Friday, November 28, 2008

CFRX is back on shortwave!

After being missing for several years due to transmitter problems, Canada's CFRX, the 6070 kHz shortwave relay of domestic MW station CFRB, is now back on the air, and some early hiccups appear to have settled out. On the air since 1937, CFRX provides an opportunity to "eavesdrop" on one of Canada's largest cities, and can be a decent diversion, especially during the day. Its programming is a mix of news and talk, like that of many MW stations south of the border nowadays.

Yes, CFRB webcasts too...see

BBC World Service Talking America bus tour complete

The BBC World Service "bus tour" of the USA, involving journalists representing many of the BBC's domestic and foreign-language services, has recently wrapped up its west-to-east journey, and there are three 25-minute programs in which the presenters reflect on key highlights from each region they visited. From the main BBC World Service website, search for "talking America" - that's the quickest way to reach the three-part audio programs.

Brain of Britain in full swing (on BBC Radio 4)

As the BBC World Service increased its emphasis in news and current affairs programming, one of the casualties was its light entertainment and comedy programming; the best-known of this genre was Brain of Britain, the general knowledge quiz that originated on the domestic BBC Radio 4 service. While you can't hear Brain on the World Service, you can still listen live and on-demand via Radio 4's web stream.

Brain of Britain has been around in one form or another since 1953; it has aired since 1967 under this title. The host, Robert Robinson, has held that position for more than 30 years.

Brain airs live Mondays at 1330 UTC, with a repeat Saturdays 2300 UTC, if your primary means of listening to Radio 4 is via its live webcast; the most recent edition is available on-demand as well.

Brain of Britain will crown its champion on January 24th, 2009.

You can Google "brain of Britain" as a phrase to quickly reach the website, or go directly to .

Australian Express is transformed into Australian Bite

Another way that programming from Radio National made its way to Radio Australia is through the weekly magazine program Australian Express. Segments regarding aspects of Australian culture and perspectives would be edited with Roger Broadbent providing "continuity" commentary and background.

This program still exists, but it's now called Australian Bite and is now hosted by Heather Jarvis, a familiar name to Radio Australia listeners. The program presents "…a tasty spread of stories and music coming to you from all around Australia. From cafe culture to crested cockatoos, from arts and books to the mysteries of Australian rules football, there's something for everyone here in the pantry." (ABC website)

Australian Bite airs at the following times: Tuesdays, 1330, 1705, 1730; Fridays, 1830; Saturdays, 0030, 0505, 0530. The Tuesday 1330 airing will likely propagate best to Eastern North America in the winter.

Australian Bite is not directly offered as an on-demand program or podcast.

Cuts at ABC’s Radio National affect Radio Australia

Most folks know that much of Radio Australia programming begins its life as features produced for the domestic spoken-word Radio National network; Radio National has been under threat of budget and programming cuts in recent years since the network has a comparatively small audience relative to the size of its budget.

That budget ax fell, and unfortunately several high-quality programs that were high on my target listening will be disappearing in 2009. These include The Ark, In Conversation, Media Report, Perspective, Radio Eye, Religion Report, Sports Factor and Street Stories. Of these, the one that I will mist the most is The Ark., but all of these were quality programs that were each a compelling listen. These programs are world-class, and can easily stand up to programming from much larger broadcasters (such as the BBC) with no apologies for content.

The Ark dealt with religious history, but in a way that seeks to explain the present by better understanding how events in a religion’s history were documented and in what context they happened. These events could focus on individuals, but could also focus on places or dates. Definitely a thoughtful listen and certainly more interesting (to me anyway) than the latest facts and figures on Eastern Bloc industrial production.

Standard Radio National policy has been to make four weeks’ worth of program archives available for online listening, and I hope this policy is liberalized for these programs. Many have value far beyond the times of their original airing and could sound as fresh years later as they do today.

It appears that the resources that were utilized to produce these programs will be shifted somewhat to the domestic NewsRadio service; this is a 24-hour “rolling news” domestic network that has as it roots a relay of proceedings from the Australian Parliament. NewsRadio is a decent service, but it certainly is more repetitious and less specialized than Radio National.

The original plan had apparently been to end these programs as of mid-December, when many Radio National programs go on summer / Christmas / New Year’s hiatus for a month, but the apparent leak of this story has led to the abrupt ending for some of them (including The Ark).

If you’d like to catch these programs on Radio Australia before they disappear, here are the currently-publish air times for them:

The Ark – Sundays 0405, 0705

In Conversation – Not currently on Radio Australia

Media Report – Thursdays 1031, 1530

Perspective – Not currently on Radio Australia

Radio Eye – Not currently on Radio Australia

Religion Report – Wednesdays 1031, 1530

Sports Factor – Fridays 1031, 1530

Street Stories – Not currently on Radio Australia

Links to all these programs are still active on the Radio National website, .

Radio Kuwait – worth an afternoon tune-in if you’re around

One of the impressions that catalyzed my return to active shortwave listening in the 1980s was a visit to my brother in Florida. He was a work-at-home contractor, and one afternoon, while I was visiting, he walked over and switched his analog Radio Shack receiver to Radio Kuwait's English language service and kept it on for the afternoon.

My brother was an extremely casual listener - and still is - but found Radio Kuwait to be agreeable, unobtrusive, yet exotic accompaniment to his workday, with its mix of music, conversation, and features.

After a period of years off the air, Radio Kuwait is now pretty reliable on the air from 1800 to 2100 on 11990 kHz. Much of the time is popular music, which makes sense considering this is a relay of a domestic broadcast, but recent logs included by Glenn Hauser in DX Listening Digest updates indicate a feature program at 1800 beginning the broadcast, with news at 1830.

These recent logs indicate the feature is typically about Kuwait culture and religion, focusing on the teachings of Islam; the program clearly targets a non-Islamic audience.
The reports posted to DXLD suggest propagation is sporadic, and less likely to be successful the further inland you go. Not exactly Easy listening, but one is thankful for what is out there.

All the links I came across to any Radio Kuwait webcast were not working, so for now you're limited to shortwave.

New from the BBC World Service: The Strand

The BBC World Service has launched a new, weekday arts program called The Strand. Presented by Harriett Gilbert and Mark Coles, the half-hour program takes listeners on a worldwide journey through arts, culture and entertainment. According to the program producers, "Nothing creative is out of bounds" - and The Strand will bring the best, newest and most exciting creative enterprises to listeners around the world.
Novelist Harriett Gilbert has been presenting arts programs on the BBC World Service for over 10 years. She will present the Monday and Friday editions of The Strand, as well as a new hour-long version of another BBC World Service program, World Book Club, on the first weekend of every month.

Mark Coles, an award-winning broadcaster and acclaimed music journalist, will present the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday editions of The Strand as well as a special hour-long Saturday compilation. Mark - who has played Jimi Hendrix's guitar and was once locked in a cage with Yoko Ono - has interviewed some of the world's top writers. He says: "We'll provide our audience with a thoroughly entertaining, truly global guide to the arts. We'll be featuring some of the world's most famous and creative people and be offering unique insights into arts events and consumption of culture around the world."

The program's scheduled guests for its first week (October 27th - 31st) included Roger Moore (the longtime James Bond actor) and Candace Bushnell, the New York cultural observer who initially created the long-running Sex and the City HBO TV series.

I was interested to see if The Strand is merely the replacement for Outlook, another long-running program with significant artistic / human interest content, but this is not the case - Outlook remains on the World Service schedule.

The Strand will air in the shortwave schedule targeting West Africa weekdays at 1430 UTC, which stands a chance of propagating to North America given the frequencies typically in use then (17830, possibly 15400). The Strand will air in the live Infotainment webcast weekdays at 1030, 1530, 1930, and 2330, and also Tuesday-Saturday 0230 UTC. The Strand will not air in the live News webcast. Listeners who get their BBC fix via Sirius satellite radio and US public radio stations should tune in weekdays at 0930 if you are an especially early riser.

And, yes, The Strand will be available for on-demand listening; a weekly podcast of the program's highlights is also available.

Details here.