ABC Friends represents the community’s interest in independent national public broadcasting:
NEW THREAT TO LIVES IN OUTBACK PLEA FOR URGENT MINISTERIAL ACTION
An urgent call for ministerial action to protect short wave services in Northern and Central Australia has been made by ABC Friends National.
“It is the responsibility of both the Minister for Communications Senator Fifield and the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to respond to this very real need with urgency,’” said ABC Friends National President Margaret Reynolds today.
ABC Friends National sent a letter in December to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, urging him to intervene so as to guarantee the ABC had sufficient funding to maintain the short wave service – which is so essential in rural and remote areas.
“Furthermore a number of Pacific Island states also rely on this service especially in the current cyclone season,” Margaret Reynolds said, “Pacific leaders have expressed concern about a loss of this service.”
”It is unacceptable to simply blame the ABC when government funding has been reduced so severely in recent years.”
“The ABC cannot provide adequate communication services for all Australians in isolated regions as well as support our Pacific neighbours if it is constantly facing funding cutbacks.”
“The Australian Government must accept that, ultimately, short wave services can provide early warning and be an important preventative disaster measure,” she said.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who writes:
Your readers may be interested in this article detailing a clandestine radio station that was set up between the Fretlin rebels in East Timor (now Timor Leste) and supporters based in Darwin where I live. The Fretlin rebels fought against the Indonesian occupation until the country’s independence in 2002. In the 1970s this was the only method of obtaining information on the brutal repression of the Timorese people by the Indonesian dictatorship
The man featured in the article, Brian Manning Snr., who died a couple years ago was a well known activist and trade unionist in the Northern Territory. He was also very involved in the campaign for Aboriginal workers to receive equal pay and conditions in the 1960s. This campaign was instrumental in raising the profile of the Aboriginal land rights movement in Australia. Brian Manning Jr. Is a good friend of mine.
If someone was to make an Australian version of Forrest Gump, they might look to Brian Manning’s life story for inspiration.
In 1966, he helped the Gurindji strikers in the Wave Hill walk-off. When Cyclone Tracy hit his hometown of Darwin, police commandeered his truck to collect dead bodies. Months later, he became involved in possibly the most important mission of his life.
That mission was Radio Maubere: an underground radio link that operated between Darwin and occupied East Timor during the 70s and 80s.
For many years, it was the only link the Timorese had with the outside world.
“Dad felt very strongly that these people needed to be supported in their struggle,” his son, Brian Manning Jr, said.
“So with a few other people, they got together and formed this radio operation.
“It was vital. There’s no doubt that the Indonesians were in there to systematically reduce the population by any means necessary.
“So these people were just killing people, and these stories had to get out.”
[…]As the years went on, and the list of confiscated radio transmitters grew longer and Manning’s tricks became more and more creative.
“They had a few decoy vehicles. And they had a few decoy radios. And they had people rendezvous with them in the bush in certain areas,” Brian Manning Jr said.
Often one person would set up the transmitter, another would come along and use it, and a third would arrive to pack it up and transport it out of danger.
[…]The broadcasters even devised their own coded language to communicate top secret information, remembers one of the group’s members, Robert Wesley-Smith.
“They each had a book, and the code would direct them to a page or something. It was very slow … but it was a great adventure,” Mr Wesley-Smith said.
Whatever problems Manning and his crew had in Australia were nothing compared to the dangers faced by those operating on the other end, where gunshots could sometimes be heard in the background.
There was a constant need to get new transmitters into the country, and an engineer from Sydney came up with an ingenious method for avoiding detection.
“It now fell to the resourcefulness of Andrew, who created a transmitter out of a ghetto blaster,” Manning wrote in his book.[…]
The post reminded me that I had made a small video demonstrating the DSP unit on my FRG7. The video shows me tuning the DSP on a broadcast of Voice of the People on 3912 khz. While QRM at my place isn’t too bad, it’s still present and the DSP does aid in clearing up a signal.
Voice of the People is usually jammed by the DPRK and the DSP also assists in reducing the roar of the jammer. Of course one can go to far with DSP and the audio can suffer from that underwater sound.
Thank you, Phil! The FRG-7 is an ideal receiver for something like the BHI module since it precedes on-board DSP. The great thing about an in-line module, of course, is that it can be used with a variety of receivers.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who writes:
The following piece regarding Radio Australia caught my eye last week. It was authored by Hamish McDonald and appeared in the 18 June 2016 edition of the Saturday Paper.
[McDonald] reports on a variety of foreign policy matters from an Australian perspective:
“Guthrie’s world view
Our mole at the ABC tells us new managing director wants to pull back from the embrace of the Chinese Communist Party’s Publicity Department, as the Ministry of Propaganda is known.
In her first meeting with the board on June 9, Guthrie questioned the value of the ABC’s Chinese language portal, AustraliaPlus.cn, which has been pinged by the ABC’s own watchdogs for pulling awkward content to avoid displeasing the CPC.
We are told she also “forcefully expressed” her interest in the corporation returning to full-blooded international broadcasting, and raised the fact that Radio Australia no longer broadcasts in Mandarin, nor in Tok Pisin, the lingua franca of Papua New Guinea. A return to international TV broadcasting two years after the Abbott government scrapped funding for the ABC’s Australia Network (to please Rupert Murdoch) would not come cheap. Nor would a revival of Radio Australia, once the major arm of Australia’s soft power in the region.”
I also spotted a reference to this meeting of the new ABC MD in a previous issue by another columnist which seems to be outside the paywall. Click here to view.
Many thanks, Phil, for sharing this! As I’ve mentioned before, Radio Australia is a staple source of news for many. I hope Guthrie does, indeed, re-focus on their international content and all forms of delivery.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who shares the following guest post–an article he originally authored for the Australian DX News:
What Future for Radio Broadcasting in Australia?
By Phil Brennan, Darwin, NT
As we witness the worldwide decline in long wave, medium wave , shortwave and indeed FM broadcasting, it can be at times a slightly depressing exercise to ponder the future of our hobby. As I write, just last week Radio France announced that it will soon cease all LW broadcasting. There’s an on-line petition to save the service: this morning it had collected 770 signatures after one week. It was 769 until I sent my modest click across the universe L.
On the domestic front we’ve seen the pointy-headed bean counters in Canberra and their political masters take the knife to our national broadcaster to the point where Radio Australia now seems to be little more than a relay station for the ABC with barely any in-house production tailored for its audience.
With all this doom and gloom it was with some trepidation that I spied a recent Australian Government report entitled Digital Radio Report which arrived via my email in-box through the excellent Australian Policy On-line resource. The report was published in July 2015 by the Department of Communications and was conducted by the Minister for Communications under the Broadcasting Services Act and the Radiocommunications Act. Note: the Minister for Communications then was Malcolm Turnbull who is now Australia’s Prime Minister.
The report makes for an interesting read (for nerds like us) and provides some great insight into the bureaucracy’s thinking on the future of radio broadcasting in this country. So while the report ostensibly considers the current and potential state of digital radio in Australia, in so doing it looks at the other forms of radio broadcasting and gives us a peek into the future.
The report broadly considers the following issues:
The current state of digital broadcasting and alternative forms, eg streaming services through the interwebs
Whether Australia should set a digital switchover date and close off analogue services; and
The legal and regulatory framework for digital services.
Like you would have dear reader I quickly scrolled through the report to see if it was recommending a full switchover to digital. The good news is that this won’t happen anytime soon and perhaps not ever. Phew! It seems Australia’s geography and sparse population works in our favour (for once). Anyway, more on that later.
So what does the Australian radio broadcasting landscape look like at present? Well for lovers of analogue radio it’s still looking pretty strong and it’s likely to remain that way for some time to come. In the five big cities the 2014 average weekly audience for commercial radio services grew by 4.13 per cent to 10.1 million people. That’s pretty impressive given the quality of the stuff they serve up each day. Aunty’s (that’s the ABC to foreign folk) radio service reached a record 4.7 million people in 13/14, an increase of 155,000 listeners on the previous year. Well done Aunty!
All up there are 273 analogue commercial radio services (104 on AM, 152 FM and 12 outside the broadcasting service bands. Community radio is going strong with 357 analogue services (13 AM and 344 FM) plus 244 narrowcasters (33 AM and 211 FM). There’s lots of stuff still out there it seems. Perhaps too much as the FM band is becoming very crowded in the major metropolitan areas.
There are 142 commercial digital services in the big capitals plus the two trial sites in Canberra and Darwin. Interestingly a good proportion of the digital services are simulcast analogue services, for example 11 out 29 of the commercial digitals in Sydney. Listenership of digital radio is growing slowly and steadily, reaching 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, primarily due to the growth of receivers in motor vehicles.
Streaming services are rapidly gaining ground with services like Spotify, Pandora and the new Apple Music picking up new subscribers each week. The move by Aunty and the Special Broadcasting Service’s (SBS) to mobile apps for streaming content is also showing good growth. It would appear that to some extent this growth has been at the expense of terrestrial digital services, but audience data in this area is pretty sketchy it seems.
So what of the future for digital radio? Well it seems that for the present the public does not show a preference for digital radio over other forms. And while some European countries such as Norway with near total digital coverage are looking to switch off their FM services, some countries such as the UK have postponed their planned switchover to digital due to slow uptake by the listening public.
In Australia there are big interests such as SBS, Commercial Radio Australia and Broadcast Australia pushing for a switchover to digital as soon as possible. Thankfully the report’s authors have listened to other bodies that advocate for a multi technology approach. Significantly the report notes that while digital could match FM for coverage with a similar number of transmitters, it will struggle to match the coverage provided by the medium and high powered AM transmitters that reach the remaining population. Digital Radio Mondiale and satellite digital radio technologies could increase digital’s coverage but are not considered viable.
Internet based services are not seen as a realistic alternative in the medium term due to high data costs, restricted wifi coverage, likely interruptions in high traffic areas and poor battery life on mobiles. It’s likely that this will be a niche medium for some time.
So what does the report conclude and recommend? Well, digital radio was only ever introduced as a complimentary technology and that will continue to be the case. In saying that the report makes a series of recommendations to free up the rules so broadcasters can take up the digital option more readily. DAB+ is the preferred technology so don’t go ordering a DRM set anytime soon.
Perhaps most interestingly, the report makes a major finding that there may be an opportunity to consider how analogue terrestrial radio coverage can be improved pending the roll out of digital radio. This includes further research into how AM coverage can be improved in metropolitan areas and whether the FM spectrum can be made available in regional areas for new analogue services or switching existing AM services over to FM, potentially in lieu of the rollout of digital services. For us lovers of analogue radio this is certainly good news, particularly if more high powered AM broadcasters hit the band.
Does this actually mean that analogue radio services are safe? Well, governments have been very good at ignoring reports advocating for the public good and succumbing to the commercial interests with other agendas, particularly when it comes to media. That said, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the government to pull the plug on analogue anytime soon given the coverage issues in regional Australia. However, when it comes to governments, the sensible thing to do is often viewed as the last option.