Yesterday, Radio New Zealand celebrated 30 years of service to the Pacific. Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Jason Walker and Peter Marks for sharing the following story and audio from Radio New Zealand:
On 24 January 1990, Radio New Zealand International beamed into the Pacific, on a new 100 kilowatt transmitter.
New Zealand has had a short-wave service to the Pacific since 1948. The station broadcast on two 7.5kw transmitters from Titahi Bay, which had been left behind by the US military after the Second World War.
In the late 1980s, following growing political pressure to take a more active role in the Pacific area, the New Zealand government upgraded the service.
A new 100kw transmitter was installed and, on the same day the Commonwealth Games opened in Auckland, the service was re-launched as Radio New Zealand International.
“What we were able to understand was how important radio was and still is in the Pacific, where as here radio had become a second cousin to television… different thing in most of the countries we worked with,” said RNZ International’s first manager was Ian Johnstone, from 1990 to ’93.
Mr Johnstone said news of a dedicated Pacific service into the region was welcomed by Pacific communities.
He also said it was important for New Zealanders to remember that New Zealand is part of the Pacific.[…]
The following article originally appeared on The Radio Kitchen blog by Michael Pool, a.k.a. “The Professor.” In an effort to preserve his writings and recordings, we are republishing The Professor’s archived posts in a special collection here on the SWLing Post.
Note that not all of the original links and recordings could be recovered, but the majority have been.
Of course, all of the views and opinions in this article were those of The Professor.
“Down Under, Up And Over” was originally published on November 30, 2007.
Down Under, Up And Over
by The Professor
When get to fooling around with a shortwave radio I usually don’t have much of an idea of what I might come across, or where the broadcasts I may find will come from. If you happen to be hunting up something originating (or relayed) from a hot nearby transmitter, shortwave listening is almost as predictable and practical as AM or FM However, the real fun in scanning these forgotten bands is hunting for broadcasts from far-flung regions of the globe. It’s all about surfing those skywaves.
Instead of patiently scanning a SW broadcast band, this particular evening last July, I was quickly scanning several bands with my Degen 1103 looking for something, ah… exciting.
Okay, maybe “exciting” is the wrong word. I was fishing to find some exotic broadcast from far away, and preferably one in my native tongue. I’m sure there are other shortwave listeners who know what I mean. What gets my attention right away when trolling the HF bands is coming across an unfamiliar English language broadcast on a carrier marked by the scars of bouncing off the upper atmosphere a few times. Sure, It’s important that the reception has enough clarity to be understood, but shortwave radio waves from far over the horizon are infused with the sounds of the electrical and magnetic activity surrounding our planet. The audio itself often has an edge, even when listening with agile and fancy receivers. An aquired taste, the sonic anamolies of distant shortwave broadcasts have an inate musicallity, which you may appreciate once your ears adjust to them. And the last time I heard the clear mutated throb of a strong distant transmitter traversing the globe was last July. I was sitting under the stars in the Michigan countryside when from over eight-four hundred miles away, New Zealand came calling.
RNZI (Radio New Zealand International) doesn’t seem to have any worldwide coverage mandate like CRI (China), the BBC or VOA or something. Their main purpose is as a regional service for the South Pacific. Dotted with a scads of far-flung islands, their broadcast zone actually covers a huge swath of the Earth’s surface. So just by making a point of covering this region well, RNZI is a major player in international broadcasting. (And sadly, I can’t remember when I picked up the BBC World Service as well as I heard New Zealand RNZI that evening.)
From my casual and primitive DXing experience, many powerful shortwave stations from around the world can be picked up from Eastern North America, as long as the signal doesn’t originate from anywhere directly blocked by the massive mountains of the top three quarters of the North American Continental Divide. In other words, with a booming transmitter from the closer sections of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America are the most likely catches from overseas. Deeper into these zones and continents (and Asia in general) are difficult terrain for DXing rewards from here. That said, with my limited portable equipment I’ve been able to pick up signals from at least three of the major broadcasters from the Southern Orient– India, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve always assumed that these signals ride skywaves over the lower mountains of the Southwest and Central America. But I’m no expert.
I do know that all the overseas states located directly west of the tall Rockies who are serious about reaching US citizens via shortwave rent relay transmitter time from Canada, as well as sites in the Carribean and Europe). In fact, if you happen to come across international broadcasts from Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan or Thailand on shortwave in Eastern North America, you’re probably hearing a relayed transmission from several hundred miles away. But the recording I’m offering here is of reception from from far across the world. Considering the distance travelled, the reception here is fairly healthy. A little hairy, but practical. And there’s no local RF noise getting in the way. You really can hear the details it if you pay attention.
Radio New Zealand International pt 1 – 9615kHz – 07-07-07 0644 UTC 15:05
This first bit is an interview with Canadian chemist and author Penny LeCouteur discussing her book about molecules that have changed the world. Of note here– the legacy of how James Cook and ascorbic acid made the south seas safe for European explorers and colonists.
Then the cassette came to an abrupt stop, and the part two of this recording begins with the flip of the the tape. At the onset of this archive the interview is aborted in mid-sentence and a female announcer formally announces that Radio New Zealand International is closing on this frequency. After twice insisting that I “re-tune to six-zero-nine-five kilohertz in the forty-nine meter band” (followed by a clipped “This is New Zealand”), it all sounds so damn official that I felt compelled to follow the instructions. Although I knew that just because RNZI was booming in on 31 meters didn’t necessarily mean it would come in so strong (or might even be heard) on the 49 meter band.
You hear RNZI’s interval signal (the call of the New Zealand Bellbird) after the station ID, and then the signal at 9165kHz goes dead. I then put the tape deck on pause and punch up 6095 kHz on the Degen and release the pause button. And there it was! The call of the Bellbird is quite clear there as well, although a nearby signal is chewing on the edges of the reception a bit.
Radio New Zealand International p2 2 – 9615 & 6095kHz – 07-07-07 0658 UTC 28:55
Whoever is running the board down there in the South Pacific was a little sloppy that night. After the interval signal the board-op starts to pot up the interview again (which is still running on one of the channels). But the mistake is corrected in a fraction of second, and it’s the news with Phil O’Brien. The lead story, a nationwide “Drunk Drive Blitz” the night before had netted over two-hundred inebriated kiwis on the highways down there. And an update on the aftermath of an unprecedented swarm of tornados that ravaged the North Island a couple of nights earlier.
After the news, it’s the beginning of a program I can barely believe I’m hearing in 2007. A faux flapper-era theme song launches a “nostalgia packed selection of favorites” that will saturate the skies of Oceania for the next four hours. While I love a lotta old music, the whole idea of “nostalgia” can get a little silly. Although I must say that old Joe Franklin used to pull it off with some charm on WOR here in New York City before he gave up the show a few years back. It’s really an approach to radio that’s all but dead here in the states. But apparently not in New Zealand.
As you’ll hear if you brave through this chunk of pulsing and buzzy DX radio, there are a couple of corny numbers to wade through. But I gotta tell you, that sitting outside in the middle of the night with an artifact-drenched AM signal from the other side of the world filling my headphones, it felt reassuringly twentieth-century. Maybe you’ll hear what I mean. And the Paul Robeson and Mills Brothers seemed quite appropriate.
RANGITAIKI, New Zealand — Radio New Zealand Pacific, the official international arm of Radio New Zealand, is using Digital Radio Mondiale digital radio transmission/reception equipment to feed studio-quality audio to some of its 20 relay stations in the Pacific Ocean region. The others use satellite feeds or web downloads.
The locations being served by DRM include the Cook Islands, where RNZ Pacific’s programs are rebroadcast locally in analog mode by Aitutaki 88FM, the islands’ only broadcaster. RNZ Pacific also serves Tonga, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands using DRM; among others. Previously, RNZ Pacific had fed its relays using analog AM shortwave radio, with that transmission mode’s limited audio range and interference issues.
“When DRM became available to us in 2005, we saw it as a great opportunity to provide high quality audio to Pacific radio stations that relayed our news broadcasts from our AM transmitter,” said RNZ Pacific’s Technical Manager Adrian Sainsbury. “As a platform to deliver good quality audio to remote island FM stations, it has been a great success.”[…]
As the article points out, RNZ has been using DRM as a feed for quite a few years. I think this is a brilliant use of the technology. Of course, those of us in the rest of the world can snag RNZ DRM broadcasts as well.
As Radio Australia cuts shortwave services, RNZI becomes the voice of the Pacific
Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) continues to serve people across the Pacific region, delivering essential day to day news and information and providing a vital lifeline in times of natural disaster, as Radio Australia closes its international shortwave transmission service to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
Emphasising the importance of RNZI’s 25-year relationship with New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours, RNZ CEO, Paul Thompson said: “Remote parts of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu who may be feeling the loss of the ABC can rest assured RNZI will continue to provide independent, timely and accurate news, information and weather warnings as well as entertainment to its Pacific listeners.”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s decision to switch off its shortwave services as a money saving measure has already drawn criticism and protests from a number of groups in Australia.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rafman, who writes:
Heard sad news this morning while listening to [RNZI’s] 9700 broadcast. It makes their future dimmer [IMHO].
RNZI will be running on a single transmitter for both analog & DRM. So now you won’t be able to try DRM on 9890 while 9700 is on air.
Thanks for sharing the news, Rafman. Here’s the accompanying RNZ press release with details from Radio New Zealand:
Information for individual analogue short-wave listeners in the Pacific region.
RNZ International (RNZI) is retiring its 27-year-old analogue-only short-wave transmitter and moving to a one-transmitter operation.
From 1 July 2016 we will be using our newer digital/analogue transmitter and swapping between its digital short-wave and analogue short-wave modes throughout each day.
The digital short-wave mode delivers a signal to relaying Pacific stations, and the analogue short-wave mode reaches individual short-wave listeners.
RNZI has made the decision not to replace the old short-wave transmitter, but to instead maximize the flexibility of our newer short-wave transmitter by using either its analogue or digital mode to deliver to different audiences at different times of the day.
We are also focusing on broadening the options for delivering our signal to relaying radio stations. These stations broadcast our daily news and current affairs content over their own local stations – and allow us to reach a large local Pacific audience.
By working with partners like the BBC World Service (Pacific stream) and Pacific Cooperation Broadcasting Limited (PCBL) (which includes the former TVNZ satellite service) we’ve been extending our content delivery via satellite. We’ll be continuing to focus on this as a complimentary delivery to the DRM digital short-wave service.
RNZI’s online content and delivery, partnerships and use of our specialist content by individuals, media and organisations in the Pacific and worldwide, is also growing.
The move to a one-transmitter operation will result in a reduced service to current individual short-wave listeners in the region. RNZI will still broadcast in analogue short-wave for extensive periods of each day, but there won’t be a 24 hour service as there has been. This is likely to be most felt during breakfast hours when we will need to broadcast a digital signal for relaying stations, rather than an analogue one.
However, RNZI remains committed towards providing an analogue short-wave service for individual listeners across the Pacific. Our role in warning about, and covering, cyclones remains especially important. During cyclone season, RNZI has the flexibility to choose to broadcast entirely in analogue if we need to temporarily provide a fulltime service to individual listeners.
Over time we hope more individuals will be able to access our content online access the region. Online use of RNZI is growing quickly with Pacific visitors and others now increasingly accessing content on the RNZI site.
And in future years, as stations adopt other ways of receiving our signal, we may be able to devote more of our short-wave transmission capacity back into broadcasting in analogue.
With a mix of analogue short-wave, digital DRM short-wave, satellite, partnerships and online content delivery, we remain in a solid position to deliver our unique Pacific content to audiences in the region and beyond.
Our analogue and digital frequency schedule is available at www.rnzi.com along with with updated broadcast times.