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.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Digital Radiograms Gaining Popularity With Shortwave Broadcasters

Taking the lead of the amateur radio community, shortwave stations, WRMI in Miami, Florida; KBC; and VOA with their "VOA Radiogram", and PCJ Radio, are discovering the powerful and robust communications that can be accomplished with modes like Olivia, MFSK64, RTTY, and PSK.

Had we looked back down the road even a decade ago, there is no way anyone would have guessed that shortwave stations would even give amateur radio digital modes a first glance, much less start using digital modes.

Jan Oosterveen of KBC says: "Olivia is a robust digital text mode. It can overcome all types of noise. But can Olivia 8-1000, reduced by 24 dB, be decoded under the amazing voice of country singer Suzy Bogguss? We will find out 24 March 2013 at about 0130 UTC, with the mode centered on 2500 Hz. This will be during The Mighty KBC broadcast to North America, 0000-0200 UTC on 7375 kHz. And at just before 0200 UTC, MT63-1000 (long interleave) in Flmsg format will be centered on 1500 Hz, and an MFSK32 image centered on 2500 Hz." Jan says "Listen between 00.00-02.UTC on 7.375 kHz beamed to North America."

The following joint press release from VOA and WRMI has this useful information:

While it will be strictly one mode at a time this weekend on VOA Radiogram, WRMI, Radio Miami International, will fill its channel (9955 kHz) with multiple instances of digital text.
On Saturday, 23 March 2013, 0400 UTC to 0400 UTC Sunday (midnight to midnight EDT), WRMI IDs will be in BPSK63F, centered on 900, 1300, 1700, 2100, 2500, and 2900 Hertz. (The RSID will guide you to 2500 Hz.)

On Sunday 0400 to Monday 0400 UTC, PSKR250 will be centered on 900, 1700, 2500 (RSID will be 2500 Hz), and PSKR125 on 1300, 2100, and 2900 Hz

The WRMI IDs are generally at the top of the hour and sometimes also at 30 minutes past the hour. Don ‘t let low signal level and noise on the channel discourage you from trying to decode these.
Taiwan-based PCJ Radio International will transmit a message in MFSK32 via WRMI at 0227 UTC on 31 March 2013. 

(End press release) 

Now, since DRM turned out to be dead in the water; this should become interesting since the equipment and software to decode digital modes is easily available, or CAN be accessed by most people even if they have to ask a friend or family member to do it, the wider audience will definitely take interest for the reason that those regions of the globe who have been victimized by China's malicious interference would still be able to decode quite easily since the job of separating interference from digital communications is actually easier than separating it from the spoken voice.

This could very well go beyond an experimental stage to become a trend if stations turn out to like this sort of efficiency. The only real drawback is that digital modes are full duty cycle that can add to wear and tear on transmitters. However, there is a chance that the digital traffic might be pre-recorded, therefore saving the transmitters from the dreadful effects of full duty cycle work.
Here's an interesting thought as this article closes: It would be neat to find out later on down the road that China's choice to use digital modes for malicious interference was the impetus for this trend of experimentation! The next thought to go with it is that it would be interesting if entire programs start to be conducted in digital modes.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Analysis of Papal Relationship With Vatican Radio, International Media

A David Willet - BBC quote today says a lot about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, elected as Pope Francis I.

"Francis is a Jesuit, a member of perhaps the most powerful and experienced religious order of the Catholic Church. The Jesuits are expert communicators and it is significant that one of the first people summoned to meet the new Pope this morning was Father Federico Lombardi, head of Vatican Radio (run for many years by the Jesuits) and the Vatican Press Office. "Under Pope Benedict, Father Lombardi was a mere functionary who had no direct access to the Pope. He could not pick up the phone and talk things through quickly - he just received orders from the Vatican Secretariat of State. That has now changed overnight."

"It will be interesting to see what changes are made to Vatican Radio's output under Pope Francis", said Andy Sennitt, retired from RNW.

The BBC quotes a source as saying this: "At dinner he half-jokingly toasted his fellow Cardinals with a prayerful quip: "May God forgive you for what you have done!"

Furthermore, the BBC reports the following:
Security for an unannounced trip into the city with the Pope was kept to a minimum. Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, pointed out to journalists that the Vatican's security officers - the famed ceremonial Swiss Guard and the 150-strong police force - are there to serve the pontiff, not to restrict his movements. "He will do his own thing in his own time and at his own speed," Father Lombardi said.

Further notes on Pope Francis I say that he will have audience with the press this coming Saturday, and that he seems to have a "vivid awareness" that he has a lot of work to do at this juncture of Catholic church history. This important quote sounds pretty re-assuring that Pope Francis is going to be a Pope of the people: "Public relations will be a priority at a particularly sensitive moment of papal transition."

What this might mean for Vatican Radio and other international broadcasters who report news and items of public interest regarding the pope and the church:

Given that the order the Pope belongs to is accomplished at training their progeny to be expert communicators, it can be expected that Pope Francis will be very blunt and brutally honest, he will cut right to the point and will not beat around the bush. Pope Francis, as a Jesuit member, will have much to say about Vatican Radio operations and the content of programming. Reasonable speculation can be laid on some aspects of more modern programming becoming a bit more traditional. We can definitely expect Pope Francis to be someone who could possibly want some items on Vatican Radio to be cleared by him prior to being aired.

In terms of Pope Francis' relations with international broadcasters outside of Vatican Radio, we might see him more willing to be approached on topics that are more narrowly tailored to his vision for the papacy, the church, leadership expectations within the church, reform of certain matters of policy, and what he wants the church image to become.

As this is the most important aspect of communications with Pope Francis, some of us are wondering if Pope Francis will be monitoring more than just local radio, and whether or not he will be listening to international shortwave broadcasts relevant to his interests. Jesuits, as a general rule, usually do tend to pay more attention to radio than television. Given that this Pope is more of a humble individual focused on the needs of people, we can reasonably say there is about an 50 to 65% chance that he will be tuning in as his time allows.

Young people in the Catholic church culture have openly stated that they wanted a Pope who would be for young persons, so from the communications perspective, it will be interesting to see whether or not Pope Francis pays attention to where the communications / media interests of young people are swaying these days. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tim Allen's Last Man Standing and Ham Nation Work Together To Publicize Amateur Radio

Hosts Bob Heil - K9EID (Heil Microphones), Gordon West - WB6NOA (Gordon West Radio School), George Thomas - W5JDX, and Don Wilbanks - AE5DW (Amateur Radio Newsline) bring out the best aspects of amateur radio communications for "Last Man Standing", on the ABC Television Network. Watch Ham Nation episode 88 to go on a behind the scenes look at the ham radio gear used on the set of Tim Allen's Last Man Standing.

This episode guest stars ABC Last Man Standing Producer, John Amodeo (NN6JA), Julian Frost (N3JF), and Cheryl Lasek (K9BIK), also of Amateur Radio Newsline.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Illinois Senator Introduces, Then PULLS Internet Censorship Bill Amid Severe Backlash - Ira Silverstein Needs To Go Back To Law School

On Tue, Feb 19th 2013, at 11:57AM Central Time, Mike Masnick, published a very useful piece over at Techdirt. This piece revealed that Illinois has a treasonous, constitutional traitor in its midst! The said treasonous, disgusting, facist, card carrying friend of Hitler is none other than Ira Silverstein! See Computerworld for their take on it.

The man in the photo above is none other than the inhumane, self-admitted speech Nazi, himself! What did ole Ira do to gain such scorn from Shortwave America, you ask? Well, he decided all on his own that it would be a great idea to silence anonymous speech by way of an official state bill that read in part like this: "Creates the Internet Posting Removal Act. Provides that a web site administrator shall, upon request, remove any posted comments posted by an anonymous poster unless the anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate"

Ira should have known better, we, the people of the State of Illinois have every right to expect that he should have known better than to even attempt this! Here is a verbatim copy of Ira's biography: "Attorney; Degrees from Loyola University in 1982 and John Marshall Law School in 1985; past President of the Northtown Community Council; board member of the Korean Senior Center; member of the Greek Pan-Hellenic Laconian organization; Director of the Bernard Horwich JCC; married (wife, Debra), has four children."

Ira's excuse for attempting to silence the people of his state was said by him to have been an effort to protect children and introduce New York's similar bill.  But, wait a moment! If Silverstein pulled the bill, why does the Illinois General Assembly site show the bill has been referred to the Assignments Committee? Maybe the State Senate is terribly embarrassed by Ira Superdunce, and so they don;t want it to read that the bill has been removed? OR are they re-wording the bill so as to re-introduce it?

Either way, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it very clear that anonymous speech is indeed protected:  "Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society." McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995)

Further, SCOTUS also says this:  "an author's decision to remain anonymous . . . is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment." This is because "the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry." The Supreme Court has also held that there is "no basis for qualifying the level of First Amendment scrutiny that should be applied to . . . [the Internet] medium." Accordingly, "[i]t is clear that speech over the internet is entitled to First Amendment protection" and that "[t]his protection extends to anonymous internet speech."

See the IT Law Center for more, to include Applicable Tests. 

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we have this bit that speaks volumes in itself:
"The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym "Publius " and "the Federal Farmer" spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment."

Shortwave America urges everyone in the State of Illinois to contact the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission to demand that Ira Silverstein be properly disciplined, even if that means revocation of his law license. The people of the State of Illinois should NEVER ONCE tolerate or forgive ANY elected or appointed official's actions when such actions are so grossly out of line as to violate the constitution or the bill of rights at the state or federal level!!

Ira Silverstein, this author, as one of the people of the State of Illinois on behalf of fellow state residents, demand that you resign from Illinois law and Illinois politics altogether for your attempt at such a grievous and unethical act! You truly need to go back to law school, that much is a fact! where were your brains and common sense, Ira? Did you have a "God" moment? Maybe you thought you were a hero of some sort? Thought you would throw your weight around? You likely know that none of us buy your "someone think of the children" story! While cyber-bullying or bullying of any sort is not acceptable in the least, squelching freedom of speech is never an answer!

YOU, Ira Silveratein, at least for the time being, are a public official who is held to public ridicule and are at all times, a target for public discourse. Even with all of the above information being true, Ira, no one in the public eye has any right to not be offended, that right simply doesn't exist. No one participating in public discourse has a right to not be offended. The distinction of this from bullying is that bullying actually has the aim of committing grievous harm to a particular victim, whereas simply being offensive can and usually is aimed at public government officials or other people in a general sense without any real threat to anyone.

In closing, the problem, Ira, is that you apparently don't have the intelligence to think like that and to define things in proper context. This is what makes YOU a dunce, an ignoramus, a worthless low life! You really should leave politics and law to those who hold real competence.   

The public can contact the less than honorable Ira Silverstein:

Springfield Office:
Senator 8th District
501A Capitol Building
Springfield, IL   62706
(217) 782-5500
(217) 782-5340 FAX

District Office:
2951 West Devon
Chicago, IL  60659
(773) 743-5015
(773) 743-4750 FAX

BBC Cumbria Welcomes Fluff Cat and The Rock Kittens

Listen for credits at the end of the video. Shortwave America congratulates Terry Askew and his hard working fellow musicians on this new achievement and on their full album being released VERY SOON! To learn more about the Space Gypsy Adventures, which led up to the formation of "Fluff Cat and The Rock Kittens", SEE THE WIKI

The official Space Gypsy Website is here!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Flight Communications Reveal Pilot Wants Disabled Child Arrested

A radio monitor in Satellite Beach, Florida, reports the following: Yesterday (March 3rd 2013), at around 2:18PM United States Eastern time, a pilot on 131.05 (possibly Orlando IAP or KFLL IAP) requesting that a GSE and Law Enforcement meet the flight at Gate 6. Two passengers traveling with a small child, have been asked to keep the child from being unruly; and were allegedly refusing all instructions including seat belt instructions and instructions to turn off electronic devices. Pilot fears things may escalate.
The behavior referred to would appear to be that of a child with a disability, and the pilot ought to be ashamed of himself! 
Anyone with details, audio recordings of this incident to include any TSA / law enforcement radio traffic should contact Shortwave America. Your identity will not ever be made public, unless express written consent is given.