My original intention was to get to the end of that medium wave band scan I’ve been featuring the last three entries in this series, but I’ve changed my mind. I want to get back to talking about (and presenting some) shortwave radio again.
While AM DXing is fun, scanning shortwave is frequently much more exotic and occasionally even exciting. It also requires a little more patience and something not everyone has-- a shortwave radio. However, I always want to emphasize that purchasing a shortwave radio that can pick up a lot of international broadcasting is not necessarily expensive. I just received a new tiny shortwave radio the other day that I had purchased on ebay for twenty six bucks. The next afternoon it was sitting on the table next to my computer offering a readable signal of All India Radio out of its little speaker-- some compelling music coming from the other side of the world.
As with other posts in this series featuring shortwave, I’ll be offering highlights of particular broadcasts, rather than contiguous band scans as I have with the AM posts. The main reason is that while I’ve recorded these listening sessions as band scans the same way, but there are so many foreign language stations, tedious Christians, unreadable signals and a wide variety of static and noise in between the English language programs that I can easily identify (and that you might find interesting). And besides all that, how much Christian propaganda can you handle?
So, I’ve been combing through the shortwave radio I recorded while on a weekend trip to upstate New York in September of 2004. And in the process I've excised a number of lo-fi radio nuggets for your listening pleasure. As I’ve mentioned before in these posts, late at night is not the best time to DX shortwave. While China, Russia, Cuba and a few other stations offer English broadcasts after midnight, most shortwave transmissions to the US in our native tongue can be heard from late afternoon until 10 or so Eastern Time. And during this trip I was able to squirrel away some hours during that part of the day to listen. Of course, if you wanna hear about the alleged opinions and miracles of the Christian cloud being, there’s a couple dozen stations here in the U.S. who offer that kind of programming on shortwave every hour of every day, in English and some other languages as well. They want your soul.
The radio I used to make these recordings was a Tecsun BCL-2000, otherwise know as the Grundig S350. While not perfect, it’s a great tool for scanning the bands. It’s sensitive, cute and offers something hard to find– analog tuning with a digital display. This is great for shortwave, because analog operation gives you a much better feel for what’s out there while the digital display gives you an accurate readout of where you actually are on the dial. I’d recommend it as a starter radio for anybody willing to spend 80 to 100 dollars to invest in a decent AM/shortwave receiver that’s easy to use.
Okay, and now to my friend's front porch twenty miles outside of Albany back in 2004. It was the weekend of the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The porch was well furnished, and the batteries were fresh. Most of the reception I was digging into was from the broadcast bands that are the most lively at night-- the 49 meter band (5.9-6.2 MHz), the 41 meter band (7.1-7.35 MHz) and possibly the 31 meter band (9.4-9.9 kHz).
Next week I'll continue this radio excursion, but I hope to do some DXing in the near future and offer you some current shortwave reception again. I’ve recently purchased a couple of radios that I’m anxious to take for a ride, and perhaps I’ll post some SW unedited band explorations here too, just to offer up some flavor of what a jaunt across a shortwave broadcast band really sounds like-- including static, foreign tongues, non-stop loony bible-beaters and everything else in between.
By the way, other posts in this series on AM & shortwave radio can be found here.
As long as I’ve been alive, Joe Adamov has been the host of “Moscow Mailbag” on the English service of Radio Moscow, which is now called “The Voice of Russia.” Anybody who listened to the Soviet Union via shortwave from the U.S. over the years has heard Joe answer all sorts of listener's questions about the goings on in the U.S.S.R. And although it seems a bit quaint these days to hear old Joe respond in detail to a listener’s question about the most popular breeds of dogs in Russia, you have to remember the realities of the cold war era that gave birth to this program. To Americans, much of everyday life behind the “iron curtain” was a big mystery, especially in the grey and repressive Soviet Union. In those days, the jovial Mr. Adamov offered curious listeners a peek behind the curtain that both informed and ultimately served as a propaganda tool of the Soviet government as well.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Adamov spoke openly on his program about what he could and couldn’t say during the Communist era, and his role as a friendly propagandist during that time. Before and after glasnost, Moscow Mailbag was always an entertaining listen, both for Adamov’s breezy warm style and the questions from listeners around the world– from the most mundane topics, to some serious political subject matter. While Moscow Mailbag continues on the Voice of Russia, Adamov is no longer around to give us his insights on Russian life. He passed away in 2005. However, archives of some of his broadcasts can be found on this webpage.
Stanley Monteith does a lot of radio-- like five hours a day, five days a week. He’s retired physician, and his show covers some serious topics and some arguably kooky ones as well. With a good-natured yet righteous style, Monteith is more or less a right-wing Christian talk host. However, in the shortwave realm that can mean something much different than the lock-step Republican AM talk radio hosts who pollute the airwaves across America. Listen to Monteith talk some serious common sense with this caller about the idiocy and futility of the Iraq War.
While you’ve heard me speak in disgust regarding the mundane and dogmatic nature of Christian programming all over shortwave, that’s not to say that an avid Christian can’t be an enlightened and spiritually mature broadcaster. In this clip you'll hear Monteith explain how he was a member of some Christian group who anointed Bush as the official Jesus candidate for the 2000 Presidential election. It's heartening to hear that he and one other member of that group didn’t buy into Bush then, or his supposed Christianity. In general, it’s refreshing to discover a Christian talk host who doesn’t blindly accept authority and one who talks openly about the horror of war and our current government’s policies of death, destruction and despair. And I have to say I’ve never heard any proselytizing or threats of the lake of fire on Radio Liberty, Instead, in this clip you'lI hear plenty of insight and some important facts about this insane Iraq war. Three cheers for Radio Liberty.
Now, here’s some more typical Christian shortwave radio. The manic and rabid Ms. Mortimer is ready to convert the world. And martyrdom? Bring it on baby!
Grab a Hostess apple pie, put your hand over your heart and enjoy this jingoistic rant on the American flag. Kind of makes you wanna wrap yourself in the red, white and blue and kill some foreigners somewhere. And what's interesting about this broadcast, and other “patriotic” programming that emanates from Christian shortwave stations in this country is that the FCC considers all shortwave outlets here to be “international radio stations” and the FCC is very specific about the rules for programming on such a station. To be exact– “It should be noted that an international broadcasting station is intended for broadcasting to a foreign country and is not intended for broadcasting solely to the United States.” Look it up.
A Czech doctor had bet a bunch of money that George Bush was going to win the upcoming 2004 election. Maybe he has some friends at Diebold. This little clip features the end of the Radio Prague news and the beginning of a news magazine program. Nothing amazing, but fairly representative of the standard European shortwave broadcast you might hear in English– chatty, upbeat, and focused on regional issues and people.
A while back, there was a comment left on one of these posts asking why doesn’t WFMU start a shortwave station. Well, there’s about 245 reasons, but if there is any equivalent to WFMU on shortwave it would have to be WBCQ, at least every once in a while.
I’ve talked about WBCQ a number or time in these posts because it is (at least potentially) the most interesting shortwave radio station in America. They feature a wacky live talk show from Brooklyn, a program that features old Edison cylinders, reruns of old Jean Shepherd shows and a number of other strange and eccentric radio shows. They also feature a lot of crap. Why? Money.
While WBCQ has a few self-produced shows, just like the Christian shortwave stations they sell their broadcast time to pay their bills and perhaps make a small profit. For better or worse, most of the people who are interested in broadcasting on American shortwave are crazy Jesus people, or just plain crazy. Fortunately, a few people like Timtron keep it interesting.
Again, I'm going to put out my plea. If you have a deep urge to do some radio, and just maybe might be interested in reaching half the planet-- please consider broadcasting on WBCQ. Compared to most brokered radio stations in the U.S. it’s very cheap to buy time on WBCQ, and you can sell advertising, become rich. And you can do almost ANYTHING you want during your time slot. They really could use a few more eccentric and thoughtful broadcasters to fill out their schedule and help usurp some of the usual shortwave crazies who currently fill the gaps. WBCQ really does need your input and creativity. In remote parts of the world shortwave radio is still an essential source of media.
Radio Timtron Worldwide comes the closest to freeform radio than anything else I’ve heard on WBCQ. It’s nice to know that his program is reaching the jungles of Africa and South America and the frozen shores of Greenland, as well as other exotic locales like Florida and San Marino. I wish there was more programming like this on WBCQ. Go ahead and check the current schedule for all four of WBCQ's transmitters here.
More of this collection of shortwave reception from September 2004 will be featured here in the next installment.
Thanks for listening.