March 18, 2003 (Updated 4/25/03)
Boycott Mainstream Media and Tune in the World: How To Listen to Shortwave Broadcasts via Radio and the Internet
BUZZFLASH MEDIA WATCH SPECIAL REPORT
Update on the "cheap" Bell & Howell radio described below. I received my radio a couple of weeks ago and have been very pleased with its capabilities. I'm located deep in the Southwest, near El Paso, yet am bringing in English broadcasts from Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, Radio Japan, Radio Tapei and Radio China as well as Radio Canada, the BBC, Radio Netherlands, Radio Belgium, and Radio Havana. Here's an interesting note: On the rec.radio.shortwave newsgroup, a user just completed a "battery test" of this radio using the supplied earbuds only (no speaker, and at a reasonable listening volume) and it ran for 225 hours.
The radio is currently again on backorder at Carol Wright. I was very pleased with their service as they notified me twice by postcard of the status of my own backorder. They also answered my original email. The new catalog which just arrived no longert features this radio. Neither does the website (www.carolwright.com), but a search by the item number (#94654) did bring up the radio's order page. The reader may want to call or email Carol Wright to see if they plan to stop carrying this radio. There is another company which has been offering a good deal; check below for more information.
Also: More useful Shortwave pages (further description in the text):
The recent firing of Phil Donahue by MSNBC because of the political
views aired on his show rather than his ratings (the highest on the
network) underscores the growing restrictions on political analysis
and unbiased reporting of current news events available from the
corporate American media. So, to get their news Americans are being
forced to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile, an older way of tapping into world news is seeing its own resurgence. Since 911 shortwave radio sales have increased. (See "Short wave radios gaining popularity in U.S. again," Detroit Free Press, November 6, 2001 for a brief rundown on short wave radio trends here and in Europe http://www.freep.com/money/tech/mwend6_20011106.htm.) To illustrate, during the first week of March 2003, my local Radio Shack had none in stock and when I placed an order for a radio, it was on a 3-week backorder!
What's so special about shortwave? There's the ability to hear news, current affairs, and topical programming on a variety of subjects broadcast from many different international broadcasters which often broadcast in English as well as native languages. For the traveler, it means being able to tune into an English-language broadcast even if there are none on the AM-FM dials. Although shortwave broadcasts are now on the Internet, if the net goes down that option is gone. And during emergencies, when timely news is important, telephone lines often become jammed and the possibility of unreliable Internet service exists. With shortwave radios now pocket-sized and reasonably priced, now may be the time to start listening!
So, in this article I will offer some basic information on how to start listening to shortwave radio, followed by a discussion of how to listen on the Internet if you're not quite ready to dive in and purchase a shortwave receiver.
SHORTWAVE RADIO FOR BEGINNERS
For a short and clear overview of shortwave radio check out the following link: http://www.astrosmo.unam.mx/~alan/swl/starting.html. This concise page compiled by Alan Watson will give you a good idea as to whether you want to delve deeper into the subject.
Radios in the $50-$150 price range can generally offer enough features for the beginner in shortwave. There are numerous sites with information about buying a radio. RadioIntel.com, A Global Radio Portal (http://www.radiointel.com/press.htm) has reviews of radios, club and newsletter listings, as well as the latest developments in the shortwave world. Radio Netherlands has one of the better compilations of radio reviews; their staff actually tests the sets for performance under a variety of conditions (http://www.rnw.nl/realradio/rx_index.html).
Recently, a shortwave enthusiast posting at the Democratic Underground offered a VERY inexpensive suggestion for buying a shortwave radio via a mail order house. He thought this set offered good reception at a bargain price. I tracked down more information on this radio and where to buy it at the RadioIntel site in the following commentary:
Within the last week, I've seen the PublishersChoice ad for this radio in the USA Weekend Magazine with a different 800 number (1-800-727-4402, presumably for tracking purposes), and American Profile magazine (1-800-627-3598). The Carol Wright offer is still available, although the radio is on backorder (www.carolwright.com).
(NOTE: Neither the author or BuzzFlash endorses this radio.)
LISTENING TO SHORTWAVE BROADCASTS--RADIO
Short wave reception depends on many factors including your location. Generally, signals are best heard during the evening hours. What comes in off the airwaves depends in large part on what stations are targeting your area. Some of the strongest signals come from the BBC World Service, Radio Canada International, Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle (Germany). You can also check our own Voice of America. The BBC has stopped broadcasting directly to Canada, the U.S. and Australia, preferring to air their broadcasts on FM stations. However, if you are on the East Coast you should try to pick up the Caribbean signal; if on the West Coast, you can also try to tune in the broadcast emanating from Asia.
Schedules are often provided at the broadcasters' websites. A listener may therefore choose to listen randomly until he or she stumbles upon something interesting or use the schedules to locate favorite programming.
A well-organized site compiled in Sweden called Listen to the World lists shortwave broadcasts with frequencies and times by country http://www.swl.nu/listen/index.htm. Links to the station websites are also provided (many sites also provide internet listening--see below). The listings include many countries not found on many sites such as the "Stans" of Central Asia and radio from Albania. And if you're up at about 7:30 AM EST, you might be able to catch the irregular broadcast of Radio Iraq, which broadcasts to North America.
LISTENING TO SHORTWAVE BROADCASTS—VIA THE INTERNET
Many broadcasts are now streaming continuously via the Internet, offering their programming in English 24 hours a day. Other stations stream in English on the net only when they are beaming their radio signals in English via shortwave (parallel broadcasting). Many broadcasters also provide current news sections right on their sites. Here are several websites that can get you started listening with or without a radio!
Perhaps the easiest site to use is one entitled Shortwave Broadcasts LIVE On The Internet http://www.dxworld.com/sw_live.html. This site is basically an alphabetical listing of countries, with links to streaming broadcasts via Real Audio or Windows Media. Most countries stream continuously in the native language; others stream and also offer "in demand" archived broadcasts in English. Some stations provide only limited schedules and some parallel the shortwave broadcasts which are aired at certain times of the day. At the bottom of each listing there are links to the website of the broadcaster. As previously mentioned, these home pages often provide complete daily and weekly schedules of programming, including when broadcasts are aired specifically for North American audiences. Check out the TV feed from Cuba!
Another good site is the World Radio Network http://www.wrn.org/index.html. Based in London, this site offers a variety of ways to tune in. WRN culls some of the most popular news and cultural broadcasts from across the globe and bundles them into a variety of schedules geared for different regions http://www.wrn.org/listeners/schedules/. For example, English broadcasts are available in formats for WRN English for Africa/Middle East, Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, and South America. As an example, on the WRN English for North America channel, weekday evenings feature programming from Russia, Slovakia, China, Israel, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and UN Radio. NPR Radio programs from the US also show up on the schedules. There are also multilingual broadcasts for North America. By selecting any of these formats you will see a daily schedule in Universal Time (UTC) along with the applicable time zones for that part of the world. Or, you can click on "Listen Now" and pick up whatever is broadcasting at the moment.
There is also a listing of all the broadcasters that are available on WRN http://www.wrn.org/listeners/stations/index.php?CurrentLetter=1. Clicking on a station brings you to a page which describes the broadcast availability (language and time) as well as a direct link to the station's website. These informational pages are also available by clicking the program names on the master schedule for that region.
Whether you listen via a radio or the Internet, you'll have to deal with time zones. Broadcast times are presented in UTC (Coordinated Universal Times), also referred to as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The USNO Time Service site provides a table for converting UTC times to US time zones http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/zones.html. Another handy site is Time and Date.com http://www.timeanddate.com/time/. You can set up your own "personal world clock" and keep track of time at cities that you select. And a list of time zone abbreviations is very useful for places outside the US when making a conversion between local times and UTC or vice versa—you can get one here http://www.timeanddate.com/time/abbreviations.html.
Now you're pretty well set up to listen to world broadcasts, which will can help you gain a broader view of the news than we can get via the media here in the US! But if you get tired of hearing reports and analyses, there's more to be had on world radio. There's plenty of cultural and music programming available. Why not check out the Pulse, the latest music from Australia and the Pacific on Fridays....or is that Thursdays??? ...Time to get out that time zone conversion chart...
A BUZZFLASH MEDIA WATCH SPECIAL REPORT
* * *
Copyright 2003, Gloria R. Lalumia
otherwise noted, all original