Tuesday 9 December 2014

Happy 75th anniversary Radio Sweden! #RadioSweden75

Radio Sweden celebrates 75 years on 13 December. It was that grim first December of World War II that the station took to the airwaves in English (a Swedish service started a year earlier). They were mostly heard on shortwave back then,  although the English service of the station left the airwaves a few years back, I listen to their weekday 30 minute podcast several times a week.

The hashtag #RadioSweden75 is being used on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as listeners are encouraged to share their stories and photos of station memorabilia.

I am fairly sure that Radio Sweden in English with its lovely interval signal and identification was the first station I heard on shortwave back in the 1970s. Their programmes have always shown me an intelligent, liberal-minded and culturally rich country. I was hooked as I became a teenager and have not veered far from their delightful Nordic news and views of the Nordic countries ever since- they remain a favourite and are a voice of reason on what is often an otherwise propaganda-led, rather dumbed-down radio dial. 

I have a smattering of QSL cards which I must photograph and put on Instagram this week, I also have happy memories of their paper schedules, and of proudly wearing a “Keep In Touch - Radio Sweden” T-shirt in dark blue with that familiar Radio Sweden font in yellow, in the early 1980s. I wonder if they still produce such clothing items- a tote bag is available?

The 2014 Swedish General Election coverage was fabulous, as was the Green Party forming the collation government. I hope the 22 March 2015 snap election produces similar successes.

It would be nice to hear relays of Radio Sweden programmes return to shortwave on Global 24 Radio. I hope they sign up, as many other stalwart shortwave stations already have re-established a shortwave voice this way since October 2014.

Happy 75th anniversary Radio Sweden! Have a listen to them, both their daily programmes and their archive material.

Friday 31 October 2014

Good news on SW: Global 24 & Voice of Mongolia


Some good shortwave news for a change!

Hats off to Radio 700 in Kall, Germany. Their trial relays of the Voice of Mongolia’s English service in early autumn resulted in such a deluge of correspondence to both Radio 700 and The Voice of Mongolia that the arrangement is continuing to the end of 2014 (and hopefully beyond).

Don’t miss out on these three opportunities every day to hear the Voice of Mongolia. Tune to 7310kHz at 1600 to 1630 UTC; 6005kHz from 1700 to 1730 UTC; and 3985kHz at 2000 UTC.  You can email reception reports and comments to vom_en@yahoo.com or write to: Voice Of Mongolia, English Section, CPO Box 365, Ulaanbaatar 13, Mongolia

Good news too that from today, 31 October, at 2300 UTC  you can tune to 9395kHz for hours of quality English  programming from Global 24.

Sunday 19 October 2014

"Eire viva España"- sign RTE and REE petitions!

Fight the cuts to Radio Exterior de España on shortwave and also the proposed end to Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE 1) on 252kHz  long wave.

Please sign these two petitions, links below.

"We are requesting that RTE keep its broadcasting services to the Irish in Britain. This move was done with no consultation with its listeners, and will be a significant loss to the whole Irish community." https://www.change.org/p/rte-don-t-cut-off-the-irish-in-britain

The petition against the closure of Radio Exterior de Españ is at http://tinyurl.com/ka2vegt Although the station has been taken off of the air, Radio Exterior de Españpresenter Alison Hughes asked people to sign this petition to the Spanish government, to try and reverse the decision.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Adios amigos, Good night Madrid

Radio Exterior de Espaňa QSL card 

Extracts below from Broadcast Matters by Chrissy Brand, for Radio User, 2014. 

Two autumns ago Radio Exterior de Espaňa was under threat of shortwave cuts but it managed to hang on. A new management structure was implemented at the station in the summer and it was announced on the Listeners’ Club programme that from later this month the Radio Exterior de Espaňa are giving up use of their shortwave transmitter site at Noblejas, due to the vast amounts of electricity that it uses. The Nobeljas transmitter site, in the province of Toledo, first came into operation in 1971, replacing a weaker transmitter which was sited at Arganda del Ray.

I hoped that the station’s new management would not take the decision to close the English service. It has always been small in number with Alison Hughes, Frank Smith and Justin Coe being the mainstay of the presenting team, however, the range of quality programmes has always been stunning. 

I’ll be downloading podcasts when their shortwave services close (http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/audios/emision-en-ingles). I hope that an online presence with the same programming is retained.

Programmes and features I enjoyed on REE over the summer included North by Southwest visiting La Case del Lector in Madrid for a European publishing conference, the weekly press reviews, and other bizarre items such as the falling cedars and pine trees in Madrid’s Retiro Park. I enjoy REE’s musical features too, such as offerings from the summer Mar de Músicas Festival in Cartagena.

Listeners’ Club was a must-listen, although sometimes I feel sorry for the presenters having to explain time and again that they are no longer in a position to send QSL cards out (although they did issue one for their 70th anniversary a few years back). The English Service (and I daresay their other language services too) receive letters from all over the world. Listeners and DXers from Bangladesh, Canada, India, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the USSA had written or emailed in to recent editions of Listeners’ Club that I heard but it was almost embarrassing to hear so many of them seemingly writing in solely in pursuit of a QSL card.

Although comments were made on the programme content too, it served as a reminder to me that the remaining shortwave stations are often dependent on listener contributions to make up such programmes: we should try and ask interesting questions and give feedback. It helps a station monitor and estimate its audience numbers and I would think a station has a better chance of survival (whether that is on shortwave or online) if it can prove its audience is engaged with successively and is responsive to the programme content rather than only requesting freebies, such as pens, stickers and QSL cards.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Radio in Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal...

Extracts below from Radio Websites by Chrissy Brand, for Radio User, 2014. 

It's time to track down some former shortwave broadcasters and see what they are up to. Radio Bulgaria is running a series marking 80 years of radio in the country. It will last for 80 weeks and you can hear the latest and previous programmes by going to  http://bnr.bg/en/post/100423681/bnr-80-years-in-80-weeks-peter-uvaliev-and-the-bnr-international-service

Radio Bulgaria and their Facebook page cover more recent events too at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Radio-Bulgaria-English-Service/314692588565772 The exploits of tennis star Grigor Dimitrov, a jazz festival in Stara Zagora (the city of the linden trees) and young Bulgarian rock band PSS have all featured of late. PSS are fronted by Sandra Petrova and cover the genres of alternative rock mixed with blues and progressive motifs. There is also a great online magazine called Zoom which almost makes up for Bulgaria's lack of shortwave activity (almost!) http://bnr.bg/en/page/zoom

The Greek state broadcaster ERT was replaced last year by NERIT and has still been heard on shortwave. NERIT now has a website at http://www.nerit.gr/ Like many other radio stations' websites it's modern, clear and easy on the eye; packed with photos and news stories. In the absence of Greek radio in English I go here instead to read up on Greek news and views, although as with all state-run broadcasters I also search out alternative opinions from people on the street via social media.

Radio Portugal's English service left shortwave late last century. RDP has a website at http://www.rtp.pt/radio/where you can hear the eight national broadcasters in Portuguese- with a range of music stations. For English you have to head for the Algarve and Kiss FM's programmes for holidaymakers at http://www.kissfm.pt/

London Shortwave is a blogger I've mentioned before at http://london-shortwave.blogspot.co.uk/ who is more active these days with his videos on You Tube . The channel has the over complex address of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOX41wIS1Qk&feature=youtu.be I created a shortened url of http://tinyurl.com/prsa6qo for you through Tiny url

He shows in various videos how he is set up receive shortwave in every room, based on "a drawing from the 1930s issue of a shortwave listening magazine, my way of listening to what's being received in my radio shack wirelessly around the house." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCTrSZdZOGk

Another YouTuber who uploads interesting radio recordings and videos can be found at https://www.youtube.com/user/qwertyamdx with recent catches of Polish Radio, Radio France International and a wonderful sign on from Oblastnoye Radio Mogilev in Belarus on 7255 kHz.

Friday 12 September 2014

Amoeba, Jersey City and California

Extracts below from Radio Websites by Chrissy Brand, for Radio User, 2014. 

The Amoeba blog covers music and sometimes radio from California. There are several contributors which ensures plenty of different views. http://www.amoeba.com/blog
Recent posts include gig reviews of an amazing band from the city of angels, called Kan Wakan (http://www.kanwakan.com ) They are hard to describe but the combination of organ, guitars, strings and a melodic female vocalist all make for a heady sound. Their new album "Moving On" is already one of my summer favourites.  Amoeba major in music but other arts are also covered, mostly in the USA but also globally.

They have links with the great alternative radio station from Jersey City, WFMU, which has been on air since the 1950s. http://www.wfmu.org It's also streamed online of course and is a station I often turn to when I am in an eclectic mood. Their playlist covers "flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English as well as Country and western music." So that is just about something for everyone. If you use Facebook there are extras snippets posted there too. https://www.facebook.com/wfmuradio

Wednesday 13 August 2014

International Radio Festival Zurich 21 August to 7 Sept #irfradiofest

Several international radio stations will meet to celebrate all things "Radio" and broadcasting live as part of the “On Air” programme at the 5th International Radio Festival.

They include BBC Radio 1, Kiss92 Singapore and Dubai Star FM Dubai coming to Zurich to celebrate all things radio.  This year’s is running from 21st August to 7th September 2014 transforming Zurich’s Kaufleuten Club & restaurant into a place for music lovers. The IRF radio studio will host live shows by international radio broadcasters presenting a multi-faceted programme with guests, food and drinks on the terrace and of course lots of music.

The International Radio Festival can be heard on 104.1 MHz (Zurich Nord) and 96.9 MHz (Zurich South) and online around the world, and back home where the IRF radio guests originate from.

Radio stations broadcasting as part of the “On Air” programme include; BBC Radio One, Kiss FM Berlin, Kiss92 Singapore, RTL102.2 Milano, Star FM Dubai, Radio Nova Paris, Radio Romantika Moscow, XFM UK, SRF Virus Switzerland, Soho London Radio, Radio 24 Zurich, Ibiza Sonica, Radio Fiume Ticino, and web radio Creatures Of The Night.

Each station will broadcast a radio show with its own music programme in their local language. The IRF is the only international radio festival in the world which broadcasts an on-air program, celebrating the most consumed and most influential medium in the world – radio. The boutique event has blossomed into one of the most important meetings of the global radio landscape, welcoming radio producers, industry professionals and radio jockeys from around the world to join together in Zurich.

One of the show highlights will be Tony Prince presenting "Flashback Radio" the best of 50 years of Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg with many original interviews from the past. 50 years ago the ship was anchored under the Panamanian flag in the North Sea and Prince aka "Your Royal Ruler" was a crew member infamous MV Fredericia. Radio Caroline was a fundamental part in the revolution of the British music industry giving young people to access pop music, which had previously been withheld from them.

Other highlights include Kiss FM creator Gordon Mac and his new Mi-Soul internet radio, Acid Jazz founder Eddie Piller from Soho Radio and film and music composers Lionel and Diego Baldenweg of Great Garbo.

On Wednesday, 3rd September the IRF will celebrate SwissRadioDay with a programme designed by Swiss radio stations including; Switzerland’s number one station Radio24 Zurich, SRF Radio Virus, Radio GRRIF, Radio Fiume Ticino and Radio 105.

IRF B2B Forum
In addition to the live broadcasts the IRF also features an exclusive B2B Forum, bringing together people who are passionate about radio from around the world to deliberate, collaborate and network to discover the future trends and evolution of their Industry. This year’s forum will be an informal round table discussion headed up by Tony Prince and new and IRF Advisory Board President Gordon Mac on "UK radio yesterday and tomorrow".

All frequencies and the detailed programme can be found at www.internationalradiofest.com
www.radioday.ch and www.kaufleuten.ch/

Listen to shows from previous editions on Mixcloud here: www.mixcloud.com/IRF
See photos from the event here: www.flickr.com/photos/internationalradiofestival/
See what people in radio say about the IRF here: www.internationalradiofest.com/what-the-radios-say/

Friday 1 August 2014

Where are they now? Former shortwave broadcasting giants & minnows

Photo above from Public Radio of Armenia Facebook page

Extracts below from Radio Websites (August 2014)  by Chrissy Brand, for Radio User, 2014. 

Where are they now?

This is the part of the magazine where I track down and remind you of where former radio shortwave broadcasting giants and minnows have now gone to. The Voice of Russia left shortwave to park its bus in cyberspace but can be heard on DAB in south east England, and online at the special UK service website. It’s today’s equivalent of those mighty shortwave broadcasts that Radio Moscow used to target to listeners in “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.  If you go to  http://voiceofrussia.com/uk/  you can see how the Voice of Russia  still has the variety of exciting programmes that it used to air on shortwave. With current world politics it will pay to keep an ear to that station.

The Voice of Armenia still broadcast on shortwave but not in English, on 4810kHz. The next best thing is that you can watch Armenian television at http://www.armeniatv.am/en/voice with programmes such as The Human Factor, Sharp Angle and Inner Kitchen. It’s also available on a Russian version of You Tube, called Ru Tube http://rutube.ru/  and you can follow the tv channel on Twitter at @armeniantv 

When you mention The Voice of Armenia these days it is more associated with the tv singing show The Voice which started in the USA and has spread globally.  

There is sport as well which doesn’t require too much in the way of knowing the local lingo. It all looks slick and there is a even a little English to help us poor saps. The Armenian alphabet and script looks very elegant I must say, as do some of the presenters you’ll see. It’s a long way from the “This Is Yerevan” identification calls that used to echo across the shortwaves with more regularity than they now do, but I enjoy staying in touch with a country I learned so much about through radio.

Of course, as well as current day audio and video from former international broadcasters, there is an ever-expanding archive being compiled by DXers around the world, and uploaded to You Tube, Vimeo and doubtless other similar video and audio social media sites. You can spend many a happy hour wallowing in the snap crackle and pop of shortwave’s golden era when you search for archive material online. 

For example D Firth has a You Tube channel laden with off-air recordings clips from the late 1960s which feature Radio Australia, Radio Moscow, Radio Peking, Swiss Radio International and the Voice of America at https://www.youtube.com/user/dfirth224  

Our good friend of the DX community SWLDX in Bulgaria, along with a regular blog, has over 2,000 videos online at https://www.youtube.com/user/SWLDXBulgaria which include vintage as well as current catches. Listen to his 40 minute long audio from “The Glory Days of Shortwave Radio”, if you fancy a trip down memory lane. 

Others I’ve enjoyed recently include John Doe’s YouTube channel 
https://www.youtube.com/user/RWObservatory which has current recordings of shortwave stations such as the BBC and Vatican Radio plus some older material including  vintage Brother Stair clips – in full preacher mode- from the 1980s.

Friday 25 July 2014

EDXC 2014, nice in Nice

Nice in Nice (As the Stranglers sang). Photo: Pete Tomsett

How would you like to round off this summer with a few days in the south of France , talking to your heart's content about all things radio? Well, you can if you attend this year's European DX Conference which takes place from 19 to 22 September. See http://edxcnews.wordpress.com/ for details including registration and accommodation. Their main website is at http://www.edxc.org .

There are conference events for two days in the village of Saint Delmas de Tende then two days 80km down the road in Nice. Presentations and talks about DXing plus excursions to Radio Monte Carlo and beyond. If you want to bring a friend or other half who is not as interested in radio as yourself, there are plenty of non radio sights to see too, with a three countries in one day excursion which visits Ventimiglia in Italy, Monaco and of course, Nice. See you there!

Saturday 19 July 2014


The exhibition of the month for me is at GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design) in London. 

Work and Play Behind the Iron Curtain shows consumer items from children’s toys, dolls and model Zils, through fizzy pop vending machines (above) to a space age vacuum cleaner, record players, telephones and, of course, radios. 

There are just a couple of radios, a ladies portable transistor and a Red Star Zveda 54, which all good citizens would gather around in the evening in their cramped Stalinist apartment to hear news of bumper harvests and the latest conquests of space.

I am writing more on the exhibition in the Collectors’ Corner feature in August’s Communication- journal of the British DX Club, so I won’t say more here for now, except, do go to GRAD! (Current exhibition is on until 23 August, with 'A Game in Hell'  The First World War in Russia,  from 27 September to 30 November 2014).

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Deutsche Welle’s World Cup

Deutsche Welle have always given good coverage of major sporting events and for this year’s world cup they have their own competition (KickOff Tip) too, where you have to predict the scores of each game. It should be fun to compare with others’ predictions, presumably Deutsche Welle radio aficionados as much as football fans, around the globe. 

Of course the station, along with Deutschlandfunk, also pushed the boat out in 1972, 1974 and 2006 when Munich, West Germany and Germany respectively hosted summer Olympics and two World Cups. (The West Germany v East Germany World Cup match, 40 summers ago in Frankfurt on 22 June 1974, was, for me, the epitome of any World Cup encounter I have seen, with its political and poignant overtones -forget the oft-quoted USA v Iran game in France 1998- the both Germanies clash was the ultimate political football game in my book).

Tune into English (or 29 other languages) online and/or on shortwave with Deutsche Welle.

Monday 9 June 2014

Brazil- World Cup and world radio

Extracts from Radio Websites by Chrissy Brand, for Radio User, 2014

Brazil is in the spotlight hosting the FIFA World Cup so it seemed timely to choose a few more radio stations from this vast and diverse country. I covered some Brazilian radio station websites last year in Radio User, but this month’s selection are different. You can also do a search for "Brazil" in the top left hand box of this blog for other Brazilian radio mentions I have made over the years.

Radio Bras was the international station from Brasilia that once graced the bands with English and many other languages. It has been absent a long time from shortwave. To listen to what passes as Radio Bras these days you can go to http://www.ebc.com.br/ (formerly www.radiobras.gov.br ) but specifically http://radios.ebc.com.br/ This will lead you to a range of the state radio stations such as Nacional Amazonia and Nacional Rio de Janeiro. News, features and music. http://radios.ebc.com.br/nacionalrioam

Tune In gives you several options too. They can be entertaining even if you don’t understand the local language. http://tudoradio.com/player/radio/3127-radiobras-5400

There are a number of radio stations from Brazil that can still be heard on shortwave here in the UK, albeit only in the Brazilian-Portuguese language, and at least five spring to mind. These include Radio Difusora Roraima from Boa Vista. If you struggle to pick it up on its tropical frequency of 4875kHz, or if you can hear it but want to correctly identify it, access the station’s website at http://www.radiororaima.com.br/ Available in Brazil on 590kHz medium wave too, it also has a rarely updated Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Radio-Roraima/

Radio Aparacida is a religious station which is broadcast on 5035 and 6135kHz, online at http://www.a12.com/radio-aparecida and with an active Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/radioaparecida Of course there are plenty of other web-based Brazilian radio stations to listen to. One that I especially enjoy is Radio Brasil at http://www.brasilwebradio.com/

Saturday 31 May 2014

Where are they now?

Extracts from Radio Websites by Chrissy Brand, for Radio User, 2014. 
Photo is a 1980 Radio Kiev (Kyiv) QSL card of the Ukrainian capital enjoying a halcyon summer.

Where are they now?

It’s time now to trace down some of the international broadcasters who left us in the lurch as they fell away from shortwave over recent years. RTBF or Radiodiffusion Television Belge no longer has an English language service so you will have to make do with French audio at http://www.rtbf.be/ but you can easily translate their webpages into English which will certainly give you a clear idea of what is happening in Wallonia and the French speaking part of Belgium.

Radio Vlaanderen International was the Dutch-speaking counterpart of Belgium’s external broadcasting output. http://www.vrt.be/ The broadcaster’s main network comprises Radio 1, Radio 2, Klara, Studio Brussel and MNM, with no English speaking station, which is disappointing. But there is a button which translates everything at the site into English. Just as I used to, still do in fact, turn the radio dial to find programmes and DX of interest, I also click around on websites in a similar fashion. I was pleased to find a few minutes’ video footage of Belgium TV celebrating its 60th anniversary last autumn. Have a look at http://www.deredactie.be/cm/vrtnieuws.english/videozone_ENG/1.1766789

In recent months you may well have wished that Radio Ukraine International was still available on shortwave. Sadly it’s not but you can read and listen to English from Kiev/Kyiv online at http://www.nrcu.gov.ua/en/157/  The station provides over a dozen different English programmes include, such as Hello Kyiv on Saturdays which airs listener’s letters, Ukrainian Diary (a weekly news round-up), Famous Ukrainians, Panorama and music. On a light hearted note, Sports and Fun is about “sports and activities that turn into passion and people who dare to push the limits”.

Polskie Radio from Warsaw is still very much part of my regular listening at http://www.thenews.pl/1,The-News/65,Podcast where there are several podcasts to subscribe to or choose from. I find that a problem with subscribing to so many podcasts is that they then arrive on your computer quicker than I can actually listen to them, so I end up with a monumental backlog. Back when there were just radio broadcasts to tune to, you either heard it or you missed it, and if you missed it there was no guilt. It’s harder for me to press “delete” when an unheard podcast is sitting on my computer- I want to hear everything that is sent to me but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. There are a few programmes I try to catch from Warsaw including Dateline Poland, Polish Society and Culture and Central Europe Today.

For me there’s nothing like coming in from work, cooking up a stir fry or chilli and while doing so, tuning into news from Europe, such as Polish Radio’s Central Europe programme or Radio Sweden’s daily news. http://sverigesradio.se/  Perhaps it’s because I associate these programmes with exciting cities that I have visited, coupled with the nostalgia of shortwave listening as a teenager. Maybe the food association is that I was comfortably fed by parental home cooking back then. But somehow listening to these stations on a grey day gives me a cosy and happy feeling.

The Tune In app also provides online radio live or archived from many former shortwave stations, and is worth remembering, especially if you want a quick news or culture fix via your smartphone. http://tunein.com/

Thursday 29 May 2014

Other radio blogs

Extracts from Radio Websites by Chrissy Brand, for 
Radio User, 2014

Start at http://www.hamradiosecrets.com/ham-radio-blog.html where the above photo came from!

Thomas Witherspoon's blog The SWLing Post is somewhere I am sure you visit at least weekly by now- but you should go more often that that. You should sign up fo rte dialy email notification too. One post that you may have missed, which I found a riveting read, gives an insight into the free radio scene in the USA and Europe. Go to http://swling.com/ and find any entry and you will be enthralled.

The DX Novice blog started strongly enough but like many, it soon faded. Cyberspace is littered with promising projects like this one which lost their way. Maintaining the commitment to a regular blog is hard work but there are some nice posts from 2012 at http://dxnovice.blogspot.co.uk/ where the Romanian DXer whose website it is has posted photos of QSL cards and other goodies they received from stations that year. Just as broadcasters wish to hear from their listeners, bloggers too like to receive feedback to prove that there is an audience reading or listening to them. So it’s always polite to leave an encouraging comment on a blog post.

An exception to the “needing feedback” rule is Gough’s legacy website in Australia which is no longer updated. The radio and computing sections will be of interest to readers, including sounds of HF radio, QSL cards, and readings of Gough's 2009 letter to China Radio International, comparing off air and studio recordings. http://goughlui.com/legacy/ It must be rather satisfying to call time on a website and leave it as a legacy. I wonder how much interest this will be to computing historians in a few short internet years?

Garth Mullins states he is a "writer, broadcaster, activist, 3 chord propagandist". I am unsure what the latter is but his website at www.garthmullins.com gives enough clues to his other passions. Based in Vancouver he received the Jack Mullins Journalism award in 2013 for the best features story on radio (http://www.jackwebster.com/dinner/video.php?id=704) This was for his CBC radio piece "The Imaginary Albino". I won't give away any spoilers here so you can hear the programme for yourself at http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2013/02/18/the-imaginary-albino

Other interesting documentaries by Garth and colleague Lisa Hale can be found at http://www.garthmullins.com/p/radio.html This includes information on El Salvador underground station Radio Venceremos and an interview with Elizabeth Hay, author of Late Nights On Air, a book about radio in Canada. http://www.elizabethhay.com/?book=late-nights-on-air  The book, published in 2007, is now on my holiday reading list, having read this synopsis: "Harry Boyd, a world-weary, washed-up television broadcaster, has returned to a small radio station in the remote reaches of the Canadian North. There, in the golden summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air".

Ruud Brand (no relation to me) is a Dutch DXer and his YouTube channel is packed full of entertaining DX DAB and FM catches. https://www.youtube.com/user/RBrDX

Monday 5 May 2014

The joy of shortwave

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

Photo of a vintage radio at the Grand Canyon. 

I appreciate the benefits of high tech life, such as my tiny Sony smartphone and its ability to read newspapers, emails, blogs and books from the palm of my hands. I can watch videos, tv, listen to radio and view the world through people’s instant photos (and add my own snapshots too) through Instagram. But I always also appreciate the charms and variety that my 30 year old Sony shortwave radio can deliver to me - and I can’t imagine that ever changing. Even a simple scan of the bands can still bring you a cacophony of international sounds and opinion. I was pondering over this thought in early spring as the B-13 schedules concluded.

Two half hour sessions, one in mid evening and another soon after dawn again illustrated to me the amazing array of information and entertainment that us DXers and shortwave listeners are privileged to hear. It’s a shame that so much of the world misses out on the experience of hearing voices and instruments from faraway lands. Even at shortwave’s peak in the 1970s and 1980s Jo and Joe Public were blissfully unaware of the delights on offer if they would only turn off the telly and its diet of dull soap operas and unfunny sitcoms. 

Well, their loss is our gain. I started by catching up with the news from the Voice of Vietnam on 9730kHz. I am omitting the times I heard these stations as they all changed schedules on 30 March. It’s just to give a flavour of a typical session of shortwave listening. The Hanoi broadcaster seems unable to let a day pass without mention of the Vietnamese People’s Army and this time was no exception. Mention of a chairman of a political party hosting a banquet painted a vivid picture for me, and I was pleased to hear that for the first time Vietnam had attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. 

Deutsche Welle on 9800kHz was carrying updates and vox pops of the worrying situation in South Sudan where displaced people are hungry and in need of supplements and stability. An antidote to this depressing news came in the form of folk music from Radio Tirana. Sometimes I find it a little twee sounding but this time it was the style of folk that I like the most, haunting female vocals and melodies (akin to Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares - "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices", that came to UK (and global) prominence on the crest of the World Music wave back in the late 1980s). The music put me in a relaxed state of mind and enabled me to enjoy the profile programme which featured two painters. One of these artists was renowned for painting more pictures of Albanian medieval hero Skanderbeg.  It seems to me that Skanderbeg is to Radio Tirana what the Vietnamese People’s Army is the Voice of Vietnam- ubiquitous.

Next on my dial was another station specialising in hero-worship- the Voice of Korea on 7570kHz. They were extolling the visit of a Russian delegation who had come to Pyongyang to celebrate the 65th anniversary of one organisation or another.

Radio Cairo offered some variety on 9900kHz although their eternal failure to modulate their signal correctly meant it was all but impossible to hear what the female presenter was saying, even although it was in English. My patience was rewarded however with some rather good music which sounded like a tango, Egyptian-style. The quirks of shortwave stations can throw up these unlikely aural combinations which are always rather special to my ears.  All of the stations so far had given a fair to good signal strength (that is to say a 3 or 4) and the next stop on my audio voyage came in with an excellent signal strength (a 5). 

The General Overseas Service of All India Radio on 11670kHz gave a gripping talk on the celebration of language- with the speaker stating he felt it to be humankind’s greatest achievement. The very fact that I was hearing this on the radio seemed testament to the fact. It was a positive note to turn in for the night on.

Awaking early on a Saturday morning, with an hour to myself before heading off on a canal walk, I spent a happy half hour in the company of several continents, courtesy of my bedside radio. I started off with good old Radio Romania International, always a strong signal and often with a programme that is worth listening all the way through to the end. In today’s case the feature on Romanian-German relations wasn’t enough to keep me tuned to the full broadcast, although I did learn that Germany was Romania’s largest trading partner and that relations between the two nations were “as good as possible.”

From 21600kHz I tuned down to 15120KHz to join the Voice of Nigeria’s breakfast time show. It was concentrating on the booming local economy and banking sector too much to keep me interested. So skipping onto 15595kHz I heard the heavenly sounds of a choir, live from a church it seemed. A voice proclaiming in the long dead Latin language followed and it didn’t take a DXpert to identify this as a mass from Vatican Radio. I kept popping back to this in between other broadcasts as it was rather addictive in some ways. 

But next I leapt several continents to find myself with the Saturday evening broadcast from Radio New Zealand International. It’s rather incongruous to be sharing someone’s Saturday night when you haven’t yet risen for Saturday breakfast, but it’s another example of what makes international broadcasting so appealing to me. The music request show included a 66th wedding anniversary request for a price by Handel and an 18th wedding anniversary request for some Van Morrison.

I then turned to Radio Australia on 15415kHz who were reaching half time in an Aussie Rules match where the defending champions Hawthorn Hawks were romping their way to a 48 point victory over Brisbane Lions. After a burst of ABC news I looked in on Radio Cuba Havana’s 6060kHz frequency. Their round up of South American news included an item about Bolivia and an election poll from Brazil. Finally, I was entranced by some enticing North African music interspersed with a news item in French, which I guess was RFI, on 17860kHz.

So there we have it, in my eyes a simple short session or two with a basic radio can give you so much enjoyment and entertainment as well as an eye opening glimpse of the world around us. 

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

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