Tag Archives: BBC

Radio Waves: China Bans BBC, Invention of Radio, Diversity and Connections, and DJ Broadway Bill Lee Talks Radio and AM DXing

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 Patrick, Marcus, Mike and Tracy for the following tips:


China bans BBC World News from broadcasting (BBC News)

China has banned BBC World News from broadcasting in the country, its television and radio regulator announced on Thursday.

China has criticised the BBC for its reporting on coronavirus and the persecution of ethnic minority Uighurs.

The BBC said it was “disappointed” by the decision.

It follows British media regulator Ofcom revoking state broadcaster China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the UK.

Separately, the broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) said it would stop relaying BBC World Service programming in the region, prompting condemnation from the BBC.

China’s State Film, TV and Radio Administration said that BBC World News reports about China were found to “seriously violate” broadcast guidelines, including “the requirement that news should be truthful and fair” and not “harm China’s national interests”.

It said that the BBC’s application to air for another year would not be accepted.

The BBC said in a statement: “We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action. The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories from around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour.”[]

In Our Time: The Invention of Radio (BBC Sounds)

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the invention of radio. In the early 1860s the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell derived four equations which together describe the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. They predicted the existence of a previously unknown phenomenon: electromagnetic waves. These waves were first observed in the early 1880s, and over the next two decades a succession of scientists and engineers built increasingly elaborate devices to produce and detect them. Eventually this gave birth to a new technology: radio. The Italian Guglielmo Marconi is commonly described as the father of radio – but many other figures were involved in its development, and it was not him but a Canadian, Reginald Fessenden, who first succeeded in transmitting speech over the airwaves.

With:

Simon Schaffer
Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge

Elizabeth Bruton
Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Leeds

John Liffen
Curator of Communications at the Science Museum, London

Producer: Thomas Morris

Click here to listen via BBC Sounds.

World Radio Day 2021: Radio creates diversity and connects people (RADIOZENTRALE GmbH)

World Radio Day 2021: Radio creates diversity and connects people

World Radio Day will be announced by UNESCO for the tenth time on February 13th and once again refers to how important radio is for society and why it connects people.

Time to celebrate: UNESCO has proclaimed World Radio Day for the tenth time. In Germany, radio has been the everyday companion of people for a hundred years and, more than ever, radio is the medium of the hour. So this jubilee round provides many good reasons to pause and ask what radio means for each individual, society and the world. Radio itself does not take a break, it is on the air – every day and around the clock. Radio informs, entertains and offers a variety of programs, opinions and content. As a matter of course – and yet so indispensable – radio, both large and small, is the vital voice of people and for people.

At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium

The world is changing rapidly. Social and political processes are becoming more dynamic due to new technologies, the communication network is getting faster and bigger and the challenges are becoming more important. In these processes, radio not only offers diversity, classification and orientation, but is also an integral part of opinion-forming because it is the platform for democratic discourse. This unique ability to reach a wide audience means radio can shape a society through diversity and is the place for those who want to speak up.

100 years of radio in Germany

In Germany, the medium for the ears and the head cinema is celebrating its centenary this year. The innovative strength of the medium and the trust base with listeners that has grown over the decades make it possible for radio to be the medium of the hour more than ever. It is the last mass medium and at the same time can digitally reach everyone with the entire range of offers. Radio is at eye level with people – both in terms of content and technology. Because just as society and people’s everyday lives have changed dramatically, so too have listening habits and content. What remains, however, is the great art of putting complex topics into understandable words and giving diversity a voice.

“Today we are experiencing that the world is changing rapidly. We face major challenges when I think of climate change, the current corona pandemic or the debates on racism, for example. The task of radio here is to inform and classify. To make the soft tones heard and to reflect the diversity of opinions, ”says Grit Leithäuser, Managing Director of Radiozentrale. “But the most important thing is to act at eye level with the listeners. This grown connection and mutual trust are something for both sides that one should be aware of and that it has to be preserved every day. Then, in a hundred years, radio will be the medium for people who listen on whatever technical route, in order to learn from one another and to live diversity. ”

World Radio Day was first proclaimed by UNESCO in 2012 and this year it has the motto: “New World, New Radio”. At the suggestion of Spain, the General Conference of UNESCO initiated World Radio Day in memory of the founding of United Nations Radio on February 13, 1946. The aim of the day is to make the public and the media more aware of the importance of radio, to the decision-makers Encourage information to be established and made accessible through the radio.

Further information on World Radio Day can be found at: https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldradioday

The generic initiative Radiozentrale sees itself as a common platform for public and private radio stations as well as generic companies in the radio industry. The radio center has set itself the goal of positioning the medium of radio and providing comprehensive information about the (advertising) medium of radio. More information: www.radiozentrale.de

DJ Broadway Bill Lee talks about today’s radio, AM DXing and much more (Stars Cars Guitars via YouTube)

Broadway Bill Lee raps to Alex Dyke about growing up in Cleveland, the impact of the Beatles in 1964 and honing his craft as a DJ. Bill remembers being on-air in New York City the night that John Lennon was murdered and how he felt compelled to take to the air on September 11th 2001.

 


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Radio Waves: New Quantum Receiver, Virus and Distance Learning by Radio, BBC Woofferton Early Days, and Hello Morse

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 Andrea, Kim Andrew Elliott, Dave Porter, and Phillip Novak for the following tips:


New quantum receiver the first to detect entire radio frequency spectrum (Phys.org)

A new quantum sensor can analyze the full spectrum of radio frequency and real-world signals, unleashing new potentials for soldier communications, spectrum awareness and electronic warfare.

Army researchers built the quantum sensor, which can sample the radio-frequency spectrum—from zero frequency up to 20 GHz—and detect AM and FM radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other communication signals.

The Rydberg sensor uses laser beams to create highly-excited Rydberg atoms directly above a microwave circuit, to boost and hone in on the portion of the spectrum being measured. The Rydberg atoms are sensitive to the circuit’s voltage, enabling the device to be used as a sensitive probe for the wide range of signals in the RF spectrum.

“All previous demonstrations of Rydberg atomic sensors have only been able to sense small and specific regions of the RF spectrum, but our sensor now operates continuously over a wide frequency range for the first time,” said Dr. Kevin Cox, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory. “This is a really important step toward proving that quantum sensors can provide a new, and dominant, set of capabilities for our Soldiers, who are operating in an increasingly complex electro-magnetic battlespace.”

The Rydberg spectrum analyzer has the potential to surpass fundamental limitations of traditional electronics in sensitivity, bandwidth and frequency range. Because of this, the lab’s Rydberg spectrum analyzer and other quantum sensors have the potential to unlock a new frontier of Army sensors for spectrum awareness, electronic warfare, sensing and communications—part of the Army’s modernization strategy.

“Devices that are based on quantum constituents are one of the Army’s top priorities to enable technical surprise in the competitive future battlespace,” said Army researcher Dr. David Meyer. “Quantum sensors in general, including the one demonstrated here, offer unparalleled sensitivity and accuracy to detect a wide range of mission-critical signals.”

The peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Applied published the researchers’ findings, Waveguide-coupled Rydberg spectrum analyzer from 0 to 20 GigaHerz, co-authored by Army researchers Drs. David Meyer, Paul Kunz, and Kevin Cox[]

Virus and distance learning by radio (1937, 1946) (AE5X Blog)

Six to eight decades ago polio was one of the most feared diseases in the US. In 1952 alone, 60,000 children were infected, 3000 died and many more were paralyzed.
The most severe outbreaks were in 1937 and 1946. My father was a victim of the 1946 epidemic, suffering minor paralysis in one leg as a child.

In 1937, many schools around the country closed, as did public pools, movie theaters and parks. But the Chicago public school system took an innovative approach.

During that period, 80% of US households contained a radio. This allowed 325,000 children in grades 3-8 to continue their education at home via radio lessons aired by six Chicago radio stations (WENR, WLS, WIND, WJJD, WCFL, WGN) that donated time for the purpose.

Program schedules for each day were printed in the morning paper. Home with more than one radio & more than one child often set up radios in different rooms so that each child could hear the appropriate grade’s lesson.

This continued for one month…until schools reopened in late September of that year.

Curriculum was developed by teachers and monitored over the air by school officials. After each episode, a limited number of teachers were available for phone calls. A large number of the calls were from parents distressed that they could not clearly receive the broadcasts.[Continue reading…]

BBC Woofferton Early Days (Ludlow Heritage News) [PDF]

Very few structures are left in the Ludlow area which can be traced back to the Second World War. However, look five miles south of the town towards the rise of the hills and a tracery of masts can be seen. Go closer, and a large building can be found by the road to Orleton, surrounded now by a flock of satellite dishes, pointing upwards. The dishes are a sign of the recent past, but the large low building was made for the war-time radio station aimed at Germany.

This little history attempts to tell the story of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s transmitting station at Woofferton near Ludlow in Shropshire during the first years of its existence. When and why did the BBC appear in the Welsh border landscape with a vast array of masts and wires strung up in the air? The story begins in 1932, when the BBC Empire Service opened from the first station at Daventry in Northamptonshire. Originally, the service, to link the Empire by wireless, was intended to be transmitted on long-wave or low frequency. But, following the discovery by radio amateurs that long distance communication was possible by using high frequency or short waves, the plan was changed. Later in the decade, the BBC expanded the service by also broadcasting in foreign languages. Although Daventry had a distinguished name in the broadcasting world, it was never technically the best place for a short-wave site, being on a hill and close to a growing town.

This article can be found in the Ludlow Heritage News: click here to download the full PDF.

 

Hello Morse: A collection of AI and Chrome experiments inspired by Morse code on Android Gboard (Google)

Developer Tania Finlayson found her voice through Morse code. Now she’s partnering with Google to bring Morse code to Gboard, so others can try it for accessible communication.

Morse code for Gboard includes settings that allow users to customize the keyboard to their unique usage needs. It works in tandem with Android Accessibility features like Switch Access and Point Scan.

This provides access to Gboard’s AI driven predictions and suggestions, as well as an entry point to AI-powered products, like the Google Assistant.[]

 


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Radio Waves: More Cuts to Radio Canada International, RCI Action Comments, End of Radio Disney, Changes to German Phonetic Alphabet and Is FM More Efficient than DAB?

View of the western cluster of curtain antennas from the roof of RCI Sackville’s former transmissions building. Photo from June, 2012.

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 Kris Partridge, Gareth Buxton, Dave Zantow, and Paul R for the following tips:


Canada’s public broadcaster announces new cuts to Radio Canada International (Radio Canada International)

Officials at CBC/Radio-Canada announced a fresh round of cuts at Radio Canada International (RCI) on Thursday as part of a “major transformation” of the beleaguered international service of Canada’s public broadcaster.

A joint statement released by Radio-Canada executive vice-president Michel Bissonnette and his CBC counterpart, Barbara Williams, said the goal of the transformation was “to ensure that the service remains a strong and relevant voice in the 21st-century media landscape.”

“In its strategic plan Your Stories, Taken to Heart, the public broadcaster committed to ‘taking Canada to the world’ and ‘reflecting contemporary Canada,’” the joint statement said.

“Transforming RCI is a necessary step to allow the service to effectively fulfil the important role it must play in delivering on those commitments.

“To that end, RCI will soon be offering more content in more languages, drawing on the work of CBC/Radio-Canada’s respected news teams to reach new audiences at home and abroad.”

Earlier in the morning Radio-Canada executives held a virtual meeting with RCI employees to inform them of upcoming changes.

In all, the transformation will reduce the number of RCI employees by more than half, from the current 20 to nine, including five journalists assigned to translate and adapt CBC and Radio-Canada articles, three field reporters, and one chief editor.

As part of the announced transformation, the English and French language services of RCI will be eliminated and will be replaced by curated content created by CBC and Radio-Canada respectively.

The remaining Arabic, Chinese and Spanish services will also be reduced in size.

However, two new language services – Punjabi and Tagalog – will be added to the editorial offering presented by RCI, officials said.

RCI content will also get more visibility by being incorporated into CBCNews.ca and Radio-Canada.ca with its own portal page featuring all the languages, the statement said.

RCI apps will be folded into the CBC News and Radio-Canada Info mobile apps, while the service’s five existing apps will be deleted, the statement added.

Under the new plan, RCI’s operations will focus on three main areas: translating and adapting a curated selection of articles from CBCNews.ca and Radio-Canada.ca sites; producing a new weekly podcast in each RCI language; and producing reports from the field in Chinese, Arabic and Punjabi.

“This transformation will help bring RCI’s high-quality, relevant content to more people around the globe and allow them to discover our country’s rich culture and diversity,” the statement said.

The union representing Radio-Canada employees lambasted the move as a “rampage.”

“It feels like Groundhog Day with more cuts to RCI under the guise of transformation,” said Pierre Toussignant, president of Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (SCRC).

In 2012, CBC/Radio-Canada slashed RCI’s budget by nearly 80 per cent, forcing it to abandon shortwave radio broadcasting altogether. The cuts also resulted in significant layoffs and the closure of RCI’s Russian, Ukrainian and Portuguese language services.[]

‘Modernizing’ RCI to death! (RCI Action)

On December 3, 2020, Canada’s national public radio and television broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada announced “a major transformation” of Radio Canada International (RCI) titled “Modernizing Radio Canada International for the 21st century”. And if you didn’t know anything about the toxic relationship between the two, you would really think this was great news.

After all the budget cuts the national broadcaster has imposed on RCI (for example an 80 % cut in 2012) the news this time is more languages, greater visibility, and an expanded editorial line-up.

Let’s take these “improvements” one at a time.

How has CBC/Radio-Canada decided to give “greater visibility” for RCI’s Internet content? They’re going to bury it in inside the CBC and Radio-Canada websites, and not allow RCI to continue on a site that has existed since 1996.

In this same announcement, CBC/Radio-Canada says it’s adding complete sections in Punjabi and Tagalog to the existing services in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. In fact it’s adding one “field” journalist to work in Punjabi, and one in Tagalog – not whole sections.

As far as the Spanish, Arabic and Chinese services which each have three seasoned experienced presenter-producers offering tailored content for their target audiences outside Canada, well, they’re all fired. What will remain is one “journalist” per language, who will be obliged to translate texts given to them in English and French.

And now we come to the sections working in Canada’s official languages of English and French. Again, each of these services has three seasoned experienced presenter-producers offering tailored content for an international audience that needs explanations that the domestic service is not obliged to do. So what will Canada’s Voice to the World be obliged to do in this “major transformation”? Fire all six producers and have an editor at CBC, and one at Radio-Canada, choose some stories, and place it on the “RCI website” which is just a section of the CBC and Radio-Canada websites. Yes, the ones that give RCI “greater visibility”.

The CBC/Radio-Canada announcement speaks glowingly about how RCI has provided a Canadian perspective on world affairs, but then starts skidding into talking about “connecting with newcomers to our country”, “engaging with its target audience, particularly newcomers to Canada”, and making this new content “freely available to interested ethnic community media.” Certainly sounds like CBC/Radio-Canada is intent on servicing ethnic communities in Canada.

But there’s a problem. That’s not RCI’s mandate. And CBC/Radio-Canada has no right to change that mandate. Because Canada’s Broadcasting  Act,  Article 46 (2), makes it a condition of the national public broadcaster’s licence to provide an international service “in accordance with such directions as the Governor in Council may issue.”

And the latest Governor in Council, Order in Council, PC Number:2012-0775, says Radio Canada International must “produce and distribute programming targeted at international audiences to increase awareness of Canada, its values and its social, economic and cultural activities”.

This latest announcement by the CBC/Radio-Canada is, unfortunately, yet another in a string of actions over the last 30 years to eliminate Canada’s Voice to the World.

After failing to shutdown the service in 1990, 1995 and 1996 when pressure from listeners from around the world, and from Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators stopped the closure, the national broadcaster went about dismantling RCI one section after another, one resource after another in a death by a thousand cuts.

This assault on RCI really started in earnest in 1990 when Canada’s Voice to the World was a widely popular and respected international service of 200 employees, broadcasting in 14 languages heard around the world. The 1990 cut removed half the employees, and half the language sections. Over the years, under the guise of streamlining and improving the service, it’s been one cut after another. With this year’s announcement RCI will have a total of nine employees!

Not satisfied with cutting resources, CBC/Radio-Canada has also continually tried to undermine RCI’s international role.

When in 2003 a Canadian parliamentary committee agreed with the RCI Action Committee, in emphasizing RCI’s important international role and suggested more resources should be given to RCI, CBC/Radio-Canada responded by removing two key corporate policies that specifically outlined the necessity for producing programmes for an international audience, again, despite an obligation under the Broadcasting Act.

The reductions in resources, the limiting or decreasing of RCI’s outreach, culminated in 2012 when CBC/Radio-Canada announced it was taking RCI off of shortwave radio broadcasts which had been the main way of communicating to the world since 1945.

This decision deliberately ignored the 2003 Order in Council that specifically obliged CBC as part of its licence to have RCI broadcast on shortwave. Two months after protests by the RCI Action Committee highlighted the illegality of this move, the Canadian Heritage Minister at the time, changed the Order in Council, eliminating shortwave from RCI’s obligations.

This whole sorry tale underlines a key problem facing Radio Canada International:

A domestic national broadcaster is deciding whether or not Canada should have an international voice to the world, and how well it should be funded.

Clearly however, the decision of whether Canada has a Voice to the World and how well it should be funded, should be a decision made by Parliament.

In the meantime, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault should tell CBC/Radio-Canada that it is not allowed to make this latest policy change. Then he should freeze any changes to the service until there is a serious renewal of the Voice of Canada, one that will give it financial and political protection from a toxic relationship with the national broadcaster.[]

Radio Disney, Radio Disney Country to End Operations in Early 2021 (Variety)

Radio Disney and Radio Disney Country are shutting down early next year.

Disney Branded Television president Gary Marsh announced the news Thursday, which impacts 36 part-time and full-time employees. The move comes as Marsh’s division looks to emphasize the production of kids and family content for streaming service Disney Plus and the linear Disney Channels.

Radio Disney first debuted in Nov. 1996 as a terrestrial broadcast network, aimed at kids, who would pick music playlist by calling a toll-free phone request line. The station was key to amplifying a bevy of musical artists, including the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Hilary Duff, Aaron Carter and others.

Radio Disney Country launched in 2015 as a digital platform, expanding two years later with two Los Angeles terrestrial stations.[]

Germany to wipe Nazi traces from phonetic alphabet (BBC News)

Germany is to revamp its phonetic alphabet to remove words added by the Nazis.

Before the Nazi dictatorship some Jewish names were used in the phonetic alphabet – such as “D for David”, “N for Nathan” and “Z for Zacharias”.

But the Nazis replaced these with Dora, North Pole and Zeppelin, and their use has since continued with most Germans unaware of their anti-Semitic origin.

Experts are working on new terms, to be put to the public and adopted in 2022.

The initiative sprang from Michael Blume, in charge of fighting anti-Semitism in the state of Baden-Württemberg, backed by the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

The job of devising new terms for the problematic letters is now in the hands of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN).

The commonly-used equivalent in the UK is the Nato phonetic alphabet, with terms such as “F for Foxtrot, T for Tango”. But many English speakers also use terms like “D for Dennis, S for Sugar” on the phone.[]

Click here for the Newsroom audio via BBC Sounds.

How much energy is used to deliver and listen to radio? (BBC Research and Development)

Is FM radio more energy-efficient than DAB? Do transmitters or audio devices consume the most electricity? What effect will switching off certain radio platforms have on energy use? As part of our work to improve the environmental impact of BBC services, we now have the answers to these questions and more.

Today, we are publishing our research which explores the energy footprint of BBC radio services, both as it stands now and how it may change in the future. This work is the first of its kind in analysing the novel area of radio energy use and forms an extension to the research we released back in September looking at the environmental impact of BBC television.

In our study, we considered the energy use across all available platforms, namely AM, FMDAB, digital television (DTV) and via internet streaming services (such as BBC Sounds), revealing which ones have the largest footprints. We also compared energy use at various stages in the radio chain – not just looking at what the BBC is directly responsible for, such as preparation (playout, encoding and multiplexing) and distribution (transmitters and internet networks), but also in the consumption of our content by audiences. This highlighted the key energy hotspots in the BBC radio system and where best to focus our efforts if we want to reduce our energy footprint.[]


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Links for a deep dive into BBC radio history

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who writes:

Last night I sent the link to the SWLing Droitwch item to a former colleague. He replied this morning, reply below, and includes a couple of useful links. I’m very sure the SWLing Post knows about MB21.

Thinking that maybe the item on Crowbourgh will be of interest to SWLing readers. It contains the ‘magic’ word “Aspidistra” ! Lot of SW history there.

[From my former colleague:]

You’re probably aware of the “Tricks of the Trade” articles that Dave Porter has also published. http://bbceng.info/Technical%20Reviews/tott/tott.htm

Dave was also able to provide some useful contacts for my mb21 colleague Martin Watkins who was compiling a page about the history of Crowborough. http://tx.mb21.co.uk/gallery/gallerypage.php?txid=2495

Thank you so much for the link to Dave Porter’s “Tricks of the Trade” and MB21! What a wonderful deep dive into radio history!

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Photo emerges of Droitwich mast and LF antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Porter, who writes:

This picture [above] has just emerged, photographer unknown but most likely a rigger from the top of one of the 700′ masts there!

This was taken at Droitwich sometime after colour photography came in (late 1960’s) and before 1986 when the four wire Tee was replaced by a new design developed by BBC Antenna Engineer Tony Preedy, G3LNP that improved upon the 11-j85 Ohms driving point impedance giving a few more ohms and less capacitive reactance for the 2 x 250kW B6042 transmitters and a greater radiation efficiency.

Tony’s present LF array does not look so symmetrical as it comprises four separate Tee wires with the drops as a square box rather than the centre-joined drops of this one.

Tony also developed a low profile Tee antenna over 3 x 17m wooden telegraph poles for MF at up to 1 kW that was used when planning restrictions were enforced. Efficiencies were up to 40% at the 1500 kHz end of the band. However, if used by birds as an overnight roost it could provoke VSWR trips on solid state transmitters, the fix was to use a sliding reduced power detector that wound down the power to a level that did not trip the VSWR monitoring. Old tube transmitters were not affected!

The operating frequency for this LF Tee was 200 kHz at that time, now the antenna is on 198 kHz

Wow–thank you, Dave, for sharing this photo. We truly appreciate your impressive knowledge of UK broadcasting and history! And, wow! The views those riggers took in!

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Radio Waves: A Cryptologic Mystery, RSGB Opens Doors to Full Online License Exams, Secret War, and September Issue of RadCom Basics Availabe

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 Ron, John (K5MO) and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


A Cryptologic Mystery (Matt Blaze)

Did a broken random number generator in Cuba help expose a Russian espionage network?
I picked up the new book Compromised last week and was intrigued to discover that it may have shed some light on a small (and rather esoteric) cryptologic and espionage mystery that I’ve been puzzling over for about 15 years. Compromised is primarily a memoir of former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok’s investigation into Russian operations in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, but this post is not a review of the book or concerned with that aspect of it.

Early in the book, as an almost throwaway bit of background color, Strzok discusses his work in Boston investigating the famous Russian “illegals” espionage network from 2000 until their arrest (and subsequent exchange with Russia) in 2010. “Illegals” are foreign agents operating abroad under false identities and without official or diplomatic cover. In this case, ten Russian illegals were living and working in the US under false Canadian and American identities. (The case inspired the recent TV series The Americans.)

Strzok was the case agent responsible for two of the suspects, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova (posing as a Canadian couple under the aliases Donald Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley). The author recounts watching from the street on Thursday evenings as Vavilova received encrypted shortwave “numbers” transmissions in their Cambridge, MA apartment.

Given that Bezrukov and Vaviloa were indeed, as the FBI suspected, Russian spies, it’s not surprising that they were sent messages from headquarters using this method; numbers stations are part of time-honored espionage tradecraft for communicating with covert agents. But their capture may have illustrated how subtle errors can cause these systems to fail badly in practice, even when the cryptography itself is sound.[]

Online Full ham radio exams now available (Southgate ARC)

From today, Thursday, Sept 24, the RSGB are allowing Full amateur radio online exams to be booked. All 3 levels of exam required to get a HAREC certificate can now be done completely online

Potentially this could mean amateurs in other countries could take the RSGB online exams, get their HAREC certificate and then apply for an amateur licence in their own country. This would be beneficial in those countries where provision of local exams is virtually non-existent.

Currently there is a 4-5 week backlog for amateur radio exams, the next available exam slots that can be booked are at the end of October.

You can book online UK amateur radio exams at
http://www.rsgb.org/exampay

Details of onlne amateur radio training courses are at
https://rsgb.org/main/clubs-training/for-students/online-training-resources-for-students/

The Secret War (BBC)

The wartime BBC was involved in a range of top secret activities, working closely with the intelligence agencies and military.

by Professor David Hendy

As well as making programmes for the public, the wartime BBC was involved in a range of top secret activity, working with closely with the intelligence agencies and military. Here, newly-released archives lift the veil on the broadcaster’s role in this clandestine world of signals, codes, and special operations.

It’s always been known that just before the war began in September 1939, the BBC’s fledgling television service was unceremoniously shut down for the entire period of the conflict.

What’s less well-known is that, far from being mothballed, the television facilities of Alexandra Palace were carefully kept ticking-over by a small team of engineers – and that the transmitter which had supposedly been silenced for reasons of national security was soon sending out its signals again.

From May 1940, Alexandra Palace’s ‘vision’ transmitter was being tested for its ability to jam any messages passing between tanks in an invading German force. The following year, its sound transmitter was being deployed for something called ‘bending the beam’. One of the BBC’s engineers who remained on site was Tony Bridgewater:[]

September RadCom Basics available (Southgate ARC)

Issue 18 September 2020 of the RSGB newcomers publication RadCom Basics is now available online for members

RadCom Basics is a bi-monthly digital publication for RSGB Members that explores key aspects of amateur radio in a straightforward and accessible way.

In this issue:
• Magnetic loop antennas
• Metal bashing
• Station maintenance

Read the latest issue at
https://rsgb.org/main/publications-archives/radcom-basics/


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Faulty TV to blame for 18 month broadband outage

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jeremy, who–in light of our recent discussions about RFI–shares the following news item from the BBC:

The mystery of why an entire village lost its broadband every morning at 7am was solved when engineers discovered an old television was to blame.

An unnamed householder in Aberhosan, Powys, was unaware the old set would emit a signal which would interfere with the entire village’s broadband.

After 18 months engineers began an investigation after a cable replacement programme failed to fix the issue.

The embarrassed householder promised not to use the television again.

The village now has a stable broadband signal.

Openreach engineers were baffled by the continuous problem and it wasn’t until they used a monitoring device that they found the fault.

[…]”Our device picked up a large burst of electrical interference in the village.

“It turned out that at 7am every morning the occupant would switch on their old TV which would, in turn, knock out broadband for the entire village.”

The TV was found to be emitting a single high-level impulse noise (SHINE), which causes electrical interference in other devices.

Mr Jones said the problem has not returned since the fault was identified.[…]

Click here to read the full story at the BBC.

Thank you for sharing this, Jeremy. I can guarantee that if the TV was emitting enough noise to interfere with broadband, it likely also affected the HF, MW, and LW radio bands!

What baffles me is the amount of time it took for the engineers to track down the source in such a small community. A skilled RFI engineer would have likely discovered what was causing the noise by looking at the spectrum analyzer–quite often the signal shape and frequency are indicators. In addition, a little signal “fox hunting” could have proven useful. With that said, noises aren’t always easy to locate and can travel along unexpected paths.

I certainly don’t blame the resident for remaining anonymous!

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