Easy Listening, April 2006
Substantial changes in BBCWS programming…and more frequencies disappearing
The BBC World Service is making significant schedule changes with the launch of the A-06 broadcast season on 26th March. Many of these changes were announced last summer, when the BBC announced plans to emphasize news and factual programming on weekdays, with arts, music and feature programming on the weekends. Along with these schedule changes, unfortunately, come further reductions in shortwave service targeting the Western hemisphere.
All frequencies targeting South America and Central America have been closed down; the only remaining shortwave frequencies targeting the Americas is the following service targeting the Caribbean:
Transmissions will emanate from Montsinery, French Guiana except for the 2100 transmission from the USA (Greenville?)
11:00–13:00 Daily 11865 kHz
21:00–22:00 Daily 15390 kHz
21:00–21:30 Mon-Fri 11675 kHz
22:00–23:00 Daily 5975 kHz
Gone is the early morning service from 0900–1100, the early evening service from 2300 to 0100, and the late evening service from 0200 to 0400 targeting South and Central America.
It appears that frequencies targeting Africa and Europe were not substantially reduced, so these will become even more important for daytime listening. Based on the collective notes of listeners who posted frequency suggestion on the swprograms e-list one year ago, here are some alternatives.
0300–0600 7160 kHz
0400–0500 7120 kHz
1200–1600 17640 kHz (actually signs on 0800)
1600–2100 17830 kHz (signs on 1100)
1600–1800 17885 kHz (West Africa), 15105 (North Africa)
1600–2300 15400 kHz
0400–0700 6195 kHz
1600–1900 12095 kHz (North Africa target, but the European stream)
1700–2100 9410 kHz
As always, your mileage may vary widely with these alternatives.
There are significant structural changes in program timings—gone are programs beginning at 45 minutes past the hour. Instead, programs begin at :06 (after the news), :20 (World Business Report and Sports Roundup, typically), :32, :41 (Analysis, Business Daily), and :50 (Sports Roundup). Programs formerly timed at 15 minutes are now squeezed to 9 minutes.
Some cynics might think that the letters BBC now stand for “Business Broadcasting Corporation”, because there is a dramatic increase in the number of business programs broadcast on a daily basis. Depending on which version of the BBC World Service you’re listening to, there are 9 to 12 editions of business-specific programming each day, along with the business segments that appear in Newshour and The World Today.
A new, weekday 18-minutes business program is Business Daily (2132 M–F, 15390 kHz, Europe webcast, and XM). The BBC describes Business Daily as “…a new 18 minute daily program to complement daily business and economics news on the World Service. Business Daily is a highly produced magazine programme dealing with global business and economics in the widest sense, focusing on issues and trends, providing context, reportage, debate, opinion and in-depth interviews, with a 3-minute business news update at the end. Other airtimes include 0141 (Sirius/XM), 0741 (Europe webcast), 1041 (Sirius/XM), and 1541 (Africa SW). Business Daily will also be available on-demand.
Business Brief is a shortened version of Business Daily, and is described as “…. A 9-minute debate on what really matters in the world of business and work”. It airs only on Sirius (and NPR’s service) at the following weekday times (unless days otherwise shown) 0050, 0450, 2120 (Sundays only), 2250 (Sundays-Thursdays).
Culture Shock is a new weekly program that looks across the world at trends in cultural expression—what are people thinking, buying, doing and why. Airtimes and delivery platforms include Mondays 1532 (XM), 1932 (XM), and 2132 (Africa SW), plus Tuesdays 0032 (XM) and 0532 (XM), Saturdays 1632 (Sirius).
You won’t hear Documentary 3 announced as such; it is a new documentary that replaces Masterpiece and will have the arts as a focus. Airtimes and platforms include Fridays 0806 (Europe webcast), 1106 (Europe webcast), 1306 (Africa SW), 1406 (XM) 1906 (XM and Europe Webcast), and 2306 (Europe webcast) plus Saturdays 0006 (XM), 0506 (XM), and 1306 (Africa SW). Documentary 3 will also be available on-demand, most likely.
The Beat is a weekly half-hour magazine show which provides a journalistic guide to popular music globally and the industry that surrounds it. Airtimes include Thursdays 0832 (Europe webcast), 1432 (Europe webcast), 2132 (Africa SW), 2232 (Europe webcast), Fridays 0032 (Africa SW, XM) and 0532 (XM).
Close Up is a weekly half-hour documentary taking listeners deep into creative trends, people and events, or giving new insights into well-established artistic movements and personalities. Fridays 0932 (Europe webcast), 1432 (Europe webcast), 1532 (XM), 1832 (Europe webcast), 1932 (XM), 2132 (Africa SW), 2232 (Europe webcast); Saturdays 0032 (XM, Africa SW) and 0532 (XM), Sundays 0132 (Sirius), 0732 (Sirius), 1732 (Sirius),
Changes to existing programs
Several programs are being renamed: Go Digital becomes Digital Planet; Health Matters will now be Health Check; People and Politics becomes Politics UK; Play of the Week becomes BBC World Drama; and, Write On becomes Over To You.
Heart and Soul is extended to half an hour, incorporating facets of In Praise of God. It aims to bring understanding of the world’s main religions and the beliefs and actions of their followers, and explores the personal side of religious belief and gives insights into worship in different faiths
Outlook had been rumored to be dropped in favor of a new magazine program, but Outlook has now been recast as an hour-long human-interest current affairs program. Airtimes include weekdays at 0206 (Europe webcast), 0832 (Sirius; 30-minute edition), 0906 (Europe webcast), 1306 (XM, Europe webcast, Europe SW), 1432 (Africa SW; 30-minute edition), 1806 (Sirius), 2132 (Sirius; 30-minute edition), 2306 (XM); Tuesdays–Saturdays 0306 (XM).
Programs leaving the air
The end of March saw the last editions of the following programs: British News, Everywoman, In Concert, In Praise of God, Masterpiece, Music Review, The Music Biz, The Music Feature, Off the Shelf, Pick of the World, Sports International, and White Label.
Caribbean shortwave programming
Overlaying the new shortwave schedule on the remaining Caribbean frequencies yields the following. News begins each hour.
1100: (M–F) Caribbean Report, Sport Caribbean, Caribbean Magazine, World Briefing, Analysis, Sports Roundup; (Saturdays) World Briefing, Politics UK; (Sundays) World Briefing, Heart and Soul.
1200: (M–F) Caribbean Business, Caribbean Report, Caribbean Magazine, Outlook (30 minutes); (Saturdays and Sundays) Newshour.
2100: (M–F) Sports Roundup, Caribbean Report, Business Daily, Sports Roundup (twice in the same hour); (Saturdays) World Briefing, Sports Roundup, Discovery (Sundays) World Briefing, Sports Roundup, The Instant Guide, Over to You.
2200: (M–F) World Briefing, World Business Report, (Mondays) Health Check, (Tuesdays) Digital Planet, (Wednesdays) Discovery, (Thursdays) One Planet, (Fridays) Science In Action; (Saturdays) From Our Own Correspondent, World Business Review; (Sundays) Documentary 1, Heart And Soul.
It’s an obvious disappointment to see further reductions in shortwave usage that would be generally audible here in North America. That makes the BBC even more difficult to hear as a casual shortwave listener. Of course, the BBC continues to emphasize other delivery platforms, such as satellite radio, live webcasts, on-demand webcasts, and now podcasts. Off the Shelf will be missed by many, as the program became a habitual listen for many in the late evening. That seems to be a net loss. Business Daily seems somewhat redundant to World Business Report, but the focus on issues and trends, with a helping of analysis and insight, makes the program potentially worth a daily listen. The creation of a new documentary series should bring more variety in subject matter to the World Service, and variety is good. The loss of a British News segment is unfortunate; I remember when there was a 3 day/week program called Network UK that provided a good insight into domestic UK stories and events; alas, domestic British news is now underreported on the World Service.
The next significant improvement I hope the BBC World Service adopts is a deeper archive of its non-news programming, such as From Our Own Correspondent, Assignment, and Analysis. The ABC’s Radio National generally has a four-week rolling archive, and that seems like a decent inventory.
Other April features
There is a one-time hour long special, London Calling, airing Sunday, April 2nd, at 1300 (XM, Sirius, Europe webcast), 1800 (XM) and 1900 (Europe webcast) that is slated to cover the end of several of the foreign language services. I am not sure if on-demand listening will be offered. Not sure if this will be Bush House spin or if an opportunity for debate will exist.
The World Today one-hour broadcast is now distilled down to a 15-minute podcast called World Today Select.
Other seasonal changes
Saturday Connection changes names to Weekend Connection, as some stations are airing the program on Sundays, not Saturdays. The listener feedback portion of Weekend Connection is moved to a new program, Dutch Extra, described as an eclectic mix of items meant to contrast with Amsterdam Forum, which precedes it on the schedule. Bertine Krol, of Dutch Horizons, will also host Dutch Extra. Amsterdam Forum is scaled back to 40 minutes to make it easier to produce. Otherwise there are no programming schedule changes.
Voice of Russia
People of Uncommon Destiny will replace The Whims of Fate Saturdays 0330. The Voice of Russia will broadcast four hours daily to North America from 0100 to 0500.
Radio Canada International
The 1400–1700 USA transmission moves to 1300–1600; the 2100–2300 transmission targeting the Southeastern US moves to 2000–2200 and moves up to 17765 kHz, which might work out better to the USA. The 2300–0000 broadcast moves to 0100–0200 UTC, but parallels the content in the 0000–0200 broadcast. There are no programming changes.
Voice of America
Some changes here, too—Talk To America now goes out at 1400 UTC. Daybreak Africa now airs for the first 30 minutes of each hour, from 0300 through 0630. South Asia News Now is scaled back to a single hour, 0100–0200. Use of shortwave continues to be threatened with reduction; hopefully you’ve all written your members of Congress to tell them how important the VOA is as a countermeasure to the propagation of terror.
Thanks to all for your help at the WinterFest!
It was great to see so many old friends and make some new ones in Kulpsville this year. The mix of informative and entertaining topics really helps the time speed by, and we’re especially excited to be planning already for the 20th Fest next year. We’re already budgeting an extra day to accommodate sessions that reflect on the changes in shortwave broadcasting that we’ve seen over the life of the Fest. It will be a reunion for those who have attended over the decades—both for radio enthusiasts as well as for broadcasters who have joined us over the years. Mark your calendars now for March 8th through 10th, 2007 for the 20th (!) Winter SWL Festival.
Part of what makes the Fest so enjoyable—even as a “co-Festmeister”—is the spontaneous help provided during the weekend. Having so many folks willing to help makes the entire process much easier to manage. Thanks again to all who helped in one way or another.
Switzerland In Sound covers the Fest
As I’ve mentioned before—Bob Zanotti, now retired from Swiss Radio International, has a website of audio programming available for online listening or downloading at http://www.switzerlandinsound.com. Bob produced a one-hour program on this year’s Fest; mouse over the left column navigation bar to the box labeled The Two Bobs, at which point you’ll see the link to Bob’s report on the Fest. Almost as good as being there, except you have to provide your own tuning oil. There are several interesting program topics there—it’s definitely worth visiting, because Swiss Radio International no longer broadcasts in English on shortwave or other delivery platforms.
Have a great April—see you next month!
73 DE Richard