Thursday 25 October 2018

Once upon a time: to smartphones and podcast apps

Once upon a time, many years ago, when I was a child, I used to dream of owning a magic book that would contain every comic strip, poem, fact and story that I'd ever desire. 

It was the period in my life that I listened to a tiny radio under the bedclothes late at night, on medium wave to Luxy 208, BBC Deutsche, Radio Tirana, Radio Sweden and music from all manner of stations across Europe.

I wished for a small radio powerful enough to hear stations from further afield, just like I could hear on my grandfather's shortwave radio.

Today, that dream is a reality. The smartphone in my hand, on my pillow, in my kitchen as I cook, does it all.

Today's newspapers, anything I want from the internet. Streaming any radio station I fancy, be it Bosnian or Uruguayan.  Listening to shortwave receivers and tuning them, from New Zealand to the Netherlands. And podcasts, oh my gosh, podcasts.

I've used many different podcast apps on my Android phone but Google's podcast app works best for me. It seems to give me almost all of the content I want, from Radio Prague to The Guilty Feminist, Radio Canada International to the Night Vale. One of the best presents of 2018, free of charge.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

EDXC Conference 2018 Bratislava, 31 August - 3 September

Chrissy at Scandinavian Weekend Radio in Virrat, Finland, 
during the EDXC 2017 post-conference road trip.

I'm not as active at this blog as I once was. My three columns for RadioUser magazine, editing BDXC Communication, community and political work and Airbnb co-hosting take up a lot of my time these days. Not to mention a lovely social life. Apologies, I will try to blog more from autumn 2018.

However, a reminder that this year's European DX Council Conference is almost upon us. I can't wait for a few days in lovely Bratislava and then Vienna, taking in radio station tours, good presentations and great company, interesting architecture, scenery and hopefully some good veggie food too.

I'll be Tweeting and Instagramming from the conference - you can follow me @chrissycurlz
My report will appear in the November 2018 issue of RadioUser, out late October. A different report will also appear in October's issue of BDXC Communication.

Monday 4 June 2018

Ukrainian state radio, Koreas, NHK Japan

Selected extracts from lm&s broadcast matters by Chrissy Brand, first published in RadioUser, Warners Group, June 2018

Chrissy Brand hears how Ukrainian state radio and television is being transformed. She reports on radio just over the North Korean border and looks at some of the summer schedules.

Behind the Lines and Summer Schedules

There is such a variety of news, information and music to hear when you tune around the medium, long and short wave bands. In just a couple of short listening sessions, I experienced NHK World Japan explain how the Japanese are helping to build Indonesia's first subway in the capital Jakarta. Next was Radio France International, who reported on the strikes that were bringing the country to a standstill. I then heard some nice Hindustani classical music on All India Radio, the latest Korean pop on KBS World and some vintage Czech ballads on Radio Prague.
NHK World (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, Japan Broadcasting Corporation) has had a slight name change to now become Radio Japan of the NHK World. This is to ensure its audiences associate all NHK branding with the country of Japan, host of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. NHK stated that this, "will give a Japanese perspective in trustworthy news coverage and programming. Closer coordination with NHK's domestic services will supply even more content to satisfy the interests of the global audience."
You can hear Japan's English to Europe and Africa from 0500 to 0530 UTC on 5975, 9860 and 11970kHz. There is an 1100 UTC broadcast to South East Asia on 11695kHz from a transmitter in Singapore and a 1400 UTC transmission to the Middle East and Asia on 11705 and 11935kHz. The station has always featured some stunning photography on its QSL cards. Submit your reception reports and programme feedback online.

As well as analogue, linear radio, I also listen online, in order to keep up with news and programmes from broadcasters whose English services have left short wave. My first port of call is usually the World Radio Network website, which has three streams of English (for Europe, Africa and Asia and North America) airing number of famous broadcasters. One example being Deutsche Welle, who devoted a entire programme to a correspondent in Londonderry looking at the history of the troubles and explaining the 20th anniversary of the peace settlement and current day situation in a well balanced way. Turning to Polish Radio, the External Service's English programme I heard reviewed a translation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales into Polish.

Ukrainian Radio
I attended a presentation given by Zurab Alasania (CEO, Public Broadcaster of Ukraine) at the Radiodays Europe conference in March. He spoke on how the state media is being transformed from a propaganda tool into a public broadcasting company. It is an ongoing struggle, despite support from the EU, Deutsche Welle and the Swedish Radio Media Development Office. The changes affected over 7,000 employees and more than 20 regional studios. It also led to the creation of a multimedia newsroom and an academy of public broadcasting (Fig. 3).
In a frank and, at times, despairing talk, Zurab stated that one step taken was to remove the toxic (by which he meant propaganda laden) programmes; an operation which meant that half of the total programme output was ditched. Consequently, it is now impossible to produce enough high quality content 24 hours a day for the 31 channels that require it.
Much of the equipment in use before the transformation was over 25 years old and in a state of disrepair, and many  of the buildings were older still. The rocky road of change has led to conflict with the Ukrainian government. This was partially caused by many politicians who, realising that they could not benefit by being given air time on the new public broadcasting company, refused to cooperate.
Zurab described a lack of trust throughout Ukraine amongst everyone due to the ongoing war. He hopes that things will improve but there isn't enough money to produce enough quality programming for the audiences. He sadly concluded that, "the audiences almost hate us."
Radio Ukraine International can be heard these days on medium wave in Russian on 1278 and 1431kHz and in English on short wave 11580kHz. The station still issues QSL cards (Fig. 4).

North Korea
Mark Fahey in Sydney, Australia, is a treasured radio contact of mine. He describes himself as a new media creator and is fascinated by all things North Korean. He often travels to the DPRK (to give North Korea its official acronym) and has insight into many aspects of life there, including culture and radio. In April, he contacted me while he was skirting the North Korean border, taking photos across the river of the Sinuiju 873kHz transmitter tower and North Korean fishermen (Figs. 5 and 6). He got close to the relatively small fences that divide the border, north of Dandong.
Mark shared with me a fascinating audio recording of 873kHz, made on Easter Sunday. It's also interesting for the fact that this frequency carries the full 18 hours of KCBS domestic programming; for the remaining six hours of the day it carries Pyongyang Pangsong. That is the Korean semi-domestic service, intended for the southern provinces, or what we call South Korea. Usually, these two networks operate on separate frequencies and the KCBS outlets go off for six hours during the night but not on 873kHz.
The audio was over modulated and clipped, exactly as received and the usual quality for the North Korean domestic outlets. The switch from Pyongyang Pangsong takes place at 0500 North Korean time, with the KCBS interval signal and opening announcements. The programme content comprised some stringed classical music, a wonderful old interval signal and dramatic sounding sign on. Then some martial, triumphal music, beloved by so many state broadcasters from the BBC to the Voice of Vietnam.
Mark signed off to me at 1022 Pyongyang Time with an update that 873kHz Sinuiji (250kW) was off the air, when it should have been on. Meanwhile, on 819KHz Pyongyang (500KW) was reaching the Dandong area at local type levels.
Mark has written a book on North Korea called Behind the Curtain, the Guide to Propaganda and Media of North Korea. It will be available on iTunes as an interactive media experience with video and audio. It will be published towards the end of 2018 but you can see some tantalising previews online.

The English schedule for the Voice of Korea in Pyongyang, in English includes the following four time slots aimed to Europe. From 1330 to 1430 and 1530 to 1630 UTC on 9435, 11710, 13760 and 15245kHz; from 1830 to 1930 and 2130 to 2230 UTC on 13760 and 15245kHz.
In the south, KBS World from Seoul broadcast in English to Europe this summer from 1500 to 1700 UTC on 9515kHz and from 2200 to 2300 UTC on 11810kHz.

The BDXC-UK Broadcasts In English publication for the summer A18 season (until late October)is available (in print form or as a PDF. It includes details of all known international broadcasts in English on shortwave and medium wave for the current schedule period, as well as selected domestic English broadcasts on shortwave. Copies cost £3 in the UK (postage included).

Saturday 16 September 2017

EDXC Conference 2017

Mika Mäkeläinen and Chrissy Brand talk with Liu Hengyi in China via FaceTime (Photo FDXA)

The EDXC 2017 conference was a smoothly run affair, with plenty of informative sessions and a busy social programme. I enjoyed the talk on space weather given by Dr Kirsti Kauristie of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. She explored how the ionosphere and other layers impact on distant radio reception. She also spoke about the approaching solar minimum. A visit to, and presentation about, local AM and FM low-powered station Pispalan Radio was of great interest.

The traditional EDXC Banquet was an entertaining affair, thanks to the excellent compere and DXer Vesa-Jussi Rinkinen. The conference incorporated the annual Finnish DX Association summer meeting and various awards were given out for international services to DXing. I particularly enjoyed another aspect of the social programme; a swim in a lake, followed by a sauna and lakeside part. It was lovely to meet some fellow DXers, male and female, and to talk of all manner of things besides radio.

More reports in November's RadioUser magazine but, before then, you can read reports at the British DX Club website and the Finnish DX Association (FDXA /SDXL) plus the EDXC blog.

Thursday 29 June 2017

Sporadic post, Sporadic E

Enjoying hearing various European stations on FM this summer on the UK south coast. Along with the usual Radio France Inter, Musique, Bleu Nord, Europe 1, Rire et Chansons etc. I've picked up Italy, Netherlands and Spain this month, just on a simple car radio. RNE Clasica was a first for me. 

Those with sophisticated equipment have managed to hear North Africa, eastern Europe and, depending on their location, Scandinavia. Still a couple of months of the Sporadic E season to go- and hopefully some good conditions too, though I don't pretend to understand this phenomenon.

Also, a pirate/free radio station based in East Sussex? Sharp FM- an RDS but just an empty carrier when I parked and took the photo.

Monday 15 May 2017

Govorit Tirana!

Radio Tirana lives on! After announcing the closure of its short wave service at the end of the B16 season (RadioUser, June 2017: xx), it can still be heard, thanks to WRMI and the Shortwave Service. Both stations now relay Radio Tirana's daily broadcasts via Kall Krekel in Germany and Okeechobee in the US.

The schedule for the Albanian state broadcaster is Monday to Saturday to Europe on 6005kHz via Kall Krekel from 1800 to 1830 UTC in Italian, 1830 to 1900 UTC in French, 1900 to 1930 UTC in English and 1930 to 2000 in German, which is also heard on 3985kHz. North American audiences can tune into a daily English broadcast from Monday to Friday on 5850kHz via WRMI in Okeechobee at 2300 UTC. 

If that news doesn't tempt you, then maybe the programme details will. Each broadcast commences with a news bulletin and, on weekdays, a press review. On Saturdays, you'll hear Mosaic of the Week. Monday's transmission has programmes on culture, sport and Albania in a Week. An interview is carried on Tuesday, while Wednesday looks at integration with the EU and has a music programme called Hits Through the Years. Facts and economics abound on Thursday along with tourism. There is a profile of individuals and organisations on Friday, while Saturday consists of tourism, culture and the popular folk music programme.

Radio Tirana's daily programmes in English, German, French, Italian, Greek, Serbian and Turkish can now also be heard online from Monday to Saturday.

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent months. I was the editorial assistant at RadioUser for six months, which didn't work out but took lots of time, Along with that, I had a house move and lots of political activity too. I hope to retain the blog and update more regularly but cannot promise anything!

Tuesday 27 December 2016

How does your Radio Garden grow?

There have been many radio portals that have come and gone in this internet age. Some still exist, successfully or otherwise, but the new kid on the block possibly knocks spots of all others.

Radio Garden has taken the internet by storm- and it's the mainstream world that saw 5 million site visit in the firsts week, I believe I read. It's not just for us radio geeks!

A globe, dots for locations, radio stations in a list, rotate your way around the world and listen from a choice of thousands of live stations. I'm almost speechless at its simplicity and effectiveness.

It could do with some additional stations in most African and Asian countries and medium wave and shortwave everywhere would be great additions, as most stations are FM so far. But I'm sure that will evolve over the months.

Many friends have asked if I'd heard about it, expressing great pleasure. Even the younger generation I showed it too rated it as pretty cool. What do you think?

Once upon a time: to smartphones and podcast apps

Once upon a time, many years ago, when I was a child, I used to dream of owning a magic book that would contain every comic strip, poe...