Radio Australia to shut down shortwave transmissions

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

According to the press release on the ABC website:
The ABC will end its shortwave transmission service in the Northern Territory and to international audiences from 31 January 2017. 
The move is in line with the national broadcaster’s commitment to dispense with outdated technology and to expand its digital content offerings including DAB+ digital radio, online and mobile services, together with FM services for international audiences.
This is sad news and I can see a lot of complacency in this decision. To paraphrase the post I wrote when Radio Australia had a temporary outage earlier this year, depriving people in the less advantaged territories of the ability to receive global broadcasts at no cost results in a less equal world. A good friend of mine from India who went on to become a highly successful academic in the USA attributed his career path to regularly listening to the BBC World Service and Voice of America on shortwave while growing up in a poor neighbourhood. True, India is now much better connected than it was back then, but in how many other regions will shutting down shortwave radio result in lost opportunities for the people there to connect with the rest of the world? We wouldn’t dream of cutting Internet access in poor neighbourhoods in our own countries; shutting down all libraries in less privileged parts of our cities would result in an outcry. It’s sad to see that many governments around the world no longer feel that they have this responsibility beyond their own borders.

It is particularly tragic because Australia's case is one of the few in which using shortwave is well justified both in terms of the underlying technology and the geography of the region. From a number of my conversations online I have gathered that many people use shortwave to listen to RA in the Pacific and quite a few more in the large swaths of rural Australia itself. Australia is a regional economic powerhouse, with which many smaller neighbouring nations have deep material and cultural links; many of these countries have little or no Internet or FM infrastructure to speak of.

On a personal note, I will miss hearing Radio Australia over the ether. Despite Europe being well outside their target area, their signals have always been very strong and clear, and the programming amongst the best out there — both on shortwave and elsewhere.

About the author

This blog is written by a shortwave radio enthusiast based in London, UK. You can follow him on Twitter at @LondonShortwave