Fwd: the disappearance of short wave broadcasting

Paul L Rinaldo prinaldo at mindspring.com
Mon Sep 25 09:54:11 CDT 2006

Gang, FYI. Paul

>Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2006 07:22:29 -0400
>From: Richard Rucker <rrucker at verizon.net>
>Subject: Fwd: the disappearance of short wave broadcasting
>To: Ch91 outreach

>From: "Norm Gertz" <k1aa at cfl.rr.com>
>Date: September 24, 2006
>SWLing on way out?
>By Doreen Carvajal
>International Herald Tribune
>September 24, 2006
>Perhaps it is fitting that a 50-second video clip of an ear-shattering
>explosion of 13 shortwave radio antenna towers on the Spanish Costa  
>Brava is getting viewers on the Web site YouTube.
>It took 32 pounds, or 14.5 kilograms, of dynamite to fell the massive
>antennas, which long relayed news from the United States to the former
>Soviet Union. But the most powerful force behind the demolition was the
>rapidly shifting landscape of radio, where listeners are migrating  
>toward MP3 players, Internet radio and podcasting.
>The felling of the towers was the latest noisy outburst of a cost- 
>cutting trend that is silencing the familiar and crackly shortwave voices  
>that leap
>across the globe through the clear night sky in times of crisis and Cold
>War, tsunami and Thai coup.
>In January, the Finnish public broadcaster YLE will end all of its  
>broadcasts with the goal of saving money and diverting resources to  
>news services.
>Next month, Germany's public broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, will end its
>German-language shortwave broadcasts aimed at Canada and the United  
>The Japanese public broadcaster, NHK, and the Korean Broadcasting  
>System are
>also reducing shortwave services.
>The leading international broadcaster, the BBC World Service, is  
>pursuing a
>diversification strategy that regards the future in stark terms.  
>needs are changing and technology is moving rapidly," reads the news
>service's explanation of its strategy through 2010. "Shortwave is also
>declining at a fast pace and if we don't change, we will die."
>Critics of the retreat warn, however, that shortwave is the most  
>communications medium of last resort. They point out that it can allow
>determined broadcasters to reach across borders even when repressive
>national regimes halt FM broadcasts, block Internet sites and jam  
>"Shortwave does not respect boundaries and reaches the rich and  
>poor," said
>Graham Mytton, former head of the BBC's audience research unit and now a
>media consultant. "Most international broadcasters think things are  
>by technology, but not entirely. They're driven by politics and local  
>circumstances. Their mistake is they downplay shortwave because they're
>living in developed societies. But they don't go to rural areas like
>Nigeria, where everyone has a shortwave radio."
>Smaller international broadcasters with more limited resources are  
>out shortwave entirely. Slovak Radio silenced its shortwave  
>programming in
>July, and Swiss Radio International ended shortwave broadcasts two  
>years ago
>to transform into an online news service, www.swissinfo.org.
>In the meantime, all of the world's largest international  
>broadcasters, from
>the United States, France, Germany, England and the Netherlands, are  
>back or reviewing precious resources devoted to shortwave radio.
>"The future of shortwave radio is quite clear," said Guido Baumhauer,
>director of strategy and distribution for Deutsche Welle, or DW, in  
>"It's all going down when it comes to the consumers."
>With the average age of its shortwave listeners hovering at about 50, DW
>expects to save more than ?10 million, or $12.78 million, a year by  
>shortwave services, according to Baumhauer, who said the money would be
>invested in other services like Internet radio and podcasting.
>The state-subsidized broadcaster is phasing out shortwave programs  
>for North
>America and the Balkans and reducing daily transmissions of shortwave
>programs to 160 hours from 200.
>"In the U.S., if people are really into German they have so many  
>other ways
>to get consumer information," Baumhauer said. "Considering the costs  
>to the transmission, there's no point in continuing."
>The history of shortwave radio dates to 1927, when Philips  
>Laboratories of
>the Netherlands transmitted shortwave broadcasts from Eindhoven to  
>the Dutch
>East Indies.
>The BBC trailed behind with the founding of the BBC Empire Service in  
>Shortwave radio provided a vital alternative voice in wartime Europe.  
>Oranje, for example, was set up in London after the German occupation  
>of the
>Netherlands to broadcast uncensored news. Through the Cold War years,
>international broadcasters used shortwave to shout over the Iron  
>While held in his luxury villa during an attempted coup d'état, the  
>Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev listened to shortwave transmissions  
>of the
>BBC and Voice of America.
>But after the Berlin Wall fell and new media forms flourished, there was
>less need for shortwave transmissions in developed countries.
>International broadcasters like RFI of France and the BBC started  
>hundreds of partnership agreements with local FM stations to rebroadcast
>their programs with clearer sound.
>With the advance of technology, it has also become increasingly  
>difficult to
>say what a radio is, since it can be distributed through digital  
>mobile phones, computers or satellite radio, according to Michael  
>Mullane of
>the European Broadcasting Union for public broadcasters in Geneva.
>The BBC eliminated its North American shortwave transmissions in  
>2001, when
>there were still an average of more than two million listeners.
>But with FM rebroadcast agreements with local stations, the BBC now  
>has five
>million listeners in Canada and the United States, according to Michael
>Gardner, a spokesman for the BBC.
>The BBC is constantly reviewing its expenses in connection with  
>radio, he said, but in the meantime, the news service still reaches
>two-thirds of its weekly 163 million radio listeners through shortwave.
>This year, the BBC actually posted an increase of about five million
>shortwave listeners in rural areas of Africa and Asia, but Gardner  
>says the
>increase amounted to existing listeners who were surveyed for the  
>first time
>in Myanmar.
>David Hollyer, former managing director in Spain for the U.S.  
>Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, is wistful about the long-term
>consequences of mothballing and destroying shortwave transmitters.
>The transmitters in Spain, he argued, could have been deployed to  
>to Central Asia to reach a Muslim population.
>Instead, with the changing political climate, U.S. authorities closed  
>station in 2003, ended its lease, and turned over the towers to Spain.
>When Hollyer watches the amateur YouTube video of the familiar towers
>crumbling in clouds of smoke, it reminds him of an Edwin Markham poem.
>"To paraphrase," he said, "the towers went down with a great shout  
>upon the hills and left a lonesome place against the sky."

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