So begins the first substantive post here at The Radio Kitchen. Welcome! This blog takes flight from my previous writing on the WFMU blog, specifically my “Adventures in Amplitude Modulation” series which featured AM & shortwave bandscans and airchecks, along with discussions of the content reception. Often, these audio captures were from DXing sessions, creeping along the dial looking for faraway broadcasts. And that’s what I’m serving up in this first post.
This is a bandscan in three parts, trolling through the 49 meter band from the coast of Virginia last spring. I’m using my scanning toy of choice lately, a Degen 1103 portable receiver. It’s an able and relatively inexpensive Chinese portable, also available as the Kaito 1103 here in the states. The two or three times I’ve been able to get out of the city for a few days this year, I’ve brought the Degen and a couple other radios and recorded quite a bit of broadcasting. Some of which will become audio content here at The Radio Kitchen.
While the 49 meter band (5800 to 6300 kHz) isn’t the most popular shortwave broadcast band, it is the place where you’re most likely to pick up quite a number of signals at night, at least here in the eastern U.S. Somebody new to shortwave radio could be easily discouraged by the paucity of signals on many of the designated bands, especially during the day. However, if you’re rarely able to receive many stations on the 49 meter band at night, then you’re probably working with a lousy (or defective) radio.
In searching for a bandscan to premier on the blog, I tried to find one with a lot of varied content and ended up choosing this one. In retrospect, quite a bit of the audio of this scan is a bit sub-par. But that’s part of the fun, both with this blog and DXing in general. As you venture to push the limits of radio reception you have to be willing to brave some weak signals and interference. I think that’s why you don’t find online audio accompanying DX logs on the web in general. It’s not pleasant listening. My compromise in posting DX bandscans has been to opt for the ones that generally have better audio quality. And I do what I can to digitally clarify the sound as well.
Nothing really cosmic occurs during this radio excursion, but there is stations you might find on the 49 meter band around 11 p.m. EDT. And if you’re a newcomer to shortwave, it’s important to note that the vast majority of shortwave broadcasting in the U.S. is Christian propaganda of some kind. And when you consider the fact that shortwave listening is far more popular in other countries, it’s kind of sad that the vast majority of programming we export on these bands consists of dogmatic diatribes and proselytizing.
All shortwave broadcasting is scheduled on “Coordinated Universal Time
,” or UTC (The out-of-order letters of this abbreviation are the result of a compromise between some English and French radio bureaucrats). Years ago, standard time in London (Greenwich Mean Time) was the standard, and UTC is basically the same thing give or take a few-microseconds. It’s five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, and four hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.
Unlike most media programming, there is no foolproof source for identifying shortwave broadcasts. Schedules and frequencies change all the time, often without notice. In sorting out the reception in this bandscan I referred to both the “Passport to World Radio,” and the frequency lookup page at HFRadio.org. When I’m unable to discern the reception through those sources I often do an advanced Google search of the frequency on Glenn Hauser’s excellent “World of Radio” site. Another option is searching “rec.radio.shortwave” on Google Groups. And sometimes I can’t precisely confirm the reception anywhere, but I make a good guess considering all the evidence. If I make a mistake, I’d really appreciate a correction (send me an email), which I’ll note here.
49 Meter Band pt 1 – 5950 to 5875kHz 04-09-07 0258 UTC
5950 – Radio Taiwan International (via WYFR in Okeechobee, FL)
It’s the end of Taiwan’s English language broadcast for North America, relayed from one of Family Radio’s Florida transmitters. Very clear and loud. International broadcasters in Western Asia who are serious about reaching the eastern two-thirds of America typically relay their English language (and Spanish as well) from some location in around eastern North America. The most popular relay location is Radio Canada’s transmitting complex in Sackville, New Brunswick. And some beam in from Europe as well. In my experience, it seems that the Rocky Mountains provide a formidable hurdle for radio waves coming my way on the east coast or the midwest. On the other hand, I suppose European broadcasts are a more difficult catch on the west coast. And unfortunately, it’s what prevents me from listening on North Korean’s English language broadcasts.
I think this is the first time I’ve noticed Christian shortwave superpower Family Radio renting out their equipment to anyone (possibly heathens!). I’ve often wondered how they afford all that electricity.
What you hear after the schedule/frequency update and sign-off is a Family Radio (WYFR) ID and then the beginning of their hourly interval music (Interval signals are recorded bits the are repeated several times right before a program is about to air to assist listeners in finding the frequency, which usually precede the top or bottom of the hour.) And then I turn the station.
5960 – NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai, Japan)
This is a relay from either England or Canada. Is it Japanese? I think so. It’s a little dark and murky with a buzz and another signal elbowing in.
5965 – Radio Exterior de Espana (Spain)
It’s in Español. Not speaking Spanish, I’m not completely sure but there’s an outside chance that this is Radio Habana Cuba. But I think Spain, since they mention the country several times in this brief clip.
5975 – Voice of Turkey
It’s English language news from Turkey. The signal’s not bad and the interference is moderate, but the reception here is an odd combination of clarity and muddle. The Voice of Turkey comes in just before the three minute mark in this archive, and continues until the end for about twelve minutes.
It take some effort to listen all the details in this reception, but you can certainly sort out the spirit of the newscast. The barrage of bad news from neighboring countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran provide the majority of the events discussed. A sad litany of bombings and attacks dominate the news, along with associated political intrigue. There’s also some mention of Turkey’s pursuit of European Union membership, which has been a consistent topic (with much cheerleading in favor of their inclusion in the union) on Turkey’s English language programming for a while now. They want it bad.
The news is followed by a lightweight news magazine featuring pop culture info bits from around the world. Love the cheesy cinematic bumper music.
49 Meter Band pt 2 – 6000 to 6100kHz 04-09-07 0313 UTC
6000 – Radio Habana Cuba
A sweet Cuban love song, with harmonic noises.
6005 – BBC (From Ascension Island in the South Atlantic)
Almost impossible to hear. Some other station munching hard on the signal. I think they’re speaking English, but I’m not even sure. Just another reason to curse the BBC, and their decision to cut off North America from their shortwave world service.
6020 – China Radio International (from Sackville, Canada)
Clear and crisp Chinese programming.
6025 – Radio Budapest (faint Russian w/CRI on top?)
This is horrible. It’s Russian, I guess. I believe the CRI broadcast is destroying the reception.
6040 – Vatican Radio (Sackville, Canada)
It’s the Catholic HQ, relayed from New Brunswick. Just the very end of some Easter thing. And then there’s their interval music and the turn of the station. Good reception. Happy Easter from Popeland!
6050 – HCJB (Equador)
Christian shortwave stalwart in South America. I think they have a nice big mountain for their transmitter. They’ve been on the shortwave scene since I can remember.
It’s a Jesus ditty in Spanish I suppose. Reception okay.
6060 – Radio Habana Cuba
In Español. I don’t know the routine, but they switch their English language programming at night between 6000 and 6060kHz. I suppose 6000 was playing English language programming when I came across the Cuban music a few minutes ago.
6065 – WYFR (Family Radio) – Florida, USA
It’s the Hallelujah Chorus. It’s Easter. It’s Family Radio.
6075 – Deutsche Welle (Germany)
This bit is in German, and brief.
Until not long ago, Deutsche Welle was an excellent European shortwave news source for North America, with daily English programming beamed here every day. However like the BBC World Service, DW has cynically decided to save money and depend on allotted slots on some U.S. public radio stations and the web to reach North American listeners. This simple decision was a dull kick in the groin for American shortwave listeners looking to balance their news diet.
6090 – Carribean Beacon
It’s Melissa Scott
, the most celebrated widow in televangelism. While impossible to explain her late husband in a few sentences, I’ll just say that he was kind of the John Huston of broadcast evangelism– a crusty, profane, and ultimately esoteric old goat who commanded respect and lived life to the fullest. Did I mention he was a little kooky?
Gene Scott was an incredibly unique and strange religious broadcaster who’s first claim to national fame was via his California based syndicated TV show in the late 70′s and 80′s. An irreverent maverick on the televangelism scene, Scott was a seriously educated (able to read and interpret untranslated original biblical text) and a deep oddball scholar (willing to entertain all sorts of off-the-wall theories and perspectives). A true self-made man, Scott built a religious media empire through his surly and passionate on-air fundraising techniques. To get a flavor of the Gene Scott at his peak, check out a 1980 Werner Herzog documentary (“God’s Angry Man”) online. You can find torrent downloads, or at least YouTube edits from it, if you do a little searching around.
While I believe his national TV presence reached a peak in the 1980′s, his ministry remains a fixture on the fringes of cable and satellite TV. However on shortwave Gene Scott is ALWAYS preaching. And for a while, he didn’t let his death get in the way…
Although he passed away in 2005, until recently his website didn’t reveal that fact. Although I hadn’t been paying a lot attention, in my routine scanning of the shortwave bands after his demise I would occasionally come across his widow carrying on his rambling esoteric preaching style on his frequencies, but usually it was a recording of old fellah carrying on as if nothing had happened. And then I for quite a while, I didn’t hear Melissa Scott
at all, just her late husband rallying his flock from beyond the grave. I don’t remember where I read it, but I seem to recall reading that there are literally tens of thousands of hours of Mr. Scott in the can over at his LA headquarters. Sometimes you hear the onry middle-aged preacher captured in Herzog’s film, other times you’d get a taste of the croaky rumbling and mumbling characteristic of his latter days. To my ears, his meandering preaching was a bit boring and difficult to follow. Occasionally, it was
intriguing. An exegesis on the apostles could drift into a conversation of the pyramids, extraterrestrials, or his beloved race horses. (To get a flavor of Scott, just, check out his old site
pictured above, which his widow has taken offline.) He was a deep
kind of guy. And more than any other media minister I can remember, old Gene was really a man’s man. And it wasn’t much of a shock for me when I found out that his purportedly brainy and obviously ambitious widow previously had a rather successful career in adult entertainment. In the movies she performed under the pseudonym Barbie Bridges. Now she’s found herself as the owner and figurehead
of a far-fetched media ministry created by someone old enough to be her grandfather. It must be an interesting life.
In his heyday, Scott used to pull in a million a month through his brute charisma It’s easy to understand how she opted to continue Gene’s money machine on autopilot for over a year, running reruns of her late husband almost exclusively. From my experience in sampling the shortwave broadcasts from Scott’s empire this year, it seems that she’s been going live (or at least creating new broadcasts) to bolster revenue, and bring the ministry up to the post-Gene Scott era. The website has drastically changed, and now focuses on Mrs. Scott (with a small page on her late husband) and has far less features. It will be interesting to see if she can keep it up, and make the oddball media juggernaut of Dr. Gene her own. Or turn it into something else.
6100 – Radio China International?
It’s kind of an anthemic Spanish dance number. Passport to World Radio says it’s a Chinese broadcast from New Brunswick. Seems right.
49 Meter Band pt 3 – 6140 to 6180kHz 04-09-07 0336 UTC
6140 – Radio Habana Cuba
Noisy and Spanish. A broadcast aimed at Central America.
6150 – Carribean Beacon
It’s Gene again. Broadcasting from the great beyond on another of his frequencies in the Carribean. A little noisy. Something about a “flashlight on the trail.” Sounds like an old recording.
6165 – Radio Netherlands
In Spanish. Something about explorations of the ancient Inca resort, Machu Picchu
. Reception, okay.
6175 – Voice of Vietnam
In English, again a relay from Sackville in NE Canada. Some arts discussion. Tennis and opera, or just “Culture and Sports News of the Week.” And then “The Sunday Show.” It’s a typical state radio presentation for the rest of the world– a feature rich news magazine exploring national culture and history. For some reason, the old “Iron Curtain” countries do a better job of selling their heritage on shortwave than the rest of the world.
6180 – Radio Habana Cuba
Again in English. Reception could be better and there’s a lot of noise.. I pick out the voice of RHC’s Yolanda Fisher in this mess.
That’s the end of this bandscan and this post. It’s good to get this blog underway and to decorate it with some mildly random shortwave reception. Expect another shortwave excursion sometime soon.