Tag Archives: Why Shortwave

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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Taiwanese man faces charges for broadcasting uncensored news to listeners in China

(Source: Radio Free Asia)

A Taiwanese businessman is scheduled to face trial in Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai city next week on charges that he illegally hosted a radio station that broadcast uncensored news to listeners in China, amid claims that Beijing pressured Thai authorities to shut down the station.

The June 19-20 hearing at the Chiang Mai provincial court comes more than five months after Chiang Yung-hsin, 52, was indicted on charges of setting up the station without a permit for Sound of Hope (SOH), a San Francisco-based radio network that was founded by Falun Gong, a religious movement banned in China, according to court documents.

Chiang, who could be jailed for up to five years if convicted, denies the charges, saying the broadcasting facility was set up by his tenants.

“I did not set up any radio station, but friends used the premises I rented to set up transmitters,” Chiang told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, in a brief interview in Bangkok through an assistant while denying the charges against him.

Chiang’s attorney was not available for comment. Prosecutors and Chiang’s defense team are scheduled to present their cases over the two-day hearing.

Sound of Hope Radio is a public network that broadcasts news to China through shortwave radio signals in nearby countries, spokesman Frank Lee said.

Lee alleged that the Thai government pressured Chiang, who was not aided by a translator, to sign documents pleading guilty at the time of his arrest. He also alleged that Thai officials were pressured by the Chinese government.

“Giving in to the pressure from Beijing to suppress free press is not good for Thailand and its people,” Lee told BenarNews.

“Mr. Chiang is a volunteer for SOH, he didn’t do this for his own gain. We urge the Thai government to free Mr. Chiang so that he can return to Taiwan to his wife and two children.”

But Thai officials flatly rejected the claims.

“Thai law enforcement arrested Chiang without any pressure from the Chinese,” a Thai security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told BenarNews.

In August 2018, officials shut down the shortwave radio station broadcasting from property that Chiang rented in Chiang Mai, and arrested him on Nov. 22, 2018. He was released on bail three days later but ordered to remain in Thailand.

Police filed the charges against Chiang alleging that he violated the Radio Communications Act and the Broadcasting and Television Business Act, both of which carry a sentence of up to five years if convicted because he did not have the necessary permission or license to operate, according to various sources.

“The Thai justice system is handling this case,” Busadee Santipitaks, spokeswoman for the ministry of foreign affairs, told BenarNews when asked for comment.

Protests against prosecution

In January, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) spoke out against Chiang’s arrest.

“This totally unjustified arrest deals a new blow to the freedom to inform in Thailand and penalizes Chinese listeners who count on this radio station for information that circumvents censorship,” RSF said in a news release at the time.

“We call on the Thai authorities to stop abetting Beijing’s operations against opposition media outlets and to drop charges against Chiang.”

RSF said it has learned that the Chinese government pressured the Thai authorities to shut down the radio station.

Paris-based RSF said Thai officials took the action after receiving a complaint from a “mysterious witness” who claimed to have seen a 30-meter (100-foot) antenna being erected at the site.

SOH insisted that no antenna was constructed because it is not needed for shortwave broadcasting and denied any involvement in “illegal broadcasting,” according to RSF.

U.S.-based Freedom House had also spoken out against Chiang’s arrest. It said the Thai government took advantage of his limited knowledge of the language and “deceived Chiang into what amounted to signing a confession.”

“This is not the first time Beijing has pressured Asian governments to crack down on SOH broadcasts,” Freedom House had said in a recent update of press freedom news related to China published on its website. “In 2011, two men in Vietnam were jailed for broadcasting content into China, and Indonesian authorities attempted to shut down SOH affiliate Radio Era-baru, which transmitted programming to local Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.”

Lee said the SOH broadcasts were needed.

“SOH believes shortwave broadcasting to China is very critical to the people in there to learn about truthful and accurate news in China and around the world,” Lee said. “The Chinese communist regime constantly censors news on its human rights violations, religious persecution and objective news from around the world.”

Founded in 1992 in China’s northeast, the Falun Gong spiritual movement gained increasing influence as the fastest growing religion in the PRC and overseas over the next seven years. In 1999 the Chinese government at the orders of then President Jiang Zemin began a harsh and sometimes deadly crackdown on the sect, dragging practitioners from their homes and sending them to detention centers.

Outside of China, the movement was considered harmless and continued to flourish. It is often cited as an example of religious persecution in China, with practitioners and allied religious freedom advocates holding protests in major cities to bring attention to the situation faced by Falun Gong believers in the PRC.

Click here to read the full story at RFA News.

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