Vatican Radio’s English SW broadcast to Asia come to an end
Vatican Radio’s English shortwave broadcast for Asia has come to an end, with its last transmission going out Friday evening, after nearly 60 years of service. However this does not mean it has disappeared altogether. What ultimately closed on March 24 as Vatican Radio’s English Service for Asia, is however very much alive online on Vatican Radio’s website. The gradual phasing out of Vatican Radio’s shortwave frequencies is seen as part of the reform of the Roman Curia or the central administration of the Catholic Church here in the Vatican, called for by Pope Francis. The Pope established the new dicastery or office of the Secretariat for Communications on June 27, 2015, ?bringing 9 media bodies of the Vatican, including Vatican Radio, under the Secretariat’s direction, with the purpose of overhauling, streamlining and ultimately merging them as a cohesive unit.
What ended on March 24 as Vatican Radio’s English Service for Asia began way back in 1958. The only ?English programme of Vatican Radio then, headed by Jesuit Father Thomas O’Donnell, was repeated a number of times in different directions, ?including towards Africa and South Asia. It was a weekly 10-minute news broadcast for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. However, the need for special programmes adapted to the ?distinctive cultural needs and tastes of Africa and South Asia gave way to independent programmes for ?these two regions. ?In 1964 South Asia got a boost when Pope Paul VI visited Bombay (today Mumbai), India for the 38th International Eucharistic Congress from 2nd to 5th of December. Hence in May 1965, the Indian Section officially came into being with a 10-minute broadcast twice a week each in the evening in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam , while English went on air daily Monday through Saturday. In 1982, all the four languages began re-broadcasting their evening programmes the following morning. Three years later – on May 12, 1985, the Malayalam programme got extra airing time, broadcasting for 15 minutes in the morning, whereas the rest continued broadcasting for 10 minutes.
In 1986, Pope John Paul II visited India from January 31 to February 11. Just prior to this visit, on January 7th that year, Hindi, Tamil and English were given extra time, and so all the four languages began broadcasting daily for 15 minutes each, in the morning, which was a feature programme. The evening transmission consisted of 6 minutes of news only. By the end of 1986 the evening 6-minute news increased to 10 minutes and was repeated the following morning.
On March 25, 1990, Hindi, Tamil Malayalam and English began broadcasting for 15 minutes each, repeating it the following morning. And from Sept. 23, 1993, the four languages were transmitting for nearly 20 minutes each, repeating the evening programme twice the following morning.
It was on Oct 24, 1993 that the fifth language, Urdu, that is spoken mainly in Pakistan but is also widely followed in India, especially in the north, was added to the Indian Section. It began with a 7-minute Sunday programme, as part of the Hindi programme. On March 30, 2003 Urdu became a stand-alone programme, broadcasting for 15-minutes on Sundays and Wednesdays, and repeated the following mornings. The Urdu programme however closed down in September, 2013, after nearly 20 ?years of service.
On May 16, 2015, Vatican Radio marked the 50th anniversary of its Indian programmes with a ?Holy ?Mass and a reception.
Vatican City (AFP) – African bishops have asked Radio Vatican, the official radio of the pope, to restore shortwave transmissions to the continent, the Catholic agency Fides reported on Friday.
[…]The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), meeting in the Ghanaian capital Accra, has written a letter expressing “concern about the recent shutdown of the shortwave services of the radio, which afforded millions of Africans the opportunity to hear (the) Holy Father and share in the Church’s concerns and mission,” Fides said.
[…]This year, services to Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be slashed, Fides said.”While recognising that Vatican Radio services can still be received through the Internet,” the SECAM said “many Africans simply do not have the means or the technology to enjoy such services”.
[…]Radio Vatican was created in 1931 and has services in 45 languages.
With the latest move “a heritage is in the process of being destroyed,” a Fides journalist told AFP.
(Source: CatholicCulture.org via London Shortwave)
As Vatican Radio ends short-wave broadcasts, others expand
As Vatican Radio closes an era by ending its short-wave transmissions, other broadcasters are stepping up their involvement in the short-wave field, notes Sandro Magister of L’Espresso.
Msgr. Dario Vigano, the prefect of the Vatican’s new Secretariat for Communications, has cut off short-wave broadcasts—long the heart of the Vatican Radio operation—in a move to cut costs and move toward emphasis on communicating through the internet. But Magister observes that short-wave transmissions retain their “unique ability to arrive as a free and true voice even in the most geographically and politically inhospitable places of the world.”
The Italian Vatican-watcher reports that other broadcasters are expanding their short-wave offerings. BBC has invested £85 million (almost $105 million) in a drive to expand its short-wave capacity. And Japan’s NHK network has inquired about purchasing the broadcasting station at Santa Maria di Galeria, just outside Rome, that Vatican Radio will no longer use.
Read this article at CatholicCulture.org.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor Andrea Borgnino who shares this item from the National Catholic Register:
[O]n December 31, 2016, after more than 80 years of operation, Vatican Radio is being absorbed into the new Secretariat for Communications. The move is part of Pope Francis’ reorganization of Curial offices, and is intended to make better use of the Vatican’s limited financial resources. According to Catholic World News, broadcasting programs will continue—at least for the near-term future—but Vatican Radio will no longer have its own corporate identity.
Today, Vatican Radio employs a staff of 355 representing 59 nationalities, mostly lay people, who together produce more than 66 hours of daily programming (24,117 hours annually). There are currently 45 languages used on air, and 38 languages on the website. Programs are broadcast via short wave, medium wave, FM and satellite.
In recent years, Vatican Radio has experimented with digital transmission technologies (DRM, T-DAB, T-DMB). Their news reports and bulletins have been widely distributed through newsletters, podcasts, audio and video, paving the way to a Web TV. Vatican Radio and CTV began their own YouTube channel in 2010, operating in four languages, and on Twitter (6 channels).
Today with the reform of Vatican communications operations, Vatican Radio director Msgr. Dario Vigano has indicated that he plans to pare down short-wave radio operations. Other broadcasts will continue, but with an eye to controlling costs: Vatican Radio has been losing between €20 and €30 million ($21 – $31.5 million) annually.[…]
Goodbye, Jesuits. Vatican Media Get a New Face and New Boss
And this with a Jesuit pope, no less. Vatican Radio will stop broadcasting on shortwave. And “L’Osservatore Romano” will also be absorbed into a single “content hub.” Under the command of Monsignor Dario Viganò
by Sandro Magister
Because in effect Vatican Radio costs a great deal. It does not run advertising, its revenues are paltry and its numerous linguistic sections push to about thirty-five the number of journalists on the payroll. The total shortfall fluctuates between twenty and thirty million euro per year.
Well then, Monsignor Viganò doesn’t want to hear about shortwave anymore. He sees it as antiquated and to be dismantled, because it has been supplanted by the web. While instead for Fr. Lombardi it continues to have an essential role “of service to the poor, the oppressed, the minorities, rather than of subjection to the imperative of the maximization of the audience.”
They are two antithetical visions. But the marching route appears to have been marked out already. In Africa, where internet access is sporadic, Viganò has announced an agreement with Facebook through which the pope’s messages will be brought to 44 countries by cell phone, through an app.
By December, in short, Vatican Radio will cease to exist as a self-contained reality. It will be incorporated into a single centralized “content hub,” or in Viganò’s words, into “a single center of multimedia production of texts, images, audiovisuals and radio podcasts in multiple languages,” beneath a single editorial leadership held by Viganò himself today and soon to be handed over to a “task force of journalists,” many of them drawn from Vatican Radio itself and adapted to the new role.[…]
I can’t quite tell if this is a news item or opinion piece.
Post readers: Have you noted other sources confirming the closure of Vatican Radio’s shortwave service? I know this topic is certainly on the table at Vatican Radio, especially since it’s been discussed in the past.
Thanks to SWLing Post reader, Mike, for the tip:
(Source: Vatican Radio)
Announcing Vatican Radio’s intention to reduce its Short and Medium Wave transmissions to most of Europe and the Americas, starting July 1st, the Director General, Fr Federico Lombardi, today spoke of what he called, “A new chapter in the history of Vatican Radio” as it evolves “from Short Waves to new communications strategies”.
[…]Webcasting and satellite transmissions, along with rebroadcasting by local, regional and national radio stations, guarantee the widest possible outreach to Vatican Radio’s programming and services. Which is why Vatican Radio believes the time has come to reduce its reliance on traditional technologies, like Short and Medium Wave broadcasts, and to develop its resources in new directions.
On July 1st, Short and Medium Wave broadcasts from Vatican Radio’s Santa Maria di Galeria Transmission Centre, to most of Europe and the Americas, will be suspended. These areas of the world are already well served by Vatican Radio’s local rebroadcasting partners and by widespread internet access to its services and language programming.
The reduction of Short and Medium Wave broadcasts to these areas accounts for about 50% of the Centre’s transmission time and will allow Vatican Radio to restructure the Centre according to more innovative technological criteria. Short Wave broadcasts will be further reduced over the next few years – but not at the expense of those poor, needy and suffering parts of the world (like Africa, the Middle East and Asia) which have no alternative means of receiving news of the Church and the voice of the Pope.
Over the next few days, Vatican Radio’s language programmes will be informing their listeners of these changes, indicating alternative ways by which traditional Short and Medium Wave users can listen and benefit from Vatican Radio’s services.
Vatican Radio’s international Short and Medium Wave broadcasts have made a priceless contribution to the history of the Church, especially in 20th century Europe where they were a source of strength and encouragement for nations oppressed by war and totalitarian regimes. As this unique service is gradually phased out, making way for new communications technologies, it is important to thank those who dedicated their hearts and minds to it for so long – and for the good of so many.
Read the full article on Vatican Radio’s website.
As Mike also pointed out, this is certainly an unwelcome development for those who promote DRM. Vatican Radio is one of the few broadcasters that uses DRM over shortwave.
This article from the Italian news source, AGI (quoted below) is brief and vague, but according to the Director of Vatican Radio, they will, “end all […] medium wave broadcasts and […] shortwave ones to most of Europe and the Americas.”
We will post more info once available–follow the tag Vatican Radio:
Vatican City – Vatican Radio will end its short and mediumwave broadcasts on 1 July, strengthening its web service.
Spokesman of the Holy See and Director of Vatican Radio, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, announced: “From 1 July Vatican Radio will end all its medium wave broadcasts and its shortwave ones to most of Europe and the Americas, which are regions of the world where the rebroadcasting of programmes by the local Catholic radio and internet access are more developed.”