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January 3, 2015

DX Extra Shortwave show No. 18 Released!

Hello fellow DXers, it is with great excitement to release the latest shortwave news programme DX Extra number 18 to the world wide web! Happy New Year! 
 In this fortnight's podcast: 
  • Radio Australia cutbacks update
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty raided
  • International broadcasters shortwave demise
  • Pirate Radio Logs and recordings (Radio Cochiguaz)
  • Audio Archive: Radio France International

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We had great reception into Europe on Saturday the 3rd January 2015 and are still getting reports, below is a recording of 20 minutes of the shortwave broadcast:
LISTEN via Shortwave Radio:

DX Extra No.18 via Premier Radio 6910kHz 03/01/15 20h48-21h08 heard & recorded by Gino Italy. SINPO 54444

The ABC could soon abandon international shortwave radio broadcasts to China and Indonesia, ending more than 70 years of beaming news and current affairs on high frequency into Asia.
But the public broadcaster's management insist it will not flick the switch on shortwave services of Radio Australia to Papua New Guinea and tiny Pacific nations for now.
ABC international chief Lynley Marshall said the older shortwave technology was still relevant in the Pacific, despite a drive to make mobile and internet devices the ''primary'' way of delivering news.
Staff had grown increasingly alarmed in recent months that the shortwave service to the Pacific would be canned - including a popular Tok Pisin service to PNG - raising fears expats and locals would be vulnerable to dangerous news blackouts during natural disasters or regional strife.
Radio is the cheapest and most widespread source of news in poorer Pacific provinces. Most nations run only a 2G mobile network with little coverage outside capitals. When Prime Minister Julia Gillard visits Port Moresby on Thursday almost twice as many locals will hear news of the trip on radio than see it on television or read it in newspapers.
But with a contract to broadcast shortwave from a 240-hectare site near Shepparton - costing the ABC about $4.1 million this financial year - set to expire some time after 2014, fears had grown shortwave would cease in favour of streaming audio online and deals to broadcast on local stations.
The ABC has been wrangling internally for months on how to best deliver international services, as mandated under its charter to provide an Australian voice on world affairs
High-frequency services had not rated a mention in an internal ABC memo in February flagging an ''online and mobile strategy as the primary focus'' for international broadcasting.
But Ms Marshall said there was no end in sight to shortwave broadcasts in the Pacific, and the Shepparton array was part of this strategy. ''One of the things we have to look at is what is the most effective way of reaching audiences?'' she said. ''You'd have to see a significant take-up in other devices to warrant moving away from shortwave.''
But the digital revolution accompanying the economic boom in Asia has led to a dwindling audience for shortwave. China also began jamming the Radio Australia signal in January, although that interference has since stopped.
Ms Marshall confirmed the continued targeting of China and Indonesia with shortwave was up for debate. ''We haven't made any final decisions on that but a number of the staff here have questioned the relevance of shortwave into markets like Indonesia and China,'' she said.
''I think there is justification for re-evaluating what we are doing there based on the way in which audiences are consuming media.''
Social media is highly popular in Indonesia, while the Radio Australia audience in the mostly closed China market is difficult to gauge.
Radio Australia was launched in 1939 on the eve of World War II, with prime minister Robert Menzies declaring in the first broadcast: ''The time has come to speak for ourselves.''
The service is intended to provide reliable, independent news and English-language training and also win goodwill for Australia.
Ms Marshall said Radio Australia had great ''heritage'' value in the Pacific and would not be lost under plans to bring the ABC's international radio, television and online services under one brand.
A confidential ABC research report for the Radio Australia audience in rural PNG shows at least 30 per cent of people rely exclusively on shortwave transmissions to listen to the station.
A megabyte of data in Fiji costs about $3. An hour of audio streaming used about 30 megabytes.” Via The Age Newspaper Online    

WASHINGTON - The Broadcasting Board of Governors today condemned the raid and closure of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Baku office by Azerbaijani authorities.

Investigators from Azerbaijan's state prosecutor's office entered the RFE/RL bureau on the morning of December 26 accompanied by armed police officers. They searched the company safe, ransacked files and equipment, and ordered staff members to leave the building after holding them in a room for several hours without telephone or computer access. Several staff members later were summoned for questioning.
"This unwarranted action is an escalation of the Azeri government's abusive attempt to intimidate independent journalists and repress free media," said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. "We call on the authorities to immediately allow RFE/RL to resume its important journalistic work from Baku, and to release investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova." The government raid comes three weeks after the arrest and detention in Baku of prominent Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, a contributor to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service programming. Ismayilova was sentenced to two months of pre-trial detention, and if convicted could serve three to seven years in prison. Khadija's arrest has been widely condemned, including by the BBG. Amnesty International has declared Ismayilova a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression."

"The raiding of our Baku bureau is a flagrant violation of every international commitment and standard Azerbaijan has pledged to uphold" said Nenad Pejic, RFE/RL's editor in chief and co-CEO.  "The order comes from the top as retaliation for our reporting, and as a thuggish effort to silence RFE/RL. This is not the first time that a regime has sought to silence us, and we will continue our work to support Azeris' basic right of free access to information and to report the news to audiences that need it."

"The operation of our bureau is incapacitated in Baku," said Kenan Aliyev, director of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service. "There has been a long ongoing crackdown on the media and NGOs in Azerbaijan, including the arrest of Khadija Ismayilova, the host of our show and our contributor. We view this as part of this ongoing campaign against independent media."
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international media, whose mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). Via Shortwave Central Blog.       

OTTAWA, Ontario — At the height of the Cold War, the BBC World Service, Radio Canada International and the Voice of America used high-power, multilingual broadcasts on the shortwave radio bands (1710 kHz–30 MHz) to blast news and information behind the Soviet Union’s “Iron Curtain.”
In turn, Radio Moscow, Radio Havana Cuba and East Germany’s Radio Berlin International pumped their own versions of reality to the world via shortwave.

Thanks to the nature of shortwave propagation, in which radio waves can bounce around the world by reflecting off the ionosphere, then off the ground and then the ionosphere again, these broadcasts got through.

Granted, because they were AM signals, their audio was scratchy and often interference-ridden; and even sometimes blocked by government “jammer” stations operating on the same frequencies. But nevertheless, eastern Europeans heard at least some of these international broadcasts.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, followed two years later by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Soon after, the Internet caught on. Collectively, these forces demotivated governments from maintaining multi-antenna/multitransmitter shortwave transmitter farms, where power-hungry 50 and 100 kW AM transmitters guzzled electricity like frat boys downing kegs of beer.

The result is that international broadcasters have reduced their shortwave broadcasts in favor of the Web, or — in the case of RCI — abandoned shortwave entirely for the Web. RCI’s massive shortwave antenna and transmitter farm in Sackville, New Brunswick, which provided stellar coverage of Europe during the Cold War, has since been torn down.  “It’s amazing how many of the major shortwave broadcasters have abandoned shortwave — completely or mostly — since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” said Jeff White, founder and general manager of Radio Miami International. WRMI is a United States-based commercial shortwave broadcaster, which covers the Americas, Europe and Africa via its 13-transmitter, 23-antenna facility located in Florida.

Mindful of radio’s continuing Third World popularity, the BBC and VOA have at least “maintained shortwave transmissions to places like Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia and Latin America,” White said. “But some of them, including the Voice of Russia, have ended all shortwave transmissions. The large religious shortwave broadcasters have more-or-less followed suit.”

There’s no doubt that money played a big role in the demise of international shortwave broadcasting, especially for cash-strapped governments.

“Shortwave transmitters are expensive to operate because of the electrical costs, and expensive to replace,” said Kim Andrew Elliott, an audience research analyst for the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau (which runs the VOA), expressing his own views. In contrast, “The Internet is a cheaper way to transmit globally — unless the audience gets really big — the signal is more reliable, and stations don’t interfere with one another,” he said.

The Web has also caught on with government broadcasters because it’s considered cool. “The World Wide Web is sexy new technology,” said White. “So the station managers have been able to say to their bosses and governments that they have saved a lot of money by eliminating the ‘old technology’ of shortwave and replacing it with the new technology of the Internet.”

As well, broadcasters like the BBC World Service have moved to FM where it is possible to deliver better audio quality and signal reliability. “For many years, the BBC World Service has been broadcasting its services through its own FM relay transmitters and by providing programs to affiliates,” said Nigel Fry, head of distribution for the BBC World Service Group.

“The oldest FMs have been in service for over 40 years, with many more coming into service from 20 years ago to the present day as markets liberalize and licenses are secured.”
In swapping shortwave for the Web, these broadcasters have put their program delivery at the mercy of hostile governments who can block their Web-based content, just by disrupting their country’s Internet traffic.

That’s what recently happened in China, as the authorities tried to prevent their people from learning what actually happened 25 years ago in Tiananmen Square.

“In an effort to prevent the dissemination of information related to this event, the Chinese censorship authorities have severely blocked most Google services in China, including search and Gmail,” said the China Web traffic watchdog in a June 2 email to Bloomberg News. “Our gut feeling is this disruption may be permanent.”

It is relatively simple for authoritarian regimes to block websites they don’t like. But in fairness, shortwave radio broadcasts can also be blocked by “jamming” stations. “Some BBC World Service Internet services are blocked in specific countries — most notably in China,” said Fry. “The English shortwave broadcasts to China and the surrounding countries are also being jammed by the Chinese and have been for some time. Our Uzbek broadcasts are also jammed.”

There are ways that Web-based services can get past government blocking through software programs, at least as long as some Internet traffic is getting through.

For instance, “some international broadcasters are employing technologies such as Psiphon that circumvent the blocking of Internet content,” said Elliott.“The circumvention technologies are not infallible, however, and they may fail in the face of more vigorous interdiction. They certainly will not work if a country physically cuts off Internet lines bringing in foreign traffic, or slows them down to debilitating speeds.”

To meet this challenge, VOA has an experimental program underway called “VOA Radiogram.” In this program, the station broadcasts both text and photographic information via shortwave to listeners equipped with radio-connected computers.

“VOA Radiogram is an experiment to provide information to any place where the Internet, or at least content from abroad, is unavailable due to dictators, disasters, conflict, or remote location,” said Elliott, who is leading the effort. He said that the experiment has been very successful. “We tried various modes, including PSK, MT63 and Olivia, but MFSK (multiple frequency shift keying) has been the best performer. MFSK32, at 120 words per minute, provides a good compromise between speed and accurate copy under challenging shortwave reception conditions.”

The pirate world has had the busiest time of the year, Christmas and New Year provide many pirates on the air.

We’re going to have a look at “Shortwave Pirate Radio 2014 - A year in review” written by Chris Smilonski
Here are the most common modes used in 2014:
AM 944
USB 776
LSB 49
CW 32
FM 16
AM beat out USB this year, last year they were virtually tied”

We all assume pirates are on air most on weekends and while that is true there’s definately ones during the week, here Chris gives statistics of logs over the year;

Sunday 387 (20%)
Monday 155 (8%)
Tuesday 189 (10%)
Wednesday 223 (11%)
Thursday 230 (12%)
Friday 331 (17%)
Saturday 460 (23%)”

We can see that 57% of transmissions are over Friday and the weekend. “But don’t give up on weekday listening! 40% of transmissions are on a Monday through Thursday”

The top 5 frequencies in use for 2014 are: 6925, 6930, 6950, 6940, 6770 with 6925 on 50% of all logs.
That was via the HF Underground blog.

Let’s have a look at some logs for Europirates and Ameerican Pirates:

Jan 1st
6940 1655 Enterprise Radio. "What A Feeling," then Madonna. SINPO 34333.
6990L 1702 Baltic Sea Radio. Michael Jackson "Bad." SINPO 344433.
Dec 31st
3325 1547 Misti Radio. Testing on usual freq. Rock. SINPO 24332.
6207 1603 Radio Caroline-Rainbow. Many IDs, dance mx. SINPO 34333.
6238 1710 Radio Pirana. Non-stop Latin American music, via European relay, good peaks. SINPO 34333.
6267 1554 Skyline Radio Germany. Rock. SINPO 34333.
6284 1559 Radio Black Arrow. Inst mx, signing off. SINPO 54444.
6284 1652 Radio Underground. DT song, ID, greetings, strong peaks. SINPO 44433.
6295 1611 Radio Babysitter (Black Bandit). Country and DT mx. SINPO 54444.
6305 1658 Radio Merlin Int. Supergrass, talk about NY Eve. SINPO 34333.
6803 1608 Radio Pink Panther. Country mx. SINPO 54444.
Via the Shortwave DX Blog

Radio Cochiguaz a pirate that has been off the air for some time is came back with test a test transmission on December 31st 2014 on 6238. They have also done test transmissions in October 18th and 19th 2014 but no one seemed to log them. It says on their website that “Many of you may not know that our Director and the operator of our station passed away some years back. Some of us innvolved with this grate station has decided to keep the station going on in the memory of our great friend and pioneer Cachito Mamani.”
I do not know who is relaying them in Europe them but it will be great to hear South American voices and pan pipe music.
Let’s have a listen to them via Gino Italy who heard them on New Years Eve:

3440 23h35UTC Jan 2nd WHYP playing old time tunes. S9+15 into New Hampshire by DimBulb

6850.5 23h45UTC Jan 1st The Crystal Ship Sign on with the doors, ID and intro talk by John Poet and A Trip to Pirates Cove by Tom Petty SINPO 43333 by ByteBorg

6920 USB 2h30UTC 1st Jan  Radio Doctor Tim music by female artist, non-English show with Happy new year chorus S7 into Chicago by RCCI

American logs via HF undergriund forum. (We also thank other members contributions to the pirate logs that may have not got a mention.)

DX Extra is being relayed on FM via World FM 88.2FM in Tawa, near Wellington in New Zealand, Worldfm dot co dot nz and on shortwave via Focus International, Magic 6205, Cupid Radio and we welcome a new relay - Premier Radio. A big thank you to all our relay partners. Your generosity means a lot!

Before we go it was great to see so many reception reports from Europe hearing the 2014 Christmas special. We always love to hear from you and would love to give you an eQSL for hearing us on the DX Extra - send your report to hriradio at gmail dot com and join us on facebook at facebook dot com forwardslash dxextra

It's time to get an audio clip out of the archives. This is a bit of festive music for New Years heard on Radio France International’s transmission on 9665 on the 1st of January.

Until next time remember shortwave radio is still full of mysteries – keep tuning and keep reporting.

Image: Sydney to Hobart winner Wild Oats XI

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