Shortwave Center, September 1999
DX Target: Jordan
A Brief History of Jordan Radio and Television Services
By Richard A. D’Angelo
Radio Jordan, broadcasting from Amman, is one of the Middle East’s more interesting broadcasters. It was first established over 40 years ago. Today, it continues to be well heard on the international shortwave bands with substantial amounts of Arabic and English language programming. Consequently, the station is often heard throughout the world year-round. Let’s take a look at the country and its broadcasting services.
Situated near the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean, Jordan shares borders with Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, the West Bank and Israel to the west, and Saudi Arabia to the east and south. The lands of Jordan and its people have been molded by centuries of passing civilizations. Jordan has always been at a crossroad between east and west, and its centrality has given it strategic and economic importance, making it a vital trading and communication link between countries, people and continents. Jordan is a small country of 92,300 square kilometers (57,354 square miles) that can be crossed by car in approximately four hours. However, its diverse terrain and landscape impart a feeling of it being larger than it actually is.
Jordan’s population was estimated at nearly 4.3 million in 1995. Jordan’s high fertility rate and declining mortality rate result in a population increase averaging 3.8% annually. Jordan’s stability in a turbulent region has attracted large numbers of refugees and temporary residents from neighboring regions such as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. In recent years it has also seen tens of thousands of Jordanian expatriates returning from abroad.
Approximately 78% of Jordan’s people reside in major cities such as Amman, Zarqa, Irbid, Salt, Mafraq, Karak, Tafileh, Ma’an and Aqaba. Amman, the capital, comprises 38% of the country’s population.
Although the national trend is towards urbanization, Jordanians retain a strong cultural identity based on village and rural life. What may seem to be a Western style of life to an outsider is, in fact, a combination of Western lifestyles and Middle Eastern traditions and values. As an example, although many Jordanian women work outside their homes, the focus of the culture remains the family, which is always the first priority for Jordanians.
The majority of the population (96%) is Sunni Muslim. About four percent are Christians.
Geography and Climate
Jordan can be divided into three main regions, each with a distinct climate. The highlands comprise mountainous and hilly regions that run through Jordan from north to south. Several valleys and riverbeds intersect the highlands. Their altitude varies from 600 to 1600 meters (1969 – 5249 feet) above sea level, and the climate, although generally wet and cool, also varies from one area to another. The average temperature in Amman ranges from 8.1 degrees Celsius (46.6 Fahrenheit) in January to 25.1 degrees (77.2 Fahrenheit) in July.
West of the highlands is the Jordan Rift Valley, which also runs along the entire length of Jordan. The Rift Valley plunges to over 400 meters (1312 feet) below sea level at the Dead Sea, becoming the lowest spot on earth, and reaches a minimum width of 15 kilometers (9.3 miles). The Rift Valley is rich in water resources, including thermal mineral water. The valley is rich in agricultural land and is warm throughout the year. Average temperatures range from 15.6 degrees Celsius (60.1 Fahrenheit) in January to 32.5 degrees Celsius (90.5 Fahrenheit) in July.
The desert region in east Jordan is an extension of the Arabian Desert, and forms nearly two-thirds of the country. Not a true desertthere is low rainfallit is rather a semi-arid, steppe-like region in which small plants survive in winter and spring. This region is home to the bedou of Jordan, the traditional sheep and goat herder who provide meat for the rest of the country. There is an extreme variation in the climate of the desert between day and night, and between summer and winter. Summer temperatures can exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), while winter nights can be bitterly cold, dry and windy.
The official language of Jordan in Arabic, but English is widely spoken. Jordan Television and Radio Jordan both have an English service. French and German are spoken by a few people who have commercial or cultural interests in France or Germany. Jordan Television transmits two hours of French programs daily. A daily English newspaper, the Jordan Times, and a weekly, the Star (which has a French section) are published in Amman.
History of Jordan Television (“JTV”)
Television transmission in Jordan started in April 1968 with four hours of programming in black and white. The following years saw two milestones for JTV, in 1972 it became the first station in the region to operate a second channel and in 1974 Jordan TV started the transmission in full color using the PAL-B system. Today JTV transmits to a large geographical area that includes Syria, Northern Saudi Arabia, Israel and South Lebanon.
Jordan TV has three working channels: (a) Channel One, (b) Channel Two, and (c) Jordan Satellite Channel. The following is a brief description of each of these channels.
Channel 1 is the main channel on JTV and broadcasts in Arabic. It provides news, entertainment, documentaries, cultural, and educational programs. Channel 1 averages about 19 hours per day of transmissions.
Channel 2 is the second channel of JTV that broadcasts in foreign languages. It offers an average of 11 hours of programs and news in both English and French daily. The French section is about 2 and a half-hours long and contains the latest French programs in addition to a local news bulletin in French. The English section is about 8 and a half-hours long and offers mainly English and American programs. The channel also covers local and international news with a daily summary (“News Headlines”) at 1730 UTC and the main news (“The News at Ten”) at 2000 UTC. Some very familiar shows, such as Walker Texas Ranger, NYPD Blues, and Oprah Winfrey, are popular prime time favorites in Jordan.
The Jordan Satellite Channel (“JSC”) started transmission in February 1993. The station is carried on ArabSat 2a that covers the Middle East, South Europe and the Near East and North Turkey. JSC is also part of Orbit’s channel line up which covers Europe and North America. The station transmits an average of 13 hours per day, of which 80% of its programs are local.
Since transmission began from Amman in March of 1956, Radio Jordan has developed into a modern service enabling it to reach many areas of the world. Radio Jordan’s Arabic service is one of the few stations that offer 24-hour broadcasting in that language. Its programs include news, sports, documentaries, drama, community services in addition to modern and classical Arab music.
The English and French language service broadcasts 21 hours daily of English programs in addition to French FM programs which transmits around 8 hours daily. Both services, include program documentary and drama series in addition to news and sports, as well as music and songs in many languages. In 1988 the shortwave transmissions were expanded by adding three 500 kW transmitters to carry the voice of Jordan to the four corners of the world, it broadcasts for 9 hours daily in Arabic and can be listened to in North America and Europe on a regular basis.
Radio Jordan currently broadcasts on shortwave to Western Europe and North America in English on 11,690 kHz from 1000-1630 UTC during summer and from 1100-1730 UTC during the winter months from facilities located at Al Karanah. Its transmissions are usually heard well on the East Coast of North America during the winter months thanks to three 500 kW transmitters. Broadcasts in Arabic are heard around the clock on a variety of frequencies that change with the season. A recent schedule listed the following frequencies in kHz and UTC times:
- 6015 at 1530-0200,
- 7155 at 1530-2200,
- 9630 at 0330-0600,
- 9830 at 1800-2200,
- 11810 at 0400-1300,
- 11835 at 0600-1030,
- 11930 at 2200-0200,
- 11810 at 0400-1300,
- 11835 at 0600-1030,
- 11930 at 2200-0200,
- 13630 at 1300-1530,
- 15290 at 1030-1200, and
- 15435 at 0000-0800.
Check Al Quaglieri’s Listener’s Notebook column on a regular basis for the latest broadcasting times and frequencies for all Radio Jordan transmissions.
Like many other international broadcasters these days, Radio Jordan has a presence on the Internet. The station’s website can be found at <http://www.jrtv.com>. Radio Jordan’s website provides news and information about Jordan Radio and Television. There is a section devoted to the television service and another section for the radio service. The site also contains national and international news features. Although portions of the website are still under construction, it promises to be a useful bookmark addition for those radio enthusiasts that surf the Internet.
The station is an erratic verifier of listeners’ reception reports. Reports can be sent to the station in English with either US$1.00 or two International Reply Coupons for return postage. Long waits or a follow-up report is not unusual to obtain that elusive verification from Radio Jordan. Letters should be sent to the station at:
P. O. Box 909
Remember to send in those Radio Jordan logs to either Sheryl Paszkiewicz or Wallace Treibel for the Log Report and those interesting and rare QSL verifications to Sam Barto for inclusion in the QSL Report column. Good luck with this DX Target.
DX-ing in the Tropical Bands
By Anker Petersen (this article first appeared in the June, 1999, DSWCI Shortwave News)
I suppose that most of you know that by Tropical Bands I mean the 60, 90, and 120 metre-bands which primarily are assigned by the International Telecommunications Union to broadcasting in the countries located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Most countries within this Tropical Zone do broadcast on these bands, but it is also used by some other nations like certain Republics of the former Soviet Union.
Outside the Tropical Zone, these bands are used by various Utility stations, which, of course, can make some annoying QRM to DXers. Fortunately, the trend is that more and more Utility stations replace shortwave by satellite or Internet connections.
I have devoted most of my SW-listening time for the past 40 years to DXing of Broadcasting stations on the Tropical Bands. I am fascinated by listening to a Home Service Broadcast from a low powered station in a far away country. These programmes tell you a lot about the country of origin, and they are very different from international broadcasting or from what I hear on local stations in my own area.
Most of my listening has been done at my home near Copenhagen, Denmark, but I have also been DXing tropical stations from many other places in the world, particularly Germany, Italy, the Canary Islands, Texas, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Thailand, New Zealand, and the Fiji Islands.
I can tell you that the hobby is just as challenging wherever you are and whoever DXer you are DXing together with! The stations that can be heard, vary of course. In Thailand, the South East Asians are dominating,
and in Ecuador, the Andean stations. But the strongest stations can be heard all over the world at the right season and times of day.
A challenging example
I will never forget my birthday in May, 1975. On that day, the mailman brought me a long letter from Mr. Bebes Korowaro, Station Manager of Radio Western Highlands at Mount Hagen, in the central part of Papua New Guinea.
This became my best QSL so far, because Mr. Korowro did verify my reception near Copenhagen, 13094 km away, of his 2 kw domestic broadcasting station on 2450 in the 120 m band, heard on March 29, 1975, at 2025-2130 UTC.
He wrote: “I hope you will be happy to know that your report is being verified after it had been checked against our station log. We are very happy about your report that you really picked us up in this part of the world in the morning, because it is often difficult for people even in other parts of Papua New Guinea to get us.”
He further wrote that the station did broadcast 8 hours a day in 4 local languages in the District Service and that the total staff strength was 22 persons who all were Papua New Guinea nationals.
The same night I was able in Denmark to hear four other local broadcasting stations in Papua New Guinea on 60, 90, and 120 metres. This is Tropical Bands DXing when it is best.
Such an extreme example of long distance reception only occurs rarely, but that is what Tropical Bands DXers hunt for. In this case I was able to follow directly from the spot what was going on in 5 different town in a remote country some 13000 km away and enjoy their native instrumental music and song.
In the home service of Radio Denmark, Papua New Guinea is rarely mentioned more than once per year. This country does not have its own Foreign Service, so I would have to stick to the international broadcasters of Radio New Zealand and Radio Australia to get their version of the news from Papua New Guinea. On the tropical bands, I get it directly.
Broadcasting in the Tropical Bands
At least five reasons can be given for allocating these three shortwave bands exclusively to the Tropical countries:
- Geographical reason: The Tropical countries often cover large areas with sparse population. If Mediumwave or particularly FM should be used instead, it would require an extensive number of transmitting facilities to provide adequate coverage. Juat imagine how many FM stations would be needed to cover Papua New Guinea which is 1500 km from east to west and 1000 km from south to north. Today 20 small transmitters in the Tropical Bands are doing the job.
- Geophysical reason: High static levels in the atmosphere of the tropics due to thunder storms make Mediumwave reception more difficult than in other regions of the world, and greatly restrict MW coverage. MW signals require much higher transmitter power to cover the same area as compared with transmitters operating in the Tropical Bands.
- Economical reason: For the reasons just mentioned, MW and FM coverage would be much more expensive than broadcasting on the Tropical Bands of 60, 90 and 120 m, eventhough quality and reliability of the former may be better, in thinly populated areas there simply are not taxpayers (or potential customers) enough to finance the number of transmitters needed.
- Technical reasons: Electrical power distribution is very limited in the remote areas of most tropical countries. The installation of high power transmitters would lead to excessive power demands and to strain and break-down of the supply and distribution of power. If an extensive local network of MW or FM transmitters was installed to replace one or two Tropical Bands transmitters, there would still be a big technical task in building relay stations or land lines to carry the modulated signal from the Central Station out to these dispersed hinterland outlets.
- Developmental reasons: Developing nations, like Papua New Guinea, have limited economic resources available, and a higher priority is for good reasons given to basic education, medical care, infrastructure, etc. Furthermore, a large part of the population in the developing countries is so poor that they cannot afford to buy expensive FM receivers with stereo or TV sets, but have to stick to cheap SW receivers.
Declining number of stations
For 27 years, the Danish Shortwave Club International has now been publishing an annual Tropical Bands Survey listing all active stations broadcasting between 2200 and 5800 kHz. As of 1999, it is included in our Domestic Broadcasting Survey. The DSWCI is a unique Club having had members in more than 40 countries around the world throughout these 27 years! Thereby we have had our own monitoring network of experienced DXers who were able to observe what is actually on the air in these bands in their own region.
I have made some statistics on the total number of broadcast transmitters in this frequency range which actually were on the air during this span of years. In 1973, there was a total of 1151 transmitters. In 1985, it was reduced to 867 and in early 1997 it was further reduced to 703.
546 of these 703 were confirmed by our monitors as active domestic broadcasters, after having excluded the Foreign Service stations and clandestines. During the past two years this number has been reduced further to 465.
Where is the reduction?
Let us have a closer look at this big reduction of nearly 50% of the broadcasting stations in the Tropical Bands since 1973, which drastically has changed our listening possibilities. During this 27 year period we had the biggest reduction of 80-90% in the Caribbean, Venezuela and Columbia, probably because these countries have a relatively good economy and are at a high technological state.
In South East Asia, Indonesia and Africa, there was a reduction in the number of active transmitters of 50-60%. Here the reason is rather that most of them have been used for decades and have become obsolete. Spare parts are often hard to obtain, and even when they are available, there may not be money to purchase them. Many of these poor nations cannot afford new and modern transmitters, so they depend on donations from the richer nations. But the interest among western nations, as well as Russia and China, to do that has also been declining during the past 10-15 years.
In China, Mongolia, and Brazil, the reduction was around 40%, probably because of an improved national economy. In the former USSR, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Far East, the reduction was around 25%. While in Sri Lanka two months ago, I found instability in some of the Subcontinental SW transmitters like Ekala, Calcutta, and Ranchi.
In Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, the reduction was only about 15%, meaning that today this is the area with the most broadcasting stations on the Tropical Bands, namely around a total of 115.
But it is not all reductions! In regions like the Middle east, North and Central America, there has been an increase in the number of stations! This is mainly caused by an increased use of these bands for International Broadcasting by religious stations or clandestine stations.
In the Pacific, I also noticed an increase from 27 stations in 1973 to 33 in 1997. Most were due to the installation of all the local stations in Papua New Guinea some years ago. Now they are deteriorating and some may be without power because of drought, so about six stations have been irregular the past two years.
In addition, I have made the general observation from all tropical regions that a majority of the domestic broadcasting stations do not broadcast on a daily basis and their transmission hours vary quite a lot. Some are even off the air for months and then return. There are many reasons for that irregularity, but the most common ones are technical, financial or power supply problems. Other stations are only switched on during special events, like elections or important sports games, or during cyclones as Radio Vanuatu was last year on 4960 kHz when it did broadcast 24 hours a day.
In conclusion, we can say that the number of active broadcasting transmitters on the Tropical Bands today is nearly half of what it was 25 years ago. But the number of interfering stations such as utility stations, jamming, and powerful Russian and Chinese stations have also been reduced, so the DX possibilities have actually improved on those 465 stations which are still there. I think that with the right propagation conditions, DXing on the Tropical Bands is still challenging with 465 Tropical broadcast stations to hunt for!
DXing with Ham Transceivers
by Jerry A. Lineback
I am going to finish up this issue of SWC with a few comments on using HF transceivers designed for Amateur Radio use for DXing. Many DXers are also licensed amateurs and have HF transceivers about. Formerly, the biggest drawback to using transceivers for DXing, aside from the fact you have to be licensed to buy one, was that the narrow filters could only be used in a side band mode. Current transceivers, like the Icom 746, allow all mode use of any filter. For the past year, I have been using the 746 daily for tropical band DXing as well as yapping on 2, 6, and 10 m. I am using the AM mode with the 2.4 kHz filter for narrow in the 455 kHz slot and the 9 kHz filter for wide. The Drake R-7 has been consigned to the closet. Some observations: Selectivity is excellent with the 2.4 kHz filter and audio is acceptable when run to a quality outboard speaker. The 9 kHz filter is useless when there is a strong nearby station, but provides much better audio if there is no interference. Sensitivity is excellent, this thing really digs them out of the mud. Of course I am using beverages so noise level is low. The 746 has two levels of preamplification, but the best results come from using no amplification and letting the signal come up out of the background. DSP audio does little for AM except reduce atmospheric noise a little. The receiver has only 100 memories with a mechanical switch, works well but needs more. The band scope is fun, but does not register the weakest signals the receiver is able to receive.
I would not suggest that anyone should obtain an amateur license just to get such a radio for DXing, but only if you intend to use it for amateur purposes. There are plenty of excellent receivers designed for DXing. But an Icom 746 or an Alinco DX-70 T will double as a good DX rig for an ARO. The DX-70 is a compact unit designed for in-vehicle use with a detachable face plate for remote placement of the body. I will report on its portable use some day.
You will need to keep the instruction manual handy for both these radios as many features are programmable, including use of filters. I have ordered a 3.3 kHz filter for the Icom. I will report on its use at a later date.