Bearish about shortwave (updated).

Posted: 01 Oct 2006   Print   Send a link
"After the Berlin Wall fell and new media forms flourished, there was less need for shortwave transmissions in developed countries. International broadcasters like RFI of France and the BBC started striking hundreds of partnership agreements with local FM stations to rebroadcast their programs with clearer sound." International Herald Tribune, 24 September 2006. "I suspect that whatever is left of shortwave will be relegated to fringe use, mostly by missionaries and the underappreciated amateur/ham radio community." John Dvorak, PC Magazine, 25 September 2006. All this might convince more international broadcasting managers to dismantle their shortwave plants in favor of newer, more attractive media. But then come events like the recent coup in Thailand, when local FM and cable television outlets suddenly became unavailable. Or in Iran, where satellite signals are jammed, dishes confiscated, and websites blocked. Because shortwave propagates better over long distances than over short distances, it is the only medium of international broadcasting that has some physical immunity from jamming. Decision makers may learn this lesson too late, and that will be the end of international broadcasting. For arguments why it is a good idea to maintain a shortwave capability, see "No comprendo: why the largest English-speaking country should broadcast to the world in English," Radio Netherlands Media Network, 16 February 2006. Update: "When there is a crisis in a country, and the local FM relays, Web sites and satellite output are interrupted, shortwave continues to be the only means of direct international mass media communication." Jeff White, letter to IHT, 1 October 2006.