Culture Retrospectives

Radio across the globe

Was chatting the other day to Tony about radio web casts from across the globe, and I was remembering how much harder it used to be before the age of the Innanet.

About 20 years ago I had a rickety old shortwave radio with which I used to listen to the BBC World Service. It only worked when the solar activity was minimal, and they used to switch frequencies at different times of day and year. But I was rapt every time I managed to pick up a signal and hear the words on the hour “This is London.”

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

3 replies on “Radio across the globe”

When I was in Japan in 1991, the BBC World Service (Address: Bush House, London) was my main source of news. The local English language broadcaster was run by the US Army (and heavily censored due to the Gulf War), and Radio Australia only ever seemed to broadcast in Pidjin.

Just a few weeks ago I found my old portable short wave radio in a box covered in dust. Feeling sentimental, I tuned it in to the BBC. Sadly, it is not what it once was. BBC World Service is now effectively BBC World News Service. All the fun quirky stuff is gone. No more Farmers’ Hour. No more North Sea weather forecasts (“Gale force winds in Cromarty, Forth and Fife”. Even “Just a Minute” has gone to the graveyard in the sky. Sigh.

It is also sad that Radio Australia has not been allowed to reach it’s potential. I can remember fiddling with the short wave switch on my transistor radio and getting the BBC World Service. Good to hear that SBS took the BBC coverage of the Indian Ocean disaster while all other media was in public holdiday shut down mode.

I still occasionally tune across shortwave, though not as frequently as 20 years ago when it was a daily obsession.

Though there are still plenty of stations, many countries have shut down shortwave.

But despite satellites, etc, it remains the only affordable method of broadcasting to poor countries. And don’t the scores of American-based evangelical Christian stations now on know it, even if governments don’t!

Agree with Les about less variety of programming. The end of the Cold War has had a big impact, with memories of the propaganda spewing from Moscow, Pygnoyang, Kabul (which was the worst) etc.

As for reliability, I found it reasonably reliable, but then I just tuned around and seldom listened to specific programs. But then I had an outdoor antenna and better than average radio (albeit 1950s valve).

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