Ha ha — you want to commercialize what?!

KUSW tried, without luck, to make money playing rock music on shortwave radio from 1987 to 1991. It was purchased in 1991 by a religious broadcaster alleged to have unceremoniously held a bonfire to burn KUSW's "sinful" music library.

KUSW tried, without luck, to make money playing rock music on shortwave radio from 1987 to 1991. It was purchased in 1991 by a religious broadcaster alleged to have unceremoniously held a bonfire to burn KUSW’s “sinful” music library.

Years ago, television advertisements encouraged Canadians traveling abroad to take their shortwave radios along so that they could tune in Radio Canada International, a division of the CBC, to keep up with the news from back home. In the pre-Internet era, it was a useful public service that not only kept vacationers in the loop, but was also used by Canadian diplomats and other expatriates living abroad, and to reach foreigners keen to learn more about Canada.

RCI and other government-owned shortwave broadcasters, such as the Voice of America, the BBC World Service and Radio Havana Cuba, operated in a now-obscure part of the radio spectrum between 5 and 20 megahertz, well above the 530-1700 kilohertz AM band and below the TV frequencies that begin at 54 megahertz.

Though the sound quality on the shortwave band was mediocre at best, the signals could travel several thousand miles under good conditions, well beyond the range of AM and FM stations.

But shortwave listeners were too few and far between, and reception was too reliant on the vagaries of atmospheric conditions, for the frequencies to have much commercial value. Thus, shortwave long remained the domain of dull state broadcasters, and God-casters promoting Jesus to whoever happened to be listening.

Not that a few didn’t try to make money on shortwave.

Superrock KYOI set up operations on the tiny U.S. Pacific island of Saipan in 1982, and broadcast American rock music to Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and the Soviet Union’s Far East; but gave up in 1989 and sold the station to a religious broadcaster.

But the real death of commercial shortwave radio seemed to take place on Dec. 16, 1991 when KUSW Salt Lake City, another rock station targeting Canada and a small domestic audience, left the air for the last time after a four-year run.

Its new owners, a California-based religious organization called Trinity Broadcasting, not only bestowed the station with a new set of call letters — KTBN — when it returned to the air two days later, but is alleged to have perversely held a public bonfire to burn the late KUSW’s music library.

Twenty-three years later, however, a Florida broadcaster believes that shortwave commercial broadcasting’s time might have finally come.

At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 31, Global 24 — no relation to Canada’s Global Television — took to the air as a 24-hour news and entertainment station targeting the Americas, Europe and Africa from a transmitter site in southern Florida.

“Global 24 represents another step in the long overdue commercialization of shortwave radio,” the manager of the company that owns and operates Global 24’s transmitters said in an Oct. 21 news release. “We are excited to be working with them on their ambitious program to engage and entertain a global audience.”

“Shortwave radio is a medium for the 21st century. No other medium provides for global access of information on a handheld device without access to an infrastructure, satellite, internet connection or membership fee,” the station notes on its web site as its rationale for using 9395 kHz (9.395 MHz) — a frequency few North American households have the necessary radios to tune in.

The station’s programming is eclectic to say the least, ranging from the left-leaning “Democracy Now” public affairs show to a musical program called “Global Music and Turkish Talent Box”, an arts program called “Shakespeare on Shortwave”, and a weekly science program called “Exploration”.

A program on “Survival, Homesteading and Off the Grid Living” is said to be in the works.

If nothing else, Global 24’s launch is a gutsy move, as even government-owned and religious broadcasters have dramatically reduced or eliminated their shortwave presence in recent years, viewing it as an old technology made obsolete by the Internet. (Radio Canada International maintains a small online presence, having closed down its shortwave radio operation in 2012.)

Yet Global 24 isn’t necessarily hostile to the Internet. If you’re one of the many who doesn’t own a shortwave radio — or even knew what “shortwave” was before reading this post — the station also broadcasts online.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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