Thursday, July 05, 2012

Shortwave Radio - Tuning Out

A cold-war stalwart goes out of fashion

Jul 7th 2012 from the print edition

TWIDDLE the dial of a short-wave radio and you never know what you will get. Through the hiss of static you may hear Cuban propaganda, football from Brazil or Chinese opera. Unlike other radio broadcasts, short-wave transmissions, bouncing off the ionosphere, can connect any two points on earth. One hazard is physics: signals wane and wax during the day. Another is governments. In the cold war communist regimes jammed Western stations. Now the threat is budget cuts.

On June 24th the state-funded Radio Canada International (RCI) ended its short-wave broadcasts and went online only. On June 29th Radio Netherlands did the same. Wojtek Gwiazda of the RCI Action Committee, a ginger group, says politicians think short-wave sounds an old-fashioned way to spend taxpayers’ money.

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