Sunday, March 24, 2013

Guest Post - Bob Zanotti On The Relationship Between DX Chasers and Shortwave Broadcasters

In recent months I have received several private questions and comments about postings on various shortwave-related forums, which were highly critical of so-called “DXers” – the term commonly used by broadcasters to refer to those who make a hobby out of tuning the bands for signals to identity, just in order to obtain a QSL card, as opposed to those who actually listen to programs and comment on program content. Although my name and that of Bob Thomann were mentioned in some of the postings in question, we were not directly involved in them.

But there is an issue here, and it is based on this fact: Broadcasters need to be able to demonstrate that their programs are not only reaching their target areas in a technical sense, but very importantly, also that the expenditures for program production, transmission infrastructure and the cost of sponsorship are warranted, in the sense that the MESSAGE is getting through to the audience. DXers do not help matters here, but Shortwave LISTENERS or “SWLs” do.

It is no secret that the management of Swiss Radio International (and other SW broadcasters) was upset over DXers , and asked Bob Thomann and me to address the issue in the Swiss Shortwave Merry-Go-Round, which we did. In fact, I think we were the first SW broadcasters to do so, but not the last.

However, while I can confirm that the SRI management did not like "QSL-hunting DXers” who didn't listen to program content and sometimes referred to them as “DX nuts”, Bob Thomann and I were always diplomatic in discussing this issue over the air, and we never called anyone names. Our position on-air can be summarized this way, and it was stated many, many times:

"We [broadcasters] are not here simply to supply a signal to identify, just for the purpose of getting a QSL card. If that were the reason for our efforts, we might as well transmit a 1,000 Hz tone along with an ID loop. There is no conflict between being a technically-interested DXer and being a program *listener*. Just use your technical skills to improve reception to the extent possible, but then, *listen* to the program. You'll get a QSL card, but all we're asking for is some comments about our programs, whether good or bad. This is what justifies the enormous cost of our broadcasts, but QSL card-hunting does not."

This was and still is our position on DXers, and I know it is shared by other SW broadcasting veterans. From that perspective, DXers were and are very frustrating for the broadcaster and program-maker, and I feel sure that this group was, indeed, at least partly responsible for the demise of big-time shortwave broadcasting after the end of the Cold War.

Having said all of the above, I want to make it very clear that this issue can be discussed in a businesslike and objective way, and I discourage the use of language that could be construed as abusive or excessively provocative on the part of either side of the argument.

I know how easy it is in this field to get embroiled in controversy and in-fighting. For this reason, I want to emphasize that the purpose of this posting is to restate the position of Bob Thomann and me on this issue for the record. While I realize that the discussion will continue, this posting is not intended to add to or encourage the debate. There are more appropriate forums than SIS for this purpose. Any related comments are, of course, welcome.