There is an excellent article on Shortwave radio published yesterday in Radio World Magazine entitled “The Evolution of Shortwave Radio” by James Careless.
The article discusses some of the history of shortwave radio, as well as the current state of this broadcast medium, with input from some of the most respected names in the field. I was encouraged to see notice taken of some of the more interesting changes taking place in terms of who is broadcasting:
SAME USAGE, CHANGING PLAYERS
Given the reduction and/or demise of so many international shortwave broadcasters, one might expect that the world’s shortwave spectrum would be far quieter in 2016. But this is not the case. Based on recent data compiled by the High Frequency Coordination Conference, the International Telecommunications Union committee that coordinates the allocation of specific shortwave frequencies among nations, “There is about as much broadcast activity on the shortwave band today as there was in the past,” said Nigel Fry, head of Distribution for the BBC World Service Group.“What has changed is who is using the band. As once-dominant Western broadcasters have scaled back or shut down their transmissions, others have taken their place, particularly by taking over the frequencies that are most effective at reaching large parts of the globe reliably and relatively clearly. Meanwhile, in those areas where shortwave remains the best way to reach people — such as in Africa and parts of Asia — the BBC World Service and other broadcasters are still relying on it.”
Something I had only heard mentioned previously in passing was mentioned with regard to European broadcast stations, which I found particularly encouraging:
“Another expansion involves low-power (10 kW or less) shortwave broadcasters in Europe, particularly in Germany,” said Kim Andrew Elliott, audience research analyst with the Voice of America. “Examples include Channel 292 on 6070 kHz, and Radio 700 on 3985, 6005, and 7310 kHz. They are like LPFM in the United States, except the European low-power shortwave stations can sell time and have very low rates. This encourages participation by niche program makers. Other low-powered shortwave stations in Europe are not licensed, i.e. they are pirates. Most are found on frequencies just above 6200 kHz.”
Don’t let “low power” fool you! In shortwave terms as many of us know who are also amateur radio operators, 5 watts can go around the world in the HF band, and so 10 kW stations can easily be heard here in the states. I look forward to catching some of these stations as propagation conditions allow.
SDR and Shortwave Listening
Something not covered in the article which I believe can have a significant impact on the ability to hear shortwave radio broadcasts are software-defined radios (SDRs). I find I do a lot of listening on the shortwave bands with this type of radio because of the ability to use sharp filters and minimize noise levels. For the typical SDR dongle which covers the upper range of the HF band into the gigahertz range, you can add an upconverter for $35+ or so turning the dongle into a full-blown HF receiver. Or you can purchase an SDR with the HF range as part of its coverage such as the SDR Play, AirSpy, etc.
Of course if you can get away to a quiet spot with low electrical interference, a good portable is all you need to hear a great deal of shortwave radio broadcasts. Unfortunately that is getting harder and harder to find, but you might surprise yourself even is big cities there are often hilltops or places with some naturally quieter areas where a portable radio, a 25′ wire, and some spare batteries will make a nice afternoon or evening outing.
Glad to see a good report about shortwave radio – you can read the full article here. 73, Robert