Tag Archives: Why Shortwave

Loss of BBC Hindi shortwave service and listener reactions

(Photo by Elle via Unsplash)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF), who shares the following story from The Print:

Emotional emails & offers to crowdfund — how fans tried to keep BBC Hindi radio on air

The service fell silent last month with its last transmission on 31 January. The BBC management now plans to boost its digital and TV presence.

New Delhi: It was the BBC’s Hindi radio on shortwave that slowly carved an identity for the British broadcaster in India after its launch 80 years ago. With an estimated audience of 40 lakh across India, the radio service was the first choice for consumers of serious news and entertainment alike, particularly in the remote and far-flung parts of the country.

But the service fell silent last month, on 31 January, with the BBC management citing a dwindling audience and plans to boost digital and TV presence as reasons to call time on this chapter of history.

It came as a rude shock for its loyal audience and the dismay was evident, according to BBC insiders.

“It was heartbreaking to see the kind of emotional emails and letters we received on the days preceding the shutdown and after that,” an insider told ThePrint. “They (the audience) pleaded to keep the service afloat. Some even said they were willing to crowdfund it. But it seems the management was interested in the numbers and the BBC Hindi radio service on shortwave was not giving them adequate numbers.”

Another insider in the BBC said audience numbers for the radio service had come down from 1 crore a few years ago to about 40 lakh now, even as its presence on platforms such as YouTube thrived. The service has also established its presence on television with a tie-up with news channel NDTV.

“But in our experience the quality of news consumers is poor in digital as compared to the loyal audience that BBC Hindi radio service in shortwave enjoyed,” the second insider said, basing the assessment on feedback received from both sets of audiences.

“I would say the management was insensitive to the millions of listeners in the remote corners of India who banked on the service as their daily source of news,” the insider added.

The decision to switch off BBC Hindi radio is part of the British broadcaster’s global cost-cutting efforts. It had planned to end the BBC Hindi radio service in 2011, but changed plans owing to massive outrage and a high-profile campaign supported by eminent journalist and author Sir Mark Tully, a former bureau chief of the BBC.

It’s not just the BBC Hindi radio service that has suffered on account of this twin push to cut costs and go digital. Even BBC Urdu announced in December last year that it will end the radio broadcast of its popular news and current affairs programme, Sairbeen.

In India, BBC also has internet broadcasts in other Indian regional languages, but no associated radio services. […]

Continue reading the full article at The Print.

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Thirty Years of Radio New Zealand’s International Service

RNZI QSL

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.[…]

Continue reading the full article and listen to embedded audio at Radio New Zealand.

Audio:

Click here for the audio links.

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Pacific Beat: Vanuatu invests in shortwave service

(Source: ABC Pacific Beat via Michael Bird)

Click here to listen.

In the age of social media and internet technology, shortwave may be seen as traditional technology — but it still plays an important role in reaching far-flung communities, with Vanuatu’s public broadcaster now investing millions of dollars to boost its shortwave service.

The Vanuatu Broadcasting Television Corporation (VBTC) is investing AUD$12 million in upgrading its national radio service through its shortwave and and medium wave service.

VBTC chief executive officer, Francis Herman told the ABC that only 30 per cent of the country can access national radio but after the upgrade, this would increase to 100 per cent coverage across Vanuatu’s 80-plus islands.

“Radio as you know is cost effective, people can pick it up on their phone, in the villages where television can not reach, radio is the companion for people,” Mr Herman said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation shutdown its shortwave service to the Pacific in 2017, in favour of a digital presence while China and New Zealand have increased their shortwave coverage.

Technology commentator Peter Marks said investing in shortwave is a great way to complement Vanuatu’s national radio service.

“Shortwave comes from over the horizon it will continue to work even when local conditions are difficult like extreme weather that might knock out local FM and AM stations and internet,” Mr Marks said.

Vanuatu is listed by the United Nations as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and regularly experiences, earthquakes, cyclones and floods.

Mr Herman said this makes having a national shortwave service even more important.

“We have general elections in March next year, we are about to head into the cyclone season beginning in November and so its important, it’s crucial that the people of Vanuatu can get access to a reliable and credible broadcaster,” Mr Herman said.

Along with its shortwave broadcasts, the VBTC is also looking to improve its television coverage over the next two years, with funding support from the Vanuatu government, New Zealand and China.

Click here to read the full article and listen to the audio at Pacific Beat.


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BBC’s Shortwave Service to Kashmir: “an important lifeline”

(Source: CNN Business)

London (CNN Business) As a communications blackout continues in Kashmir, the BBC is using one of the only ways to reach listeners in the Indian-controlled state: shortwave radio.

The BBC is extending its Hindi radio output by 30 minutes, launching a 15-minute daily program in Urdu, and expanding its English broadcasts by an hour. All are being broadcast via shortwave signals.

“Given the shutdown of digital services and phone lines in the region, it’s right for us to try and increase the provision of news on our shortwave radio services,” Jamie Angus, director of the BBC World Service, said in a statement.

Indian-controlled Kashmir is under a tight security lockdown and total communications blackout. The blackout has included internet and landline phones, and some television channels have been cut. The repressive measures, in place since August 5, were introduced just days before the Indian government announced that it was withdrawing Article 370 of the constitution, reclassifying Kashmir’s administrative status from a state to a union territory. The move took away Kashmir’s semi-autonomous special status.

Pakistan, which also controls territory in the region, reacted angrily to the move by India. The two neighbors have fought three wars over Kashmir, and the region has been the focus of periodic conflict for more than 70 years.

Shortwave radio bands are able travel long distances using very high frequencies, unlike traditional radio waves that need to travel in straight lines.

In an interview with CNN Business, Angus said most people in the region don’t normally use shortwave to listen to their programs. But due to the communications blocks, “we’ve got limited options,” he said.

“The shortwave audience has historically been in decline, but it’s an important lifeline as a way to reach people,” Angus said. “People value the BBC because it’s independent and one step removed from the national heat around these discussions, that’s why people value our reporting.”[…]

Continue reading the full article at CNN Business.

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“BBC World Service steps up shortwave broadcasts in Kashmir during media shutdown”

(Image source: BBC)

(Source: BBC Media Centre via @George53419980)

The BBC World Service has extended output on shortwave radio in Indian-administered Kashmir to provide reliable news and information.

The Director of the BBC World Service, Jamie Angus, says: “The provision of independent and trusted news in places of conflict and tension is one of the core purposes of the World Service.

“Given the shutdown of digital services and phone lines in the region, it’s right for us to try and increase the provision of news on our short wave radio services. Audiences in both India and Pakistan trust the BBC to speak with an independent voice, and we know that our reporting through several moments of crisis this year has been popular and valued by audiences who turn to us when tensions are highest.”

BBC News Hindi radio output (9515 and 11995kHz) will be extended by 30 minutes from Friday 16 August. The full one-hour news programme will be on air from 7.30pm to 8.30pm local time.

On Monday 19 August, BBC News Urdu will launch a 15-minute daily programme, Neemroz. Broadcast at 12.30pm local time on 15310kHz and 13650kHz, the programme will focus on news coming from Kashmir and the developments around the issue, and include global news roundup tailored for audiences in Kashmir.

BBC World Service English broadcasts (11795kHz, 9670kHz, 9580kHz, 7345kHz, 6040kHz) will be expanded, with the morning programming extended by an hour, ending at 8.30am local time; and the afternoon and evening programming starting an hour earlier, at 4.30pm local time.

The shutdown has left people with very few options for accessing news at this time. However, news services from the BBC continue to be available in the region – through shortwave radio transmissions in English, Urdu, Hindi, Dari and Pashto. As well as providing an important source of news to the region, the South Asian language services have brought added depth to the BBC’s coverage of the Kashmir story.

The recent introduction of four new languages services for India – Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Telugu, following additional investment from the UK Government – has enabled the BBC to offer a wider portfolio of languages and distribution methods to a region that is geographically diverse as well as politically tense. This year’s Global Audience Measure for the BBC showed that India is now the World Service’s largest market, with a weekly audience of 50m.

LN

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Defense One interviews Sound of Hope founders

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, RBC, who shares the following article from the website Defense One:

For more than four months, Hong Kong has been in the grips of a civil crisis. Protestors have taken to the streets to challenge the Hong Kong government’s growing acquiescence to Beijing while Chinese government forces and their allies have used militias to attack protestors and electronic tools to disrupt their communications. But media censorship means that few mainland Chinese know what’s going on.

A Silicon Valley-based organization has found a way to get information into China and out to Chinese speakers around the world: shortwave radio.

“Shortwave broadcast is kinda like a grey area,” said Sean Lin, one of the co-founders of the Sound of Hope radio network. “There’s no law that says you cannot do it. It depends on if governments want to keep [a particular radio station] going or shut it down based on Beiging’s pressure,”

Shortwave radio has been used for decades to broadcast news, information, political messages, and disinformation. During World War II, the Germans and the British both used radio waves between 3–30 MHz (10 to 100 metres) to try to persuade listeners around the world.

Sound of Hope, co-founded by Lin and Allen Zeng in 2004, looked to take the same technology and broadcast messages into China. Zeng originally set up the station to broadcast to the Chinese language population in Silicon Valley. It was his response to a dearth of Chinese-language news coverage that wasn’t heavily influenced by the Chinese government. “You would expect them [Chinese language news and media in the United States] to have some basic media decency and do their job. They don’t. They all have family in China. They need to go back to China. They need to do business in China,” said Zeng.[…]

Continue reading the full article at Defense One.

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Radio World: “The Internet’s Impact on International Radio”

The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station Control Room

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors, Dennis, Eric, and Michael who share the following story from Radio World. Please note my comments below following a short excerpt from this piece:

OTTAWA — During the height of the Cold War (1947–1991), the shortwave radio bands were alive with international state-run broadcasters; transmitting their respective views in multiple languages to listeners around the globe.

The western bloc’s advocates were led by the BBC World Service, and included Voice of America, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, Radio Canada International and a host of influential European broadcasters. The eastern bloc’s de facto team captain was the USSR’s Radio Moscow (with its unique hollow, echoing sound), supplemented by broadcasters in Soviet satellite countries (like East Germany’s Radio Berlin International) and allies like Fidel Castro’s Radio Havana Cuba.

Then 1991 arrived, and the Cold War apparently ended with the fall of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

In the seeming peace that followed, many governments no longer saw the sense in spending millions on multi-megawatt transmitters and vast antenna farms to keep broadcasting their messages globally.

The leader among them, the BBC World Service (BBCWS), trumpeted the web and webcasting as modern, cost-effective alternatives to expensive shortwave broadcasting (along with satellite radio and leasing local FM airtime in the countries they used to broadcast to). This is why the BBCWS ceased shortwave transmissions to North America and Australia in 2001 and Europe in 2008, while retaining SW broadcasts in less-developed parts of the globe.[…]

The full article is available here and quite a good piece exploring how the Internet has had an impact on shortwave radio broadcasting.

I, along with a number of fiends in the shortwave community–Bob Zanotti, Jeff White, Colin Newell, and Ian McFarland to name a few–we’re quoted in this piece.

As with most any published piece, quotes and statements are trimmed and edited to fit the print space. If you read the full article, you will have noticed some quotes from me. Here’s a larger portion of my full statement for this piece:

Most audience analysts agree that the number of shortwave listeners has been on the decline at the same time Internet access has been on the rise. Moreover, shortwave listener numbers are hard to quantify due to the very nature of anonymous listening; no one can truly “track” a shortwave radio listener. On the other hand, there is nothing anonymous about those who listen to or watch Internet content–not only can the audience be measured by numbers, but a much deeper and more invasive set of data can be gleaned from an online audience. Thus the decline in shortwave also denotes a loss of anonymity on the part of the listener.

This is not to say there aren’t shortwave listeners. A significant number of listeners are radio enthusiasts/DXers who appreciate the shortwave medium. But perhaps more meaningfully, shortwave listeners are those living in rural and remote parts of the world who benefit from the instant, free, and anonymous information shortwave provides.

At Ears To Our World, we received this photo from a school in rural Tanzania in June 2019. The teacher has been using one of our self-powered shortwave radios to listen to news and improve language skills.

Some broadcasters effectively target both of these audiences. Large government broadcasters, however, have always tried to reach the “influencers” in a country–those who might eventually help guide a country’s policy and international relationships. And the great majority of these influencers, according to audience research, have moved to social media and the Internet as a source of information.

Note that I received the photo above in June. At Ears To Our World, we still work with communities that appreciate the accessibility of radio. Perhaps our partners are more the exception than the rule, but there are still those who benefit from radio–especially those living in rural and remote areas. Where large government shortwave broadcasters are pulling out of the scene, often community-driven stations are taking their place. We’ve been working with Radio Taboo in Cameroon, for example, and they are an amazing case in point.

As a radio enthusiast, I’ll also add that I love the homegrown nature of shortwave broadcasting these days. As private broadcasters have a larger market share of the airwaves, individuals have an opportunity to buy their own broadcast time and produce amazing, unique shows like VORW, Free Radio Skybird, Encore, From the Isle of Music and Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot. These are just a few examples–if you’d like more, just check out the latest edition of Alan Roe’s guide to music over shortwave.


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