Tag Archives: BBC Radio 4

“The Texas Tank: A Prison Radio Station Changing Lives”

SWLing Post friend and contributor, David Goren, notes that a piece he’s produced and Maria Margaronis has presented is now available to listen to online via BBC Radio 4: 

(Source: BBC Radio 4 with Photo credit from Michael Starghill))

The Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, used to be known as the Terror Dome for its high rates of inmate violence, murder and suicide. Polunsky houses all the men condemned to death in Texas (currently 185) and nearly 3,000 maximum security prisoners. But since the pandemic, a prison radio station almost entirely run by the men themselves has helped to create community–even for those on death row, who spend 23 hours a day locked alone in their cells.

The Tank beams all kinds of programmes across the prison complex: conversations both gruff and tender; music from R&B to metal; the soundtracks of old movies; inspirational messages from all faiths and none. The station’s steady signal has saved some men from suicide and many from loneliness; it lets family members and inmates dedicate songs to each other and make special shows for those on their way to execution. Maria Margaronis tunes in to The Tank and meets some of the men who say it’s changed their lives—even when those lives have just weeks left to run.

Produced by David Goren.

Click here to listen to The Texas Tank: A Prison Radio Station Changing Lives on Radio 4.

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Treetop Antennas: Featured with my friend Wlodek (US7IGN) on BBC Radio 4 Short Cuts

I’m very honored to be featured with my good friend Wlodek (US7IGN) in a short radio documentary on BBC Radio 4 today.

Wlodek is long-time reader and subscriber here on the SWLing Post and QRPer.com. Wlodek lives in Kiev, Ukraine and we keep in touch these days over email. Like me, he is passionate about field radio work and before the Russian invasion, you’d often find him in nearby forests experimenting with some pretty impressive field antennas.

Sadly, when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, it very quickly brought an end to all of that for Wlod. Not only were amateur radio operators not allowed to transmit under the state of emergency, but it’s no longer safe to venture into nearby forests.

Radio producer, Cicely Fell, learned about our love of all things field radio and put together an audio piece that airs today on BBC Radio 4:

BBC Radio 4 Short Cuts

From the forests of North Carolina, USA to the city of Kyiv, Ukraine – two ham radio enthusiasts seek each other out and a voice from the past prompts a dialogue on listening between a rabbi and a radio producer.

Click here to listen via the BBC Radio 4 website (note that the audio can be streamed shortly after the program airs today).

Many thanks to Cicely and her talented team at Falling Tree Productions for spending a little time with us in the forest and on the air! Truly an honor.

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BBC World Service: Licence fee spending to be cut £30m

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who notes that BBC Director General Tim Davie announced a digital strategy along with a number cuts following the BBC licence fee settlement. This was all outlined in his A digital-first BBC speech to staff this afternoon.

I’ve pasted the full copy of his speech below, but regarding the BBC World Service, here is an excerpt: 

“The Government’s commitment to extend its £94m annual funding for the World Service for a further three years is very welcome. But UK licence fee funding for the World Service, which has been around £254m in recent years, is now running at over £290m including World News – a level that is unsustainable following the licence fee settlement.

We will set out plans in the coming weeks for how we will initially reduce licence fee spending on the World Service by around £30m by the start of 2023/24, while protecting the full breadth of languages.

At the same time, our strategic review will identify the right longer-term model for a digital-first World Service and lay out a strong case for more investment from government over the coming years. This case for a strengthened World Service is compelling but we can only expect UK licence fee payers to fund so much.”

In addition, they hope to save £500m annually by cutting services such as Radio 4 Extra, Radio 4’s Long Wave service, and Radio 5 Live’s mediumwave transmitter network.

The Director General’s speech to staff, of course, primarily focused on being a world-class digital and on-demand provider. 

Here’s the full text of the speech via the BBC Media Centre:


A digital-first BBC

BBC Director-General Tim Davie’s speech to staff on 26 May 2022

Published: 26 May 2022

Good afternoon everybody.

Today, in our centenary year, I want to set out a vision of how we keep the BBC relevant and offer value to all audiences in an on-demand age.

I will cover three things: the pressing need to build a digital-first BBC; how we spend our money now that we have the certainty of public funding for six years; and how we keep reforming the way we work. Continue reading

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Radio Waves: Jessica Rosenworcel Acting FCC Chair, Nature Broadcaster Ludwig Koch, India DRM Update, and the QSO Today Ham Expo

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!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Trevor S, Ron, Phillip Smith,  for the following tips:


President Biden Taps Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as Acting FCC Chair (ARRL News)

President Joseph Biden this week designated FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chair of the FCC. She succeeds, at least temporarily, former FCC chair Ajit Pai, who resigned effective on January 20.

“I am honored to be designated as the Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “I thank the President for the opportunity to lead an agency with such a vital mission and talented staff. It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age.”

Prior to joining the FCC, she served as Senior Communications Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Before entering public service, she practiced communications law in Washington, DC.

The newest FCC commissioner, Nathan Simington, a Republican appointee, said Rosenworcel “brings deep knowledge and experience and highly informed judgment to her new position,” and he expressed appreciation that the Biden Administration acted promptly to establish FCC leadership by “selecting such a distinguished public servant for this vital role.

Fellow Democrat Geoffrey Starks said Rosenworcel “has been a passionate advocate for bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans — particularly our children.” He said her designation as acting chair “comes at a critical juncture for the Commission, as COVID-19 has made bold action to end internet inequality more vital than ever.”

The Commission’s other Democratic appointee, Brendan Carr, called Rosenworcel “a talented and dedicated public servant, as evidenced by her 8 years of distinguished service on the FCC.”

On Twitter, Rosenworcel said, “The future belongs to the connected,” and she described herself as an “impatient optimist, mom, wife, [and] inveterate coffee drinker.”[]

Ludwig Koch and the Music of Nature (BBC Radio 4)

Ludwig Koch was once as famous as David Attenborough, as pioneering as ‘Blue Planet’ and as important as the BBC Natural History Unit. They all owe their existence to this German refugee who first recorded the music of nature. Through his archive and new field recordings the poet Sean Street tells the story of Ludwig Koch.

When Sean Street was recording in a store-room at the Science Museum for a Radio 4 archive programme he came across a grey crate, stencilled, as if it belonged to a band on tour, with KOCH on it. This was the disc-cutting machine which Ludwig Koch used for a decade to make the recordings of birds, mammals and insects that led to a new field of study, of broadcasting and the creation of the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

Sean and his producer then began investigating and discovered that Koch made the first ever wildlife recording, of a bird, when he was eight, in 1889 – and that it still exists in the BBC’s archives.

Koch was an effusive man and this led to several confrontations with Nazi officials, whom he despised. There is an extraordinary recording of him telling the story of a Berliner whose bullfinch sang ‘The Internationale’. He was carted off to prison and the bird ‘executed’. “Under dictatorship,” Koch observed, “even songbirds suffer”. He came to England, worked with Julian Huxley on theories of animal language, and recorded birds from the Scillies to Shetland.

In 1940 he joined the BBC and soon became a household name, beloved of comedians (there’s a great sketch by Peter Sellers parodying him at work) because of his resolute pronunciation of English as if it were German.

As well as being wonderful radio in itself his work was of great significance. It inspired producer Desmond Hawkins to start ‘The Naturalist’, (using Koch’s enchanting recording of a curlew as its signature tune). Sean Street uses his recordings and contributions of those who worked with him in what becomes a natural history programme in itself, with Koch the subject and Sean exploring his habits and habitat.

There is also an attempt to record curlews as he did so successfully, to shed light on the achievements of this courageous, influential and loveable genius. Today sound-recordists use tiny digital machines and sophisticated microphones. But there are other problems – traffic, planes, people – and fewer, shyer curlews.

Producer: Julian May

Click here to listen to this radio documentary on BBC Radio 4.

Digital Radio Mondiale in Focus in India (Radio World)

The author of this commentary is chair of the Digital Radio Mondiale consortium.

Right from the beginning of 2021, Prasar Bharati, the public radio and TV broadcaster of India, has put its cards on the table. First it clarified that no AIR station was being closed anywhere in any state, a rumor that had made the media rounds in India.

Prasar Bharati has further announced that it is moving ahead with its plans to strengthen All India Radio, expanding its network with more than 100 new FM radio transmitters across India.

The AIR Network already comprises a few hundred stations and several hundred radio transmitters in one of the world’s largest public service broadcasting networks that operates on multiple terrestrial, satellite and internet platforms.

Prasar Bharati is also moving ahead with its plans to introduce digital terrestrial radio in India. According to the Indian broadcaster, select AIR channels are already available through digital DRM technology to listeners in many cities/regions. They can experience the power of DRM through a choice of multiple radio channels available on a single radio frequency in digital mode. These include AIR News 24×7 dedicated to news and current affairs, AIR Raagam 24×7 dedicated to classical music, apart from local/regional radio services and Live Sports.

According to Prasar Bharati AIR is in an advanced stage of testing digital technology options for FM radio, and a standard will be announced soon to herald the rollout of digital FM radio in India.

Already in 2020 AIR had introduced nonstop pure DRM transmissions with three services or programs on one frequency in four key metros: Mumbai 100 kW (1044 kHz), Kolkata 100 kW (1008 kHz), Chennai 20 kW (783 kHz) and New Delhi 20 kW (1368 kHz).[]

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo (QSO Today Expo)

Coming to your desktop, laptop, and tablet: March 13 and 14, 2021 and “on-demand” until April 12, 2021

?Early Bird Ticket Sales begin January 4, 2021

?Our first QSO Today Expo was a great success with over 16,000 attendees! We’re working hard to make our upcoming Expo even better with new speakers, panel discussions, kit building workshops, easy-to-use video technology to meet with exhibitors, and much more. There’s no need to travel – anybody can participate in this groundbreaking, amateur radio Expo built on a virtual reality platform.

After our last Expo, we asked for feedback from the amateur radio community on how we could make our next Expo even better. We received great suggestions, many of which we’ve incorporated into our upcoming event. Whether you’re a ham that doesn’t want to travel because of Covid or just live too far from a hamvention, the QSO Today Expo offers the opportunity to learn from many great speakers, meet with exhibitors to see the latest technology, and engage with fellow hams without leaving your home ham shack. And save thousands of dollars since you don’t have to worry about travel, food, and lodging! Early Bird Tickets are just $10 (to help cover the cost of this event, $12.50 at the “door”) and include entry for the Live 2 day period as well as the 30 day on-demand period).

Attendees have the opportunity to:

  • ?Listen to and engage with 60+ internationally recognized ham radio luminaries that have committed to lead Expo sessions.   For the list of speakers and speaker topic, click here
  • Take part in Live virtual kit building workshops.  Kits will be available for purchase and delivered to you in time for the Expo so you can participate and build from the convenience of your home.
  • Walk through our virtual exhibit hall filled with popular amateur radio suppliers. Watch new product demos and interact directly with booth staff.  At this Expo we’ll introduce new video technology to enable a better experience when engaging with exhibitors.
  • Prior to the Expo, take advantage of our new speaker calendar technology to download speaker times in your local time zones to Google and Outlook calendars.  This way you’ll have a complete schedule of what sessions you want to participate in.
  • Return over the next 30 days to listen to speakers you missed during the Live period, explore, and re-engage exhibitor offerings.

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Atlas Obscura: “This weather report has been making waves for 150 years.”

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who notes that the excellent website, Atlas Obscura, recently featured The Shipping Forecast:

Why a Maritime Forecast Is So Beloved in the United Kingdom

For the penultimate song on their 1994 album Parklife, Blur chose the swirling, meditative epic, “This Is a Low.” The song envisions a five-minute trip around the British Isles as an area of low pressure hits.

“Up the Tyne, Forth, and Cromarty,” sings the lead singer Damon Albarn, “there’s a low in the high Forties.” The song’s litany of playful-sounding place names, including the improbable “Biscay” and “Dogger,” may seem obscure to listeners abroad, but to a British audience, they resonate.

The song’s lyrics were inspired by the Shipping Forecast, a weather report that is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Sailors working around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, recipients of the wrath of the North Atlantic and North Sea, are the ostensible beneficiaries of the forecast.

But, for listeners who tune in while tucked in bed rather than sailing the high seas, the reassuring sound—a simple, steady listing of conditions in the seas around the British Isles, broken down into 31 “sea areas,” most of which are named after nearby geographical features—is something more akin to the beating pulse of the United Kingdom, as familiar as the national anthem or the solemn chimes of Big Ben.[…]

Continue reading the full story via Atlas Obscura.

Thanks for the tip, Eric!

SWLing Post readers know that I’m quite a fan of The Shipping Forecast. We’ve posted a number of articles about the Forecast on the SWLing Post in the past–click here to read through our archives.

When I lived in the UK, I would often fall asleep and/or wake up to the Shipping Forecast. Here in the States, I can listen to the forecast live via the U Twente WebSDR, but I rarely remember to do so.

And, of course, I can navigate to the Radio 4 website and stream current and past forecasts on demand, but I find the audio a little too clean and full fidelity. I prefer listening to my maritime poetry via Amplitude Modulation (AM)!

To satisfy my desire for some AM forecasts, this morning I fed my SSTran AM transmitter with audio from the Radio 4 website, then made a recording with my AirSpy HF+ SDR.

Here’s my AM version of the Shipping Forecast:

Click here to download as an MP3.

For the record: this is what you get when you combine a radio and shipping forecast geek!

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Wireless Nights on BBC Radio 4 features London Shortwave

One of London Shortwave’s portable spectrum capture systems

I am very happy to share that the BBC Radio 4 program Wireless Nights, Series 5, features our own community member London Shortwave this week. The show aired tonight (March 27) and the audio is now available to stream via the Radio 4 website. I’ve also embedded the audio below:

Here’s the description of the show from Radio 4:

Megahertz

Jarvis Cocker navigates the ether as he continues his nocturnal exploration of the human condition.

On a night voyage across a sea of shortwave he meets those who broadcast, monitor and harvest electronic radio transmissions after dark.

Paddy Macaloon, founder of the band Prefab Sprout, took to trawling the megahertz when he was recovering from eye surgery and the world around him became dark. Tuning in at night he developed a ghostly romance with far off voices and abnormal sounds.

Artist Katie Paterson and ‘Moonbouncer’ Peter Blair send Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to the moon and back, to find sections of it swallowed up by craters.

Journalist Colin Freeman was captured by the Somali pirates he went to report on and held hostage in a cave. But when one of them loaned him a shortwave radio, the faint signal to the outside world gave him hope as he dreamed of freedom.

And “London Shortwave” hides out in a park after dark, with his ear to the speaker on his radio, slowly turning the dial to reach all four corners of the earth

Jarvis sails in and out of their stories – from the cosmic to the captive – as he wonders what else is out there, deep in the noise

Producer Neil McCarthy.

I found Megahertz absolutely captivating! I’m very impressed with how all of the personal adventures in radio, including an array of motivations, were weaved together.

And brilliant job, London Shortwave! It was fun to go on a park outing with you and your spectrum capture gear!

Click here to listen to Megahertz on BBC Radio 4.

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Radio 4 Doc: Learning to Listen

Atwater-Kent-DialLooking back through my notes this morning, I re-discovered this excellent documentary on the early days of radio listening; how radio changed the way we interacted with music and how we interacted with our radios.

(Source: BBC Radio 4)

As broadcasting took the world by storm in the 1920s, the radio quickly became the hub of many households. Entire families would huddle around their receiver, each person individually connected with their own headset.

But for this first generation of radio listeners, the flexible styles of listening that we habitually employ today were by no means innate – many sat silent and fully attentive, listening just as they would in a concert hall.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook charts how a new, more informal style of listening gradually evolved through the 1920s and 30s, by delving into the diaries of the Austrian musician Heinrich Schenker.

Schenker began to record what he heard on the radio within days of the inaugural broadcast from Austria’s first official station, Radio Wien. This rare and fascinating record, which spans just over a decade, offers tangible evidence of how new approaches to listening emerged over these formative years. We’ll follow Schenker’s journey as the radio shifts from being something that demanded his rapt attention, to eventually becoming an integrated part of his domestic life.

Click here to listen to the full documentary on Radio 4.

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