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.

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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).

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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.

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Farewell to Radio Australia

5
Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It's official: Radio Australia are no longer on shortwave and only time will tell of all the implications of what I feel is an incredibly short-sighted decision.

Having heard that they might switch off their transmitters at midnight universal time on  January 31st, I monitored their 17840 kHz signal remotely via a KiwiSDR server located in New Zealand (there is no night-time propagation path from their Shepparton transmitter site to the UK at this time of the year). I was encouraged to find that they were still on the air after midnight UTC and thought this meant they would go on until midnight Sydney time, in which case I might be able to record their sign-off from my usual outdoor shortwave listening and spectrum capture spot.

However, I hadn't seen the most recent updates informing listeners that transmissions would be cut at noon Australian Eastern Standard Time (0100 UTC). I thus missed their sign-off on the KiwiSDR, but I was able to record their last news bulletin from it, which gave me some faint hope that we might see them back on the air one day:


I made my last personal recording of their shortwave signal out in the park on January 30th, using my portable spectrum capture set-up. The signal was a lot weaker than normal at this time of the day but still perfectly intelligible.


Three and a half years earlier, I tuned into them for the very first time, while on a trip to Moscow, Russia:


Fairwell, Radio Australia. You will be missed.

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Shortwave gems: January 2017

2
Saturday, January 28, 2017

Below are some of my favourite pieces of music that I managed to extract out of the shortwave static earlier this month, using my portable spectrum capture set-up:

Two in one! Catchy Dubstep and R&B tunes recorded from Medi1.



A melodic tune captured from China Radio International Cantonese broadcast.



An Indian song recorded from Radio Afghanistan, Kabul.



Another song from All India Radio's Baluchi service.

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Radio Australia shortwave shutdown: the state of play

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

With 10 days to go until Radio Australia shuts down its shortwave transmissions after close to 80 years of uninterrupted service, below is a short survey of significant reactions to this development and related media coverage:

From The Strategist: Silencing Australia’s shortwave voice in the South Pacific
Killing shortwave disregards—disenfranchises—an unknown number of listeners. As broadcasting policy, it’s highly questionable. As strategy, it’s dumb—another bout of recurring Oz amnesia about its South Pacific role, responsibilities and history.

ASPI asked the ABC: How many shortwave listeners does Radio Australia have in PNG and the South Pacific?

ABC spokesman: ‘While there are no firm figures on audiences numbers in these regions, they are understood to be low.’

Q: What percentage of RA’s users in PNG and the South Pacific get the content by shortwave?

ABC: ‘This level of data is not available.’

No evidence-based policy there. In its closure announcement, the ABC expressed future confidence based on no knowledge of present usage:

‘Due to the nature of the technology and the remote locations of shortwave users, it is very difficult to ascertain with any precision the number of listeners who use the service… There is no available data on audience numbers for the regions affected by the closure of ABC International services. The ABC believes that technological advancement has improved accessibility of FM and online services and will negate the impact of no longer offering shortwave services.’

To stress the strangeness: Australia has no idea of the numbers or listeners in the Pacific who’ll be affected when the shortwave transmitters go silent. It has been a vital service for 75 years; with two months notice it’s redundant.
Meanwhile, Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop raised the Pacific region’s concerns about the ABC’s planned abolition of Radio Australia’s shortwave service with the national broadcaster and sought "an update in the New Year". NT Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Northern Territory MP Warren Snowdon have been making repeated calls to halt the closure of Radio Australia's NT regional shortwave broadcasts, referring to the concerns of their constituents, only to be met with intransigence by the ABC's management.

In a related and somewhat ironic development, the ABC advised Northern Territory residents to obtain satellite phones for emergency use in an informational advert about the closure of its shortwave services.

Is the irony of this really lost on the ABC management? Replace shortwave radio (~$20) with a satellite phone (~$700 plus subscription). Source: Lisa Herbert on Twitter
For AM, FM and DAB services to be viable alternatives to the ABC's shortwave transmissions, the local power grids and wired infrastructure would need to remain intact during emergencies. The story about phone lines going down in a remote north Queensland community after storms demonstrates that this assumption is questionable at best.

More evidence that shutting off shortwave would have negative consequences for the entire region came from French Polynesia, where the national broadcaster's decision to switch off its local AM signal in favour of FM transmissions left multiple pockets of the population without any radio coverage (Radio New Zealand International: Loss of AM radio irks French Polynesia). Meanwhile, it has been reported that in Papua New Guinea, only 10% of the population have online access, while recent failed engineering works cut the Marshall Islands off from the Internet, leaving the country largely isolated from the outside world.

Reading all of the above while the ABC management shows no signs of paying attention to the concerns of their listeners in Australia and beyond feels like watching a train derail in slow motion, with the consequences already known well in advance.

Source: Melanie Horsnell on Twitter

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Endangered stations update: January 2017

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Saturday, January 07, 2017
Endangered stations list on The Shortwave Archive website.
In addition to moving Radio Australia to the "Critically Endangered" part of our endangered stations list for obvious reasons, I reached out to Glenn Hauser of World of Radio to see what shortwave stations he currently considers to be under the threat of closure. He kindly provided the following response:
Endangered:

Need to add Radio Tirana, Albania. Sole transmitter has severe problems, and is reported off the air lately. The webcast has been sporadic.

Recently closed down:

It should be pointed out that R. Belarus does have some relays via Germany, probably not by its own initiative.

Radio Kuwait --- recent reports that they are getting transmitters refurbished, so maybe will be back.
Vulnerable:

Amazonia is back with two transmitters functioning well for some time now.

[New Zealand], they turned one transmitter off permanently, but the remaining one is on full schedule, partly DRM.

Perhaps you should mention that some stations survive, only thanks to WRMI putting them on SW: such as R. Slovakia International, Radio Prague, Radio Ukraine International. I am sure WRMI would be open to doing more of that.
It would be sad to see Radio Tirana go, but not entirely surprising, since they have had multiple outages and transmission problems over the past three years. At the same time, it would be great to see Radio Kuwait back on air, and it's also good news that we can take Radio Nacional da Amazonia off the "vulnerable" broadcaster list.

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Shortwave gems part 6

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

In this post I upload more music from my shortwave recording archives. Clips no. 2 and 3 are a bit noisy but I'm posting them as they are, since Shazam can't recognise them (otherwise I would have included them in my shortwave playlist series).

A song taken from an outdoor recording of Denge Kurstistane, which, to my ear, sounds like it could be a fusion of Kurdish and Irish musical traditions.



Below is another song that reminded me of Irish music, taken from an outdoor recording of Radio Oromiya (Ethiopia).



A slow, mellow tune from the Voice of Nigeria, recorded outdoors.



Orchestral music by Pannalal Ghosh from All India Radio, recorded indoors.

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