Archive for August, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 25

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

In this outlay of shortwave reception I’m back to the band I believe I’ve featured most often here– 31 meters. I guess I’ve had particular luck finding interesting broadcasts there, along with the least interference. In retrospect, that’s how it’s panned out  (at least in the hours I tend to listen).

The_cityAnd if you look at (or listen to) the reception offered in these posts, you’ll see that there’s quite a variety of broadcasts be to found in this frequency campground from North America. None of the logs I’ve posted from scanning this band are even close to being identical to any others. One reason of course, is that all the recordings are from different days of the week and unique times of the evening. But propagation (and local RF) is the biggest factor. Some nights you can catch Stations from the Middle East and Africa. Other nights European and North American stations are most of what you find. And now and then, a few South America signals show up on the dial. In general after dark, mainstays like KOL in Israel, the Voice of Greece, Cuba (in general), CRI, Deutsche Welle, Radio Netherlands, and Spain are usually out there and can be easily heard on this band with little effort. And then there’s always Family Radio. (As if you’d want your kids to hear that…) On this particular Friday evening scan I happened across Iran’s “Voice of Justice” (their nightly English program) for a little while. AND you can almost hear everything they’re saying through most of it.

As a shortwave listener, I must admit that I’m at a particular disadvantage. Not only do I live in a huge megalopolis full of throbbing RF. But in reality, the very worst radio noise culprits are the electronics and wiring in my house (or almost any house these days). I’ve always had the best results listening to a shortwave portable outside. Unfortunately, if I happen to be serious about DXing from home I have to park myself under the bright streetlights illuminating our stoop (with funny looking audio equipment around me), or I’ll end up crouched in some awkward postion out on the fire escape, hoping the landlord doesn’t come out to put something on the clothesline and wonder what the hell I’m doing up there.

When when I went to work in Jersey City the other night I made a point of bringing my Degen 1103 and a cassette recorder. Then during a dinner break, I slowly worked all the way up and through the 31 meter band (in its slightly expanded form on the Degen– 9000 to 10000 kHz). And well, here’s what happened:

Segment 1-31 Meter Band (9330 to 9495 kHz) 08-18-06  24:00

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9330 – WBCQThe Apocalypse Chronicles

Apocalypse_a_comin Perfect name for a U.S. shortwave show. So much of the religious and “patriot” type programming has this inherent lust for the end of humanity. I guess it must be an exciting life.

All you get here is some detailed information on how to hear the Chronicles (make sure you have a paper and pencil on hand to jot down the details).

9345 – KOL Israel

An announcer speaking Hebrew, then some jaunty bumper music. Doesn’t sound like news programming. And then… The Beatles!

9370 – WTJC – Fundamental Broadcasting Network

Chapter and verse talk, Piano, holy white folks raising their voices in praise. (yawn) Time to turn the station…

9420 – Voice of Greece

Some urgent musical interlude, then some Greek speak.

9495 – The Voice of Justice (Iran)

 In between some intermittent fading, this extended segment (over 18 minutes) includes some of the most solid reception I’ve yet heard of Iran’s English language programming. Other than Cuba (and North Korea if you have the equipment), Iran is the only one of America’s avowed “enemies” that can be really be heard via shortwave here on the east coast. That said, coming from over 6000 miles away “The Voice of Justice” still isn’t all that easy to receive with consistent clarity.

Leader_poster_1It’s mostly a newsreader and a commentator offering headlines and discussing American and international news stories from an Iranian perspective. However, instead of a spirited attack of U.S. policies and some loaded boasting of the Iran’s military might (as you might have heard years ago from shortwave broadcasts from behind the “iron curtain”), it’s simple short issues and opinions followed by brief and polite interludes of polite bumper music. As in every English language broadcast I’ve caught from the Islamic Republic, there’s plenty of criticism of America’s “wars”– against Iraq, Islam, and “terror.” And not surprisingly, Hezbollah is highly praised (on their “victory” over Israel). And quite a bit of talk about the internal American political situation.

No, it’s not great radio, and certainly not as titillating as the snarling anti-western propaganda that used to come out of cold war era Radio Moscow and Radio Peking. But it when our country is (again) picking fights with (and occasionally threatening warfare against) large groups of people out there, it seems like a good idea to be able to hear what the supposed bad guys have to say about the U.S. and the news. And historically, shortwave radio has for the better part of a century provided people around the world the ability to hear the "other" side, and it’s still valid today.

If you want to hear Iran’s English service without the noise and fading (or seeking out a shortwave radio), they now stream their broadcasts online. Try it from 9:30 to 10:30 PM Eastern Time if you’re curious. 

Segment 2-31 Meter Band (9505 to 9680 kHz) 08-18-06  16:56

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9505 – WFYR (Family Radio)

A deep voice speaketh onto us…

9515 – WHRI (World Harvest Radio)

Oh, here’s some drama. This guy’s got the Jesus craving REAL BAD. Some shaky and sweaty prayer content here. Not for children.

 9520 – Radio Free Europe (U.S. propaganda from Hungary)

RfeRussian, I think. Female announcer. Decades later, we’re still bringin’ radio freedom to the savages of Europe. I’m sure they’re thankful.

9535 – Radio Exterior de Espana.

Breakneck news delivery, in Spanish.

9550 – Radio Habana Cuba

In Spanish.

9560 – China Radio International

Sort of a hip-hop disco thumper at the onset of this clip, then the announcer is speaking English, specifically tempting listeners with cheap air fare to China.

9565 – BBC? Or something relayed via BBC in the UK (Rampisham)

That’s the best guess I can come up with. Unknown language. It’s fairly loud at first, with some crosstalk from something else. Anybody have a clue?

Rhr 9570 – China Radio International (From Albania)

Sounds Chinese to me. Male guest on the phone, the host groans in agreement occasionally.

9580 – China Radio International (From Cuba)

More Chinese. Same host? While other countries are cutting back their international shortwave broadcasting budget, China must be paying some hefty electric bills keeping all these transmitters up and running around the world.

9590 – Radio Netherlands

Latin music. Nice, short, but not very clear.

9600 – Something from Cuba?

Radio Nacional de Venezuela? Radio Rebelde? Radio Habana Cuba? Any Spanish speakers who can figure this one out for us? Something about Panama. Sounds political.

9610 – Vatican Radio

Male and female announcers. French, I think

9625 – (unknown)

Male voice. Perhaps Arabic? Canada and Finland use this frequency at other times. It sounds like it’s coming from quite a distance, whatever it is. Some clandestine station perhaps? One from Sudan has used this frequency.

9665 – Voice of Russia

It’s a drama in English. Drunkenness is mentioned. Eastern European shortwave sounds so dated sometimes. And I kind of like that. But wouldn’t it be fun if they played some reruns of those hard core Radio Moscow propaganda broadcasts? But you never hear much reflection on shortwave. Everything is NOW, despite some of the dated formatics and technology.

9680 – WYFR (Family Radio)?

Sounds like a far east Asian language. A sweet little song in fact. Which I suppose is spreading the Jesus agenda, if it is Family Radio.

Maybe some problem with the connecting cable to the recorder here. Sorry.

Segment 3-31 Meter Band (9690 to 10000 kHz) 08-18-06  17:15

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9690 – China Radio International (from Spain)

Strong and loud (overloading the radio) Chinese. Male announcers.

Bulgaria 9700 – Radio Bulgaria

Some hazy reception in English. Female speaker, followed by male announcer with British accent. Very hard to hear what’s being said.

9715 – Radio Romania?

Extremely almost nothing. A little buzzing. This is supposed to be Romania…

9720 – Radio Tunis

Extremely lo-fi female announcer/narrator. Unknown language, perhaps Arabic. Musical accompaniment. Some very American voice (signal) chewing at the edges of this one.

9725 – Voice of Russia?

Low rumbling reception here. Sounds like Russian. Some female singer from somewhere else stepping on the signal.

9745 – HCJB – Voice of the Andes

Spanish Christians from Ecuador. HCJB is a longstanding Western Hemisphere presence on shortwave. Spirited broadcast with poor signal. Spanish.

Hcjb 9755 – Radio Canada International

Jokes in Spanish I guess. A young woman seems to find it all remarkably funny.

9780 – HCJB – Voice of the Andes

More “Hey-Zoos” from South America. In German.

9795 – Radio Budapest (Hungary)

In English, promoting Hungarian wine. Jazzy bumper music and an offer to download their daily broadcasts.

9805 – Radio Farda

Farda U.S. propaganda and entertainment for our Persian friends. Nice audio screech on top of this signal. Perhaps some Jamming going on? Or just my bad luck?

9820 – Radio Habana Cuba

In English, fairly clear. Sounds like tourism information to me. Go see the natural paradise where Columbus had a good time a few hundred years ago.

9830 – Deutsche Welle

A solid signal relayed from the Netherlands, in German.

Zenithtransoceaniic 9860 – Voice of Russia

Same melodrama we heard at 9725 kHz I believe. Pretty good reception.

9865 – Radio Farda

U.S. radio “outreach” to Iran again. This time it’s a better signal. A song starts before I turn the dial.

9880 – Voice of Russia

Loud whine on top of this. This time it’s not English either.

9925 – Hrvatska Radio (Croatia)

More “jazzy” bumper music. Unknown language. Then some signifying tones run naked on the carrier signal, it’s the top of the hour (0300 UTC).

10000 – WWV (Ft. Collins, CO)

It’s the OFFICIAL time, you know atomic clocks and all that. WWV (or WWVH) is the longest continuously running radio station in the U.S. They relay the Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC) to the world (the same time format used for shortwave broadcasting). Basically, it’s the same as the time in London. However, there’s much more going on at WWV. It’s an interesting and  historic operation– lots more than beeps, clicks and time announcements. Wikipedia has a nice feature on the station.

As always, hope you enjoyed all the noise. Appreciate any discussion, comments, questions and corrections left below if you’re in the mood. And you can send me an email here. And one of these days I’m going to dig back into the AM band again here, maybe catch a ball game or two before the summer’s over.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Air America vs. Reality – Part 3

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

 It’s been three months since I’ve discussed Air America here at Beware of the Blog, and there’s some fresh news to report. But Perhaps more significantly, there’s rumors aplenty flying around town here regarding the lefty talk network these days. In May, I predicted there would be “some drastic changes” at Air Aato1600America this year, that seems to be coming to pass. And some other prognostications and hopes I tossed around regarding AAR in these pages may bear fruit as well. But one big alleged “fact” that I passed along here seems to have been either misinformation, bad reporting, or that a certain deal was never final in the first place..

I’ll explain.

First, the big headline is that Air America is in fact jumping frequencies here in New York City– moving from 1190 WLIB to 1600 WWRL on September 1, 2006. And like Humpty Dumpty’s tumble from his perch, the results of this fall (note: the broadcast range of WWRL doesn’t quite have the coverage of the audible radius of WLIB) may result in local and network AAR programming in a bit of scramble. At least that’s what I’ve been hearing. As you read on, realize that while I’ll link to online sources when I can find other sites that back up what I’m asserting here, other hearsay I’ll offer here is based on innuendo and whispers I’ve heard from people I trust. That said, I also am led to understand that negotiations are ongoing with several of the parties concerned and possible changes being spoke of today could turn into something else over the course of the next two and half weeks when Air America actually makes the switch. If you’ve listened, you’d know that Air America has always been a New York-centric national radio operation, and if there’s going to be a changes in what will be offered here it will probably alter the media footprint of Air America nationally as well.

Now, onto how I have probably misled readers at BOTB when I was basing my commentary on “official” online sources. Contrary to a news story I linked to and discussed, it now does not appear that (the former CEO of Clear Channel) Randy Michaels and his new lefty talk company, Progress First, is actually going to be doing very much, if anything, with WLIB. Yet, at the end of April that was the story and I based what I wrote what I understood to be fact. Then, it was strange. For many weeks, there was no news whatsoever the supposed P1 takeover. As memory serves, when Michaels launches a radio project, he launches big. He’s not a coy operator. Something was fishy.

And then early this month Air America announced they were actually going to leap over to WWRL. on the date the story about P1′s deal with WLIB said it would have to abandon the frequency. And new reports appeared that Michaels Malloy_in_nyc_2005might be interested” in leasing the station, but no longer affirming that it was a sure thing. It makes you wonder where the initial story that P1 was certain to take over WLIB (in MediaWeek and Billboard) came from in the first place?

And now on to get into some more of the unsubstantiated rumors I’ve heard. You know, I know people who know people and I spend too much time Googling the fate of Air America. And from what I understand, the only sure thing about Air America’s move to WWRL is that Al Franken and Randi Rhodes will certainly be broadcasting at 1600 AM in New York come September 1. And that’s not all! According to Mike Malloy’s website, his powerful program will also be returning to late night New York radio with the big frequency switch in September. Good news, but I hear that just like WLIB, WWRL is going to hold onto the six post-midnight hours, as well as the morning drive spot. Which is fairly canny for WWRL I suppose. If they part ways one day as WLIB is about to do, they can maintain their on-air identity in the meantime.

And that reminds me… I expressed my outrage and disappointment in this blog when Air America supplanting Malloy’s show with the inane “Satellite Sisters” on WLIB in January of 2006. The yuppie siblings not only produce really mindless radio for ABC (and originally for NPR!), but I frankly would honestly characterize their program as one of the most repulsive and worthless instances of broadcasting in modern history. Listen to this promo Air America was running in New York this summer, actually encouraging local listeners to tune out the show that’s currently on WLIB (the dopey perky sisters) and switch over to Malloy online or via XM instead. Amazing.

WLIB Promo – Listen to Malloy somewhere else! (but not here)  0:10

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Garofalo_tattoo Rhodes, who has apparently had some of the best ratings results on the AA schedule, has recently signed a multi-year contract, and Franken remains the reigning mascot/celebrity figurehead at Air America. And speaking of that, number two AAR mascot Janeane Garofalo has officially parted ways with the network, although the word is that they may maintain some relationship and Garofalo may fill in now and then. Oh well. I mean, how much shrill psychobabble can you take? To be honest, it’s not my favorite form of comedy either. I can’t believe they kept (or just kept a “place” for) Garofalo for over two years on a national radio show. Is she really that beloved of a celebrity? Did I miss something?

From what I’ve heard, Air America and WWRL remain in molar grinding up-to-the-finish-line negotiations on how the implementation of Air America at 1600 AM is going to actually pan out. The rumor I’ve repeatedly come across is that WWRL has successfully bargained to hold onto the morning drive hours. And don’t forget this is the prized branding daypart of regional radio media. This could leave Rachel Maddow and Mark Riley (who’s radio legacy is completely New York based) without an air slot in the Big Apple. Not good for Air America if true. (Although I’ve also overheard that Riley may land some role in the early evening slot if the Majority Report is actually axed. Stay tuned.)

Bush_pulls_armstongs_string The current WWRL morning show (which I assume would remain in place if this rumor is correct), is hosted by local liberal voice Sam Greenfield (yes, he’s a man) and closeted right-wing goofball Armstrong Williams, who is best known for taking a quarter million bucks from the Bush regime to parrot their party line on the “No Child Left Behind” idiocy. A hack like Armstrong Williams holding a drive time slot on Air America’s flagship station would certainly be a sad state of affairs. And I haven’t heard whether Air America will continue a national morning drive program for other stations to carry.

However, an encouraging rumor abounds that Jerry Springer is going to be dropped from Air America’s schedule in New York very soon, and it seems his run with Air America in general may be coming to an end as well (One can hope.) Yet if Michaels is really investing himself into WLIB, Springer could remain on 1190 since he also has a working relationship with P1. Also, if Michaels really does have some upcoming relationship with WLIB, Ed Shultz (the meat eating, gun toting liberal who USED to be conservative), P1′s biggest property, will probably immediately take over afternoon drive there, giving the corn-fed North Dakota yakker a home in New York City.

SamThen again, this story in the Amsterdam News claims that Springer and the rest of the daily Air America schedule will follow the WWRL morning show (with Greenfield and Williams) at 1600, AND that “Radio One,” an African-American radio syndication outfit would be taking over some hours on WLIB. So perhaps Randy Michaels may not be gaining any headway into the New York market after all. It’s hard to imagine Ed Shultz floating in the middle of an all-black talk and/or music format.

 As far as Air America nationally, there are probably other programming changes on the way. For instance, as the nightly “Majority Report” has now lost Garofalo, co-host Sam Seder is currently flying solo weeknights and acknowledging on air hat the future of the program and his gig at the network are in jeopardy. And he’s been asking for supportive email to lobby Air America to keep him around.

Sam Seder Explains – 08-07-06  01:46

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Leftofthedial_1I hear the Majority Report will soon indeed be history. But as Seder has been a good soldier for the network (carrying on solo while Garofalo was away for weeks at a time, and filling in for Franken and Rhodes when they were away) I’ve heard he may move into the late morning slot after TV sleaze king Jerry Springer gets the boot. While I’ve never felt that Seder matured much as a talk host on the Majority Report, I’d hope that by landing his own program it might encourage him to reinvent his somewhat hyperbolic and smug radio style into something more compelling. Of course, the fact is just about anything would be an improvement over the childish musings of Springer for three hours every day.

 There have also been rumors that Air America’s ace morning whirlwind, Rachel Maddow, has been gunning for an evening or afternoon slot on Air America. However, the accompanying rumor is that former AAR bigwig Carl Ginsburg was working behind the scenes to relocate Maddow on the schedule, and since he recently parted ways with the network the chances of Maddow taking the Majority Report slot may be less likely as well. It’s worth mentioning that Ginsburg’s guiding hand has been navigating Air America from the very beginning, and with his departure there’s been almost a complete turn over within the original brain trust behind AAR. Another omen of programming changes to come. (To get an idea of Ginsburg’s importance in the early days of Air America check out HBO’s documentary on the birth of the network– “Left of the Dial.” It’s worth renting if you have any interest in AAR.)

I have no proof that the Air America brain trust has been reading my AAR posts, but it seems that a few the suggestions I’ve made here were surprisingly valid. Not only does it appear that Springer and the Majority Report are toast, but something else I mentioned may be coming to pass too– AAR reducing the epic "Randi Rhodes Show" to a more reasonable three hours. Even for fans of her daily manic lathering of the news and her self-referential asides, it just has always seemed like that fourth hour was just overkill. But I’ve been led to understand this change is still being negotiated at press time. And then there’s one other issue I made a big stink about here…

If there’s a punch line to the whole unfolding reinvention of Air America  it’s that AAR really did end up coming to regret their biggest programming mistake (which I discussed here and here), and tried to fix it up in a rather awkward and bumbling fashion. That’s right, Air America practically BEGGED Marc Maron to return to their national morning programming. Don’t believe me? Listen to Maron himself spill the beans right before his L.A. based show (which Air America repeatedly alluded would soon syndicated on the network) bit the dust in July.

Marc Maron Explains – 07-12-06.mp3  05:09

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“The Mark Maron Show,” while it lasted on that one California radio station (and available for pay via podcast) was a great program. More entertaining, savvy and energetic than anything else on the national Air America roster. It was everything one might have originally hoped for, and wanted from, the (ultimately tedious and smarmy) Franken show when it launched over two years ago. If you listen to the clip, you’ll realize that Maron would probably have settled for a very small fraction of the money Air America currently wastes on Franken’s doomed program. (Dozens of Maron’s old shows are still available for free as torrents online here and here. Have at it. Well worth checking out.) Maron says he’s going to try to shop around the program he developed in California with Jim Earls (and AAR’s Brendan McDonald). I wish him luck. Maybe he should call Randy Michaels.

As a listener it’s been interesting to hear Air America’s on-air radio presence on WLIB transform after they officially announced they were moving to a new “flagship” station. Suddenly, all sorts of promos and bumpers proudly announcing the WLIB call letters were gone. Instead, the new productions replaced the calls with a drawn out and emphatic “AIR… AMERICA… RADIO.” In fact, the only time you hear “WLIB” in any way during the Air America programming on the station is when they have to say it– for the official top of the hour ID. You have to listen carefully to even hear the call letters (almost hidden and moderately distorted) in the legal ID they’re now using.

WLIB-AM – New ID  0:08

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Here’s the old ID just to hear how it used to sound…

WLIB-AM – Old ID  0:10

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1600_in_dc In general, some of the promos spots on the network and WLIB over the course of this year have seemed ill-conceived at best, and just plain not funny in general (despite the obvious intention.). The pleas to sucker listeners into buying their podcasting service (Air America Premium) have truthfully been PAINFUL. And here’s some numerology fun they slapped together, reminding listeners that Air America is moving to a numerical locale on the NYC AM dial that actually matches the address of the White House! (“1600" Pennsylvania Avenue).

Air America Radio NYC – 1600 Promo  0:10

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But this one’s worse. Check out this promo announcing that Air America is “movin’ on up” to WWRL and that they might finally get their “piece of the pie.”

Air America Radio NYC – Pie Promo  0:30

(download).

Yes, it ends with “The Jefferson’s” theme. You would think the fact that Air America is moving from one station where the network usurped a black format, to another station where it will also usurp a primarily black format might have made them think twice about airing this production piece. But, the thinkers at AAR are probably too busy to spend much time reflecting on such things.

But the fact is, they’re certainly smart to dump featuring the official call letters and make a point of driving the 1600 frequency reference into listener’s mind right away. After all, the fall Arbitron book is just around the corner.

Twisted_ms_malkin In case you’re new in coming to my commentaries regarding Air America on this blog, I want to be clear– I’m not in any way in league with a number of online stooges who are following the Republican playbook in routinely trashing Air America or their programming. While I’ve occasionally been critical of programming decisions and AAR network content in my writing here, I’ve also been equally complimentary and encouraging when it was appropriate. In many ways, Air America’s sound has gone from being inspired and messy in the early days, to offering predicable branded radio product that just doesn’t have the same magic. I hope that the impending mini-evolution at Air America is a harbinger of better things to come. At least they tried to get Maron back, even if they screwed it up.

Finally, let me say that if there’s one thing I’ve never heard done quite right on Air America. These absurd times call for talk radio hosts who can dispatch a misguided or moronic right-wing caller in an entertaining and enlightning fashion, without resorting to hysterics (or just cutting them off). And one particular talk host I’ve written about repeatedly on this blog, Lionel, is getting better and better at just that. While Lionel does run on some stations which carry Air America, he’s also syndicated on a good number of outlets who carry the typical burden of right-wing propagandists. Many listeners from across the heartland who wouldn’t likely tune into an Air America station end up running into Lionel’s show on the dial  anyway. And some of them are extremely unhappy to hear him say unkind things regarding our chimp-in-chief or this insane Iraq war. Not only that, but Lionel’s been routinely questioning the official 9-11 narrative as well. And although he’s not touting any particular conspiracy theory, to even question such things REALLY upsets some listeners.

Anyway, some of the calls to Lionel’s show featuring lost Bush followers aren’t just poignant and satisfying, but they’re ultimately top-shelf radio theater as well. Check out this tasty talk radio takedown of Sean from Maine from last week on Lionel’s program.

Lionel Show (excerpt) – Lionel Talks To Sean 08-12-06  4:17

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It’s beautiful in its perfection. And Lionel never breaks a sweat during the entire four minutes. “The Lionel Show” show which runs locally in New York, from 10 to midnight on 710 WOR, is available nationally from 10 to 1AM (Eastern Time) weeknights. And I heartily continue to recommend his (free!) podcast, available by subscription or as individual hours here.

So ends the biggest episode of rumor-mongering I’ve ever typed up. But it was fun. Air America was a brazen startup, and it would be nice to see some sense of vision remake it into an exciting media prospect once again. It’s really time for them to make more inherent changes other than just shuffling around their ongoing roster of air talent. I hope that the next time I write about Air America here that I’ll pass along a rumor of Franken’s impending departure from the network. That really seems like the next step AAR should make to completely let go of old concepts that might have once looked good on paper but never really added up to much. And maybe one move could save Air America some of the huge wads of dough that it might need to come up with some new and compelling programming.

Hey, let’s hope.

 (This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 24

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Calypso Since I started blogging about radio and DXing, I’ve not only talked about broadcast band (AM & shortwave) listening, but I’ve also provided audio with every post so you can hear the reception yourself. So far, all the recordings have been created by me and my dial twirling fingers. No longer.

In recent posts, I’ve asked readers to submit AM and shortwave recordings as content for discussion here. And it finally happened. Somebody came through big time. And reader Ralph didn’t just provide the audio and some notes (which was all I really asked for), but also offered up informative commentary with his scan of the 25 meter band (from June 28, 2006). Thanks so much Ralph!

So, in this post you’ll not only get some shortwave reception snagged by someone with more international radio experience and wisdom than me, but you also get a chance to hear a high-end tabletop receiver in action.

Scottyellin It’s an extra treat that Ralph took the time to write about the reception he offered, as well as talk about his shortwave radio experience in general. While this is a wonderful bonus, if you’re thinking about offering your own bandscan or radio recording, I’m really only requesting the audio along with some logging if you have it. But it sure was nice to get this whole package from Ralph, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Plenty of international voices in these archives, as well an excerpt of old Gene Scott showing why he’s the still the most normal and manly evangelist on shortwave radio today, even if he’s not a living being lately.

But that’s only one short moment in these recordings, which are divided up into four segments (for download) from this one listening session. Frankly, this is the first scan of a shortwave band that I’ve heard that I didn’t make myself. I love the pure happenstance of shortwave tuning, and the sport of it (listen to Ralph try to make sense of a Syrian station with his gadgetry). The truth is you can really hear stations from around the world on shortwave, but unless you’re local to a transmitter there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to hear almost any station (clearly) at a given time. While the reception here isn’t always solid here, the scan is rich in international signals. Although it’s a fact that shortwave broadcasting (especially for listeners in North America) isn’t what it once was, there’s still quite a bit going on out there.

Here’s Ralph…

********************************************************************

I must admit was delighted and surprised when The Professor started bloggin about shortwave radio, one of the geekiest, uncoolest hobbies on Earth.

Now this happens to be an area in which I have a fair amount of experience. I’ve been listening to shortwave for almost 30 years. I help produce a monthly magazine on the topic, serve as a member of the board of directors of the largest shortwave radio club in the Americas, and am webmaster of a popular and well-regarded site for that club. I think that in an earlier entry The Professor briefly mentioned how some people have elaborate setups with long antennas and expensive radios and such.

I am one of those people.

Ralph_radios So I figured that maybe the audience that eats this stuff up at Beware the Blog might be interested in what you can hear with an outdoor antenna specifically constructed to be good at receiving shortwave and a top-notch radio. On June 28, between 1855 and 2013 UTC (2:55 and 4:13 pm), I tuned through the 25 meter band, extending from 11500 to 12200 kHz, recording as I tuned. My shack is down the shore in Monmouth county, about 30 miles south of Jersey City. I’m about 5 miles from the ocean and maybe 2 or 3 miles from the bay. I have a couple of external antennas, one long piece of wire about 300 feet long, and another about 100 feet long in a configuration called a T2FD. My main receiver is an AOR AR-7030 Plus, a tabletop communications receiver designed by the genius English engineer John Thorpe. AOR offers an optional noise blanker and notch filter, and I had those installed when I bought the radio. When I sent the radio back to the U.K. for servicing a couple of years ago, I also had AOR retrofit the radio with the ability to receive digital shortwave broadcasts. The radio is basically all tricked out.

One thing you’ll notice as you listen is that most of these stations are the same international broadcasters you can hear with a portable receiver. There’s often a conception out there that one of these expensive tabletop receivers are required to hear oddball weak stations. But the truth is that what these radios and the antennas associated with them really get you is better reception of the stations you can already hear for the most part, and the ability to "clean up" a messy signal to some degree. You can hear almost anything on a portable that I can hear on my radio. You probably won’t hear it as well, and not as often. But when the conditions are right, you can do amazing things with a portable receiver. The reason to get a tabletop communications receiver is to do those amazing things even when the conditions are just shy of right.

Aorar7030front_1 If you’ve listened to any of The Professor’s recordings, you’ll notice one thing different about these recordings: as I approach a station, you will hear a descending tone. The reason for this is that when I scan a band, I typically do so in sideband mode rather than AM mode. An AM signal consists of a carrier and two sidebands. The sidebands carry the audio information, and they are mirror images of each other. Someone realized many years ago that this meant that one of the sidebands was redundant, and that it was possible to transmit recoverable audio by transmitting only one sideband and no carrier. Radios that can tune sideband transmissions have the capability of generating their own carrier to replace the missing one on the signal. So how does this explain the descending tone? When I tune across an AM signal in sideband mode, the carrier of the AM signal and the carrier generated by the radio generate what’s called a heterodyne; basically, the tone that you hear is defined by how far apart the two carriers are. A radio-generated carrier that’s 800 hertz away from the carrier of the AM signal the radio is receiving generates an 800 hertz tone. As the tuner approaches the carrier, this tone drops in frequency. Ideally, with a radio with sufficient resolution, you can place the radio-generated carrier right on top of the signal’s carrier. This is useful for a couple of reasons: first, on a weak, fading signal, the radio-generated carrier is likely to be far more stable, allowing the receiver to decode the sidebands without the fading one associates with shortwave. Second, when you’ve placed the radio-generated carrier right on top of the signal’s carrier, whatever frequency the radio shows is the station’s frequency. It’s surprising how often they’re a little bit off the frequency they’re supposed to be on. In some cases, with stations that are known to be off frequency all the time, this can even help you identify the station. The tone that’s generated by the carriers when they’re separated is called a "beat", so when you’ve successfully placed the two carriers together, that’s called "zero beat". Not all stations that generate a heterodyne have recoverable audio. So tuning in this manner is a good way to find even weak stations (although I wouldn’t log a station simply based on hearing its heterodyne; that’s considered bad form).

Drake There are radios out there that do this heterodyne hunting automatically. This feature is called "synchronous detection", and what happens is that the radio finds the carrier, locks on to it, and substitutes its own carrier automatically. You would think this would be something you would find only on expensive tabletop radios, but the two best synchronous detectors produced in a non-military radio are on portable receivers, the classic Sony ICF-2010 (now discontinued, but produced for 20 years, a testament to its high quality) and the brand new etón E1XM.  The synchronous detector on my 2010 is far better than the one on my early Drake R8, and probably even a little better than on my AOR AR-7030 Plus. These radios are definitely at the high end of the spectrum of portables, but you can get a radio with an excellent synchronous detector for much less; the Sony ICF-7600GR typically costs less than $150 and has pretty much the same circuit that much more expensive ICF-2010 had. With synchronous detection, you can reduce the fading that can make shortwave difficult to listen to, and in most implementations, you can select one or the other sideband to listen to. That’s very useful; if there’s a strong station 5 or 10 kilohertz above a station you’re trying to hear, tuning to the opposite sideband can make a signal that’s being interfered with perfectly listenable. That’s one reason I tune in sideband mode, but these portable receivers make it easy to do that at a fraction of the cost.

Arab_map The 25 meter band presented here is a transitional band; at times of low sunspot numbers, like now, it is mostly a daytime band; at times of high sunspot numbers, as we’ll probably see in about four or five years, it’s useful at night as well. At this hour of the day, the band is open to quite a bit of the world, including Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. A few hours later, shortly before sunset at your location, European stations would likely be inaudible, but more Asian stations would be available. This is prime listening hours in Europe and Africa, so many of the broadcasts recorded here are directed there, and merely overheard here in North America. That’s one of the neatest things about listening to shortwave is this ability to eavesdrop on the world. One other nice thing about this reception is a relative lack of U.S. religious and fringe political broadcasts. Personally, I’m not a fan of those broadcasts, and tend to tune right by. There are a couple of instances of them in these recordings, but they’re far outweighed by national and even local broadcasters.

Segment 1 – 25 meter band 06-28-2006  20:55

(download)

11605 – Deutsche Welle

This sounds like it might be Arabic via their transmitters in Wertachtel. One thing that’s interesting about listening to broadcasts in languages you don’t understand is that, once you’ve listened to a number of broadcasts, you can often figure out what kind of program is being aired. This is toward the end of the hour, and there are addresses in a number of countries being given. The largest international broadcasters often open postal addresses in other countries so that their listeners in that country can write them without having to pay for anything more than domestic postage. There’s a brief stinger after the addresses that gives the identity of this station away; this brief piece of music is used in all their language services.

 11620 – All India Radio

News from India in English via transmitters in Aligarh. And tuned in just in time to get the ID at the top of the hour! Shortwave is full of broadcasts Vor_3like this, offering a different perspective on the news than we usually get in the U.S.

11630 – Golos Rossii

Russia’s external service in Russian via Moscow. The news ends, then there’s an ID for "Radio Compania Golos Rossii", just like what we heard a few seconds earlier from All India Radio. Radio is radio. One of the nice things about my tabletop receiver is that I can play with the sound, trying to get better reception by switching which sideband I listen to or engaging different filters. You can hear some of that here.

11650 – China Radio International (maybe)

Too weak to really tell.

11655 – Radio Netherlands

English via transmitters at Flevoland. Radio Netherlands is a station that definitely punches above its weight in international broadcasting. The people who make the programs there have a visceral understanding of what it means to make interesting radio of a certain sort. As a result, their programs often win awards at festivals like the International Radio Festival in New York each year. One other interesting aspect of their broadcasts is that they don’t flinch from covering the darker side of life. So, for example, you get this program about alcoholism, something you wouldn’t expect to hear from most international broadcasters.

Rnqsl_1 Radio Netherlands’ programs compare favorably to those of the BBC, from a station in a country that doesn’t speak English as their first language and made with a tiny fraction of the budget. They do it by deploying their limited resources carefully, by hiring excellent people, and by being clever. For example, when the BBC World Service shut down its shortwave broadcasts to North America a few years ago, Radio Netherlands seized the opportunity and bought up many of the now-silent transmitter hours for a few weeks so that when people tuned in expecting to hear the BBC, they would hear some excellent programming in English, but from Radio Netherlands. They couldn’t afford to buy most of the time permanently (although North America did gain a morning broadcast from them that wasn’t there before as a result), but they gained some listeners and some goodwill from the BBC’s now abandoned listeners.

Arab_listener_1 11655 – Voice of the Arabs (Egypt)

Arabic music via Abu Za’bal. This is pretty faint, but you can hear the music, slightly distorted because I was tuning in SSB and didn’t have a perfect zero beat here. There are a number of stations that broadcast hours and hours of Arabic music, many of which come in much more strongly than this.

11680 – BBC World Service

Arabic broadcast from the BBC via their transmitters in Rampisham. Whatever they’re talking about, it has something to do with Israel.

11690 – Deutsche Welle

Eiffel_tower_antenna_iArabic from DW via Wertachtel, Germany.

11695 – China Radio International

French transmission via a relay in Cerrik, Albania. CRI is really an up-and-comer in international shortwave broadcasting. At a time when the BBC and Deutsche Welle are abandoning large patches of the globe and the VOA is cutting its English broadcasts in favor of focusing on surrogate home services in Arabic, Farsi, and other language, CRI is expanding its broadcasts. It’s investing in relay stations to ensure that they’re widely heard everywhere. And it has seriously upgraded the quality of its programming. This is not your father’s Radio Beijing.

11705 – Radio France International

 If Radio Netherlands punches above its weight, RFI has long punched below its weight. Much like its insistence that French is the language of diplomacy long after English has usurped its former position there, so French is the language of international broadcasting. They focus largely on former colonies, so perhaps there’s a justification for their approach. They have an hour or two per day to Asia and maybe a bit more to Africa in English, and most of the rest of their broadcasts are in French. They’re well respected, particularly for their reporting in Africa, but within Anglophone communities perhaps not as visible as they could be.

Segment 2 – 25 meter band 06-28-2006  19:53

(download)

11735 – Radio Tanzania Zanzibar

This station is a great example of a station that’s worth listening to despite having no clue what the presenters are saying. Mostly, they broadcast music, and it’s beguiling. Typically, there’s a fair sprinkling of the local taarab music, mixed with Arabic pop, Indian filmi music, and African music, largely South African and Congolese style. I like the use this station as an example of how I switch between being a DXer and being a program listener. The first time I heard this station, I was thrilled to add a new station and a new country to my log. The next 70 or 80 times I listened, it was because I loved the music. I actually took to listening to this station most afternoons while I worked for a while.

Zanzibar_1 This particular reception is not the best representation of their programming. The reception is a little weaker than usual, and this kind of unaccompanied Arabic singing is not what I usually hear. That said, I still enjoy listening to it. RTZ typically starts fading in around mid-afternoon; given that it’s summer and that this recording was made not long after the longest day of the year, that fade in is fairly late. In the winter, it’s much earlier. There’s a five minute news broadcast in English every weekday at 1800 UTC, relayed from their local FM station aimed at tourists, Spice FM. That’s not so easy to hear at this time of year, but in the autumn and winter, it comes in quite clearly.

Given that, this station comes in much better an hour or so later. Check out this bonus reception of RTZ from 2017 to their closing at 2100 UTC. Without question, it’s one of my favorite stations in the world.

Radio Tanzania Zanzibar – 11735kHz – 06-28-2006   42:37

(download)

Meanwhile, back to the bandscan…

11740 – Holy Koran (Saudi Arabia) mixing with Radio Farda

Kuran Many Arabic countries broadcast readings of the Koran. Saudi Arabia has a station entirely devoted to it. While the readings sound quite musical, it’s considered offensive to describe it as "music" or "singing". The Saudi station is mixing with Radio Farda, a U.S. station aimed at Iran, broadcasting in Farsi and serving as a surrogate domestic service in much the same way that Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty did for Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Sadly, this is usually being done at the expense of the Voice of America, which has a reputation for impartial news reporting and probably does more good for America’s image abroad than all of these surrogate stations combined.

11755 – YLE Radio Finland

Finland_qsl Finnish via Pori. This station recently decided to stop transmitting on shortwave, and in fact are already off the air. In lieu of this, they’re saying they can better reach their audience of expatriate Finns via satellite and the Internet. They used to broadcast in English as well. Several years ago, they had a wonderful English service that broadcast a half hour a day, with a number of releases throughout the morning that were easy to hear here in North America. Then they moved their broadcasts to the North American evenings and largely lost their audience. I had a conversation with the head of Radio Finland at the Winter SWL Fest in Kulpsville, Pennsylvania, several years ago shortly after they made this move, and told her why I thought this was a bad move. In the evenings, they were competing against the dozens of other broadcasters who were trying to reach North America at the same time, and they kind of got lost in the noise. But their morning broadcasts, which coincided nicely with breakfast time across the continent, had little competition. I don’t want to take credit for the move, but the next season they reinstated their morning broadcasts. Unfortunately, by then their audience had moved on, and it wasn’t much after that when they discontinued broadcasting in English. That was a shame; they had excellent programming that I enjoyed listening to.

11775 – Caribbean Beacon

The late Dr. Gene Scott® has been covered pretty extensively in The Professor’s musings, but I have to say that I particularly like this clip where he talks about getting laid. This is a nice example of the Good Doctor’s more eccentric approach to evangelism.

Brazil_flag11780 – Radio Nacional da Amazonia

 Portuguese language domestic broadcast from the capital, Brasilia. This is a national service, aimed at areas in the Amazon and the interior of Brazil that are not well served by AM and FM stations. They play some interesting music, and, unlike international broadcasters, they include commercials. Latin America has a tradition much like North America’s with small local commercial broadcasters dominating the scene as opposed to monolithic national broadcasters like in the rest of the world. Even a large national broadcaster like this one can sound like a commercial broadcaster. There are dozens of shortwave stations in Brazil, and this is one of the strongest and easiest to hear.

Segment 3 – 25 meter band 06-28-2006  15:17

(download)

11785 – Possibly Radio Free Asia via Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, or Chinese Jammer

The music here is clearly Chinese. Radio Free Asia, the U.S.’ surrogate home service for China and a few other countries, is jammed by the Chinese using transmissions of traditional Chinese music. It’s not uncommon in this circumstance for propagation to favor the jamming station and not the jammed station. So it’s probably the case here that we’re hearing the jammer, but not the jammed. That said, the fact that I can hear the jammer more clearly here in the eastern U.S. is no indication that the same is true in China itself; often times when propagation is different at the transmitter site and the jammer site, the jammer will have little effect on the transmission it is attempting to jam.

Most jamming is unpleasant to listen to, such as the diesel engine-like sounds used by the Cubans against Radio Marti. The Chinese jammers, on the other hand, aren’t half bad, and can be listened to for their program content. I wonder if the jammers QSL….

11795 – Deutsche Welle

Dwlogo German via Kigali, Rwanda. The largest shortwave stations, like the BBC, VOA, and Deutsche Welle, maintain numerous relay stations around the world. This way, the signal doesn’t have to travel too far to reach its intended audience. This transmission is from Rwanda, and is one of the easiest ways to hear that country. It’s perhaps not as interesting as hearing Radio Rwanda though. Radio Rwanda is not an easy catch; its broadcast on 6055 kHz is usually covered by one European broadcaster or another. There is a five minute window from 2055 to 2100 UTC after Radio Slovakia signs off but before Rwanda signs off when Rwanda can occasionally be heard. Interestingly, that last five minutes of their broadcast every day is usually filled up with IDs in a number of languages, including French and English.

11810 – Radio Jordan

Arabic via Qasr al Kharana. At this hour, there will be a lot of this sort of unadorned vocalization, which is often broadcasts of the Holy Koran.

11820 – Holy Koran (Saudi Arabia)

This is the same station as on 11740, but this time not mixing with Radio Farda. This transmission is aimed at Arabs in Europe. America is in the same direction from Saudi Arabia (just a little further away), so this broadcast typically pounds in here.

11835 – UNID

Not sure who this is, but they’re in Arabic.

11850 – Voice of Turkey

Votqsl French via Emirler. There’s an ID in French, "La Voix du Turkey", toward the end. The best source for IDs in languages you don’t understand is the World Radio TV Handbook. They typically print IDs in many or most of the languages any broadcaster transmits in. So you don’t need to speak the language in order to ID the station.

11855 – probably BBC

Hausa, the language of northern Nigeria, via Ascension Island in the middle of the south Atlantic Ocean. Probably. I don’t hear an ID, so this goes down as tentative in the logbook.

11895 – possibly China Radio International

Sounds like Chinese, but pretty weak.

11915 – Holy Koran (Saudi Arabia)

More of the same station as on 11820. The clicks you hear in here are the sound of me flipping between the two frequencies to confirm that they’re the same broadcast. Finding parallel frequencies like this can be used as a way to identify stations in a language you don’t understand. It’s not as good as hearing an identification or an interval signal, but it will do in a pinch.

11930 – Radio Marti

America’s anti-Castro surrogate domestic service to Cuba. Totally wiped out by those diesel noises. Not nearly as listenable as the Chinese jamming, is it?

11940 – China Radio International

English via Kashi. Their English language program is closing. This is a good time to get an ID, as is the beginning of a broadcast.

Segment 4 – 25 meter band 06-28-2006  18:15

(download)

11945 – Radiodiffusão Portuguesa

Portugaltransmitter Portuguese to Africa via Lisbon. This station used to broadcast in English, but stopped about five years ago, along with all other foreign languages. Now they only broadcast in Portuguese, aimed primarily at expatriates and former colonies. On weekends, you can hear soccer broadcasts on this station, which are almost as animated as the Spanish-language broadcasts on Univision during the World Cup.

11975 – Voice of America

English to Africa via São Tome, a small island off the west coast of Africa. This station is very weak. VOA is often much stronger and easier to hear, but not on this frequency at this hour.

11995 – Radio France International

French to Africa via Moyabi, Gabon. This is relayed via the transmitters of Africa Numero Un, a commercial shortwave station broadcasting to Africa that plays some excellent African music. RFI also often plays some great African music and can be worth listening to in French for that. This is just a news broadcast, however.

12015 – Radio Exterior de España

Arabic from the home of the Moors.  Lots of talk about American-Arab relations.

12025 – UNID

Not sure who this is, but they’re broadcasting in Arabic too.

Cairo26 12050 – Radio Cairo

Relay of their domestic service in Arabic via Abu Za’bal. Egypt is the home of much of the Arabic language music industry, so Radio Cairo can be worth listening to for the music. Unfortunately, they’re legendary for their poor audio quality.

12070 – Voice of Russia

English service via Moscow with the latest news. This is followed up with a program promo in the dulcet tones of Estelle Winters, an expat Brit who has worked for VoR for several years. That high pitched voice really cuts through the static. She came to the Winter SWL Fest in Pennsylvania several years ago, and served as the keynote speaker. She also brought a prize for the Fest raffle, a no-expense paid trip to a golf resort just outside Moscow (she was appropriately sheepish about it, but it was all she could get someone to donate). I was sitting in the back of the room next to two of my best Estelle friends when this exciting prize was drawn in the raffle. The one friend muttered to himself "Please, Dear God, not me" as the winning ticket was drawn; two seconds later, his name was called out, and I and our other friend burst out laughing.

12085 – Radio Damascus

Syria’s English service via Adhra is not an easy catch here in North America. I think this is English, but it’s awfully muddled. You can hear me trying to adjust the radio to get a better sound, but nothing really worked.

12095 — BBC World Service

English to Africa via Ascension Island. This frequency used to be on the air pretty much 24 hours a day from a variety of transmitters around the world, and could therefore be heard at almost any time of day. With the BBC de-emphasizing shortwave, that’s not so much the case any more.

12160 – WWCR

World Wide Crackpot Radio, from Nashville. I couldn’t leave you without at least one example of the fringe politics and questionable claims that emanate from the modern day equivalent of Doc Brinkley and the border broadcasters. The odd sound here is a result of my not quite accurately zero beating this signal.

********************************************************************

That’s it. Again, much appreciation to Ralph Brandi for his work and insight in providing the meat and audio for this post. (And you can check out his personal blog here.) I hope you can do this again sometime Ralph.

Sw_rx_layout_1 But, it sure would be swell to hear some reception from other reader/listeners as well. I like the bandscanning format a lot, but I’m open to historic or rare recordings of shortwave as well. And as far as bandscanning, I’d really like to hear some reception from around the country and the world, on AM as well as shortwave. If you’re interested in making recordings of scans, or have some radio recordings sitting around that might provide compelling content please send me an email. And if you’d like any tips or suggestions I might have as far as recording or encoding radio for the web, drop me an email as well. While it would be great to get more audio contributions from experienced DXers like Ralph, if you have an interest in shortwave or venturing through far off late night AM signals AND have a tape recorder, you could do this too.

If you’d like to write about shortwave or the reception you’ve recorded (as Ralph has here), that’s great, but not compulsory. However, providing a log or notes offering the frequencies (and local or UTC time they were received) would be extremely helpful. I’d really like to hear what it’s like to tune across the AM or shortwave dial in Alaska, California, Luxembourg, Guam, New Zealand, just about anywhere (especially not in the NE U.S. and the Midwest, the only locations I’ve offered bandscan recordings so far). My preferences are that there’s some English language broadcasting in the mix, and that at least some of the reception has enough clarity to be understood.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 23

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Scansketch_1 In the last week, I went over the tapes from my upstate NY listening session and found another interesting scan to post here. This time it’s a night hike through the 41 meter band.

This recording is from the beginning of June, which seems like years ago as far as world news goes. With the Mideast on fire and Castro in the hospital, now would be good time to sample international news and opinion on shortwave. I wish I had the time to take a listen. Maybe this weekend. Unlike most media, shortwave radio listening can take some time and patience. And for a city dweller like me it takes some effort and dedication to escape from all the RF interference. And weather as it is, it ain’t such a swell time to sit outside with a radio either.

Next week, a special treat. Finally, a reader has actually offered up a recently recorded shortwave dial scan, along with extensive notes and commentary. And it’s a good one. Thanks Ralph!

Shortwave_moon After asking listeners to contribute radio recordings for this blog, Ralph was the first one to come through. I had talked about what I was interested in hearing in this post, and if you think you might have something to offer (or would be willing to record some radio from wherever you might be) please send me an email. And thank to Ken Kopp in Topeka for mentioning my DX posts on his blog and in Glenn Hauser’s DX Listening Digest, and for asking readers there to consider submitting audio for this project. Appreciate it.

Meanwhile, back to the third of June, near Catskill in the Hudson Valley, where this recording occured. That weekend the reception was strong and steady on my new Degen 1103. In the last post I offered from that listening session offered very readable reception from Madagascar, and this one touches on Southern Africa as well. But almost more significantly, I came across WBCQ in Maine coming in loud and clear after midnight (something I haven’t heard here in a while), as well as a Christian shortwave broadcast from Utah. That might not sound like much of an accomplishment, compared to picking up signals from the Indian Ocean, but it’s not always easy for me on the east coast to receive shortwave stations in the Northern Hemisphere transmitting from the continental divide and beyond.

Here’s part one of the audio…

Segment 1-41 Meter Band (6855 to 7345 kHz) 06-04-06  22:28

(download)

6855 – WYFR – Family Radio – Open Forum

Familyradio It’s old weird Harold Camping again, the commander in chief over at Family Radio in Oakland, California. It’s hard to believe, but this call-in talk show has actually been on the air for forty-five years. And in all of its glory, it can be heard on well over a hundred radio stations and worldwide via shortwave (and now the internet). The format is simple– People call up Harold and ask questions about the bible, or ask his interpretation of what the bible says about certain events, issues or activities. And Camping’s counsel is quirky and harsh, filtered through his strict Calvinist and apocalyptic beliefs and his dogmatic adherence to the King James translation of the good book.

Counter to the sharp edges of Camping’s grim advice, is his slow tranquilizer baritone which plods through each call with a a sad hypnotic cadence as solves all worldly problems and concerns with his dim and robotic “chapter and verse” responses. I have yet to hear an entertaining dust-up with an apostate caller on Open Forum, but I imagine might be fun. A really good prank call could make me really love this show one day.

However, the particular call that kicks off this dial scan is an interesting one. The caller has a thick accent, perhaps Pakistani, and he asks Camping some rather pointed questions about Islam and Camping’s odd beliefs. While the gentlemen couches his inquisitiveness by saying that he’s a faithful Christian, his questions seem to be aimed at gently unbuckling Harold’s sturdy bible belt for us all to take a peak at Camping’s tight and twisted undergarments. And the caller seems to do a pretty good job.

His first question is about the Prophet (Mohammed), how he honored Jesus in the Koran and said a lot of the same kind of stuff as the Christian savior. Hmm. I just try to imagine ANY radio evangelist saying saying something overtly positive about the Prophet (especially these days).

According to Camping, the bible was just around back then, and the guy who wrote the Koran probably borrowed a few of the bible characters to give his book some authority. According to Camping, the Koran and every other holy book ever written are just the “writings of men” not the “word of god” like the King James Version of the bible. And of supernatural events described in the Koran? Camping says that either the writer made them up OR if such events actually occurred they had to be the work of the devil. And according to Camping and other like-minded KJV enthusiasts, the founding of any other religion or utilizing any other texts (or bibles) is just plain Satanic anyway. Not a lot of wiggle room there– the whole world is evil, except for Harold and his flock.

Harold Then he asks Mr. Family Radio about this “Church Age” thing. What is it? It seems a little disingenuous when the caller says he hears all these "Christians" talking about it all the time, since it’s Camping’s personal theory and isn’t all that popular. You see, Camping likes to predict the end of the world. He’s done it several times, and so far it hasn’t worked out for him. His last big doom date was 1994 (I think he’s up to 2011 these days), and when the world didn’t go up in smoke he came up with another idea. Instead his 1994 moment became the “end of the church age,” and Camping said all right-believers should quit attending church, and get their holy teaching from broadcasters, like him. Of course, the churches that carried on doing what they do, despite Campings pronouncements are, of course, Satanic.

Okay, it’s more complicated than that. WAY more complicated. Mr. Camping has neatly divided all of history into seasons, chapters and epochs, and added all sorts of other stuff for fun. (If you’re curious, take a look at his convoluted discussion of such matters here.) For a guy with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Camping does a lot of thinking. And he has plenty of other odd theories as well.

So, as Camping just starts to get up a little head of steam with his cockeyed epitemology I turn the dial and move on. Listening to him is like taking a bad tranquilizer, it makes you feel calm and uneasy at the same time. Although the call was interesting, Camping himself is just so dull and depressing. (Also briefly discussed Camping in a previous post.)

7105 – BBC World Service

Broadcasting from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. Not sure of the language. But you can taste the anticipation for the upcoming World Cup.

7120 – BBC World Service

Broadcasting from South Africa this time, in English. A impassioned discussion on the need for fuel efficiency and conservation of petroleum products. Reception here is poor but listenable. Well maybe not to some ears, but you can hear what they’re saying. Sure would be nice if there was some spot on the dial where this broadcast was loud and clear from the U.S.

7125 – Voice of Russia?

Maybe. That’s all I could come up with that matches the time of this broadcast. It’s just a snippet of pop song here. VOA broadcasts on this frequency as well, and I wondered if this might be Radio Farda or Radio Sawa, VOA’s Middle-Eastern propaganda outlets.

7135 – Radio France Internationale

Energetic discussion, French Females.

Ethiopia_2 7150 – Radio France Internationale

More French, possibly about “cinema.”

7160 – BBC World Service

In English, from Ascension again. Poor reception. I think this might be a continuation of the earlier discussion regarding our planet’s petroleum problems.

7170 – Deutsche Welle

In Arabic I believe, from Germany. Accompanied by a rather thick buzz.

7220 – (Not sure…)

While I could find no online documentation that “Voice of the Democratic Path of Ethiopian Unity,” a Clandestine service, is broadcasting at the time of the recording (just before 0500 UTC), this does sound to my ears something like that. The accent is African, and the announcer sounds rather serious. Anyone have any insight on this. The clip is short.

7225 – Deutsche Welle

Germany, broadcasting from Rwanda. It sounds like Arabic pop to me.

7235 – RAI (Italy)

In English, from Rome with some adjacent broadcasting (SSB?) making it difficult to listen to. Some news about Italian troops leaving the American created nightmare in Iraq. I wish this came in better, I don’t hear English broadcasts from Italy all that often.

7250 – Vatican Radio

Sounds like some Catholic information, in French.

7260 – Radio Algerienne International (Algeria)

A man speaking in Arabic, I believe. And a signal relayed from the UK.

7275 – Radio Tunis

Tunis Some spirited Arabic pop music, with an interjection from a young and slightly sassy female announcer/DJ. Good signal from North Africa.

7315 – WHRI – World Harvest Radio

Some contact information from Christians in Indiana.

7325 – BBC World Service

Sounds like news (In Arabic?), from the UK.

7335 – CHU – Ottawa, Ontario

It’s the official time, Canadian style. It’s 0459 UTC (almost 1am EDT)

7345 – Deutsche Welle

Their Interval signal, warming up for a new broadcast coming up at 0500 UTC. I don’t stick around for the curtain to rise.

And here’s part two.

Segment 2-41 Meter Band (7405 to 7780 kHz) 06-04-06  50:44

(download)

7405 – Radio Marti

It’s US propaganda for the Cubans. It would be easier to understand if Cuba wasn’t broadcasting all that electronic gurgling on top of it.

7415 – WBCQ

Wbcq_7415_propagation_animation It’s “Shortwave Overnight,” a relatively new program on WBCQ, running from 1 to 3am EDT (0500 to 0700 UTC) on Saturday night, or Sunday morning. (I’ve always thought that the next day should start around 6am instead of midnight.)

The hosts, LF Midwood and Miss Gina, have just taken over the show at this time, and before this WBCQ’s Timtron was a host (and perhaps others have taken a turn as well). I like the idea of this program a lot– an offbeat late night call-in show on international shortwave. And it’s not bad, although I could do without some of the classic rock interludes. A stoned Texan calls in to report a possible UFO he’s watching out in his yard, and recounts being followed by a saucer on a drug run one night, and a retired country DJ calls in to make radio small talk in this clip. (There’s also a one second silent spot from when the tape ended.)

Lf_midwood An old associate of WBCQ stalwarts (and Radio NewYork International alums) Allan Weiner and Johnny Lightning, LF Midwood has since ended his relationship with WBCQ, at least professionally. Don’t know the details, but Johnny Lightning’s RNI site (which I had linked to here) has been replaced by this new one, which briefly recounts the falling out. (As I’m writing this, Johnny’s new site, or blog, is still rather bare bones.)

While this isn’t the greatest radio I’ve ever heard, it’s good. And it sure would be swell if more shortwave programming had a little tiny bit of the the adventuresome spirit of WBCQ. Really.

7465 – WHRI – World Harvest Radio

Let’s pray for young Jeff, the rebel.

7475 – Voice of Greece

Sounds ritualistic, with holy type reverb. Orthodox, I suppose. I let the music play here for a few minutes. Kinda soothing.

7505 – KTBN  Salt Lake City, UT

All we need are a few volunteers to start a revolution. It might as well be us.”

Megachurch It’s Max Lucado, author and inspirational minister speaking at “The Promised Land,” the Austin mothership for a franchise of Texas megachurches. Have you heard of these things? These giant mall-like suburban worship centers are sprouting up like monster mushrooms, especially in the south. Thousands of folks attend the services at these “churches.” This particular megachurch sits on twenty-six acres? And did I mention that Mr. Lucado has a Texas megachurch of his own?

Anyway, it’s all about finding “the sweet spot.” And I did think it odd that such an important fella as Lucado hadn’t heard the word “eclectic” until just recently. And then to wrap it all up Lucado requests the Promised Land band play a fast number. And instead of a gospel stomper, you hear a hard rock Texas funky (almost hip-hop) Jesus rave-up that I have a hard time explaining. Suffice to say it’s kind of an audience participation number with a lot of "feeling". And from what I understand this is typical megachurch entertainment– Christian rock for the masses.

7250 – WYFR – Family Radio

Not sure of the language here, eastern European I think.

7540 – EWTN

Catholic programming, for our Latin American friends.

7780 – WYFR – Family Radio

More of Harold Camping’s warped Christianity, in German this time.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)