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 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. 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

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  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,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.  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.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Other radio blogs

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

Start at 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 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 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. 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 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 ( 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

Other interesting documentaries by Garth and colleague Lisa Hale can be found at 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.  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.

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. 

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