Rádio Nacional da Amazônia outage: updates from the Brazilian blogosphere

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017
The last recording I made of Rádio Nacional da Amazônia, extracted from a 60-41 meter band spectrum recording captured in September 2016.
As reported previously on this blog, Rádio Nacional da Amazônia went silent on shortwave in March due to electricity supply issues. The station hasn't been heard since (at the time of writing, a quick YouTube search for 6180 kHz or 11780 kHz does not return any matching reception videos newer than March 2017). Recently I came across two online articles from Brazil that help to clarify the ongoing situation. I have used Google Translate to reproduce parts of both below (and tidied up the translations manually in a few places to improve legibility). In short, after a widespread regional outcry, EBC (the broadcaster currently using Rádio Nacional da Amazônia's transmitter facilities) has until December to reinstate the full service to avoid losing its shortwave broadcasting license.

Ribeirinhos and indigenous people reject the deactivation of the Rádio Nacional da Amazônia:
[...] 
Rádio Nacional da Amazônia has been suffering from maintenance problems for many years, mainly with their short-wave transmitters on the frequencies of 6180 and 11780 kHz, on 49 and 25 meter bands, respectively. The full 250 kW capacity of each channel was already reduced to 180 kW a long time ago. Often, one channel would be off the air, but at least the other one was in operation. 
However, the situation has never been as serious as it is now. On March 20 of this year, more than five months ago, a lightning struck the substation that supplies electricity to Rodeador Park, 50 kilometers from the center of Brasília, where the antennas are located in the North Region of the country. So far, no practical action has been taken to repair the damage. The transmission has since been maintained only on the internet and via satellite, for those who own a satellite dish. But the people in the heart of the Amazon [listen] via old battery radios. 
The listeners, feeling abandoned, started complaining on live shows over the phone. In May, a statement of repudiation of the deactivation of the station was sent by 15 riverine and indigenous leaderships to the EBC directorate, with copies to the Social Communication Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic and to the radio team. However, EBC's direction remains mute on the subject. 
Check the list of entities whose leaders signed the letter to EBC: 
Association of Residents of Riozinho do Anfrísio Extractive Reserve
Association of Residents of the Rio Iriri Extractive Reserve
Council of the Ribeirinho de Belo Monte - Altamira
Indigenous Association Pyjahyry Xipaya
Tukaya Indigenous Association of Xypaya
Forest Seeds Association
Arara People of the Cachoeira Seca
Xikrin People of Bacajá
Kuruaya people
Parakanã of the Apyterewa Indigenous Land
Remaining Quilombola Association of Oriximiná
Association for the Development of Family Agriculture of the Upper Xingu
Joint Alternative Cooperative of Small Producers of the Alto Xingu
Forestry and Agricultural Management and Certification Institute
Kabu Institute (Kayapó Mekrangnoti People)
Protected Forest Association (Kayapó People Kayapó Indigenous Land)
EBC may lose Rádio Nacional da Amazônia's license after going off the air
Rádio Nacional da Amazônia has been completely off the air and Rádio Nacional de Brasilia (AM) does not have sufficient power to reach states beyond the Federal District during the night. 
The accident completely altered the routine of thousands of people from the Amazon, who have since contacted EBC, pleading for the return of the only station that can be tuned into where they live. 
[...] 
This does not happen by chance. 
Since its creation, Rádio Nacional da Amazônia has played a fundamental role in guaranteeing citizenship to the inhabitants of the northern region of the country, through access to information. But this feeling of belonging is lost every time an Amazonian tries to tune into the station and is faced with the inhuman silence coming from their radio device. 
Isolated communities in rural, riverside, indigenous and border areas, located in places where access to the Internet and other communication channels is difficult, are the ones that benefit most from the public information services carried by the station, which broadcasts to such communities, in addition to information, tips on how to seek solutions to basic health problems, domestic violence and how to take documents. 
It is also through the radio that the listeners communicate with relatives, pass and return messages and reunite with missing relatives and friends. It is no wonder that the station has earned the folklore nickname "Amazon's payphone." 
Historical programs like “Eu de Cá, Você de Lá”; "Frankly speaking"; "Meeting point"; "Live nature"; "Viva Maria"; "Our land"; "Brazilian Amazonia"; "National Evening"; "Mosaic"; "Em Conta" and "Amazon Reporter" simply stopped reaching their audience, cutting off a decades-long relationship with the forest peoples. 
[...] 
Not only does [the station] violate the right to information of thousands of people living in the Brazilian states that make up the Legal Amazon (Amazonas, Acre, Amapá, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Pará, Roraima and Tocantins), [they run] the risk of losing the radio license. 
This is because the sole paragraph of Article 55 of Decree 52795/1963 states that in case the interruption of the broadcasting service is more than 30 (thirty) consecutive days, "except for reasons of unforeseeable circumstances duly proven and recognized by CONTEL, permission shall be revoked, without the licensee being entitled to any indemnity. " 
[...] 
Now EBC has until December to reinstate the provision of the Shortwave service of Rádio Nacional da Amazônia, after authorization of the extension of the legal term granted by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC). MCTIC also gave a period of 120 days for the reestablishment of the Medium Wave service for the return of the normal operation of Rádio Nacional AM of Brasília.
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Shortwave gems: September 2017

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Some interesting music I found in the spectrum recordings I made this month with my portable spectrum capture set-up:




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Monitoring reactions to North Korea's 6th nuclear test on shortwave

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Monday, September 04, 2017
Graphic from the United States Geological Survey showing the location of seismic activity at the time of the test
From Wikipedia:
North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on 3 September 2017, according to Japanese and South Korean officials. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also concluded that North Korea conducted a nuclear test. The United States Geological Survey reported an earthquake of 6.3-magnitude not far from North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site. 
South Korean authorities said the earthquake seemed to be artificial, consistent with a nuclear test. The USGS, as well as China's earthquake administration, reported that the initial event was followed by a second, smaller, earthquake at the site, several minutes later, which was characterized as a collapse of the cavity. 
North Korea claimed that it detonated a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with great destructive power. 
Photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a device resembling a thermonuclear weapon warhead were released a few hours before the test.


Using my portable spectrum capture setup, I recorded the 22 and 19 meter bands between 13:30 and 14:30 UTC and the 31 meter band between 16:00 and 17:00 UTC on the day of the nuclear test. Below are the news bulletins I extracted from these two recordings, which demonstrate varying reactions to this event from the relevant international players:

First, the news in English from the DPRK's state broadcaster, Voice of Korea, with the formal announcement starting at 5 minutes, 6 seconds into the video:


South Korea's reaction, broadcast via KBS World Radio, was characteristically terse:


Voice of America interviewed their own White House correspondent who lamented that nothing is working to steer North Korea away from the path of nuclearisation:


Meanwhile, China Radio International considered DPRK's nuclear test as worthy of only the number 3 spot in their list of headlines. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising: some analysts have opined that Kim Jong Un had deliberately timed the nuclear test to coincide with Xi Jinping opening the annual BRICS summit in China as a show of defiance towards the Chinese leader.


These are interesting times to be monitoring shortwave radio broadcasts, and in this case particularly so because North Korea uses the medium extensively to inform the world about its activities while investing relatively little into other methods of communication. Continue reading →

Endangered stations: April 2017

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Friday, April 14, 2017
CBC dismantles the transmitter towers on Tantramar Marsh land in March 2014.  Image credit: CBC.ca
Some new endangered shortwave station entries for this month:

Endangered:


Radio Nacional da Amazonia was reported off the air for several weeks in March and April 2017, apparently because the Brazilian government didn't allocate the funds for the electrical power needed to run the service (information via Glenn Hauser / World of Radio).

Medi1, Morocco has been off the air in the first two weeks of April.

Recently closed down:


Albania's Radio Tirana closure has been finally confirmed after months of transmitter problems and service interruptions (information via Glenn Hauser / World of Radio). Continue reading →

Shortwave gems: March 2017

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Monday, March 27, 2017

This month's episode of the shortwave gems series, extracted from my indoor spectrum recordings:

Carnatic instrumental music from All India Radio that at times sounds like a mixture of Trance and Drum & Bass!



A very interesting performance from Radio Thailand that is strangely reminiscent of a certain famous band form the west (which one is it?).



A pop song from the Voice of Turkey that seems to have borrowed a bar or two from "Don't You Worry Child" by The Swedish House Mafia.



Folk music from Radio Romania International.

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Shortwave gems: February 2017

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Some great music this month, extracted from my spectrum recordings:

A fast-paced, intense musical composition recorded from the Voice of Greece.



A vocal piece in Arabic, performed in a surprising style, recorded from Radio San'aa.



A song recorded from the Laotian service of FEBC Radio (broadcasting out of the Philippines).



Dreamy Carnatic instrumental music recorded from All India Radio.

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Visualising shortwave band activity throughout the year

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Sunday, February 12, 2017
24-hour shortwave spectrum image, showing activity for a single day in the first week of February 2017 (©PA3FWM, Twente WebSDR).
As many of my readers and followers will already know, these days I mostly enjoy listening to shortwave radio via the outdoor spectrum captures I make in my local park. Although I have built a system that helps me deal with urban radio interference at home, some of the weaker signals still can't make it through the indoor noise. Since I have a limited amount of time for making outdoor trips, capturing entire portions of the spectrum allows me to record a lot of shortwave signals simultaneously, which I can then explore individually at a later time. However, these trips still need to be carefully planned because the time of the day and the time of the year both affect long-distance signal propagation, and do so differently depending on the frequency range. For example, signals on the 16 meter band are usually at their strongest during the daylight hours, whereas the 31 meter band is at its busiest around sunrise and sunset. Because my current portable recording set-up allows me to capture only 10% (3 MHz) of the shortwave spectrum at any one time, I decided to carry out a systematic exploration of activity on the shortwave bands to help me time my outings so as to capture as many signals as possible during each trip.

Luckily, I didn't need to make any of my own measurements for this. For over a year, the wide-band WebSDR at the University of Twente has allowed its users to see what the shortwave spectrum has looked like over the past 24 hours in a single image. More recently, however, the creator of the service, Pieter-Tjerk de Boer PA3FWM, has opened up his spectrum image archives, so it is now possible to see the past conditions of the bands on any single day in the last two years. Intrigued by how band activity changes depending on the time of the year, I created a timelapse animation of these images by taking two from each calendar week and lining them up in sequence. With Pieter-Tjerk's kind permission, I share this animation below.

First, a really fast version to illustrate the broad effects the time of the year has on peak activity times across the bands:


The X axis represents the frequency and the Y axis is the time of day, starting at the top. Conventional wisdom about band behaviour can be easily confirmed by watching this video: the 60m, 49m and 41m bands are mostly active after dark, with the 60m and the 49m bands being generally busier during the winter months. The 31m band is most active around sunset, but carries on all night until a few hours after sunrise. The 25m band is active during sunrise and for a few hours afterwards, and around sunset during the winter months, but carries on all night during the summer. Peak activity on the 22m and 19m bands is also clustered bi-modally around the morning and the evening hours, though somewhat closer to the middle of the day than on the 31m and the 25m bands. The 16m band is mostly active during the daylight hours and the 13m band is quiet throughout the year except for the occasional ham contest.

It almost seems as though someone positioned in the middle of the image's right edge (corresponding to noon UTC) is shining two flashlight beams on the bands in a V-shaped pattern, and is changing the angle of this pattern depending on the time of the year: wider in the summer and narrower in winter. Here's a slower version of the animation that shows some finer week-on-week changes:


Thanks to this data being made freely available, visualising and understanding these dynamics will help me schedule my spectrum capture outings in the weeks and months ahead. Continue reading →