‘the pips’.

The history of the ‘pips’ is almost as long as the history of the BBC itself. The first transmissions from what was then the British Broadcasting Company began in late 1922 and soon afterwards there were suggestions of broadcasting a time signal under the control of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich – then the arbiter of time in the UK.

No one seems to have seen a need for this degree of precision, but early broadcasts did use their own ad hoc ‘pips’, marking the 8pm and 9pm news programmes with a time signal consisting of the announcer playing the Westminster chimes on a piano and later a set of tubular bells. This proved rather popular with listeners, who could now adjust their clocks and watches daily, so the BBC decided to invest in some more high-tech clocks from the Synchronome Company. These provided audible ‘ticks’, which the announcer then simply counted down.[]

What Is Replacing Shortwave? (Radio World)

A joint effort is necessary to bring the digitization of radio to a successful end

Analog shortwave will celebrate about 100 years of existence in 2028 when many hope 5G will have been properly defined, tested and applied, though broadcasting is low on its long list of perceived advantages.

It’s true that shortwave was typically a medium of the Cold War that peaked in 1989 and that afterward its listenership dwindled. Many international broadcasters gave up on it as the post-war transmitters got rustier and the energy bills kept mounting.

After all, when budget cuts are needed, no transmitter will go on strike or write to the press, as happened when the BBC World Service tried to unsuccessfully close its Hindi shortwave transmissions in 2011. In 2020 these broadcasts stopped, when committed BBC Indian listeners, writers and thinkers who opposed it in 2011 did not protest too much.

The slow death of shortwave has been blamed on the internet and satellite. As technology and content are inextricably linked, shortwave created its type of content that is no longer favored by the savvy FM listener, internet user and cellphone obsessed.[]

Filter Basics: Stop, Block and Roll(off) (Nuts and Volts)

A casual observer might think that wireless systems consist primarily of filters connected by the occasional bit of circuit! Block diagrams of transceivers often include as many filters as any other function. This is true at the system level, just as it is at the circuit level — and many circuits behave in a filter-like way, whether intended to be a filter or not! That makes understanding filter basics important for wireless success.[]


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Sky News: “BBC could be forced to sell radio stations in ‘massive pruning back'”

(Image source: BBC)

(Source: Sky News via Dan Van Hoy)

The number of TV channels could also be reduced, the website scaled back and stars banned from taking well-paid second jobs.

[…]The Sunday Times quoted a senior Downing Street source as saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “really strident” on the need for serious reform at the national broadcaster.

The number of TV channels could be reduced, the website scaled back and stars banned from taking well-paid second jobs, the newspaper said.

There will also be a consultation on replacing the licence fee with a subscription model, the source said, adding: “We are not bluffing on the licence fee.

“We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has got to be a subscription model.

“They’ve got hundreds of radio stations, they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website. The whole thing needs massive pruning back.

“They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service which is part of its core job.

Read the full article at Sky News.

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Loss of BBC Hindi shortwave service and listener reactions

(Photo by Elle via Unsplash)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF), who shares the following story from The Print:

Emotional emails & offers to crowdfund — how fans tried to keep BBC Hindi radio on air

The service fell silent last month with its last transmission on 31 January. The BBC management now plans to boost its digital and TV presence.

New Delhi: It was the BBC’s Hindi radio on shortwave that slowly carved an identity for the British broadcaster in India after its launch 80 years ago. With an estimated audience of 40 lakh across India, the radio service was the first choice for consumers of serious news and entertainment alike, particularly in the remote and far-flung parts of the country.

But the service fell silent last month, on 31 January, with the BBC management citing a dwindling audience and plans to boost digital and TV presence as reasons to call time on this chapter of history.

It came as a rude shock for its loyal audience and the dismay was evident, according to BBC insiders.

“It was heartbreaking to see the kind of emotional emails and letters we received on the days preceding the shutdown and after that,” an insider told ThePrint. “They (the audience) pleaded to keep the service afloat. Some even said they were willing to crowdfund it. But it seems the management was interested in the numbers and the BBC Hindi radio service on shortwave was not giving them adequate numbers.”

Another insider in the BBC said audience numbers for the radio service had come down from 1 crore a few years ago to about 40 lakh now, even as its presence on platforms such as YouTube thrived. The service has also established its presence on television with a tie-up with news channel NDTV.

“But in our experience the quality of news consumers is poor in digital as compared to the loyal audience that BBC Hindi radio service in shortwave enjoyed,” the second insider said, basing the assessment on feedback received from both sets of audiences.

“I would say the management was insensitive to the millions of listeners in the remote corners of India who banked on the service as their daily source of news,” the insider added.

The decision to switch off BBC Hindi radio is part of the British broadcaster’s global cost-cutting efforts. It had planned to end the BBC Hindi radio service in 2011, but changed plans owing to massive outrage and a high-profile campaign supported by eminent journalist and author Sir Mark Tully, a former bureau chief of the BBC.

It’s not just the BBC Hindi radio service that has suffered on account of this twin push to cut costs and go digital. Even BBC Urdu announced in December last year that it will end the radio broadcast of its popular news and current affairs programme, Sairbeen.

In India, BBC also has internet broadcasts in other Indian regional languages, but no associated radio services. […]

Continue reading the full article at The Print.

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Krasne Antenna Array: Help Rick solve a 22 year old mysetery

The mystery array

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rick Slobodian, who seeks help solving a 22 year old mystery. Rick writes:

[Perhaps you can help me] explain this antenna….a 22 year old mystery antenna (see photo above)? What sort of antenna is this and how does it work? It’s at 49.8994 N 24.685 E near Krasne, Ukraine.

I was at this transmitter site in 1998.

Antenna switch room

I was writing articles for a number of magazines hoping to find customers for airtime and to make this site viable.

I spent all day at the site wrote extensively about EVERYTHING ELSE: the shortwave transmitters, the longwave transmitters, the shortwave antennas, the vertical long wave antennas, and the vertical MW antennas.

Longwave antenna at Krasne

HRS curtain array at Krasne

The transmitters were behemoths: Komintern Burans 500Kw 1000 Kw 1200 Kw

New 1200 Kw transmitter under construction

This antenna was over a km form the main building and they would let me go there:

I took this photo of the array as I traveled past it by train.

Its 36 towers strung in a NE SE line–over 2 km long and each tower is approximately 40 m tall.

[My hosts] were they so evasive about this antenna array yet not the rest of the site.

[There are some peculiarities:]

  1. Do you see a feed line running along the bottom of the towers near the ground?
  2. I do not see any tuning shacks.
  3. Is it fed from one end or the other end or is each tower fed?
  4. If each tower is fed, then where are the tuning shacks/phasors?
  5. iIf it is a beverage then why so may towers and such close spacing?
  6. Is it something completely different?

What do you think it is? How do you think it works and what would be its purpose?

Thanks for sharing, Rick!  My hope is that one of the members of the Post community may be able to shed a little light on this interesting antenna array.  Please comment!

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WRTH 2020: A look inside

I received my review copy of the 2020 World Radio and TV Handbook (WRTH) shortly after returning from holiday travels last week. I always look forward to receiving this excellent staple radio reference guide–and this is their 74th edition! The WRTH has never disappointed, so my expectations are always quite high.

Once again, the WRTH lived up to my expectations.

WRTH’s team of noted DXers from around the world curate frequencies and broadcaster information by region; while I’m not sure how they orchestrate all of this, the end result is truly a symphony of radio information. In addition to broadcaster listings, WRTH’s radio reviews, feature articles, and annual HF report make for excellent reading.

But the WRTH isn’t just a frequency guide: the publication always devotes the first sixty or so pages to articles relating to various aspects of the radio hobby. Following, I offer a quick overview of these.

The first article always features a WRTH contributor:  this year, they feature Luis Cavalho who is their contributor for Portugal, the Azores and Madeira. His path to becoming a WRTH contributor began in his childhood snagging mediumwave DX with an array of portable radios. His love of radio lead him to the world of shortwave radio, WRTH and eventually his own radio website to serve Portuguese listeners.

WRTH Reviews

The second set of articles is always my favorite: WRTH receiver reviews.

This year, WRTH begins with an in-depth review of the excellent ELAD FDM-DUOr tabletop SDR receiver.  Next they build on their 2019 review of the SDRplay RSPduo by exploring its unique diversity reception capabilities. They also review the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and were so impressed they awarded it the 2020 Best Value SDR.

This year, WRTH also reviewed two portable radios by Pure: the Pure Elan E3 DAB, DAB+, FM receiver and the Pure Elan IR5 WifI radio.

The final two reviews are of affordable products that offer incredible value for the radio listener: the venerable Tecsun PL-310ET ultralight radio and the Tecsun AN-200 MW Loop Antenna. I enjoyed reading a fresh review of each of these products as I’ve personally used both for nearly a decade.

WRTH Features

The first feature article, written by none other than Dave Porter, focuses on the development of HF broadcast antennas. His article serves as an excellent primer on the topic, covering Rhombic Antennas, Corner Quadrant Antennas, Log-Periodic Arrays and ALLISS /Rigid Curtain Arrays. A must-read for those who want to know more about the “business side” of a broadcast signal!

Hans Johnson’s feature, Sea Breeze and Wind from Japan, explores the story behind the broadcasts to Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. Truly, an inspiring story of a determined and mission-dedicated broadcasters.

The following feature article was written by WRTH contributor and chief editor of the New Zealand DX Times, Stu Forsyth, who outlines the history of broadcasting from New Caledonia in the Pacific.

The next feature article focuses on the “finer points” of mediumwave propagation. I thought this was an informative and and timely article as so many shortwave DXers (including yours truly) spend time on the mediumwave bands especially during winter and times of rough HF propagation. A must-read!

Ashraf Chaaban, president of the Association des Radio Amateurs Tunisiens, takes WRTH readers with him on a visit to the Sidi Manson Transmitter Site in Tunisia in the final feature article. Having an affinity for broadcast sites, I sincerely enjoyed the focus on Sidi Manson which fell silent on shortwave in 2014.

Next, WRTH spotlight the annual Digital Update which summarizes the dynamic state of digital broadcasting. I’ve found this feature to be incredibly informative as we see how digital broadcasting is penetrating both domestic and international services.

The final article–a tradition–is the WRTH  HF propagation report/forecast by Ulf-Peter Hoppe. Always an informative read especially as we work our way out of a log-term solar slump.

The 74th is another fantastic edition of the World Radio TV Handbook. As I say every year, I’ve never been disappointed with WRTH. Their publishing standards are such that the quality of their reviews, their writing, and (most importantly) their broadcast listings are simply unparalleled.

At the heart of any WRTH is an uncompromising and unparalleled amount of information regarding regional and international broadcasting.

For DXers who collect QSL cards, you’ll find that broadcaster contact information in WRTH is often more up-to-date than a broadcaster’s own website. When readers contact me asking for QSL information from an obscure broadcaster, the first place I search is the current WRTH. Remember: their information is based on volunteer contributors who specialize in specific regions of the world–the most knowledgeable regional DXers keep this publication accurate.

Purchase your copy of WRTH 2020 directly from WRTH’s publishers, or from a distributor like Universal Radio (US) , Amazon.com (US),  or the Book Depository (international).

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Now Unblocked: Watching the new Radio Australia documentary

Yesterday, we posted a note about the new documentary, “Australia Calling: 80 Years of International Broadcasting.” At the time, I mentioned that the video was geo-blocked–meaning, you could not watch the video outside Australia without using a VPN.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Peter Marks, who shares this great news:

I’ve corresponded with the iview team and they have un-geoblocked the video. It can be watched here:

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/australia-calling-80-years-of-international-broadcasting/video/NC1940H001S00

I tested it over a VPN to Singapore and it played for me.

Thanks so much, Peter! I’ve loaded the video with no problems here in North America.

Click here to watch “Australia Calling.”


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Australia Calling: ABC documentary looking at the impact of Radio Australia

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post contributors who contacted me about a new documentary focused on the impact of Radio Australia. Peter Marks writes:

The celebration of 80 years of international broadcasting from Australia continues. The ABC has published “Australia Calling: A look at 80 years of Radio Australia and ABC international broadcasting” today:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-16/abc-celebrating-80-years-of-international-broadcasting/11783252

And tonight there’s a documentary being shown on TV.

There’s even a story about the making of that documentary here:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/about/backstory/news-coverage/2019-12-16/making-australia-calling-documentary/11795134

Thank you, Peter! I just started watching the documentary via ABC’s iView. Note that the program is geo-blocked and not available outside of Australia (unless, like me, you have a good VPN). [No longer geo-blocked! See update.]

Here’s a link to the documentary on iView:

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/australia-calling-80-years-of-international-broadcasting

Peter also shared a number of related stories–some of which we’ve published in the past:

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