Tag Archives: Why Shortwave

“Shortwave radio in Ukraine: why revisiting old-school technology makes sense in a war”

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post contributors who’ve shared the following article from The Conversation:

Shortwave radio in Ukraine: why revisiting old-school technology makes sense in a war (The Conversation)

Shortly before access to the BBC News website was reportedly blocked in Russia a few days ago, the BBC announced that it was resuming the broadcasting of the BBC World Service via shortwave radio for four hours per day. It said that this was to ensure that people in parts of Russia and Ukraine can access its news service.

In a world with near-ubiquitous adoption of mobile phones, the use of early 20th century radio technology might seem unusual. But it makes sense for a number of practical reasons.

Shortwave radio is an old variant of what many people may remember as “AM” analogue radio, operating on low frequency radio waves to deliver audio services. Shortwave radio is far simpler than modern digital TV or telecommunications services: receivers are widely available (or can be built from spare electrical parts), and it works across long distances.

Traditional broadcast TV and radio fundamentally differ from modern internet-based services. Like Freeview TV received over an aerial, traditional broadcast radio services don’t require you to transmit anything to be able to receive a service. It’s transmitted once, and anyone with a receiver can listen or watch.

When someone uses a shortwave radio receiver, there’s no lasting trace of them using it. This makes it hard for an occupying force to find those listening to (perhaps banned) overseas media.

Conversely, when you browse the internet or use a mobile app, your device is requesting the content you wish to receive, and it’s being sent directly to your phone. This bi-directional communication means that when you browse the internet, various entities like your internet provider are able to see that you visited certain websites.

Internet-based services can also become overloaded, either as a result of high demand, or due to malicious attacks flooding a service with requests, aiming to make it unavailable.

There are a number of other technical reasons why shortwave radio can be very useful in crisis situations. Since it uses lower transmission frequencies, the signals can travel much further than TV or mobile phone signals – thousands of kilometres, rather than kilometres or tens of kilometres.

This means the BBC can broadcast from outside into a conflict zone without needing local physical infrastructure. And since low frequencies are used, the signals propagate better through buildings and the environment. If you’ve ever experienced poor mobile phone signal in the centre of an old building, you’ve experienced the challenges of radio propagation. Low frequency signals reach into buildings and basements better, even when transmitted from far away, which might be useful for people who are taking shelter.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

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Radio Exterior de España broadcasts to Ukraine and Russia via shortwave

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mangosman, for sharing the following press release from Radio Exterior de España. Please note that the original press release was in Spanish and can be viewed at RTVE Comunicación. What follows is a machine translation:

Radio Exterior de España transmits its programming on Short Wave from its broadcasting center in Noblejas (Toledo). Source: RTVE

Radio Exterior de España: The Short Wave service of REE reaches Ukraine and Russia

Radio Exterior de España, the international channel of Radio Nacional de España, offers an open window to truthful information in times of war through Short Wave. The Russian attack on the Kiev communications tower has silenced several television channels. The Internet and social networks are easily controllable, and the telecommunications infrastructure that provides Internet service is highly vulnerable to attack.

True to its commitment to public service, the Short Wave broadcasts of Radio Exterior de España, in Spanish and Russian, are the only Spanish ones that can publicize the reality of the invasion, its repercussions, the testimonies and the demonstrations of solidarity to the Ukrainian population directly. They can be easily received with affordable receivers and you cannot control who is listening to them, unlike online radio broadcasts.

Radio Exterior de España transmits its programming on Short Wave from its broadcasting center in Noblejas (Toledo) to Ukraine and Russia, thus preventing any type of control or censorship by the Russian army. Any citizen from the war zone can access a proven, serious, truthful and honest source of information.

With broadcasts in English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Sephardic and Russian, Radio Exterior de España offers its listeners the transmission of all the national and international events that arouse the interest of world public opinion regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its global consequences. A work that is enriched by the live testimony of the correspondents and special envoys of Radio Nacional de España to the conflict zone and its area of ??influence.

Radio Exterior de España’s short wave broadcasts for Ukraine and Russia are broadcast in Spanish from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Spanish time (4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. UTC) and in Russian from 7:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Spanish time (6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. UTC time).

Click here to read the original press release in Spanish.

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Radio Waves: Termination Event, Russian Propaganda in DC, Renewed Relevance, Circumventing Censorship, and Old-School Radio Sense

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!

The Termination Event has Arrived (Space Weather Archive)

Feb. 26, 2022: Something big just happened on the sun. Solar physicists Scott McIntosh (NCAR) and Bob Leamon (U. Maryland-Baltimore County) call it “The Termination Event.”

“Old Solar Cycle 24 has finally died–it was terminated!” says McIntosh. “Now the new solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25, can really take off.”

The “Termination Event” is a new idea in solar physics, outlined by McIntosh and Leamon in a December 2020 paper in the journal Solar Physics. Not everyone accepts it–yet. If Solar Cycle 25 unfolds as McIntosh and Leamon predict, the Termination Event will have to be taken seriously.

The basic idea is this: Solar Cycle 25 (SC25) started in Dec. 2019. However, old Solar Cycle 24 (SC24) refused to go away. It hung on for two more years, producing occasional old-cycle sunspots and clogging the sun’s upper layers with its decaying magnetic field.  During this time, the two cycles coexisted, SC25 struggling to break free while old SC24 held it back.

“Solar Cycle 24 was cramping Solar Cycle 25’s style,” says Leamon. [Continue reading…]

The tiny radio station broadcasting Russian propaganda in D.C. (Washington Post)

For a few seconds every hour, WZHF-AM interrupts its round-the-clock schedule of talk to air a curious disclaimer: “This radio programming is distributed by RM Broadcasting on behalf of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, Moscow, Russia. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.” Continue reading

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“Shortwaves for Freedom” campaign is funding VOA and RFE/RL programming

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who brought the “Shortwaves for Freedom” fundraising (crowdsource) campaign to my attention.

I’ve confirmed with WRMI that this campaign is legitimate and that they are purchasing time from WRMI to broadcast VOA and RFE/RL into Russia and Ukraine.

Here’s the description of the mission behind their campaign:

The people in Russia, as well as those in Ukraine and other countries where Russian, Ukrainian and English are spoken in the imperiled region, need to hear the truth about the carnage President Putin has unleashed.

With Moscow silencing foreign media in Russia, threatening to send reporters to jail and censoring all war information, objective outside information is critically needed not only for Russia, but also for Ukraine and surrounding countries.

Such content, produced by the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is being disseminated on the internet and TV. But these Russian, Ukrainian and English language programs are not being distributed through the simplest technology that skirts censorship and internet shutdowns — shortwave (and medium wave) radio.

The parent agency of VOA and RFE/RL, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, apparently has decided not to air such transmissions (unlike the BBC). As these programs are in the public domain, we plan to air them live and on tape delay by purchasing air time on commercial shortwave stations in the United States and Europe. These powerful transmitters (with hundreds of thousands of watts and large antenna systems) can easily reach Russia, Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe where hundreds of millions of people still listen to radio. These potential listeners will be alerted through social media as to what frequencies and times to listen for these critical programs.

We need your help to pay for the transmission costs until there comes a time when USAGM (like BBC) can be persuaded to utilize its own facilities (which are paid for by U.S. taxpayers).

Even a small donation will make a difference as airtime can be obtained for as little as $50 for a 30-minute slice of airtime that can be potentially heard around the world. Of course, the more money we raise gives us access to more powerful transmitters and more airtime.

This group has been started by members of the general public, policy professionals, academics, radio enthusiasts and others who feel this is a critical mission at a critical time. Help us be a part of world history. After all, jazz music aired by the VOA and the allure of blue jeans is credited with bringing down the Iron Curtain as much as anything else!

You can play a crucial role in this exercise of soft power to counter the guns, rockets and missiles of the Russian army intent on exterminating the Ukrainian nation and possibly other freedom-loving sovereign states.

Click here to check out this campaign.

After confirming this campaign with Jeff, I contributed.

Although I’m fully aware that Russia’s younger citizens may have never even heard of shortwave, my guess is that some in the older generation have.  According to a report I read recently, Russia’s older generation are the ones who tend to trust Russian state media and propaganda.

But as this CCN report points out, Russian state media is showing a consistent false narrative to all of its citizens and are also making it nearly impossible for any other independent news sources to broadcast within or into Russia. Many international broadcasters have been pulling out of Russia for fear of being arrested. The penalties if you’re labeled as “fake news” or if you protest what the Kremlin is doing in Ukraine are stiff–many carry 15 year jail sentences.

If you’d like to support this effort, check out the Shortwaves for Freedom campaign on FundRazr.

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The Guardian: “BBC website ‘blocked’ in Russia as shortwave radio brought back to cover Ukraine war”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris, who shares the following report from The Guardian:

BBC website ‘blocked’ in Russia as shortwave radio brought back to cover Ukraine war (The Guardian)

Website reportedly available at only 17% of normal levels in Russia, hours after broadcaster revives radio technology to reach Ukraine and parts of Russia

Access to BBC websites has been restricted in Russia, hours after the corporation brought back its shortwave radio service in Ukraine and Russia to ensure civilians in both countries can access news during the invasion.

State communications watchdog Roskomnadzor restricted access to BBC Russia’s online presence, as well as Radio Liberty and the Meduza media outlet, the state-owned Russian RIA news agency reported on Friday.

According to Globalcheck, a service that tracks internet censorship in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the availability of the entire BBC website was at 17% of normal levels in Russia, which suggests some services have been blocked.

BBC Russia also reported that Meta, formerly known as Facebook, also appeared to be blocked, as was Google Play.

The signs the BBC was being blocked emerged hours after the BBC’s decision to revert to a mostly obsolete form of broadcasting, broadcasting four hours of its world service, read in English, to Ukraine and parts of Russia each day.

“It’s often said truth is the first casualty of war,” BBC director general Tim Davie said in announcing the move on Thursday. “In a conflict where disinformation and propaganda is rife, there is a clear need for factual and independent news people can trust … millions more Russians are turning to the BBC.” [Continue reading at The Guardian…]

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Everyone should have a shortwave radio

Screen shot taken from a nearby resident’s video showing missile attacks on Kiev TV tower (via YouTube)

There’s a reason why Russia disabled Kyiv’s TV tower with two missiles on the morning of March 1, 2022.

As Ukraine’s Defense minister was quoted in The Guardian: “Moscow aims to cut off communications to ‘break the resistance of the people’.

One of the first things an invader tries to shut down is a country’s free press; traditionally, this has meant swift control of newspapers and radio. No surprise here–this is a standard part of an invader’s playbook.

These days, of course, this also includes TV and the Internet. So far, Russia’s attempts to completely cut off Internet in Ukraine hasn’t been successful, but it’s not from a lack of trying.

In fact, even within Russia social media platforms  have been blocked or severely restricted to prevent the free-flow of information among its citizens. Russia has even shut down one of its oldest radio stations for not toeing the party line with Ukraine coverage.

Propaganda machines are most effective when there’s no competing sources of information.

Why shortwave radio?

Shortwave portables are accessible, affordable, and effective tools for circumventing censorship.

It’s sad that they aren’t as common as they were back in the Cold War. Most people under 40 years old have likely never used or even heard of shortwave. I mean, if so many today don’t realize that you can receive television over the air, how could we expect them to know what a shortwave radio is?

Unlike the Internet–robust and decentralized as it may be in some countries–shortwave radio can’t be controlled by any one ruler or easily shut down. Shortwave broadcasting infrastructure isn’t within reach of an invader without causing a serious international conflict.

In addition, radio listening is an amazingly covert and untraceable activity. With a good pair of earphones, you can listen to any station within range and no one will be the wiser. A radio can’t be confiscated and the owner’s listening history exported.

Smart phones, on the other hand, often have location services in play which leak user location information. Unless encryption is used, those in charge of internet services also have access to all communications that pass through the pipeline as well.

It’s not difficult for those in power to gain access to information that passes through the internet.

Don’t get me wrong: smart phones are amazing tools. They give the user access to news, social media, and instantaneous information that might help their ability to seek safety–but they require a little savvy if you don’t want to be tracked. They also need frequent recharging. Shortwave portables, on the other hand, will often last weeks if not months on one set of batteries. They allow you access to international news, and the vast majority can deliver local and regional news via FM and Mediumwave stations.

Most importantly, though? Shortwave radio is the ultimate free speech medium, as it has no regard for national borders, nor for whom is in power (or not in power) at any moment. Shortwave radio works everywhere on the planet; no matter how remote you are, you can still receive stations over shortwave.

So yeah. I think every family should have at least one shortwave radio. Especially when someone is actively trying to cut off your access to news and information.

Note to our friends in Ukraine:

The BBC has added two shortwave broadcasts to Ukraine on 5875 kHz from 8/10 UTC and on 15735 kHz from 2/4 UTC.

SWLing Post readers, please comment if you know of other new shortwave broadcasts to help those in Ukraine and Russia.

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Guest Post: Why listen to shortwave radio?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jock Elliott, who shares the following guest post:

Why listen to shortwave radio?

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

Decades ago, an entrepreneur challenged his audience with a concept of critical importance: “Every once in a vhile, it is important to ask ourselves vhy are we in business?” He had a waaay cool Austrian accent, and his point was valid: every once in a while, we should examine our fundamentals.

So why, indeed, listen to shortwave radio?

For me, the short answer is: because there are treasures out there on the shortwave spectrum, that’s why. Further, with a relatively inexpensive shortwave receiver (even better if you have a receiver with single-sideband – SSB – capability), you hear them too. You can discover things that you are unlikely to find anywhere else, and not only are they fun to hear, they are also fun to find.

So let me present for your approval a shortwave journey that I took on October 24, 2021.

1115Z – It all starts when I am flipping through my old shortwave reference materials, and a copy of a page from Popular Communications magazine, April, 1986, catches my eye: “Handy Ute Finder by Hubble Gardiner, KNE0JX.” Utes are utility stations (as opposed to hams or international broadcasters), like ships at sea, planes in the air, and fixed commercial and military stations, and the like. The article presented places to look in the HF radio spectrum between 4000 kHz and 26960 kHz, for utility stations transmitting in SSB, CW, and RTTY/ARQ modes. Is this chart still valid? I don’t know, but since I enjoy hearing people doing their jobs on the air, why not start tuning from 4000 kHz in upper sideband and see what I can hear? Freeing the Tecsun PL-880 from its case, I extend the antenna, press the power button, punch in 4000 kHz, and start turning the dial. And while my initial impulse was to discover some “utes,” I am open to whatever comes through the headphones.

1128Z, 4426 kHz USB – a ute, super loud and clear, a weather forecast from the US Coast Guard Communications Command, including a forecast of tropical weather from the National Hurricane Center. If I were a mariner, I would be pleased to hear this forecast.

Duties call, and my cruise of the bands is interrupted, to be continued later in the day . . .

2130Z, 7490 kHz AM, — highly unusual music that sounds like a mash-up between 1930s movie music and oompah bands. It’s odd but pleasant and certainly not anything you are going to hear on the “regular” broadcast stations. Turns out it is a program called Marion’s Attic on WBCQ from Monticello, Maine. Two females, Marion (with a high squeaky voice) and Christine, play recordings from yesteryear (including wax cylinders, I think). Evidently, this program has been on the air for 22 years, and it made me smile.

2150Z, 8950 kHz USB, — a ute, European weather conditions for aviators from Shannon VOLMET, Ireland, very difficult to hear on the PL880’s whip antenna, but fully copyable on my Satellit 800 with wire antenna. How cool to hear weather from all the way across the pond!

2206Z, 9350 kHz AM, (back on the PL880) — USA Radio News on WWCR, then Owen Shroyer and a Dr. Bartlett discussing the problem of a hospital in Texas apparently putting plastic bags on the heads of covid patients. Unusual, I think, but I had heard enough about the virus of late and continue to rotate the tuning knob.

2215Z, 9395 kHz AM, — My ears are tickled by cool jazz, a very together group, laying it down with style. “This is cool jazz, jazz from the left coast,” the announcer intones as he cues up another group. It’s WRMI, transmitting from Okeechobee. Hearing it, I flashed back to “The Hawthorn Den, Jazz after Midnight” Saturday nights, listening under the covers when I was a kid.

2226Z, 9830 kHz, Voice of Turkey, in English — A professor presents an analysis of the United Nations, which he thinks needs to be reformed due to the shifting of the axes of power. This is followed by exotic music with nice female singer.

2239Z, 9955 kHz,WRMI, — Glen Hauser hosts The World of Radio, detailing the status of various shortwave stations around the world. Fascinating stuff and well worth the time.

2257Z, 10051 kHz USB, — a ute, weather for aviators again, but this time from Gander, Newfoundland. Makes me glad to be in a nice warm house.

So that’s what a little over an hour of turning the knob yielded, and that’s why to listen to shortwave radio: because you never know what you may encounter. Who knows what you might discover with a shortwave radio and a little wandering around?

Remember what Gandalf said: “Not all who wander are lost.

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