NASWA Journal Columns · Shortwave Center, September 2006

John Figliozzi • 45 Algonquin Rd. • Clifton Park, NY 12065 jfiglio1◊

Shortwave Center, September 2006

Howdy. Recently there was an interesting dialogue on the ODXA (that other prominent North American radio club) chat board concerning the decline of radio clubs and lack of member participation in pursuits—well, like this one! One result, though was an offer from an ODXA member to offer something he had written for publication here. Knowing a good offer when I see one, I immediately accepted. Our first article this month is the first fruit of that dialogue.

We follow that up this month with some pertinent items likely to be of interest to Journal readers from the Association for International Broadcasting’s various summer industry briefings that are sent periodically by e-mail to members. The AIB is the industry association for international, cross-border television and radio broadcasting.

But first, there’s an interesting piece about NASWA history from the archives of none other than Mr. Jerry Berg, who among other very worthy pursuits heads up the Committee for the Preservation of Radio Verifications (CPRV).

Sterling Pike, Lost and Found

by Jerry Berg

38 Eastern Avenue

Lexington, MA 02421


Even long time NASWA members will be forgiven for drawing a blank on: who was Sterling Pike? The answer: He was the first president of NASWA, and until recently virtually nothing was known about him. Now, thanks to information from Ted Rowe of St. John’s, Newfoundland, who is writing a book on the history of Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, we know a good deal about our founding father.

Ham QSL card with call VO1EH

The first NASWA bulletin, a one-pager, appears to have been issued in September 1961. (The correct acronym was “NASA” until November 1966 when it was changed in order to avoid any confusion with that “other” organization.) Unfortunately, the first three issues of the NASWA club bulletin, which might have shed some light on Pike, are lost to history. The oldest surviving issue is #4, March 1, 1962, by which time Pike’s name is crossed out on the masthead, Richard D. Roll of Hamburg, New York by then having taken over as president. However, a non-alphabetized list of the club’s 44 members in issue #5 shows Sterling D. Pike as member No. 1.

In later years Pike preferred the name David Sterling Pike. He was born on January 21, 1942, making him 19 years old when the club was formed. He was a native of Carbonear, Newfoundland, and an employee of the Western Union cable station in Heart’s Content, site of the landing of the first successful Atlantic cable in 1866. For more on the Heart’s Content cable station, see . The station closed in July 1965, and Ted Rowe’s research reveals that Pike had been one of the last employees hired.

The Heart’s Content personnel were transferred to the United States and required to take out U.S. citizenship, whereupon Pike, the only single man in the group, managed to get himself drafted into the U.S. army. He finished basic training and returned home. When called up for duty (it is believed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey), he got as far as New York before he had a change of heart and decided unilaterally—probably because Vietnam was heating up—that he didn’t really want to serve in Uncle Sam’s army. He returned to Newfoundland, where he remained for the next 30-plus years.

SWL QSL card carry pseudo-call of VO1RAM

Although Pike soon disappeared from the club, his interest in radio continued. Some of his SWL and QSL cards have survived, and copies were provided Rowe by Frank Davis, VO1HP, who knew Pike well from his early days in Carbonear. Pike’s SWL card carries the “call” VO1RAM, seemingly self-assigned “call letters” (at the time, hams were assigned two letter suffixes, none even close to “R”). Perhaps they represented the words Radio AMateur. The card also carried references to NASA, as well as the ARRL and the CDXC. (The Canadian DX Club was the first national level Canadian SWL club, operating from 1961 to 1968.) Ted Rowe learned that Pike received his legitimate ham call, VO1EH, in 1963. He was VE1EJ from 1969, and VO1GW from 1981. He also held the WPE call VE1PE1AG.

Pike worked for Eastern Telegraph & Telephone in Nova Scotia. ET&T was a subsidiary of AT&T and operated cables until the cable service was discontinued in 1982. Then he worked for Newfoundland Telephone Co. Ltd., where he was employed until he died on July 23, 1994. He left his mother, a brother, various nieces and nephews and other family members, and through the miracle of the Internet his gravestone can be viewed at (fourth from the last; note the call letters).

A bit more is known about NASWA vice-president and treasurer Richard D. Roll, who lived in Hamburg, New York. Roll, WPE2ALE, was featured in Hank Bennett’s “Short-Wave Report” column in the December 1960 issue of Popular Electronics (p. 80), at which time Roll was 17 years old. He was a member of the NNRC, the Universal Radio DX Club, and “The DXer” (which is a new one on me). He was using a Hallicrafters SX-110, having graduated from an S-107. He had 42 QSLs, the most prized being from Radio Peking and the Windward Islands Broadcasting Service. He listened to SWBC and utility stations.

Thanks to Ted Rowe for sharing this information with us. It all goes to prove that “large DX oaks from little DX acorns grow.” If you want to know more about the history of NASWA, the club’s history through 1981 can be found in three places: (1) Don Jensen’s three part series on the subject appeared in the FRENDX “Shortwave Center” column for June, August and November of 1981; (2) Richard A. D’Angelo, “An Early History of NASWA,” NASWA Journal, July 1999, p. 13 (written from material compiled by Don); and (3) Don Jensen, “40 Years of the North American Shortwave Association,” NASWA Journal, September 2001, p. 13, in which Don updated his earlier work. The 2001 article is also posted at .

Earths and Grounds

By Blair Batty VE3CZY, Simcoe, ON.

I’ve noticed some confusion about earths and grounds so would like to offer some thoughts.

  1. An Earth is not the same thing as a ground, though they often are…

    An earth is an electrical connection with the planet, perhaps to a copper rod pounded into your back yard…

    A ground (in regard to electronics) is the “common signal return path” (rf, dc, audio, etc). Shields are a mechanical extension of the ground, surrounding what it protects.

    For there to be current flow you need a closed loop. In a flashlight, the power flows from the positive of the battery, goes thru the lamp and returns to the battery negative. By convention, in electronics, the flashlight negative return path would be it’s signal ground. In a radio, the power, audio and rf signal returns are typically bonded together as the “ground”; again, for ground loop (noise) reasons.

  2. All radios have a ground, they do not need an earth. Hand-held radios work just fine, without a connection to earth., as do radios in airplanes, space ships, UFO’s, etc.

  3. Why Earths then?

    LIGHTNING!!!: In a storm, there is a buildup of electrons in the clouds that want to get to the earth. Radio towers should be “earthed” to provide a safe path.

    Utility Power Safety: A typical electrical outlet has three wires: Hot, neutral and ground. (Note that to an electronics person the “Neutral’ is actually a ground or return path, and the “ground” is actually an earth…).

    Since most people stand on the earth, they typically have a charge on them similar to the earth. The electric utilities figured out that by bonding the Neutral to the earth people wouldn’t get a shock from a neutral, reducing the chance of electrocution by 50%.

    Then the utilities realized that if they encased electrical connections in a earthed metal box (and sometimes even placed wires inside earthed pipe or armor), and earthed an appliance’s metal surfaces, a HOT wire that somehow got loose and exposed would contact one of these earthed surfaces, causing a short that blows the fuse. If the appliance’s metal surfaces were not earthed, in a short to a Hot wire, the metal surface would become electrified, until “earthed” thru a person. So the third wire ground (actually earth) is provided for safety.

  4. So why ground a radio system? You single-point bond all of the signal grounds and shields together to short out ground-loops that cause noise (note: I didn’t say anything about earth here).

    An “earth” is not a magic septic tank in the soil to dump unwanted radio frequency interference and noise. It simply doesn’t work that way. Indeed, an earth is actually a very noisy place, seething with all sorts of signals from everyone else’s earths…

  5. So why earth a radio system? No need, except:

    1. The receiver chassis (which is likely bonded to the radio signal ground) is likely earthed thru the “ground” safety wire of the power connection.
    2. Your antenna coax shield will (and should) be earthed thru your antenna lightning surge protector. You do have one, don’t you?
    3. Some antenna designs use an earth as a counterpose.
    4. An un-earthed radio ground could float as some potential above earth. Perhaps a leaky capacitor in a transmitter is dumping RF onto the station ground. If that ground (via the audio wire shield) is exposed on a microphone’s metal case, a person could get an RF burn from the microphone. (Remember, people are typically at earth potential). Bonding station ground to earth makes the station safer.
    5. As you see from a) b) c) and d) you probably already have multiple earths, so possible ground (uh, earth) loops. So it would be best ito bond all earths and grounds to a common point to stop ground loops, as well as for safety reasons.
    6. For lightning and surge protection. Lightning and surge pulses—whether on the antenna coax, power line or phone line—is simply another form of noise. The best defense is single point grounding, bonded to earth.

Occasionally I’ll hear someone say that they installed a ground (actually an earth) and it made things worse. All they are saying is that they did it wrong and caused a ground loop…

So why earth? Lightning, safety and ground loops!

AIB Industry Briefing Items

(from several summer e-mail editions)

China plans to muzzle domestic disaster reporting

A Chinese law imposing fines on media that report emergencies such as riots and natural disasters without official approval could go into effect by October, the government announced earlier this month. The announcement led to a rights group urging the Beijing government to scrap it with critics saying that the proposed law raised concerns over journalists’ right to report on matters of public interest. News organisations that report on emergencies without authorisation or issue “fraudulent reports” would be fined between EUR5,000 and EUR10,000 under the draft law, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The legislation defines emergencies as industrial accidents, natural disasters, health and public security crisis. The draft law has been discussed by Chinese legislators in the first of three planned legislative hearings. Xinhua quoted an official with the Legislative Office under the State Council as saying the draft law, which has been under revision since 2003, was “not aimed at controlling the media.” Instead, the official suggested, “the focus is on banning the release of false or bias news reports.”

New newsroom for Radio Netherlands

Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the Dutch International Service and AIB Member, opened its new-look newsroom—the largest foreign newsroom in the Netherlands—on 19 June. The official opening was performed by Jan Hoekema, Director and Ambassador and for International Cultural Cooperation at the Dutch Foreign Ministry who stressed the importance of Radio Netherlands in delivering information to countries where press freedom is restricted.

The re-designed newsroom reflects the new policy of “one station, one sound.” Whereas previously the working space was divided into clusters for different language services whose staff worked independently of the others, the new design is more open-plan and is based around a large, central desk, which is used for the planning and coordination of news broadcasts in nine languages. Material and ideas will be shared across the different languages, and there will be more consistency in the way major stories are covered. The refurbishment of the newsroom was carried out in just 10 days. Around 150 journalists had to be moved to temporary accommodation while the work took place, and regular broadcasts and Internet services were maintained. Apart from a new layout, furnishings and carpeting, the IT department has replaced all the computer workstations in the newsroom and throughout the Radio Netherlands Worldwide building. The old computers, about 500 in total, will be passed to Dutch NGO’s that can use them in projects abroad.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide Director-General Jan Hoek says of the new-look newsroom “It’s not only a striking symbol of the beating journalistic heart of our organisation, but also a milestone in its revitalisation and the introduction of the new working procedures.”

RFE/RL to have new broadcasting centre in Prague

The move of US-funded international broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from the former Czech Parliament Building in central Prague to a new site has been approved. It is understood that funding has been approved for the construction of a new state-of-the-art broadcasting centre for RFE/RL’s radio and television operations which are to be located in the Prague 10 district of Hagibor. Construction of the new building will be carried out by the Orco Property Group and it is expected that the building will be ready for occupation during late 2007. (

Satellite radio for Europe gets closer

Subscription satellite radio services, similar to those offered by Sirius and XM in North America, have come a step closer with the agreement of Italy’s telecoms authorities to licence terrestrial repeaters to augment WorldSpace satellite transmissions. The US-based satellite radio company has said it’s signed an agreement with Sodielec, a French company specialising in transmission solutions, to develop terrestrial repeater prototypes that will enable WorldSpace to expand its satellite radio and data services to cars and other vehicles across Western Europe, beginning in Italy.

Sodielec was selected through an RFP process that included corporations from around the world. WorldSpace expects to evaluate the Sodielec prototypes in Q4 2006 with production and deployment slated for 2007, when it expects to launch Europe’s first digital satellite radio and data service for both portable and vehicle-based devices.

“This agreement represents a key component of the execution of WorldSpace’s commitment to our European business objectives by extending the unique, personal experience already enjoyed by consumers in India, Africa and the Middle East, to Italy and the rest of Western Europe,” said Alexander P. Brown, co-chief operating officer, WorldSpace. (

Alhurra launches in Europe

The US-based Alhurra television channel has launched in Europe, available on Eutelsat’s Hotbird 3. Broadcasting in Arabic, Alhurra’s European feed offers viewers the same news and information that can be seen by audiences throughout the Middle East. Joaquin Blaya, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s (BBG) Middle East Committee, said: “We are very excited about bringing Alhurra’s brand of comprehensive and accurate news and information to Arabic speakers throughout Europe. This is a very important audience who should have an alternative to the current main sources of Arabic-language TV news in Europe: Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. This is not a sprint, but a marathon as we continue to grow and become a voice of objective news to Arabic speaking viewers in the Middle East and Europe.” Alhurra—and its sister radio operation, Radio Sawa—and the Broadcasting Board of Governors are Members of the AIB.

Iran clamps down on dishes

Iran’s law enforcement agencies are taking steps against the increasing number of satellite dishes being used across the country. A report in the Iranian newspaper, Aftab-e Yazd, says that visible dishes will be confiscated—many are apparently put out of windows and can be clearly seen. Satellite equipment is not legal in Iran although householders have increasingly installed equipment to receive programming from outside the country. Until recently, the authorities had turned a blind eye to satellite dishes. Separately, Iran’s state broadcaster is believed to be about to embark on a major refitting campaign for much of its radio and TV infrastructure and is looking at launching an English-language TV channel.

China’s internet use grows

The China Internet Network Information Centre has announced that the number of Internet users in the People’s Republic has risen to 123 million at the end of June, up from 103 million a year earlier. Broadband subscribers are claimed to be 77 million, some two-thirds of the total Internet population in China. Restrictions on access to websites outside the country continue to be rigorously enforced. Last month, Amnesty International released a report concerning the role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google in what it calls “internet repression”.

France plans digital switch-off timetable

The French move to digital TV starts in 2007 and will be complete by 2011. That’s the news in the country following the government’s approval of a bill covering digital migration and brings France all but in line with the UK where a similar timetable has been set out. However it is not all plain sailing as major players who are leading the move to digital TV are being given additional channels as a reward for making the change happen. Unfair, say smaller channels that don’t have the resources of large companies such as Canal+ and M6 to promote digital TV on a major scale.

HD Radio pushes “it’s free” message

HD Radio in the US is receiving a major on-air promotional boost through the HD Radio Alliance, a cross-industry body that’s been established to develop HD Radio as a major consumer proposition. Commercials are running on the analogue stations that are running HD Radio services, pushing the merits of high-quality sound and the availability of additional “stations between the stations”. In a swipe at Sirius and XM, many of the HD Radio commercials stress that there’s no cost involved—except, of course, the new receivers consumers will need to buy!

UN and Fox benefit from monitoring

Unlikely bed-fellows, perhaps, but both the United Nations and Fox Television have signed contracts with AIB Member Teletrax for media monitoring. The UN has a radio and TV department that produces content for broadcasters around the world. It wants to know who’s using which content and for how long, and has turned to London-based Teletrax for the solution. An invisible watermark will be added to all UN TV content that Teletrax’s global network of monitoring stations will be able to see and report back on usage to UN headquarters in New York.

Similarly Fox Television wants to know how much use of its promotional material affiliate stations are using. It’s selected Teletrax to embed a watermark in all trails and promos and report back on the number of spots used and their times and duration.

NHK to cut international radio services

As the AIB forecast earlier this year, NHK is to cut its international radio operations and move additional resources into its global television channel, NHK World. German, Italian, Malay and Swedish language services will close in October 2007, reducing the number of foreign language radio services to 18. At the same time, short wave radio services will be cut to Europe and North America. NHK says that it will also use some of the savings to improve its English-language service.

More organisations join the AIB

The AIB’s membership continues to grow—the latest organisations to join are ABC Radio Australia and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (which runs Alhurra and Radio Sawa). AIB Members benefit from an immense range of activities that the organisation provides throughout the year including, for example, market intelligence briefings, tender information, networking, lobbying and promotion. Later this month, the AIB is holding a private dinner in conjunction with AIB Member Deutsche Welle during the Berlin MedienForum where AIB Members will be able to meet specially-invited guests from the media, regulators and the world of politics for off-the-record discussions and networking. That’s just one of the regional events that the AIB organises to bring Members together and to provide the opportunity to meet opinion-formers in the media.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide searches for the ‘new’ Rembrandt

As part of the celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the birth of Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn, AIB Member Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) has launched an international competition under the title ‘Inspired by Rembrandt’. Artists around the globe are invited to submit their entries via the official website They will compete for a place in a special workshop at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, a leading Dutch art institute. The best submissions will be shown at an exhibition in the Netherlands.

Artists can enter their paintings or photographs until 30 September 2006. A jury of experts will then select 10 semi-finalists, whose entries will be posted on A voting form on the website will allow the general public to pick the winning piece of art from 15 October to 30 November.

Celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth are being held in the Netherlands throughout the 2006. In its capacity as an ambassador of Dutch culture, Radio Netherlands Worldwide is providing an international multimedia platform for this ‘Rembrandt Year’ through radio, television and the internet. Earlier this year Radio Netherlands Worldwide released the radio drama ‘The Edges of the Night Watch’ in Dutch, English, Spanish, Indonesian, French and Italian.

There is much more about Rembrandt on the website at .

Australian international TV rebrands

Australia Channel is the new name for ABC Asia Pacific, the ABC’s international TV channel targeting viewers in the region. Operated under contract from the Australian government, Australia Network draws on an inventory of programming available from both the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Australian commercial television networks and independent production houses from around the world. The name change—which took effect on 7 August—will also see the channel providing three separate streams to cater for time differences across the region.

Read more Shortwave Center columns.

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