Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Radio Caroline (North) at 50

It was exhilarating to go aboard the Lightship Planet in Liverpool this week, the host boat for Radio Caroline North’s month-long RSL (Restricted Service Licence). Nicely rigged out with Caroline insignia and slogans and a 30m mast, the ship was proving popular with radio anoraks and the public in general.

It’s moored there in Canning Dock usually anyway, as a café and bar, but it was the first time I had boarded a free radio /pirate radio/offshore radio ship, which meant a lot to me. Ok, I know it’s all legal this time around but let me have my daydreams please.

I was too young to know of Radio Caroline and the other 1960s offshore stations at the time but fully appreciate that they changed the face of radio in the UK and beyond forever. At the time there was no radio choice other than the 3 BBC radio stations (Home, Light and third Programme)- rather too staid for most of the youth of the day, and only Radio Luxembourg on 208 in hours of darkness with any pop music at all- and that was all pay per play by the big record companies. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of websites and accounts of the offshore days, so if this is all new to you, just look them up for far better details than my scant post here.

Radio Caroline North on 87.7 MHz (and streaming online at) this time around was playing old school , music,  Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd, some 60s rock and roll I didn't know but the spirit of free radio was alive: technical problems persisted too, with the generator periodically cutting out, and a host of workmen lugging on massive wooden table tops and legs to refurbish the ship’s entertainment areas for when it reverts to being just a café and bar once Caroline North has gone.

Terry Lennaine rounding off "The Afternoon Cruise" programme

The gift shop was well stocked with a range of t shirts, stickers, key rings, 50th anniversary pens, CDs and a mini library’s worth of offshore radio books and it was great to look around the production rooms and studio. Some rather lovely polished wooded sleeping quarters too.

I realised that my era of Caroline was the mid 1980’s version on medium wave, playing plenty of album tracks and a firm favourite of mine in my car, as I drove around London suburbs or on day trips to the Brighton coast. I hadn’t heard Caroline on a real radio, over the airwaves, for the best part of 30 years; so it was a joyful trip home from Liverpool to Salford hearing Emily Play, Brass in Pocket and some lesser known but quality music on Carl England’s The Beat Goes On.

Of course, nowadays this type of music is far removed from the cutting edge, but the spirit of pirate radio continues, with today’s youth playing sounds that the dull commercial stations and BBC steer away from or have no idea of. I was tuned to free radio station Mixology, based in the Manchester area on  101.4 MHz at the weekend, and it’s stations like this and another Manchester station Buzz 88 that carry the future of free radio. Hand in hand are the long time established free radio stations such as Merseyland Alternative Radio and the shortwave pirates in the 48 metre band.


Monday, 3 March 2014

Appealing apps

Extracts from my Radio Websites columns, Radio User, 2014

There are two smartphone apps that I have become reliant on. TV Catch up and Tune In Radio. TV Catch up has enabled me to watch television on my phone, be it wrapped up warm in bed on a winter’s night or sitting in the shade of a balcony on a summer evening (and pretty much everywhere else in between too).  http://www.tvcatchup.com/android.html   and http://www.tvcatchup.com/ plus on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tvcatchupcom

It offers around 50 television channels and although the app is called “catch up” that’s a slight misnomer, as it is actually live broadcasts that you watch. No matter, I have enjoyed the regular BBC output plus other Freeview channels such as Quest tv (Freeview channel 38)-I imagine many readers are fans of Drew Pritchard the Salvage Hunter on this channel? http://www.questtv.co.uk/shows/salvage-hunters/  and http://www.drewpritchard.co.uk/

TV Catch up, best of all for me, offers the two channels Euro News (which has now been replaced by an English speaking China station) and NHK Japan. Broadcasting in English, by regularly watching a combination of both you can keep informed on news stories and features from Europe and Asia that the mainstream tv stations seem to neglect http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/tv/genre/ and  http://www.euronews.com/news/streaming-live/

The Tune In app, which I mentioned a couple of years back, now offers 70,000 radio stations, and even more than that http://tunein.com/. The more I play around with this app the more I discover. You start by doing the obvious searching for a radio station by title, country or genre. Local FM from Papua New Guinea or Bolivia, the news from New Zealand or a feature from Fiji?  Or if you prefer, just the mainstream UK and US local radio fare. 

That is all incredible enough and is, dare I say, the closest that the modern generation is going to get to the DX thrill us long timers enjoy on analogue platforms. You can also search by typing the name of a show, drama, musician or a subject matter and up comes one, sometimes dozens, of programmes for you to hear there and then. 

ROK is a British based drama and comedy station along the lines of BBC Radio 4 Extra with the unlikely URL of http://pumpkinfm.com/ and there is plenty of old time US radio drama as well- by station or show. Anyone fancy a dramatic evening with Philip Marlow or Sam Spade? http://tunein.com/radio/Philip-Marlow-p63667/ and http://tunein.com/radio/Adventures-Of-Sam-Spade-p195403/

The World Radio Network (who celebrated 21 years in 2013) has a nifty widget to download for your computer desktop which enable you to stay tuned to their fantastic and varied relayed output of stations around the world. It’s at http://www.wrn.org/listeners/, or if you prefer, it can be found streaming live on Tune In. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

UNESCO World Radio Day, Thursday 13 February

This year’s UNESCO World Radio Day is Thursday 13 February.

There will be live programmes form Paris on a variety of networks and stations including Radio France Internationale, Radio National de Espaňa, Radio Orient,  China Radio International, WYNU New York.

I expect any radio station of note will also be marking the day with some quality themed programming covering this, so listen out on Radio Sweden, BBC World Service, Radio Romania International, All India Radio etc. 

But don’t expect your local commercial stations Bland FM to bother… it might interrupt a traffic bulletin or the 7th playing that day of an already overexposed artiste…

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Long wave lights up

Extracts from my Broadcast Matters column, Radio User, February 2014

A programme I have been enjoying of late is on 252kHz long wave, which is of course where you will find RTE 1. On Sundays at six comes The History Show, which is packed full of high quality content. Hosted by Myles Dungan and guest, the past is brought to life as historical events from Medieval times to the recent present are explored. Interviews with interesting experts (and sometimes the public) and book reviews make for a gripping programme with good reception. What more could you ask for? A recent fascinating programme was about the MV Kerlogue, which was a small coaster of the Wexford Steamship company that came to fame by rescuing a multitude of German sailors whose ship had been sunk in World War II. Another programme looked at the history of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published in 1768 by Edinburgh bookseller Colin MacFarquhar and engraver Andrew Bell.

Graham Smith reports that Ukraine has reactivated its medium wave station on 936kHz. It runs from 0330 to 2200UTC daily, and it is moderately strong at his location. The Czech long wave station on 270kHz is to close at the end of February 2014. Currently the transmitter carries the Radiožurnál channel, and the schedule is 0400 to 2300 UTC from Mondays to Fridays and 0500 to 2300 UTC at the weekends.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Komla Dumor a silent voice - BBC World Service's Network Africa

I wanted to add my brief thoughts to the many who have shed a tear for the untimely passing of BBC WS Komla Dumor.

For many years in fairly recent times (that is 2006-09 and BBC WS programme Network Africa) he was my dawn to breakfast companion, so to say, with my waking to the BBC WS on my bedside radio every morning. His dependable delivery style, humour and fabulous radio voice made the news stories engaging and listenable, no matter how awful or sick the actual stories continued to be. How sad that he too would come to be one of those tragic tales himself as he made the headlines at the weekend.

He will be missed – a voice that echoed from Bush House’s studios and corridors (and later Broadcasting House) across the airwaves and the internet to a waiting world. R.I.P.

As a small tribute I looked back fondly on some of his tweets:

2013: Alice Baxter has gone shopping for her husband. I'm taking over in studio B at broadcasting house

2013: Madiba's fav joke w his son in law involves a trip to W/Africa and a goat. Personal insight from Isaac Amuah

2013: A big thank you to colleagues @BBCAfrica @BBCWorld who have been so supportive 

2011: Lovely Easter Sunday-heading to Bush house listening to Wiz Khalifa..World Today on BBC world service Monday morning

2011: back at Bush House! New schedule for the World Today BBC World Service Radio.Julian Keane is in Nairobi join us from 0300GMT to 0830GMT

Friday, 3 January 2014

QSL cards and reception reports

Extracts from my Radio Websites columns, Radio User, 2014

Howard Barnett picked up a Trans World Radio (TWR) transmission from India in an unidentified language of that country. He doesn’t give a frequency or time, but he would like a postal address and, as they issue QSL cards, you can write to TWR India, PO Box 4310, Delhi 110019, India. Simpler still you can email them at info@twr.in. TWR India broadcast in an amazing array of almost 60 languages and dialects to Asia, many of which are new to me. For instance there’s 15 minutes a week in Awadhi, 15 in Bondo, Haryanvi, KuiMouchi, Tulu and Varli. There is some English to be heard on TWR India as well- far more than 15 minutes a week but last year’s winter schedule for English was only on 882kHz medium wave.  

However this frequency was heard in February by a Finnish DXer surprisingly, see and hear for yourself at http://www.twrbonaire.com/news/view/67/2013/02-02/qsl-request-from-finland  

There are also TWR broadcasts in English to Europe; from 0800 to 0820 UTC on Saturdays and Sundays and a little longer on weekdays, from 0800 to 0850 UTC. All these broadcasts use 7400kHz via Moosbrunn in Austria and 6105kHz from the Nauen transmitter in Germany.
Their European office is in Vienna,  Trans World RadioPostfach 141A-1235 Vienna, Austria. 

Starting in 1952, in total TWR now preach “hope to the world” in an astonishing 230 languages and dialects, which brings them 20,000 listener responses every month. 

Romania celebrated 85 years of broadcasting in 2013, and the final QSL card of their 2013 series is now available. It’s of a radio studio in in the city of Resita. The series tied in with their anniversary, consisting of Romanian radio buildings, including concert halls, studios. The nicest card of the dozen, in my view was October 2013’s ancient radio office block in the city of Targu Mures. 

Howard heard a station which he believes was from Bangladesh on 15505kHz from 1530 to 1550 UTC. This was probably their Hindu broadcast. Bangladesh Betar can be heard in  English, if you are lucky, at 1230 to 1300 UTC on 15105kHz from Dhaka; 1235 to 1255 and 1530 to 1545 UTC on 4750kHz from Shavar; and from 1745 to 1900 UTC from Dhaka on 7250kHz. Reception reports can be posted to Senior Engineer, Research & Receiving Centre, Bangladesh Betar, 121 Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, Shabag, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh and emailed to rrc@dhaka.net  

Radio PCJ International from Taiwan (9705kHz at 1330 UTC) issued a Halloween QSL card for those who sent reception reports of the PCJ rebroadcast of War of The Worlds- it features Martians on a lake. Radio Havana Cuba’s Spanish service also issued a commemorative QSL card for the 75th anniversary of the Orson Welles’ classic radio play.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Kitchen radio

A simple swirl along the dial at this time of year brings a host of wonderful variety from European stations. 

For me, baking festive treats in the kitchen and wrapping up last minute presents are made all the sweeter with an ear tuned to some of the following stations’ own festive fare:

Mayak Radio on 549kHz from Russia; Czech Radio from Prague on 639kHz; Croatian Radio on 1134kHz and Magyar Radio 4 from Hungary on 1188kHz are just a few suggestions. At the very least you will surely hear the strong signals from stations in Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands beaming out on medium wave. They can light up a dark evening as they reach the British Isles too.

I have been tuning into medium wave a lot lately- there’s something about the winter nights that adds to the atmosphere of mw for me- as I listen I picture swathes of historical regions of Europe blanketed in snow. On Saturday nights Deutschlandfunk on 1422kHz airs a play. Even though my understanding of German is weak, I can get a feel of the programme and I can sometimes eke out some of the storyline (especially with some online research and preparation in advance). 

Recent delights from DLF have included a play called Russian Salad which was supposedly set at the BBC in London. A Russian presenter drops dead at the mike during a live broadcast. Chaos breaks out among the editors, less because of the death as how to fill, pardon the pun, dead air. It is determined the presenter was poisoned… Another play was about a trapeze artist from Bristol and another about a gambler who is kidnapped in Hollywood. It’s gripping stuff in any language.

Other medium wave frequencies that I pick up clearly on the car radio as well as on a basic kitchen set include Czech Radio on 954khz. Radio Maria from Lopik in the Netherlands on 675kHz plays a mix of folk and religious music, Dutch station NOR5 on 747kHz from Flevo has news bulletins which you can pick out odd sentences of and translate quite easily. The old Radio Sweden frequency of 1179kHz is used by various stations from Antenne Saar in Germany including Radio France International at 1700 UTC. 

For a selection of French music try France bleu on 864kHz while France Info delivers interesting programmes on 945 and 792kHz among others. BBC Radio Scotland is always an entertaining listen for me and easy to catch on medium wave from here in the north of England on its 810kHz frequency.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A little Latin

Extracts from my Radio Websites columns, Radio User, 2013

This time we go a little Latin with some Argentinean and Brazilian radio stations, dip into some blogs to review logbooks and radios new and old, and finish off with a wide selection of readers' website tips. She finishes off in a time machine to the 1950s.

Stations and shows
I've long been a big fan of shortwave stations Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior (RAE), the international radio and online service of Radio Nacional Argentina. But it's not always easy to hear on shortwave so the World Radio Network online option is something I turn to at www.wrn.org/ Other options include the RAE website at http://rae.radionacional.com.ar/  

and there are two sites for the wonderful Latin Jumpstart music programme; on Facebook and Soundcloud https://www.facebook.com/LatinJumpstart and https://soundcloud.com/latinjumpstart Latin Jumpstart is presented by Fernando Farias, DJ G Mega, Melanie Henderson every Friday evening at 11.30pm on the RAE channel of Argentina's Radio Nacional. www.radionacional.com.ar/vivo/4-rae

Feeling in need of some Brazilian music as well I turned to Streema to start my journey to the land of the samba and so much more. http://streema.com/radios/country/
Brazil offered me a good choice. Radio Paqueire at http://streema.com/radios/Radio_Paiquere_FM and www.paiquerefm.com.br/ was a good start, playing as it did some Brazilian ballads and tunes to brighten the gloomiest of days.  Nova Brasil FM in Sao Paulo on 89.7 delivered me folk, samba and bossa nova http://www.novabrasilfm.com.br/

Tune In, with 70,000 global stations, unsurprisingly showed me one thousand Brazilian stations, some of which were western rock but most were offering local musical fare. I hasten to add that I am yet to work my way through all 1,000 but would gladly do so if I had time. A little project for the autumn perhaps...Start at http://tunein.com/radio/Brazilian-Music-g137/  I enjoyed Rádio Samba dos Gêmeos at http://sambadosgemeos.com/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sambao.dosgemeos. I kid you not, as soon as I clicked onto the station and the music started streaming, the sun came out! The music was a little too cheesy and mainstream at times for me, but I would persevere. Likewise Rádio Planalto do Oeste AM 1490 www.radioplanaltodooeste.com.br/

Thursday, 24 October 2013

QRM and NZ

Extracts from my Radio Websites columns, Radio User, 2013

Two other recommendations from Ian Brothwell are this video on QRM (interference).
Thilo Kootz DL9KCE, of Deutscher Amateur-Radio-Club (DARC), demonstrates findings when they tested a range of LED lamps. http://www.ukqrm.org.uk/lighting.php. In a different mood, watch a rather nice video of moon rise over Wellington, New Zealand on Mark Gee’s Vimeo channel http://vimeo.com/58385453 

Why not tune to radio from Wellington et al online as you watch, or select from other kiwi stations. A handy guide is at http://www.nzradioguide.co.nz/

Also, I found an interesting "design a radio" NZ competition (see photo above) at 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Tape Recording Magazine

Extracts from my Radio Websites columns, Radio User, 2013

Ian Brothwell was going through some old magazines that came from the house of a relation and found a copy of 'Tape Recording Magazine' from April 1967. (the issue above dates from 1966).

The April 1967 cover shows a lady listening to a Van der Molen cassette recorder, which it looks a neat unit. The magazine says that the left speaker is actually removable from the unit - it is in a box inside the left side of the cabinet behind a dummy grille - for improved stereo separation.

The caption to the cover reads: "The attractive lady is none other than ballerina Amina Hanafy. Well known for her work with Covent Garden Opera, Sadler's Wells and Carla Rosa Opera, she listens with professional interest to the sound produced by one of the latest cassette machines, the Sonic 8. Designed and made in this country by Van der Molen, it is based on the Philips Compact Cassette mechanism and offers full stereo record and play-back facilities. The left-hand speaker can be stored within the cabinet when not in use, but is provided with a long extension cable to ensure adequate separation from the right-hand channel for stereo reproduction. Impressed by the smart, modern appearance of the equipment, Amina loves the simplicity of cassettes." The Sonic 8 cost 49 guineas.

So far, so good. I guessed that Amina was in her thirties and I wondered what she was doing today. I did a search and found this. www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/the-heir-hunters-the-remarkable-story-of-joyce-amina-hanafy Hmmm. I wasn't expecting that end to her story. Copies of Tape Recording magazine sometimes appear for sale on eBay, in fact there were half a dozen from the 1960s the week I wrote this, all starting at £2.99.

If you would like to buy copies of all Tape Recording magazine plus two other similar British journals from the same era, head to the Australian website http://www.bassboy.com.au/getreel/tapemags3.htm  where you can buy electronic versions of Amateur Tape Recording, The Tape Recorder (becoming Studio Sound in late 1970) and Tape Recording Magazine. 

At 190 Australian dollars that might seem expensive but it probably isn’t, although I am always unsure about copyright issues here. Having said that I did buy some DVDs a few years back containing about 25 years worth of the satirical US Mad magazine. Maybe it’s a grey area.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Tesla tales...

Tesla in 1890
Extracts from my Radio Websites columns, Radio User, 2013

Ian Brothwell has another batch of intriguing and eccentric websites, starting with news that crowd funding has raised enough money to buy a laboratory that was used by Nikola Tesla. http://theoatmeal.com/blog/tesla_museum_saved 

This is on Long Island in the USA and there us a really great backstory (and more ) at http://www.teslasciencecenter.org/

 “The site became known as Wardenclyffe, after the former owner. Here, Tesla established what would become his only remaining laboratory building. Previously, after emigrating to the United States in 1884, Tesla had worked on all of his major projects at various laboratory sites. These included Pittsburgh, PA; New York City, NY; Orange, NJ; Colorado Springs, CO; and finally Wardenclyffe, NY. In April, 1901, the Wardenclyffe Post Office was established in the town; in 1906 the town became the Village of Shoreham.”

Ian adds that if readers haven't heard of Tesla (it's possible!) then these references should help. http://www.teslasociety.com/biography.htm
http://www.biography.com/people/nikola-tesla-9504443 and, of course, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A Radio Roma mystery...

Extracts from my Radio Websites columns, Radio User, 2013

Phil Dodd writes with a little mystery that perhaps readers can help unravel and solve?

In an old engineering photo blog that he follows, there is a photo of some power supply equipment associated with a Radio Roma transmitter, in 1929. (reproduced above).Phil is wondering if the square units on the right of the equipment were water cooled, “as if you look at the base of the nearest square unit, a tap is clearly visible! If not water, it must have been oil?” He'd hoped to find a bit more information on Wikipedia about Radio Roma. It is mentioned, but as appearing at a later time. 

A further Wikipedia page suggests that Ente Italiano per le Audizioni Radiofoniche (EIAR) was in fact the user of the transmitter. Phil adds that there is further information available, but in Italian and if he really wants to know, he'll have to learn Italian. A simpler option is to use an online translator such as Google Chrome or others- I find them a great boon.

As is the way of the web, Phil found out other related information on his research journey and notes that medium wave in Italy is now being switched off, but they are getting good results from DRM+, according to http://portale.italradio.org on 10 May. “On that score, they're ahead of the UK!” The Portale Italradio is an interesting website in English covering news and current affairs about Italian radio and TV around the world.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Reception Reports and QSL cards

Radio Denmark vintage QSL, sunflowers and apples 

Extracts from my Broadcast Matters, long, medium & shortwave  column, in Radio User, September 2013

Tony Roper received a nice commemorative 60th anniversary QSL card from Deutsche Welle which took ten days from his sending a report to receiving a QSL in the post. He logged them on 22 June at 2100 on 11800kHz from the Kigali transmitter. Tony also tuned to Radio Cuba on the nicely rounded frequency of 6000kHz, at 0105 UTC. Ed Newman was presenting the broadcast (SINPO 33333). 

Programmes included This Day in History, then a commentary on the USA which Tony says “faded enough to not quite be able to hear it properly, it mainly appeared to be about the USA and probably not good stuff.” Next up was the sports desk programme, followed by five minutes of music and a round-up of news at 0135 UTC. Tony hopes to receive a QSL card for the Cuba broadcast.

Has anyone received a QSL card from Danish station DR Kalundborg? asks Keith Rann in Essex. He sent a reception report having heard their 243kHz long wave broadcast in May, which was an annual special rebroadcast of the May 1945 BBC Danish Service liberty message. Keith is still awaiting his QSL.

Howard Barnett asks for contact details of Radio Sonder Grense (which is Afrikaans for Radio Without Borders). This has been logged recently in English at 1800 UTC on 3320kHz by Andrew Kirby and they also use 7285 and 9650 kHz (plus FM locally in South Africa where they have an estimated listenership of 1,852,000 at May 2013). The station, run by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, started with an English service in 1936, to be followed a year later with the Afrikaans service. 

The station’s postal address as in the 2013 World Radio and TV Handbook is Radio Sonder Grense, PO Box 91312, Auckland Park 2006, South Africa or you can contact them via the online form at their website. www.rsg.co.za Sentech are responsible for signal distribution and I have seen QSL letters from them with the following address: Sentech, PO Box 234, Meyerton 1960, South Africa.

Denis Ironman has selected some nostalgic QSL cards again for us- he sent me one of Radio Netherlands’ The Happy Station Show, from way back in 1969 when Eddie Startz was the host. Denis also sent a photocopy of a 1969 Radio Netherlands’ calendar which celebrated 40 years since the start of the station’s forerunner, PCJ. Denis recalls listening lured by the slogan ”Keep in touch with the Dutch every Sunday via Hilversum, Holland and Bonaire, Netherland Antilles.” 

Denis felt the show was a great loss to shortwave and has fond memories of Eddie Startz tapping his tea cup with his spoon. The Happy Station does live on today of course through PCJ Media. It is run by Keith Perron with former Happy Station host Tom Meyer’s blessing. Tom often featured songs he had recorded while he on the Happy Station and these are online at www.pcjmedia.com/tmeijer

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Radio Dechovka

Extracts from my Broadcast Matters, long, medium & shortwave  column, in Radio User, August 2013

Howard Barnett has asked for the address of a station he has been trying to tune into and hopefully wishes to send a reception reports to. 

This is Radio Dechovka on 1233kHz medium wave from the Czech Republic. Radio Dechovka translates as Radio Brass or Radio Brass Band and the postal address is Radio Brass, U prutník 232, 250 72 Předboj, Czech Republic.  Emails can be sent to studio@radiodechovka.cz 

Interestingly their main broadcast studio is in a train station in Prague Kojetice. Radio Brass has a medium wave license for nationwide trials. It advertises itself as  the first brass-band radio you can listen around the clock.  It plays the best of Czech and Moravian brass bands and sometimes non-Czech bands as well. 

A typical summer evening's programming consists of Camp fire; Cultural Service - where Jiri Sykora provides an overview of cultural tips; a programme of the best brass band music of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia; and Pub fun which plays "bawdy songs".