WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Western shortwave broadcasters concede the world to China; Radio Canada International is the latest to leave shortwave

This past weekend, Radio Canada International became the latest Western global broadcaster to sign off the shortwave bands, and even to reduce its web presence.

Another sign of the passing of the baton from West to East: Spurred by budget cuts from Canada's Federal government and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's prioritization, Radio Canada International signed off the air this weekend.

For some of us shortwave radio aficionados - who truly enjoyed hearing Radio Canada International (through the 1960's, the CBC International Service) along with Radio Nederland, Swiss Radio International, and others - another bell tolls for the shortwave era.

Our own Voice of America is STILL on-the-air to many parts of the world, albeit with fewer transmissions for fewer hours in fewer languages. In fairness, the VOA is expanding onto other platforms -- television, the internet, and in-country rebroadcasting. But it took a Congressional effort to head off the Voice of America signing off the last U.S.-based transmitting site.

Cash-strapped Western governments - and both legislators and broadcasters in their plush, air-conditioned offices - need a desperate reality check: Hundreds of millions of people around the world DON'T have regular access to the Internet, if ever. Hostile governments can CUT Internet access much more easily than block international shortwave broadcasts. These governments can also pull the plug on local stations rebroadcasting the Voice of America, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, etc.

The Chinese understand this: China Radio International is expanding its presence on multiple platforms. But, CRI is not only continuing its shortwave broadcasts; it is EXPANDING its presence by buying time - or gobbling up - some of those idled shortwave transmitters. Want an example of China's reach? Try tuning 1540 kHz. from Philadelphia. (No reciprocal deal allows Voice of America - let alone Radio Free Asia - broadcasts from Chinese domestic stations.)

Other East Asian broadcasters are holding their own: The "other" China, Radio Taiwan International; NHK World (Radio Japan) and KBS World Radio (Radio Korea). The Voice of Russia, the former Radio Moscow, does not dominate the shortwave bands as it used to, but the Russians still find benefit in projecting their voice via shortwave.

Meanwhile, virtually all the Western broadcasters, from the BBC to Germany's Deutsche Welle, are cutting back. Radio Netherlands, once a proud international broadcaster which gave the Dutch a global voice vastly disproportionate to their size, is abandoning shortwave.

Not exactly what one would have predicted: Such countries as Spain, Albania, and particularly Romania have resisted the European trend.

Kim Andrew Elliott at the Voice of America chronicles all these developments, particularly the demise of Radio Canada International. (His views do not necessarily reflect those of his employer)...


Posted at 3:38pm on June 25, 2012 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 9:30pm
This is sad.

Shortwave was widely used in the Second World War. The generation before me, used to listen to Axis Charlie and Tokyo Rose, even right here in the USA.

My parents bought one, and we kids ran wires in all directions 500 yards across our patch of woods. It was the family position of prestige, to be the one who turned the dial and announced the frequencies.

BBC, Radio France, and Deutsche Radio were always on. We also listened to the ENEMY, Radio Moscow and Radio China. You could buy guides that told you at which times they would broadcast, since unlike AM-FM stations, they did not broadcast all the time.

Today we have Internet, which provides unfiltered looks into other cultures. But you don't, at least in my house, have several people in chairs providing stories and discussions, stirring up memories and desires, while you surf the internet.

Most of my wisdom despite years of polished education, probably in truth, derives from the intergenerational perspective that comes from putting 3 generations all talking about the same thing in one room... That wisdom that experience provides, cannot be taught.

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 10:13am
This is sad news indeed. Radio Canada International was one of my favorites. Listened many Sunday mornings.

I grew up in the late 50's and 60's, when shortwave was a major source of news. I enjoyed BBC's World Service and Radio Moscow in the 40 meter band as I attempted contacting fellow ham operators on that, my favorite band. China indeed knows what the West fails to accept: Not everyone has access to the internet without filters.

Shortwave broadcasts should be part of our "foreign aid" packages.

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 10:38am
This is sad... especially when (as Mr Loudell points out) governments around the world take over/ control the internet.

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