Tuesday 26 February 2008

Broadcast Matters: Long, Medium and Short, February 2008

Published in Radio User, PWP, Feb 2008

Welcome to another round up of news, views and logs from the bands.

Readers’ Reports
Scott Caldwell noted a slight improvement in reception during December, regularly receiving Radio Australia on 15415 KHz and 11880 KHz. Some of the other programming he enjoyed include Radio Exterior de Espana’s Radio Waves programme, (0031 UTC/GMT on 6055 KHz) which included a feature on a Polish DAB and online radio station in London. This would be Polskie Radio Londyn (Polish Radio London), which is aimed at some of the estimated 700,000 Poles living in the Greater London area.

Health matters were covered by Radio Netherlands and Radio Australia. The former carried a programme on HIV and AIDs and the stigma of it in developing countries, on 6165 KHz at 0155 UTC/GMT. Radio Australia produced a rather weak signal of an all 2 SINPO, but a feature it carried on alcohol related problems could still be heard on 15415 KHz at 1034 UTC/GMT.

We welcome readers David Weronka in North Carolina and Gerry Gorman from Bangor in Northern Ireland to the column with some of their recent logs. Gerry writes that the Broadcast Matters column “is a very enjoyable read and one that I look forward to each month.” He also wishes all readers a peaceful 2008.

Slovenian sounds
Slovenia has taken over the presidency of the European Union for the first half of this year. It seems timely and topical then to delve into the radio scene in this small Balkan country. Its foreign language station, Radio Slovenia International, broadcasts in just three languages: Slovene, German and English. Unfortunately there are no direct shortwave broadcasts from the station as yet and the station is aimed inside the country on numerous FM frequencies for tourists and migrant workers.

It describes itself as broadcasting: “A well balanced mixture of musical and informative programmes 24 hours a day. 85% of the programme time is devoted to the best international and Slovene hits, and the remaining 15% is intended for up-to-date political, business and economic, cultural, and sports information. Which is just enough to keep our listeners constantly well informed. The essential elements of the programme are weather, traffic, cultural and sports information and also events taking place in Slovenia.”

Although not on shortwave itself, Radio Slovenia International is part of the Insight Central Europe weekend programme (along with ORF, Hungarian Radio, Radio Polonia, Radio Prague and Radio Slovakia), so you can sometimes hear Slovene views and reports there. Check it out each Saturday at 0700 UTC/GMT on 11600 and 9880 kHz; 1130 and 1330 UTC/GMT on 6155, 13730; 1830 UTC/GMT on 6155, 5945; and Sundays at 0530 on 6155, 13730. It can also be heard on other frequencies targeted to other parts of the world.

Radio in the country goes back 80 years to 1928, when Radio Ljubljana commenced from the capital city. Radiotelevizija Slovenija is the national radio and televsion body, operating three radio stations nationally. These are A1 (the first network) with music, news and reports; Val 202, which focuses on pop music, news, talk and sports; and ARS (the third network) which, like BBC Radio 3, caters for the more edcuated highbrow cultural audience.

Transatlantic X Band
If you are attempting some medium wave DXing for signals from Canada and the U.S.A the following might help. The dial in these countries is spaced at 10 kHz intervals (rather than the 9 kHz in Europe) from 520 to 1710 kHz. Prior to 1997 the mw frequencies only ran up to 1610. The expanded band, more commonly known as the X band covers 1610-1710 KHz. The lower density of stations in this area of the spectrum, as well as a lack of stations with more than 10 kW of power in the USA has given the opportunity to concentrate on a new part of the dial for DXers.

I thought it would be good to explore some catches from the Autumn Sheigra DXpedition by three stalwarts of the British DX Club. Sheigra is in the far north-west of Scotland and offers good listening opportunities across all bands, as well as rugged scenery. Dave Kenny, Alan Pennington and Tony Rogers of the BDXC have been visitors there for many years. Their X Band catches included: CJWI Montreal on 1610 KHz; CJRS Montreal (Radio Shalom Montreal) on 1650 kHz; CHTO Toronto on 1690 kHz; WPTX Lexington Park in Maryland on 1690 kHz; WVON ‘The talk of Chicago’ from Berwyn, Illinois on 1690 kHz; WEUP ‘The people’s station’ in Huntsville Alabama on 1700 kHz; and Spanish speaking WJCC in Miami Springs Florida, also on 1700 KHz.

However you don’t have to have a fantastic location, rig and miles of long wire to achieve some X Band catches. Others heard this season by BDXC members overnight (0000 to 0900 UTC/GMT) in the more metropolitan areas of England include: WTNI Biloxi Missouri on 1640 KHz; WHKT in Portsmouth, Virginia on 1650 KHz, KXNZ Cedar Falls, Iowa also on 1650 KHz and KVNS in Brownsville Texas on 1700 KHz. Just the thing to while away a long February night! Let us know how you get on.

When was the golden age of radio?
You often hear mention of the golden age of radio. This appears to be a phrase common in English speaking nations from North America via the U.K to Australasia. It may well be used in many other countries as well. It is generally agreed to refer to the era from post World War II until the late 1950s. This period saw domestic and international radio expanding across the western world.

The quality of programming, especially drama, comedy and variety shows were behind this perceived peak, coupled with the fact that television was still in its infancy and a long way from becoming the mass medium that it became by the 1960s. You only have to do a quick online search to find hundreds of websites celebrating the 1940s and 1950s radio scene, and it is easy to hear archived shows from the time. Radio Luxembourg was a European leader whilst the BBC Home and Light programmes were also laying down the roots for what became the high quality radio production standards that we take for granted today. In Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada, families would gather around the radio for live variety shows, historical adventure and detective dramas.

Although acknowledging the 1940s and 1950s are labelled the golden age by most, I would also argue that most ‘golden ages’ are in fact the eras in which we first develop a taste for a hobby. For many radio hobbyists, today in their 50s, who grew up with the offshore stations of the 1960s, then that is the period they look back on with fondness. Many consider the sounds of Caroline and Radio London, Radio North Sea international to be unrivalled to this day, both in terms of their historical impact and format. The legacy of pirate radio can still be heard. Just tune around 48 metres on any Sunday and you will hear today’s equivalents with DJs of all ages.
For my own generation who discovered the joys of radio in the 1970s, the golden age I refer back to is the one of the emergence of commercial radio in the U.K and of the dominance of the cold war broadcasters on shortwave.

Even though many feel that shortwave is now in decline, the current age will be one that many just getting established in the hobby will look back on with the same degree of fondness in years to come. The predominance of China Radio International, the countless US fundamental Christian stations, the Sunday pirates and the booming voices in Spanish and Arabic are all part of today’s shortwave scene that we take for granted. In years to come they will be part of someone’s golden age…

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