Long reach of shortwave

  • From: Gleason Sackmann <gleason@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Radio in the Classroom <ric@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 09:05:45 -0600

Long reach of shortwave
>From soldiers in the Middle East to BBC broadcasts, radios open a world of 
Thursday, March 20, 2003
By Frank Herron

Shortly after 5:40 p.m. Tuesday, nearly halfway through President George W. 
Bush's 48-hour warning period,
a shortwave radio in Syracuse tuned into a BBC broadcast and picked up the 
voice of "Captain Dave," who
declined to reveal his last name.

He is part of the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air 
National Guard. He has been
spending lots of his time recently in a modified C-130 Hercules transport 
flying over and near Iraq.
The aircraft isn't equipped to drop "palace busters" or laser-guided bombs or 
It's equipped with shortwave radio transmission equipment, and it has been 
bombarding Iraq with Arabic
broadcasts in five-hour nightly shows.

One of the main messages of the broadcasts, he said, is: "We don't want to harm 
any Iraqi people."
Broadcasts include instructions to Iraqis about what they should do once 
fighting begins.
The broadcasts are advertised to Iraqis in leaflets dropped in southern Iraq. 
On Tuesday, 1.9 million leaflets
were dropped from the sky.

He said feedback after similar broadcasts in 1991 prompted the current effort.
"We're actually trying to avoid as many casualties as possible," he told the 
In addition to verbal messages, the broadcast features music that's popular in 
Iraq. He said that includes a
sprinkling of Western music. Among the voices he has been broadcasting to Iraqi 
shortwave listeners?
Celine Dion and Sheryl Crow and "Top-40 stuff." The BBC interview illustrates 
how shortwave radio can 
play a role in times of crisis, in this case for, in Capt. Dave's words, 
"information dissemination." 
(The BBC interviewer gently used the word "propaganda.")

The interview also illustrates that listeners to shortwave radio, or world-band 
radio, have access to
information about developments in the Iraq crisis that might not otherwise be 
available in other media.
For those curious to hear more about developments in the Middle East, there are 
some English-language
broadcasts out of the region, says Lawrence Magne, editor of the yearly guide 
"Passport to World Band Radio."

"UAE (United Arab Emirates) Radio had two short news bulletins (daily) but was 
a major disappointment
during the Gulf War," he says. "Maybe it will be better this time around."

Two other broadcasts from the Middle East are from nations that border Iraq.
Radio Kuwait broadcasts an English program on 11990 kHz at 1 to 4 p.m. Syracuse 
"It's mostly Western pop music with features on Islam," he says, "although 
there is one news bulletin."

Radio Jordan relays its domestic English broadcast on shortwave (11690 from 
1400 to 1730). A longer news
report airs at 1700, or an hour earlier once Jordan pushes its clocks back in 
"Reception of these stations is definitely best along the East Coast, but 
neither station is a blockbuster," he

Magne's book is an essential guide for radio listeners, both novices and 
experts. It devotes 22 pages to
"Worldwide Broadcasts in English." He says some stations are easier to catch 
than others.

Longtime listener
Marie Lamb, of Cicero, likes to track down some elusive broadcasts. When she's 
not working as a disc
jockey for WAER-FM (88.3) at Syracuse University or as a board operator at 
WCNY-FM (91.3), she can often
be found leaning toward a speaker that's broadcasting music, news or static 
from another continent.
She has a couple of radios at her disposal. One is a table-top model, connected 
with an outdoor wire antenna.
It's "my big one, for the tough stuff."
She pauses. "It's the kind of thing you like if you're a real fanatic."
A sentimental model, a Zenith G500, goes back to the tubes-and-dials era. It 
was made in 1950.
But she gets a lot of mileage out of a portable RadioShack model. She can take 
it wherever she goes and
stay in touch with the rest of the world. She counts among her more interesting 
radio snatches a recording she 
made from Radio Pakistan.
She considered herself the hunter, the signal from South-Central Asia the 
After being told the broadcast could not be heard in North America, she 
"decided to go after them one fine
day." She found it, made a tape recording of it and sent the tape to Radio 
Pakistan as "proof" she had snared them.
She smiles at the recollection. "It was the thrill of the hunt," she said.
Listening generates other thrills, too, she says.
"In a crisis time, it's a very good way to find out news from a different 
perspective," Lamb says.
Sometimes, that perspective is disturbing. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 
11, 2001, she heard broadcasts
from the Middle East that were "not exactly responding favorably to us."
Some, she said, claimed Jewish plotters were behind the attacks, which were 
designed to funnel U.S. hatred
toward Muslims.
But many of the broadcasts she listens to are worthwhile.
"You do get more balanced stuff," she says. "You get an idea of why people 
might be thinking a little
John Storsberg agrees.
"Radio Turkey is a hot thing to listen to," he says.
Storsberg is long on shortwave experience. He has had his ear to the speakers 
since 1970. That's when he
built his own shortwave radio, so he could stay in touch with radio broadcasts 
at his camp in the Adirondacks.
Storsberg, of Clay, likes the romance of snagging the signals coming in from 
all over the globe. A radio can
mean a lot in many towns and villages.
"There are communities in places around the world that gather around a 
shortwave radio," he says.
"People enjoy the portability of it."
Some of his equipment is anything but portable. The antenna at his home in Clay 
reaches about 80 feet in 
the air and is anchored in five yards of concrete.  His receiver cost about 
"It's not a typical installation," he says.
Shortwave listening can be a lot simpler.
"People do not need to re-mortgage their home to get involved in shortwave," 
says Storsberg, who adds that
he prefers news-related broadcasts.
He says he listened to the events surrounding the 1989 protests at Beijing's 
Tiananmen Square. "It was really weird to
hear it over the radio," he says.
Thanks to single sideband (SSB) tuning, he can listen to two-way communications 
such as amateur radio,
and military, maritime and air traffic.
He heard the chatter right as TWA Flight 800 went down off Long Island in 1996.
"I thought it was a drill," he says.
To get that kind of reach, he didn't necessarily need an outdoor antenna.
Plenty of broadcasts are available using portable radios that cost between $100 
and $200.

These radios open windows to news Central New Yorkers might otherwise miss.

For example, sports fans hereabouts might not be aware that another kind of 
March Madness is brewing
elsewhere in the sporting world. At about 5:40 p.m. March 12, a broadcaster on 
BBC's Caribbean band
(5975) said it was a "tremendous day" for Kenya's cricket team. They reached 
the semifinals of the 2003
World Cup with a win over Zimbabwe. That match, against India, is today.
Copyright 2003 syracuse.com. All Rights Reserved.

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