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!
Chief, Media Development and Media and Information Literacy at UNESCO Mirta Lourenço shares insight on radio’s evolution and challenges. She explains how the international organization is working to support radio stations around the world to ensure they’re able to accomplish their crucial mission.
RedTech: How do you view the role of radio in our society?
Mirta Lourenço: Thanks to radio, we benefit from many essential public services that we seldom reflect on. These include global positioning systems, satellite navigation, environmental monitoring, intelligent transport systems, space research, etc. Radio broadcasts offer information and the possibility for people to participate, regardless of their literacy levels and socio-economic situation.
The medium is also especially suited for multilingualism. Audiences may need to hear programs in their primary language, particularly if said language is local and endangered, or in the case of refugee radio or isolated communities. Also, when literacy levels are low, local languages are crucial to the populations’ access to information, as radio constitutes the main source for reliable journalism. History has shown us that radio is the most effective emergency communication system and in organizing disaster response.
All this does not mean that radio broadcasting is free from challenges. Continue reading →
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.[…]
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.