A Brooklyn Radio Triptych

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

It was easy to come home from the SWL Winterfest with a slight case of equipment envy. But times are tough and I don’t need another fancy shortwave radio right now. But it sure would be nice to have one to play with now and then. But suddenly, I do.

On loan from the most gracious David Goren, I have a big plastic Chinese monstrosity known as the Grundig Satellit 800 (made by Tecsun, and recently discontinued). If you wanna know the vintage, it’s also called “Millennium,” you know like that spooky TV show you probably never saw back in the late 1990’s (at least I didn’t). And until the incredible Eton E1 came along in 2004, it was a top of the line portable (but it’s really too big to be very “portable” outside the house). And while it’s not an especially cute radio, it is a damn fine receiver. And it has a feature I’ve never gotten to play with– an AM sync detector. And it also has three bandwidth settings. In other words, when you come across something weak and distant you have a few options to make the signal a little more palatable.

Nonetheless, the RF noise issues within my Brooklyn apartment still give the Satellit 800 a lot of grief. Having such an impressive radio set in the house put me into a more detailed hunt for stray RF around my little home. I would tune to particularly nasty blasts of RF and then start systematically shutting down just about every electrical device in the house (including “always on” things like TV’s and stereos). I did find one really awful (and LOUD) power supply on an external hard drive, which I’ll now always unplug if I plan to DX. Even with the extra quiet that may offer, there are still some roaring sheets of nasty RF mayhem coming into my apartment, no matter what I do.

Actually, David Goren came by recently (to visit his radio…) and experienced the RF hell here that I’ve discussed so often in these pages. From the sound, his guess it that it may be some issue with the power wires outside. A bad insulator or something. And you know, he might be right. But I’ve had enough problems over the years making sure that the telephone service, the internet bandwidth and hot water are all getting into my apartment in a timely manner over the years. I guess I just don’t have the courage to ask Con Ed to come by and do a bunch of work so I can get radio signals from Asia a bit better. 

Yet, the 800 is a better and stronger animal than the other receivers here and does drag some signals up out of the noise floor better than most. And last April the girls went away for a week to visit the in-laws down in the sub-tropics, and me and the 800 had the run of the place for a little while. I spend a few nights out on the kitchen table with the whip antenna flush up to the north facing window trying to see what kind of reception I could lure onto my tape recorder. And this post includes some of these adventures on the 31 meter band.

In my limited experience trolling shortwave bands, I’ve had some my most interesting DX journeys on 31 meters. And there’s less religious and paranoid garbage as well. In fact, there’s not one warped preacher or “new world order” freak in any of these clips. (At least not in English.)

All these bandscans were captured on two separate evenings in mid-April. I’ve opted to offer highlights rather than more complete scans, just because some of the ripping interference through some of the reception here in my Brooklyn radio setting can be rather obnoxious. But you can still get some of the raucous flavor of what I have to deal with when I try to DX at home.

Other than the lack of mental illness, these samples are rather representative of what you’re likely to find on shortwave these days. There’s some English language programming here, and some tasty music from other continents there. And not one second of Gene or Melissa Scott. Let’s begin.

This one starts out a little shady, but it gets better…

31 Meter Band – Segment 1 – 0041 UTC 04-15-09  24:29

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9665 – Romania? Russia?

Unsure. But it is a song, and oooh it sounds crappy. Even after I lock on with the AM sync mode it’s still an unhappy little transmission knee deep in my noise floor.

9715 – RDP Portugal

It’s such an “ah…” moment turning the dial out of that racket into this Portuguese music. Fado, I believe. Nice and meaty signal from Western Europe and the songs are splendid. I leave the knob untouched for over ten minutes. Great bittersweet minor-key stuff. It might sound even better accompanied by a jug of wine and some stinky cheese.

And significantly, Spain and Portugal offer the only broadcasts from Western Europe in the batch of reception I’m offering here. There ain’t much left, and very little of it is in the English language. So, let’s get back to the noise

9820 – Hmmm

I don’t know what this is. I can’t get it to sync either. Here how awful the RF can be here when there’s no signal to hold the receiver’s attention?

9870 – All India Radio

And here’s a ragged signal from far far away. It’s not a pretty sound, at least not at first. However, I am able to work a little alchemy on the poor thing with the big Grundig beast. I pinch down the bandwidth, reducing the fidelity a bit (but mostly reducing the fidelity of the NOISE) and then turn on the sync. It locks nicely, although the signal is NOT a strong one. I fiddle with the SSB to get the best side of the frequency and well… It is listenable, in a forgiving DX kinda way. The cosmic Indian music comes through, up to a point. But the announcers, not so good. But after all these years I still marvel at the sound of exotic music falling out of the sky from the other side of the world.

31 Meter Band – Segment 2 – 2355 UTC 04-15-09  13:13

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9535 Radio Exterior Espana

Care to dance? Some urgent pop music. Boy singer, electric guitar, loco-rhythmic keyboard funk, then silence– some top of the hour tones and a clear ID in Spanish. Good evening from Spain. As the news begins I pack up and head further up the dial.

9545 – Radio Republica
   
Ah… Radio Re-POOB-lee-ka!. Sounds like the interval signal (or an extended station ID) from this Florida clandestine operation run by the Cuban Democratic Directorate (a “pro-democracy” NGO, Republica that supports human rights causes in Cuba. And it often jammed by that country. I can’t tell if that whizzy audio interference is Castro’s jamming or just RF problems on my end.

However, I move on again to find something in my native tongue.
                                       
9570 – China Radio International

It’s the news– typical “statist” shortwave-style headlines in accented English. Mostly unadorned bullet points from Beijing. International stories, matter-of-fact national boasting as well as some reassurance that things are getting better all the time. Except for relations with North Korea.

However, the cross-straits complexities between Taiwan and “the mainland” don’t seem to be getting in the way of the “two Chinas” improving their political relationship. Did you know that China has become the world leader in "ultra high voltage power transmission and transformation technology"? Me neither. But it’s good news for the Chinese power grid. And their infrastructure in space just got a boost as well, with a new navigational satellite now in place in the Chinese sky.

9580 – Radio Romania International

News with female reader. Clipped Romanian monotone. Nice signal. She says Obama is doing a decent job with the American economic crisis so far. And how about that bumper music? Right out of the 1970’s.

Actually, this news broadcast and the previous one from China sound remarkably similar to what you might have heard from these “communist” countries so many decades ago. Sure, Romania is no longer a Soviet satellite nation and the flavor of communism in China is quite different than it was back then, but it’s more than just the production values that make these shortwave newscasts sound like vintage broadcasting, but all the talk of nuclear weapons and missile programs makes you wonder if the cold war didn’t actually end, but turned into something less distinct but just as dangerous.

And now I’m skipping over some rather uninteresting reception of Spain and Cuba in Spanish, which was accompanied by a loud and grating noise floor. And then on to another former Iron Curtain nation, once the heart of the Soviet empire…

Segment 3 – 31 Meter Band 0014 UTC 04-15-09  8:53

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9665 – The Voice of Russia

I don’t know if Russia is spending more money on their shortwave service than CRI or VOA, but it always sounds better than they do. I think it’s those voices.

Like the male announcer at the beginning of this clip, talking about Russian sailors patrolling the Somali coast to defend international merchant traffic from piracy. I believe this fellow has been around since the “Radio Moscow” days. But what a voice. It’s from another era. The woman is good as well. But I’ve always that there was some odd magic in the processing of the audio over there in Moscow, or some extra sauce in the transmitter that just gave the sound of both Radio Moscow and now the Voice of Russia this extra texture, some richness I can’t describe because I’m not a tech guy that way. But it’s something I remember distinctly when I first began to really listen to Russia on the radio in the 1980s, that they had a “sound.” And that radio magic is still there. In fact, it sounds very 20th century to me.

And the woman who does the light news feature on the annual return of migrating cranes to Moscow is awesome as well. It’s just the kind of human interest non-news that RCI offers all the time, but it you would be in the hands of some chirpy radio amateur instead of this smoky and authoritative Russian woman discussing elegant birds in their nation’s capital. I guess there’s a bit of mystical grandeur to the way their English service presents Russian culture and history and natural resources on shortwave. And while it may be overblown and self-serving, they still have veteran radio professionals in house making it believable on the radio.

And anybody who listened with any regularity to Radio Moscow (and then the Voice of Russia) remember Joe Adamov of “Moscow Mailbag.” (who I wrote about here), another elegant radio voice from Russia, in English.

9675 – Radio Canção Nova?

Portuguese… is it? But instead of talking about the glories of the Pope, it sounds like she’s talking about some “final four” sporting event.

It seems rather clear and strong for such a low-power operation, otherwise I don’t know what I’m listening to. Please comment if you know what this is, or what she’s talking about. And you know, if you have something to add (or I made a mistake with my logging or guessing) please leave a comment below, or you can send an email.

Also, I’ve been doing some work on the blog behind the scenes (and have more to do if I find the time), and I’ve linked some of my past content to the categories in the sidebar. Like if you like these bandscan posts, you can find a bunch more by clicking that category. They all have audio as well.

Thanks for listening.

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 20

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Porch_hill This post returns to a band scan I started to post last week from a listening session I recorded June 2, 2006 near Albany, New York. It’s a slow cruise through the 31 meter band (9400 to 10000kHz). And each frequency is listed (or my best guess), along with a brief description of each broadcast.

This was the first chance I had to play with a new shortwave portable (a Degen 1103) away from the radio interference of city life. And in this one long sweep of this band (in just a few hundred kilohertz) I picked up nearly fifty stations. I was impressed.

A good shortwave radio is truly a world receiver, and the Degen is just that. Although the fidelity of signals coming from thousands of miles away is never quite as crisp and steady as a local AM or FM station, many are quite listenable. And certainly some are difficult to hear or understand, but just knowing that they are coming through the air from so far away can make you curious to linger and try to figure out where they’re coming from, and perhaps what they’re saying as well. This is DXing.

Early_1103 So, here’s some casual DXing from the East Coast. I’m not using as extra external antenna, and I haven’t researched any particular station or country to hunt out. However, I do plan to print out some pages from websites like this one and try to track down some far-flung English language broadcasts when I get a chance.

As far this scan recording, I skipped a few weak and relatively insignificant signals I happened across, and the first MP3 (or two in this post) picks up where the 31 meter band started to get interesting again.

Shortwave radio is unlike standard U.S. AM and FM listening in so many ways. At one hour you can hear one particular station, and in the next hour or two another one might take it’s place on the dial. Stations often broadcast on several frequencies at once, or change the frequencies they use through the year. Add to that the fact that reception is directly affected (both negatively or positively) by changes in the atmosphere, conditions in outer space around the Earth, and what’s happening on the sun itself, it adds so many variables that makes listening to shortwave both a challenge and (if you don’t mind some strange audio artifacts and a bit of noise) as rewarding as radio gets.

 So, here’ s the scan, starting in Romania…

Segment  2-31 Meter Band (9645 to 9700 kHz) 06-02-06  22:09

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9645 – Radio Romania International

Solar_filamentSpanish programming. Nice old-fashioned bumper music. It sounds like news.

9650 – Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting?

I believe this is Iran broadcasting in Russian. Quite faint. A male and then female announcer followed by some Classical music, which sounds like moody and dark Russian classical music actually. I think there might be an ID in here as well….somewhere.

This is an atrocious copy of this signal, but hard core DXers listen to this kind of noise soup all the time, but if you have some fancy equipment you could clean this up a bit. But it still wouldn’t sound clear.

9660 – Voice of China Reborn

It’s a clandestine broadcast from Taiwan, which is often jammed by China. Lucky to catch this one. They only broadcast for ten minutes twice a day! It’s an announcer (speaking a Chinese language) with moody music in the background. Another station is eating away at the signal (which seems to be the Voice of Russia 5kHz up), but it’s fairly strong. I believe I hear a word that sounds like “democrat” or “democracy” in all this. Would be very interested in the subject matter, if any readers speak the language.

9665 – The Voice of Russia

 It’s the new version of Moscow Mailbag (I wrote about the late Joe Adamov– the host of Moscow Mailbag for almost fifty years– in this post). I believe the new host is Yuri Reshetnikov.

Radio_moscow_logoAnyway, I miss old Joe. Still, this does remind me of the old days of Moscow Mailbag a bit, as the so-called “war on terror” has replaced the cold war as the major vector of international disharmony. A listener writes to ask if Iran has been helping the Chechen rebels, who of course are the biggest (Islamic) terrorist threat within modern Russia. Iran is Russia’s friend the host insists, and seems to insinuate that the idea of Iran helping out the Chechnyans is U.S. propaganda, and then he remarks about how Turkey (a U.S. ally) HAS been offering the rebels a hand. He also mentions how insane it would be for the U.S. to use military force against Iran. Maybe Bush oughtta take a deeper gander into Putin’s eyeballs next time.

Then again, the listener question about cable and satellite TV in Russia today speaks to what a different world we live in since the cold war. Instead of clunky old Soviet TV, they now get most of the same glossy cable crap that we love here in America. Moscow Mailbag started out as English language propaganda tool, offering western listeners insight into the dark and secretive Soviet Union. Now it’s a bit of an artifact, offering the same service at a time when the U.S. might be a bit more dark and secretive than even Russia.

9860 – WYFR – Family Radio

Bible stuff, in Spanish.

9690 – China Radio International

Chinese_announcer English service from a relay in Spain. It’s a male/female team, also answering mail (or email) from listeners. But what a difference between this superficial happy-talk and Moscow Mailbag. No controversy here, just chipper hosts reading gushing fan mail from international listeners. It kind of reminds me of the perky proceedings of Radio Disney, only with Chinese accents. The hosts are like leaping puppies attempting to please everyone, especially the Chinese government.

Even one note of bad news is all hope and sunshine. At one point the male host remarks: “We are very sorry for the latest earthquake that struck part of Indonesia. And we hope that everything is going fine with the people in the quake stricken area, and that life will come back to normal for them.” Deep, eh?

In general, I find all this blank cheerfulness rather disturbing. While I’m quite accustomed to (and expect) propaganda from international state broadcasts, this kind of absurdly carefree banter smells of something really dark and twisted lurking under the surface– kind of like some shortwave evangelists out there.

9700 – Radio Romania International

Poor reception with deep phasing effects. In Spanish.

And here’s part 2 of the audio for this post–

Segment  3-31 Meter Band (9715 to 9790 kHz) 06-02-06  18:48

(download)

9715 – WYFR – Family Radio

In Spanish. De Cristo, all that jazz.

Tunesia_2 9720 – Radio Tunis (Tunisia)

Arabic pop music. I love this stuff, and let the tape roll for a few minutes on this station. A female announcer speaks a bit before I turn the knob.

9715 – The Gene Scott Network (from Costa Rica)

Some hokey musical interlude on the Gene Scott show, which never seems to end. Kind of a fake country rave-up. As I’ve said before, Gene remains as worldwide as he is dead.

9745 – HCJB (Ecuador)

In Spanish. HCJB has been a huge shortwave presence for decades. They seem to be one of the biggest Christian outlets in the Western Hemisphere, outside of U.S. of course. And they’re very friendly.

9750 – BBC World Service

In English, a poor signal coming in from an island in the Indian Ocean. A discussion of global warming. Alot of U.S. shortwave listeners were pissed off when BBC Yemen_radio_tv_logoquit providing English language shortwave service to North America a few years back. A damn shame.

 9780 – Republic of Yemen Radio

A male announcer and then some more Arab pop. The acoustic guitar here is beautiful and intricate. The signal is weak, but there’s no interference getting in the way. The reception you hear is probably a good example of the advantages of DXing outside of a major urban area.

According to this site, Yemen is only broadcasting with 50 kilowatts at this frequency. If that’s true, it furthers the positive ruminations on the Degen 1103 that I’ve offered here.

9790 – China Radio International

Sw_kit

A relay from Cuba this time, in English. “Moments in Love” by the Art of Noise is often used as bumper music on CRI. It’s perfect– a phoney and profound sounding theme for a government broadcast faking emotive and empathetic content. Yuk.

That’s it for this week. Appreciate hearing feedback, suggestions and corrections. Or if you’ve got something to add to the conversation, please leave a comment.

Meanwhile, I’m blocking out some days this summer away from the megalopolis here to have some more fun with this new portable. And I hope to pass along some of the high points here.

Thanks for listening.

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

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 11

Monday, March 13th, 2006

Kitchen_radios1In a real way, this post finally begins to realize the intention of this series. I come to you after a number of recent safaris of shortwave listening, and now if you’ve got a few minutes to listen a humble radio travelogue is about to begin.

In other words, a couple weeks ago I had a chance to finally spend some quality evenings at my Brooklyn apartment with a couple of radios and logged what I found. And as usual, I recorded the results. Over the course of the next few posts in this blog series you’ll be able to hear some of these dial scans.

While I’d rather do this kind of listening far from the big city, that hasn’t been possible for me lately. So instead, I set up a listening station on my kitchen table, which is about as far from my computers and household electronics as I can get here. Yes, there was some residual RF– a bit of buzzing, and whirring and crackling from time to time, but I was pleasantly surprised how most stations really overcame the noise once I got a hold of them. But I do love the rural glory of hearing SILENCE between shortwave frequencies.

What makes this different from all my previous shortwave listening, is that for the first time I’m getting a real idea of where many of the foreign language broadcasts I find are actually coming from. I’ve enjoyed shortwave since I was a kid, but I’ve never seriously logged what I’ve heard, or spent much time trying to ID non-English broadcasts. Doing this blog series has given me a good reason to research the overall potential of shortwave listening. And it’s been interesting.

Again, I’d like to emphasize that I’m not a shortwave or DX expert, and I’m using relatively inexpensive equipment. Many of the stations I’ve logged here from faraway countries could have been heard by anybody with a radio that might cost as little as twenty or thirty bucks. The only real tricks to this is having a slow and steady grip on the tuning dial, listening carefully, and occasionally adjusting the whip antenna. And then all it takes is a little patience and curiosity to make it all happen.Kitchen_radios3_1

I doubt there’s anything I heard during these sessions will impress any serious DXer’s out there. And while the experience and resources of a true enthusiast would make most of the discoveries I made during my dial scanning seem pretty commonplace, I still find receiving mainstream shortwave broadcasts from Europe, Asia and the Middle East pretty fascinating.  And while I only speak English, I still find the formatics and technical aspects of the radio production worth a listen, and music itself transcends language anyway.

As I said in my first couple posts in these series, one of the things I that keeps me listening to shortwave is that compared to almost every other kind of broadcasting, it isn’t just about money. In fact, there’s almost no profit motive in most international shortwave broadcasting. Almost all the international stations you hear on shortwave are subsidized by governments, international organizations or (especially in the U.S.) religious groups. Unlike TV and the AM & FM bands, for the most part shortwave is not about providing content that will keep you listening between the commercials. It’s a raw lo-fi medium for spreading information, ideas and opinions.

British_empire Without the need to titillate and stimulate that is inherent in more capitalistic media, shortwave (and to a much lesser degree AM) radio gets right to the heart of spreading memes without all the hullabaloo and sideshow action. That said, whoever is paying for all that electricity, air talent and overhead to reach radio listeners around the world probably has an agenda. Even the BBC World Service, the gold standard in disseminating unbiased news to the world via shortwave, still caries the worldview of the western powers and Europe, and could be interpreted as a relic of the global caretaker mentality of the former British Empire and the subsequent British Commonwealth

While the BBC of late has had it’s share of disputes with the government that funds it, there’s still an element of the centuries western grip on the dissemination of information around the world. And when you hear the news from Israel or Turkey or China you know you’re hearing facts and stories that are coming through the filter of the culture and government of that area of the world. But if you know a little bit about geopolitics that isn’t such a bit deal. You can decode the information with your own knowledge or understanding. To me, it beats the hell out of the news for profit model that has model that has poisoned mainstream American media.

Jesuslordwhatever Then there’s the religious broadcasters, mainly of the Christian persuasion. In this series I’ve bemoaned the fact that the U.S. shortwave scene is totally dominated by followers of Jesus and Mr. Almighty (and I’m never quite sure if they’re the same guy). And in the American tradition, some of these holy morons actually profit from their broadcasts by begging in the name of the cloud being. The sad fact is that most Americans don’t even know what shortwave broadcasting is, let alone listen to it. And like once thriving cities gone to decay and ghettoization the American shortwave bands are overrun with thugs and gangsters who have taken over. And Jesus is the godfather. Luckily, the rest of the world is different.

This post begins an excursion into the 49 meter band. This little section of the shortwave expanse includes the frequencies between 5950 and 6200 kHz. While shortwave covers almost 30 megahertz of space on the band, standard broadcasts are generally only found on a dozen or so little parcels within that range. And in the evening, the 49 meter band is the most crowded band out there. And this scan begins just before seven in the evening Eastern Time, prime time for international broadcasting to the U.S. After midnight, it would be overrun with bible bangers, but at hour they are only part of the mix. Thank god.

Red_bcl2000_front_2 This dial scan was recorded Wednesday March 1 on my BCL-2000 (a radio I discussed in detail in this post). What I really like about his radio is that it has analog tuning which allows you to tweak the tuning by microscopic increments AND displays a digital readout of the frequency so you can truly track where you are on the dial. And while years ago I would have had to subscribe to newsletters and buy books to track my way through the shortwave savannah, these days the resources of the mighty internet are enough to guide anyone through the roving packs of shortwave broadcasts out there. By the way, if anyone reading this discovers that I have mistaken one station for another in this post, please do send me an email and I’ll check it out. And if you like, I’ll credit you for correcting me as well.

So, this is part one of this foray into the 49 meter band that I’m offering you. I’m dividing the audio segments that accompany this post into 10 frequency captures. In general, I stay on each station as long as it happened to be interesting to me at the time. These particular scans are in real time, no edits. It will give you an idea of how crowded the 49 meter band actually is each evening.

I welcome questions and comments at my email address here. But if your input might benefit other readers I’d appreciate if you left them as comments on this post. If topics here interest you, but you’ve not come across this blog series before, I invite you to check out the other posts in this series here. All posts have accompanying audio.

Lastly, let me say none of this is easy listening. There’s static, funny noises and foreign languages. But what you will get, that you might not discern if you’re not an experienced shortwave listener, is a feel for what can actually be heard if you take the time to figure out what you’re receiving on a shortwave radio. The difference here is that I’ve done the work for you. You know, these radio waves are all around you every day. All you have to do is tune in…

Segment 1-49 Meter Band (5920 to 6215 kHz) 03-01-06  16:05

(download)

And it starts with the inherent RF noise of listening from a home in Brooklyn. And you hear different aspects of that intermittently during these recordings. All frequencies listed are in kilohertz.

Big_hat_jesuscaster_2 5920 – Either the “The Grace Missionary Baptist Inc” or the “The Fundamental Broadcasting Network” (Does it matter?)

It’s some churchy singing either way. Besides broadcasting on a number of frequencies, the Fundamental Broadcasting Network have a couple of stations of their own, including WTJC (Working Till Jesus Comes) at 9370 kHz and WBOH (Worldwide Beacon Of Hope) at 5920 kHz. How about starting a station called KJTY? (Keep Jesus To Yourself) Take a look at the some of the handsome Caucasians who host programs on the FBN network here.

5930 – Radio Prague (probably)

Faint. Not English.

5950 – Radio Taiwan International

It’s the on the hour fanfare for Radio Taiwan. Dramatic and clear, and not in English. Radio Canada International runs a relay complex in Sackville, New Brunswick. International Broadcasters who have a real jones to get their signal to North America rent time on their huge 250 thousand watt transmitters. Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and China and others all pony up the dough to relay their international broadcasts to America via this facility.

Bbc_mic_3 5975 BBC World Service

The news in English. Bush in India, working out nuke deal with India and messing up the world in general. I believe this broadcast originates from a relay on the island of Antigua in the Carribean.

5990 – China Radio International

Spanish language programming to America, probably relayed from Canada. China broadcasting in Spanish to the Americas makes a lot of sense on many levels.

6000 – Radio Habana Cuba

In Spanish. Some lively conversation and laughter.

6005 – China Radio International (probably)

In a Chinese language, I believe.

6020 – Chinese Radio International

Cri_guy_3 CRI again this time in English, again coming from the Canadian relay. The news, rather dryly read. Listen to the positioning statement after the news headlines– “Working to bridge the cultural gap. Narrowing the differences day by day. From China for the world, this is CRI.” You wouldn’t imagine that this broadcast is froom an oppressive regime that squelches internal dissent and has no real democratic infrastructure. Doesn’t it seem like the deeper the U.S. and China get into this hopelessly entangled financial synergy that our governments are becoming more and more alike in their behavior? Just a thought.

When “News And Reports” resumes after the headlines, you immediately begin to notice that the U.S. government under the Bush regime doesn’t escape criticism on Chinese international radio. There’s a pointed reference here to the futile search for Bin Laden, and a snarky comment about Bush only spending four hours on the ground in his unannounced visit to Afghanistan. While the rhetoric isn’t nearly as contentious as the cold war era, the Chinese government continues to challenge and question American policy and supremacy with their official news services. If you really want to get the flavor of how dozens of commie shortwave outlets used to slam ol’ Uncle Sam, you can still hear the same old-fashioned hostility (in English) on Radio Habana Cuba every night.

6040 – China Radio International.

In Chinese, from the Sackville relay again. Do you notice a trend here?

Radio_espana_towers_3 6055 – Radio Espana

In English, it’s the international radio service of Spain. News. Maoist upheaval in Nepal. Cats spreading Bird Flu. And it seems that concerns of “homeland” terrorism and illegal immigration are endemic to Spain as well. Then we go on to a cultural program for a moment– “Spain-Day By Day.” Let’s hear some music…

More next week. Thanks for listening.

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

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 3

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Rf2200_2Very few Americans listen to shortwave radio these days.Except for a brief popularity of including shortwave bands on late 70’s and early 80’s boomboxes, almost no general purpose radios sold in America receive shortwave. If you’re interested in hearing shortwave radio you need to go out and purchase a special receiver just for that purpose. However, before the rise of the FM band in the 1960’s, shortwave was a standard feature on many everyday radios in the U.S. Around the world shortwave radio remains a viable and important part of the media landscape. In some African countries almost every home has a shortwave receiver of some kind. And in many European and Asian countries well over half of the homes have a radio with shortwave band coverage.

Before satellite communications and the internet, the only way regular folks could hear broadcasts from around the world was shortwave radio. While AM (or medium wave) broadcasts reach a radius of hundreds of miles at night by bouncing of the ionosphere, with shortwave the effect is greatly increased and signals may travel thousands of miles, and even around the world. It’s not all that difficult to pick up international broadcasts from Australia and New Zealand here in the U.S.

Unfortunately, most of the shortwave stations now operating in the United States are Christian propaganda outlets (although some do feature some non-religious broadcasting on their schedules). However internationally, shortwave remains an important source for news, information and Sackville_towers_1 cultural features. Many countries (including the U.S.) have state run international radio networks that broadcast in many languages. And although there are fewer than there used to be, many are still operating powerful transmitters that can be heard broadcasting English language programs that reach North America..

While in future posts I may talk about some of the more obscure and annoying broadcasts out there (as well as a possible disscussion or two about the receivers themselves), this post will just include the audio from a few stations I picked up Christmas night twisting the knob on my Sony ICF-7600A up in the Hudson Valley. I wouldn’t call any of this DXing. Except for The Voice of Russia, all the radio I’ve archived here originated from the North American region. For example, the Chinese and Japanese programs captured here were broadcast from relay transmitters located in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Almost any shortwave radio worth anything (away from noisy electronics and city RF) should be able to copy these stations late at night here on the east coast. These broadcasts were received after 11 p.m. locally on the 49 meter band (5.9 to 6.2 MHz), which along with the 41 meter band (7.1 to 7.35 MHz) are usually the busiest shortwave bands at night.

So, if you listen to these MP3 samples, you get an idea what it might have been like if you had turned to your shortwave the other night for your media intake, instead of cable TV or the internet. What’s left out? All the damn Bible bangers spewing ignorance and fables across the dial. When they’re not humorous, it’s just plain sad.

1. China Radio International  17:58  

(download)

The host (Paul James) is a Canadian. It’s not uncommon for international broadcasters to hire native speakers for their foreign language service. It’s “People in the Know,” a news-magazine program featuring some reflection here on the Bali bombings and the anniversary of the tsunami catastrophe one year ago.

In general, CRI broadcasts are almost always quite cheerful. You NEVER hear anything critical of the Chinese government or their policies on CRI. And although there is some criticism of the U.S. from time to time, it’s nothing like the cold war days when the international broadcasters of the west and the communist countries would incessantly criticize “the enemy” (each other). It was more exciting…

2. NHK Radio Japan pt 1  7:23

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The news– more on the anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami. And there was a major train derailment in Japan. Apparently North Korea has been abducting Japanese folks to cause trouble and make some money, and Japan is not happy about it. And for the first time in a long time, the economy in Japan is looking up.

3. Radio Habana Cuba  11:25

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Here, the cold war continues. The absurd and decades old U.S. government animosity toward Cuba makes every day at Radio Habana Cuba another day of heavy criticism of American policy. The Iraq War and the inhumanity of the Bush Administration gives them plenty to talk about. Here you hear Radio Habana get their kicks in, denouncing the recent revelations regarding the NSA spying on American citizens and the U.S. torturing “enemy combatants” on Cuban soil at Guantanamo. Special guest star in this recording– Fidel Castro.

4. Voice of America pt 1  6:57

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It’s the home team. The is a VOA broadcast aimed at English speakers in Africa, where it’s morning. Unlike any other country, the U.S. sponsored radio network is not allowed to broadcast directly to American citizens. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t eavesdrop on what we’re beaming overseas.

It’s news and weather. African weather. The news– looking back at the hurricane disasters on the Gulf Coast on the U.S. There’s a promo for a show called “Only in America” where they might talk about such typically American topics like “fast food” or “grizzly bears.” Sounds a like a damn cute program.

What you’re hearing is how America presents itself to ordinary Africans, at least ones who speak English.

5. Voice of Russia  16:38

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Back during the cold war, when this was “Radio Moscow,” it was so much more fun. Like China, Russia’s shortwave broadcasts are much friendlier these days. In this recording you get the heartwarming reflections of a cosmonaut, talking about what it’s like to hang out and fool around inside a space station.

6. NHK Radio Japan pt 2  3:58

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A Japanese professor talking about how you can turn your television into a super-duper internet device– one to many to many communications. Will the future be a communication wonderland, or an information maelstrom? As if cell phones hadn’t already caused enough problems.

7. Voice of America pt 2  16:16

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A snippet of official U.S. propaganda, a short bio of Harry Truman, a bit about Kwanza and then “Daybreak Africa” a thirty minute BBC/NPR-like news magazine on issues and politics of the African continent. The bumper music is a bit more lively than NPR.

If these samples of shortwave interest you, but you don’t have a shortwave radio, you might want to check out “The Shortwave Report.” It’s a half-hour weekly radio show that compiles news and features from major shortwave broadcasts around the world. You can download them right here. It’s a nice service.

Thanks for listening.

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