By Oldrich Cip
|Oldrich Cip - Chairman of the HFCC © HFCC|
If shortwave had been discovered today instead of eight decades ago it would be hailed as an amazing new technology with great potential for the world we live in today.
John Tusa, Former Director, BBC World Service
The current multi-platform media environment has created both challenges and opportunities for shortwave radio. While a number of shortwave broadcasting services have recently been severely cut or completely phased out, this distinctive medium remains relevant for a large critical audience interested in programming that focuses on both regional and international affairs and is broadcast from the perspective of different communities around the world.
Shortwave - Workhorse of the Past?
A shortwave transmitter can reach both local and global audiences. This is due to the unique long-distance propagation property of shortwave radio by means of multiple reflections from layers in the upper earth's atmosphere. Shortwave radio can provide service where other platforms such as satellite, FM or Internet are unavailable due to high cost, geographical location, lack of infrastructure, or even during natural or man-made disasters. Receivers are inexpensive and require no access fees. Shortwave radio is important for people living or travelling in isolated regions. It reaches across the digital divide to the most disadvantaged and marginalised societies. This is in keeping with the Declaration and Action Plan of the World Summit on the Information Society.
The prospect of rising affluence in many world regions creates an increasing opportunity for this specific delivery platform. Three billion people - or 50 per cent - of world population lives below the poverty line on less than 2.50 USD a day.1 Their first choice of communication devices will be a mobile telephone, a radio or both. For most, listening to a local FM channel, a community station or an international broadcast is still more affordable than a computer, a television or other electronic devices.
Shortwave Radio in Emergencies
Shortwave radio is still regarded as a powerful communications tool during emergency situations.
During disasters, local and regional communication networks can be overloaded or destroyed, resulting in an information blackout. Poor information flow during disasters is a source frustration and anger among victims. Shortwave radio often remains the only source of information for those affected.
Amateur radio enthusiasts have traditionally used shortwave communications to share information during emergencies when other communications systems fail. This practice is recognised and appreciated both by the public and the regulating bodies responsible for managing radio frequency spectrum. In contrast, professional broadcast facilities, whose transmitters are 10 to 100 times more powerful than those of amateur operators, are rarely used in emergencies.
Reduced interest and funding of shortwave broadcasting, including the dismantling of infrastructure, will make shortwave broadcasting during humanitarian disasters more difficult or even impossible.
Radio for Distance Education
Shortwave radio is an invaluable tool in distance education. It reaches children, women and men in areas where traditional education systems cannot due to lack of financial means, education infrastructure or accessibility. Shortwave radio can be used to promote literacy amongst youth and adults alike. Moreover, it can be used to empower women and girls in societies where the right to education is denied due to gender biased. Radio can also be used to provide health education and information to communities during epidemics or following a natural or man-made disaster.
(Source : UNESCO.ORG via Alokesh Gupta's RadioActivity Blog)