Tag Archives: Reuters

Radio Waves: Narco-Antennas, Pirate Radio Beginnings, Arqiva Restructure and Redundancies, and the Ghostly Buzzer

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 Skip Arey,  David Goren, Paul Evans, Kanwar Sandhu and Dave Porter for the following tips:


Special Report: Drug cartel ‘narco-antennas’ make life dangerous for Mexico’s cell tower repairmen (Reuters)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The young technician shut off the electricity at a cellular tower in rural Mexico to begin some routine maintenance.

Within 10 minutes, he had company: three armed men dressed in fatigues emblazoned with the logo of a major drug cartel.

The traffickers had a particular interest in that tower, owned by Boston-based American Tower Corp (AMT.N), which rents space to carriers on its thousands of cellular sites in Mexico. The cartel had installed its own antennas on the structure to support their two-way radios, but the contractor had unwittingly blacked out the shadowy network.

The visitors let him off with a warning.

“I was so nervous… Seeing them armed in front of you, you don’t know how to react,” the worker told Reuters, recalling the 2018 encounter. “Little by little, you learn how to coexist with them, how to address them, how to make them see that you don’t represent a threat.”

The contractor had disrupted a small link in a vast criminal network that spans much of Mexico. In addition to high-end encrypted cell phones and popular messaging apps, traffickers still rely heavily on two-way radios like the ones police and firefighters use to coordinate their teams on the ground, six law enforcement experts on both sides of the border told Reuters.[]

How Pirate Radio Rocked the 1960s Airwaves and Still Exists Today (HowStuffWorks)

If you’ve been binge-watching movies lately, you may have come across “Pirate Radio.” Director Richard Curtis’ 2009 comedy-drama stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Count, a disc jockey for an unlicensed rock radio station that broadcast from a rusty, decrepit ship off the British coast in the mid-1960s, defying government authorities to spin the rock records that weren’t allowed on the BBC at the time. The plot is based loosely on the saga of an actual former pirate station, Radio Caroline, that was founded by an offbeat Irish entrepreneur named Ronan O’Rahilly, the inspiration for the character portrayed by Bill Nighy.

“Pirate Radio” is a period piece, set in a time when the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and the Who’s “My Generation” were still scandalous and controversial rather than nostalgic anthems for today’s aging baby boomers. So you couldn’t be blamed for assuming that it depicts a long-vanished phenomenon, like Nehru jackets with iridescent scarves and psychedelic-patterned paper mini dresses.

To the contrary, though, more than a half-century later, pirate radio is still a thing. In fact, it’s possibly more widespread than it was in the 1960s, even in an age when streaming internet services such as Spotify and Pandora put the equivalent of a jukebox in the pocket of everyone with a smartphone. And as a bonus, Radio Caroline still exists — though, ironically, it’s gone legal.[]

Arqiva confirms restructure and redundancies (IBC.org)

[Note: Arqiva is the UK domestic broadcast transmission provider.]

Arqiva is working on a restructure of its business that could result in a third of its staff being made redundant.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the media infrastructure business is preparing to cut around 500 staff, which is approximately a third of its workforce.

An Arqiva spokesperson confirmed to IBC365 that some job losses will occur.

They said: “The sale of our telecoms business makes Arqiva a smaller organisation, changes our revenue profile and reduces our available profit pool.

”We are therefore conducting a review of the costs and systems we need to run our business over the next three years.

”Regrettably, we will need to reduce the size of our workforce, but it’s much too early to speculate about numbers.”

The Telegraph report cites the shift to streaming and a drop in income for broadcasters as reasons for the potential cuts.[]

The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run (BBC Future)

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.[…]


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Reuters: Cyber threats prompt return of radio for ship navigation

eLoran (Image Source: UrsaNav)

(Source: Reuters via Ken Hansen and Dan Hawkins)

LONDON (Reuters) – The risk of cyber attacks targeting ships’ satellite navigation is pushing nations to delve back through history and develop back-up systems with roots in World War Two radio technology.

Ships use GPS (Global Positioning System) and other similar devices that rely on sending and receiving satellite signals, which many experts say are vulnerable to jamming by hackers.

About 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea and the stakes are high in increasingly crowded shipping lanes. Unlike aircraft, ships lack a back-up navigation system and if their GPS ceases to function, they risk running aground or colliding with other vessels.

South Korea is developing an alternative system using an earth-based navigation technology known as eLoran, while the United States is planning to follow suit. Britain and Russia have also explored adopting versions of the technology, which works on radio signals.

Continue reading at Reuters online…

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RadioShack files for bankruptcy

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who shares the following news from Reuters:

RadioShack chain operator files for bankruptcy protection

(Reuters) – U.S. electronics chain RadioShack Corp filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday for the second time in a little over two years, faced with a challenging retail environment and an unsatisfying partnership with wireless provider Sprint Corp.

The Chapter 11 filing comes after RadioShack, owned by General Wireless Operations Inc, tried to revitalize its business by co-branding stores with the wireless carrier in an effort to compete against their largest rivals.

General Wireless, an affiliate of hedge fund Standard General LP that acquired the RadioShack brand in 2015, filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization and listed assets and liabilities in the range of $100 million to $500 million in the U.S. bankruptcy court for the Delaware district.

RadioShack will close approximately 200 stores and will evaluate options on the remaining 1,300, the company said in a statement.[…]

Click here to read full article.

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Reuters: FCC and Justice Department investigate Chinese radio network

Reuters-Logo1

Wow–seems the FCC and Justice Department took notice of Reuters’ CRI investigation reported earlier:

(Source: Reuters via Mike Terry)

The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department are investigating a California firm whose U.S. radio broadcasts are backed by a subsidiary of the Chinese government, officials said.

Both investigations come in response to a Reuters report published on Monday that revealed the existence of the covert radio network, which broadcasts in more than a dozen American cities, including Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston and San Francisco. (reut.rs/1Wrflt4)

“Based on reports, the FCC will initiate an inquiry into the facts surrounding the foreign ownership issues raised in the stories, including whether the Commission’s statutory foreign ownership rules have been violated,” FCC spokesman Neil Grace said.

The California firm is owned by James Su, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Shanghai. Reuters reported Monday that Su’s company, G&E Studio Inc, is 60 percent owned by a subsidiary of Chinese state-run radio broadcaster China Radio International (CRI).

The FCC doesn’t restrict content on U.S. radio stations, except for rules covering indecency, political advertising and children’s programming.

But under U.S. law, the FCC prohibits foreign governments or their representatives from holding a radio license for a U.S. broadcast station. Foreign individuals, governments and corporations are permitted to hold up to 20 percent ownership directly in a station and up to 25 percent in the U.S. parent corporation of a station.

G&E does not own any U.S. stations, but it leases two 50,000-watt stations: WCRW in Washington for more than $720,000 a year, and WNWR in Philadelphia for more than $600,000 a year.

Through a different set of limited liability companies, Su owns, co-owns or leases virtually all the air time on at least a dozen other U.S. stations. Those stations carry G&E content, which is produced largely by his West Covina, California studios or by state-run CRI in Beijing….

Read the full article at Reuters…

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Reuters: How China exerts soft power through a global radio network

CRI-China-Radio-International

Many thanks to several SWLing Post readers for sharing a link to the following investigative story from Reuters. I’ve included an excerpt below–you can read the full article, and watch a video at Reuters online.

(Source: Reuters)

In August, foreign ministers from 10 nations blasted China for building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. As media around the world covered the diplomatic clash, a radio station that serves the most powerful city in America had a distinctive take on the news.

Located outside Washington, D.C., WCRW radio made no mention of China’s provocative island project. Instead, an analyst explained that tensions in the region were due to unnamed “external forces” trying “to insert themselves into this part of the world using false claims.”

Behind WCRW’s coverage is a fact that’s never broadcast: The Chinese government controls much of what airs on the station, which can be heard on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

[…]A typical hour on most stations begins with a short newscast that can toggle between China news and stories about violent crimes in the United States. Besides the overtly political coverage, topics range from global currency fluctuations and Chinese trade missions to celebrity wardrobe analysis and modern parenting challenges.

[G&E president and CEO James Su] declined to describe how he makes money when most of the U.S. stations air virtually no commercials. He also declined to say how he got the money to finance his radio leases and acquisitions.

His stations, Su said, offer the American public an alternative viewpoint on Chinese culture and politics. He has “no way to control” what CRI broadcasts on the stations, he said, nor is he part of any plan to spread Chinese propaganda.

“We are only telling the unfiltered real news to our audience,” he said.

On Oct. 29, WCRW carried a program called “The Hourly News.” Among the top stories: Senior Chinese and U.S. naval commanders planned to speak by video after a U.S. Navy ship passed close by China’s new artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Washington and its allies see the island-building program as a ploy to grab control of strategic sea lanes, and the Navy sail-by was meant to counter China’s territorial claims.

WCRW omitted that side of the story.

The admirals are holding the talks, the announcer said, “amid the tension the U.S. created this week.”

Read the full article at Reuters online…

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Shortwave radio still packs an audible thrill (Reuters)

This article posted by Reuters is cracking at explaining why so many people still turn to SWLing:

It’s easy and cheap — and fun. You can hear and learn things that you would never find even if you work your search engine like a mule. From Swaziland to Paris to Havana, shortwave broadcasters can surprise an adventurous listener more than any MP3 playlist.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Author Robert MacMillan (with Reuters) began by comparing shortwave radios to many sleek portable digital media devices on display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year:

iPods and satellite radios are slim and pocket-sized, while shortwaves are throwbacks, typically as square as a textbook and just as serious looking.

While it’s true that most portable shortwave radios are slightly bigger than a Sony Walkman, few portables approach the size of a textbook. Sony, for example, produced the ultra small SW100S years ago–before the internet was much more than an easy way for university researchers to exchange off-color jokes. The SW100S, by the way, was about the size of a pack of cards. Innovative radio designer, Etón Corporation, announced the new, sleek, Grundig Mini 400 at the CES. [Krunker.com has photos of the Mini 400 and other Etón products from the CES–order your Mini 400 at Universal Radio.] I should also note that Chinese manufacturer, Degen, recently released a new, sleek, pocket radio MP3 recorder/player–see Passport’s take here.

I was quite happy to see a few good shortwave news items come out of the CES this year. Yes, more and more focus is being given to web-based devices, and it should be. I am a huge fan of the world wide web and all that it has to offer. But what keeps me glued to my shortwave radio?  MacMillian puts it best:

[W]hen you hear voices over the noise and squeal, and realize you are hearing Mongolia, live, there is a warmth and a human connection that are hard to find on the Web.

Amen. Thanks, Robert.

Read the full Reuters article here.

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