Monday, 15 August 2011

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Tuning in the longwave bands, Monitoring Times 2002

I wrote this article nine summers ago, for the North American audience who read Monitoring Times
It was published in the October 2002 issue. Stumbling across a copy of it in my archive recently, I thought it may be of interest to readers of my blog. Some stations I mentioned remain the same today, some have changed, and some projects never got off the ground...

In Europe radio listeners have an added choice of listening as a number of radio stations use the long wave broadcast band. These stations are mostly domestic and located in European counties, with a couple in North Africa and the Middle East. If there is nothing of interest to be heard on medium wave, short wave or FM, then you can be spoilt for choice by scanning through the 17 allocated long wave frequencies from 153kHz to 279kHz. Long wave broadcast stations can currently be found in 25 countries, covering geographical extremities from the far north-west of Europe in Iceland, down to North Africa in Morocco and Algeria. Eastwards the band is used as far away as Georgia, Jordan and Azerbaijan.

Although long wave reception cannot match the clarity of FM, just as with the rest of the AM band (medium wave and short wave), what it sometimes lacks in sound quality is made up for by the programme content quality and variety. Many of the big boys broadcasting on long wave, such as Germany’s Deutschlandfunk and Luxembourg’s RTL have such strong signals that there is no difficulty in hearing them throughout western and central Europe.

As most of the radio stations are aimed at a domestic audience, they understandably broadcast in the vernacular language. But, just as on short wave, sometimes you don’t need to understand a language to be able to enjoy the atmosphere generated by local music and to form an accurate impression of a station, region or country.

What’s on Tonight?
So, what’s to be heard on a typical tuning across the long wave dial? There are a number of long wave stations that come in loud and strong here in the north-west of England using even the simplest and cheapest of receivers.

A personal favourite of mine is France-Inter, from Allouis in the centre of France, on 162kHz. They have a good variety of music programmes in the evenings, so you can tune into light classical on a Thursday, or jazz at the weekends presented by Julien Delli Fiori. I recently enjoyed a concert entitled Festival Jazz in Marciac that featured Gilberto Gil and Kenny Barron’s Brazilian project. If you can’t receive France-Inter on long wave, try it on the Internet at:

The BBC has always used a long wave transmitter at Droitwich in the English midlands to broadcast one of its domestic stations. BBC Radio 4 has been on 198kHz since the late 1970s, in parallel to its FM frequencies. The long wave programme carries opt-out programming at certain times of the day, such as religious broadcasts, cricket commentary and the shipping forecast, and the BBC World Service is relayed overnight.

Both the cricket and the Shipping Forecast have become two great British radio institutions. The Shipping Forecast carries thrice-daily reports from the Metrological Office on conditions at sea. It has a gently lilting theme tune called Sailing By, evoking the waves and motion of the sea (incidentally a different version of the same tune is used in the maritime programme Seascapes, heard on RTE1 Radio Telefis Éireann, on 567kHz medium wave. Have a listen via ).

Although aimed at fishermen and trawlers at sea off of the British Isles, France and Northern Spain, many a landlubber tucked up in bed listens with fascination to the mystical language used. Strange sounding sea areas include Rockall, North Utsire, Dogger and Sole are followed by a forecast ‘easterly veering northerly, 5 or 6, wintry showers, good’.

Cricket commentaries are also broadcast on BBC Radio 4 long wave. International matches (Test Matches) last for up to 5 days, (and there might still not be a winner!) and the ball-by-ball commentary is just as popular with cricket aficionados as those with little knowledge of the game. The best broadcasting comes when rain has stopped play, and English gentlemen commentators discuss the merits of chocolate cake sent to them by listeners, and observe all aspects of the gentile side of English life, from spotting buses to charity balls. Such is its place in English culture that even former Prime Minister John Major spoke out against proposed cuts in the service when he was in office.

From Kalundborg, Denmark you can hear Danmarks Radiok's first programme on 243kHz, and on medium wave 1062kHz. Like BBC Radio 4 this has opt-outs for weather and religious programming. It also carries more unusual programming such as Fish Prices and gymnastics. If your Danish language skills let you down then you can always listen out for some of the light classical music often broadcast in the evenings.

If you can receive the Danish station at your location you will be hard pressed to hear TRT Erzurum Radio and TRT-4 from Turkey, on that same 243kHz frequency. The 2 other longwave frequencies used by the Turks also clash with stronger signals at my western European listening post. TRT 4 uses 162kHz, as do France Inter and Radio Bashkortostana in Russia. TRT 1 competes on 225kHz with Radio Polonia, which has English and German news at 1000 UTC. So for a tantalising Turkish taste I use the Internet instead

On 216kHz Azerbaijani Radio 1 broadcasts in Azeri from Gyandza. However its 500 KW signal is swamped in the U.K by Radio Monte Carlo’s news and music format. This comes via Roumoules, Plateau de Valensole, France with a 1400 kW directional antenna. TWR (Trans World Radio) 0200 to 0300 UTC and Radio Evangile also use the frequencies for half hour segments when Monte Carlo is off the air, which is overnight European time.

Germany has a major presence on long wave. At the top of the dial on 153kHz comes Deutschlandfunk. Deutschlandradio programmes out of Cologne are broadcast under the historical name of Deutschlandfunk and are mostly news and talk format, with Berlin programming under the name of Deutschlandradio on 177kHz with a music format. Deutschlandfunk from Aholming can be found on 207kHz any time of day or night.

There is also an independent commercial station in Germany called Europe 1 on 183kHz. This broadcasts in French from the south-west German town of Saarlouis or Saarbrucken, close to the French border. It can usually be relied upon to play some interesting music in the European evenings or American afternoons.

The tiny country of Luxembourg, sandwiched between France, Belgium and Germany may have a population of well under half a million, but it packs a strong radio punch. A 2000 KW transmitter pumps out programming in French 24 hours a day on 234kHz.  

Eastern European
Eastern European stations also have a strong presence on longwave. Romania Actualitata broadcast 24/7 from the Transylvanian city of Brasov on 153kHz, as do Radio Yunost in Taldom (just north of Moscow), with youth music and programmes.

The Czech Republic has a music station called Cesky Rozhlas 1 on 270kHz, and a website at  

From Sofia, capital of Bulgaria you might strain to catch the 60 KW of Radio Horizont broadcasting the Bulgarian parliament on 261kHz.

Other long wave stations are not as fortunate at the rich ones in western Europe. At the time of writing Georgia’s Gruzinskoye Radio on 189kHz in Tbilisi is unable to afford to use the 500 KW transmitter, and it is only used occasionally for events such as President Edward Shevardnadze’s weekly address to the nation. It is also scheduled to carry a daily 30 minute VoA relay in Georgian.

Politics are also at the forefront of a station set up by the Voice of Russia, namely Radio Chechnya Svobodnata (Radio Free Chechnya) on 171kHz. This broadcasts predominantly in Russian with a couple of Chechen broadcasts each day. They have a bi-lingual website in Russian and English.

Amongst other ex-Soviet republics now doing their own thing on longwave are: Belarus (White Russia) with Belaruskaye Radio on 171 and 279kHz and Ukraine from Kiyev (Kiev) on 207kHz.

The long and short of it
I haven’t been able to tune in two other stations on 189kHz, namely Iceland’s Ríkisútvarpið Radio 1 and 2. They share the frequency, with Radio One broadcasting documentaries and classical music, and Radio 2 covering pop music and current affairs. For a taste of what you are missing you can hear them live in Reykjavík via audio streaming at

Norway fits a lot of programming onto its 153kHz frequency, with Norsk Rikskringkasting national programming (NRk 1 and NRK 2), sharing the frequency with regional stations NRK Finnmark in VadsØ, NRK IngØy and Radio Norway International.

Moving south to Italy, if you are in the vicinity of Sicily then you can hear one of the lowest powered long wave stations. RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) Radio 1 is on 189kHz, from Caltanissetta with just 10KW.

In the Middle East Radio Jordan can be heard in Arabic on 207kHz, transmitting from Al Karanah, south-east of the capital Amman.

Some stations that you are unable to pick up on long wave or the Internet also broadcast on shortwave. Amongst these are 177kHz Deutschlandradio from Berlin on 6005kHz and Deutschlandfunk from Aholming on 207kHz and 6190kHz.

The two North African long wave broadcasters can also be heard on shortwave. Morocco’s Radio Mediterranee Internationale broadcasts in Arabic and French on 171kHz and 9575kHz, from Nador in north-east Morocco. A second, all-Arabic Moroccan station is Radiodiffusion-Television Marocaine on 207kHz.

Radio Alger International used to be an easy catch before Atlantic 252 used its 252kHz frequency in the 1980s. It broadcasts in French, English, Spanish and Arabic on 252KHz and primarily in Arabic on 153kHz.

Armenia’s Radio 1 and the Voice of Armenia use 234kHz for multi-lingual broadcasts, including their English transmission. TWR and Radio Polonia are others who broadcast on short wave as well as long wave.

Current developments
The 252kHz frequency has seen a lot of change during the past 12 months. Atlantic 252 was a joint venture from RTE (Radio Telefis Éireann) and Radio Luxembourg which broadcast from the late 1980s to the end of 2001, from Trim, County Meath, Ireland, with a transmitter at Clarkestown, and a London office. Its format was music aimed at an 18 to 34 year old age group.

However it was replaced by sports station Teamtalk 252 whose parent company Teamtalk Media Group bought Atlantic 252 in December 2001. After a series of test transmissions early in 2002, Team Talk 252 came on air in March. Many radio professionals and enthusiasts were doubtful that the station could survive, as sports in the U.K were already well covered by BBC Radio 5 and TalkSport. The latter two were well established and also had the advantage of medium wave frequencies, whereas coverage of the Teamtalk long wave frequency was patchy in some parts of the target area of the U.K and Ireland.

Perhaps the biggest concern of the sceptics was that the programme content had no actual live sports rights, and consisted mostly of phone-ins and reports from sporting venues. During the soccer World Cup in Korean and Japan in the summer, Teamtalk (and TalkSport for that matter), had no rights to actually commentate live from the matches. Instead, both stations had a commentator in the studio describing matches off the television, with an artificially generated soundtrack of the crowd.

Both stations had to publicise that this was how they were covering the World Cup. I can’t imagine many listeners tuning in when they could receive real live match coverage from BBC radio just along the dial. It certainly did not help Teamtalk’s cause, and the station went off air at the end of July, with over 370 people in danger of losing their job. A plus side of the stations short life was that Teamtalk donated Atlantic 252's 9000 strong CD library to a good cause; the U.K Student Radio Association.

As to the future, as I write (August) 252kHz is relaying the Magic radio network, a pop music format. Other rumours as to its future include UBC Media, owners of Classic Gold and digital service Oneword, broadcasting Oneword on the frequency, and Chris Cary wanting to bring back Radio Nova on 252, a station that ‘changed the face of Irish radio in 1981’.

Next year [2003] on long wave
Cruisin' 216 the AMazing AM is the working name for a new commercial radio station being developed in Norway these past seven years by Northern Star International Broadcasters AS. Personally I think the name Northern Star is a more distinctive branding. It is due to come on air in 2003 on 216kHz and will cover Scandinavia & Northern Europe, broadcasting a ‘mature’ music format, in English. Programmes will include Norwegian and Scandinavian music, international news and weather reports and Northern Lights Christian programming.

There is also a second long wave commercial station set to come onto 279kHz later next year.[2003] The Isle of Man International Broadcasting plc (IMIB) will broadcast from the Isle of Man, which is an island dependency of the British Crown located off the north west coast of England, in the Irish Sea. The station working title is MusicMann 279 . This will target Britain and coastal western Europe, and primarily an audience of women aged 25 to 55. There are also plans to make it available on short wave , satellite and the Internet.

There will be a wide range of music and a news service. The approximately 50 strong workforce is expected to be mostly female and recruited from island residents. There are a number of celebrity presenters in the pipeline, such as rock keyboardist and showman Rick Wakeman. Paul Rusling, Chief Executive of IMIB told me ‘The station will have a Christian ethos and not include profane lyric content music etc. in output. We are also most likely to carry a bit of evangelical programming - Very likely to be The World Tomorrow and one or two selected others’.

Paul is also excited by the transmitter ‘being a CFA (Cross Field Antenna) atop a platform, and one of very modern design’ Developed by engineers Professor Maurice Hately and Dr Fathi Kabbary, it has been used in its initial format by the Egyptian Radio and TV Union since 1994. It is small, stays in tune, does not require constant adjustment and has a much reduced induction field around it, thus reducing interference. This transmitter will be located offshore, and the studios will be in the town of Ramsey.

So as you can see, (and hopefully one day you might be able to hear), the long wave broadcast band in Europe is crammed full of varied and often interesting programmes. Certainly there are many frequencies where 4, 5 or even 6 stations are broadcasting at the same time, albeit it from different parts of the continent. Long wave is a useful part of the spectrum for broadcasting signals over distances, and many a French holiday maker in Spain might be grateful to hear a radio station from home; likewise an Englishman in Bordeaux might still be able to pick up the Saturday afternoon play whilst he sips a glass of claret in his farmhouse.

It is rare for a new longwave station to come on air, but if things go according to plan, there could be 2 English speaking ones within the next few months. Either way, the community of long wave broadcasting is thriving and worth investigating further, either with a long wave receiver or via the Internet. Happy hunting.

Herman Boel’s European Medium Wave Guide also contains details of long wave broadcast stations at
British DX Club

In this article we will look at a selection of the radio stations currently heard on long wave, along with recent information on some stations hoping to hit the airwaves in 2003.

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