Farewell to Radio Australia

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.


Shortwave gems: January 2017

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.


Radio Australia shortwave shutdown: the state of play

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:

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


Endangered stations update: January 2017

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:

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.

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.


Shortwave gems part 6

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.