Solar Cycle 24 brings better Shortwave Listening

Because of the utterly depressing selection of programming available on the standard broadcast (AM) band, lately I have been getting my radio fixes on higher frequencies.  Shortwave Listening can be a fun way to hear all sorts of things, from the very retro Voice of Russia interval music, which makes me want to go check on my survival bunker, to the almost comical Radio Havana, “Broadcasting from the free Americas,” depending on what your definition of free is, the number and type of programs are almost limitless.  Whether or not one believes the conspiracy theories posed by Alex Jones, listening to that program can give you the hebegebees (see above note about survival bunker).

Most of the shortwave broadcasts in this country are religious shows.  One can listen to Catholic Mass every morning at 8 am on WEWN, if so inclined.  I don’t think it actually counts as going to church, though.  There are several other shows on US shortwave, like Le Show, which appears to have a copyrighted on the phrase “this is a copyrighted feature of this broadcast,” but you have to hunt around for them.  WBCQ offers a variety of programs, likely the the lowest ratio of religious programs on any privately owned shortwave station in the US.

Don’t expect to find the old stalwarts, the VOA or the BBC to have very good signals in the US.  Both those agencies severely curtailed shortwave broadcast to the US starting around 2000 or so.

There is also a smattering of shortwave pirate broadcasters clustered around 6.925 KHz, which can be entertaining in their own way.

A good website that lists all the shows in English by hour and frequency, is short-wave.info.

Solar Cycle 24 is heating up, with excellent propagation last week and continuing on this week, I was able to hear some pretty rare stations.  Even better, we are in the early stages with the peak predicted sometime around 2013.  I even heard one wag predicting that the coming solar cycle jives with the recently popular “The world will end in 2012” theme.  With the long winter months ahead, I have been tuning up the shortwave listening post in my house.

I am going to be doing a multi-part post on how to set up a good shortwave listening post, how to get around local electrical noise issues, antennas, grounding, receiver selection and so forth.

WBCQ The Planet

File under: What I wish I could do, if I had the money.

img04Imagine, as an engineer, owning and running your very own radio station.  Not just any radio station, but a 50,000 watt flame thrower heard over most of the eastern US.  Dude!  Only one minor detail, it is a Shortwave station, which, by FCC regulation is only supposed to be listened to outside of the US, hence the official FCC name, International Broadcasting.  As I said, minor detail.

Anyway, WBCQ is heard at various times on 5110, 7415, 9330, and 15420 kHz both in and outside of the US.  Their full schedule here.  Last night I was treated to the Lost Discs radio show, featuring rare tracks not often found or heard anywhere.  It sounded like they were having a lot of fun and it was entertaining, which is why I continued to listen for well over an hour.  Besides which, they played a cover of one of my favorite songs, Wish you were here, as played by Kris McKay.

I put up the video for the song that was in it, and, no, I don’t know who those grainy people are.

It seems that the owner, Mr. Weiner is a fellow radio engineer and long time radio enthusiast.  He was and still is a strong proponent of radio for the good of the public.  Most of his earlier attempts to own radio station fell on the other side of the legal line, being not quite sanctioned by any government authority.  At first, he did attempt to obtain a license and was turned down by the FCC, prompting him to write this reply (shamelessly lifted from Wikipedia):

…we went about a year ago … to apply for a license. Our attempt proved quite humorous to your employees, who sent us away with word of “Forget it.” Further investigations showed us why our attempt was then so comical. Licenses were so expensive and hard to get that even small stations were being sold for millions. Broadcasting was reserved for power men.
…We are not disputing, however, your right to assign channels and set aside bands for the prevention of interference. We certainly, however, are disputing your right to reserve broadcasting for the well-to-do only.

So, I applaud Allan Weiner and his never say never attitude.  Perhaps one day, I’ll apply for an international broadcasting license and do something similar.  I wonder if he gets many RFI complaints from people living around his transmitter site.  I once had one from somebody who was receiving the radio station on the outlets in their kitchen.  Seems Larry King was not their thing…