Tag Archives: Pirate Radio

Radio Waves: Insomnia-Fueled Pirate, Cold War & High-Tech Tactics for Russia, PL-660 Panadapter, Women-Run Radio in Somalia, and Building an SDR Transceiver

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


Meet the 68-year-old ‘bad-boy nerd’ behind this North Side pirate radio station (WBEZ)

If you’re driving through the greater Ravenswood area and tune your radio dial to 87.9 FM, you might just enter a sort of radio twilight zone. On tap? Old timey, crime-thriller radio dramas, complete with sleuthy melodramatic music, damsels in distress and classic radio sound effects – footsteps, doors slamming, the gun going off.

There are no call letters or DJs, just “audio noir” floating out over a two-square-mile sweet spot on Chicago’s North Side.

It’s all broadcast illegally out of a nondescript two-flat on a residential block. There’s a spindly antenna on the roof, visible mainly from the alley, and a 50-watt transmitter in the upstairs apartment. And there’s Bill, a retired computer and audio engineer who’s been operating this illegal station for some 15 years. He asked us not to use his last name for fear of “FCC prison.”

“People on the lakefront up in the high rises can hear it,” said Bill. “And they used to listen at Lane Tech somewhere on an upper floor. So it gets out a little ways, but not that far.”

Bill got into noir not because it’s gripping radio, but rather because it’s not. He has insomnia, and the plot lines from Dragnet and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar help him fall asleep. [Continue reading and listen to this piece at WBEZ.]

U.S. and Ukrainian Groups Pierce Putin’s Propaganda Bubble (NY Times)

U.S.-backed news outlets and Ukrainian activists use Cold War techniques and high-tech tactics to get news about the war to Russians.

WASHINGTON — Using a mix of high-tech and Cold War tactics, Ukrainian activists and Western institutions have begun to pierce the propaganda bubble in Russia, circulating information about the Ukraine war among Russian citizens to sow doubt about the Kremlin’s accounts.

The efforts come at a particularly urgent moment: Moscow appears to be preparing for a new assault in eastern Ukraine that could prove devastatingly bloody to both sides, while mounting reports of atrocities make plain the brutality of the Kremlin’s tactics.

As Russia presents a sanitized version of the war, Ukrainian activists have been sending messages highlighting government corruption and incompetence in an effort to undermine faith in the Kremlin.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a U.S.-funded but independent news organization founded decades ago, is trying to push its broadcasts deeper into Russia. Its Russian-language articles are published on copies of its websites called “mirrors,” which Russian censors seek out in a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole. Audience numbers have surged during the war despite the censorship. Continue reading

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Wireless Flirt episode explores shortwave radio

I’m very honored to have been interviewed by John Walsh who produces the excellent program Wireless on Flirt FM in Ireland. John reached out to discuss the relevance of the shortwave radio medium, particularly through the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here’s the show description:

In the April 2022 edition of Wireless, we look at the part of the radio spectrum called shortwave, consider its importance in the past and continued relevance in a digital world. Founder of the SWLing blog Thomas Witherspoon discusses the historical development of shortwave, including its heyday during the Cold War, and explains how it continues to be used today, for instance to evade Russian internet censorship during the Ukrainian war. The programme also remembers Irish pirate shortwave operators of the 1980s as featured on our related site Pirate.ie.

Click here to listen to the full show at Wireless Flirt.

John is a true kindred spirit and devoted radio enthusiast. I would encourage you to subscribe to his monthly Wireless episodes via your favorite podcast player; here are links to iTunesSpotify, and Stitcher.

In addition, John is the one of the founders and curators of Pirate.ie which is a brilliantly documented archive of pirate radio stations in Ireland. I highly recommend checking it out! 

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Tim recommends shortwave pirate “Ballsmacker Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tim Brockett, who writes:

Good Morning Thomas.

I enjoy receiving your daily posts. They are informative, helpful and sometimes enlightening.

I wanted to alert you to a change in frequency for Ballsmacker Radio.

I tuned into them on Friday, March 26 at 6960 kHz. They came in well at Willow Beach, Arizona which is just south of Las Vegas, Nevada. The broadcast started at 01:00 UTC and ended at 02:25 UTC.

Ballsmacker is a pirate station that airs from “somewhere in the northeast” in the USA. He uses just 200 watts but has a great frequency and time. I have routinely picked him up in Willow Beach.

His website is at https://ballsmacker.net/

He welcomes reception reports and sends out eQSLs that appear to be different for each week. He broadcasts once a week at 01:00 UTC. You can also stream past shows from his website. The theme of last night’s show was “luck”. Each song had something to do with chance or luck. Most of the show is popular music from the 20th century. The music is interspersed with station IDs, email and website addresses.

His email is ballsmacker@protonmail.com

Hope this assists with your fine work.

Sincerely,
Tim Brockett

Thanks so much, Tim! You’re right: Ballsmacker Radio puts out a great signal and certainly offers up proper music variety! Thanks again for sharing your tip!

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BBC Newshour Reports Jamming of UVB-76 (The Buzzer) With Music and Digital Imagery

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark, who writes:

Thomas,

The morning (EST) edition of BBC Newshour on Wednesday presented a five-minute report on the jamming of Russian shortwave mystery station UVB-76 (The Buzzer) with music and digital imagery.

Newshour – Uncertainty over Russian ‘de-escalation’ near Ukraine – BBC Sounds

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172xv5lss6rtdm

Report begins at 37:26

Also at:

BBC World Service – Newshour – Available now

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002vsnk/episodes/player

Sincerely,

Mark

Thank you for the tip, Mark. Impressive that this bit of shortwave news would be included in a Newshour report. They did a fantastic job including some audio clips from the Conet Project and authentic UVB-76 audio.

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Radio Waves: Life-Changing Song on Radio Australia, NZ Voices in the Air, NIST Test Signal on WWV/WWVH, and 1980s NYC Offshore Pirates

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 Paul, Dave Zantow, Mark Fahey, Jerome van der Linden, and Phil Brennan for the following tips:


A former Chinese soldier turned artist explains how a song on Radio Australia changed his life (ABC)

It was 1979 and Jian Guo was stationed at a military camp in Yunnan, a province in south-western China bordering Vietnam, when he listened to Radio Australia for the first time.

The then-17-year-old was patrolling the base one night when he saw a group of fellow People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers tuning radio equipment on the back of a truck.

He initially thought they were intercepting enemy signals, but, as he got closer, he realised they were listening to a radio broadcast.

It was the ABC’s international broadcasting service, which was considered an “enemy channel” at the time.

“The so-called ‘enemy channels’ included almost every station outside mainland China,” Guo told the ABC.

“The biggest ones were the VOA [Voice of America] from the US, Voice of Free China from Taiwan, and Radio Australia.”

Guo had joined the PLA in 1979 during the peak of the Sino-Vietnamese War but, thanks to his talent in the arts, he was chosen to be a secretary of his company, so he could avoid fighting on the battlefield.

Apart from painting propaganda materials, he also looked after weapons and communication equipment like the radios, which was an extraordinary privilege.

He was not supposed to use the equipment he maintained, and was fearful of breaking the rules, but after seeing his comrades listening to the Australian broadcast the curiosity grew inside him.

One night, alone in his room, he turned on a radio.

It took a while for him to find the right frequency, because of the interference put out by China, but then suddenly he was listening to Radio Australia and the song that would change his life.

“It was broadcasting The Moon Represents My Heart by Teresa Teng,” Guo said.

“That was the first time I knew such music existed in the world.” [Continue reading…]

Voices in the Air: Sarah Johnston on 100 years of radio (RNZ)

Kia ora koutou k?toa. Thank you to RNZ and National Library for organising this celebration of the start of radio in New Zealand, 100 years ago tonight.

Tonight is something of a game of two halves: first I will talk about the first broadcast of voice and music by radio and the start of radio broadcasting in this country – and then I’m also going speak about a research project I am working on, radio recordings made of New Zealand’s forces overseas during World War II.

I have always been a huge fan of radio, ever since childhood listening to the Weekend children’s request sessions, and then as a teenager, eating my breakfast with Morning Report coming out of the family transistor beside me. As a radio journalist I became one of those voices and worked for RNZ and Deutsche Welle in Germany, where I experienced the power of voices coming out of the air from the other side of the world. And as a sound archivist working with the Radio New Zealand archives, I learnt that that power of the voice doesn’t diminish with time – listening to a voice from 80 years ago can transport you not just through space but also time. Sound to me, has a power that in many ways seems different to that of visual images. Continue reading

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WRMI will air a second series of Texas Radio Shortwave programs

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward, who shares the following announcement:

WRMI to air second series of European free radio and low-power licensed stations

WRMI will air a second series of Texas Radio Shortwave programs featuring European free-radio and low-power licensed stations during September, October, and November.

The one-hour programs will be broadcast every Friday at 9 p.m. ET (Saturday at 0100 UTC) by WRMI, Okeechobee, Florida, on Texas Radio Shortwave’s “regular” frequency of 5950 kHz.

Dates and featured stations in Series 2 are as follows:

September 4-5 = Radio Clash (Somewhere in Europe)

September 11-12 = Radio Merlin (UK) *

September 18-19 = Crusin’ Radio (UK)

September 25-26 = CoolAM Radio (The Netherlands) *

October 2-3 = Radio Monique International (The Netherlands) *

October 9-10 = Radio Blackstone International (The Netherlands)

October 16-17 = Charleston International Radio (Germany) *

October 23-24 = KR1 (The Netherlands)

October 30-31 = To Be Announced

November 6-7 = To Be Announced

November 13-14 = To Be Announced

November 20-21 = To Be Announced

November 27-28 = To Be Announced.

*Series 1 station invited to produce a program for Series 2.

eQSLs will be available from individual stations. TRSW will not issue verifications for these programs.

These popular stations are heard regularly in Europe but seldom in North America because of propagation conditions.

Thank you for the tip, Ed!

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Radio Songs by Silvia Swart

(Photo: Silvia Swart via Facebook)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill, who writes:


I ran across a reference to Radio Delta International Shortwave, a Hollands station on 6020 kHz.  The reference was to a song that was recorded for them by Silvia Swart en het Radio Delta lied.  Which (according to Google) translates to The Radio Delta Song.  It’s on YouTube and I like the sound of it even thought I don’t know Dutch.

YouTube link to the Radio Delta song:

There’s some nice photos and background to the station equipment on Delta Radio web site;

https://radiodelta.am/

After listening to the song by Silvia Swart, I did a search on her and found that she did other radio songs.

Radio Krachttoer:

Radio Combination Team:

Hopparadiotune:

Radio Waubach:

Hinnehok fm lied:

Supervision Radio:

Next step was to dive in and learn a little more about her.  Thank goodness for Google Translate.  From her website

https://www.silviaswart.nl/

I learned that Silvia has made over 155 tunes for legal / illegal pirate stations, associations.

Her parents run a record shop in Holland and that her father, Record King JB Swart, produced the Original Pirate Hits.  From his web site

https://www.jbswart.nl/

I learned that his store carries Pirate Music as well as the usual Dutch and other stuff a record store would normally carry.  Now I understand her interest in radio.

One last song I found that she recorded with her group, The Greenlights:

Mijn opa is een zendpiraat

Which translate to: My grandfather is a radio pirate

Maybe one of the forum members can give us a quick translation/summary of the songs.

73

Bill Hemphill

WD9EQD

Thank you for sharing this, Bill! Any fans of Silvia Swart out there? Please comment!

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