Alaskan Shortwave Test

Courtesy Media Network, I saw this article about a proposed experiment with DRM broadcasting in Alaska. If approved by the FCC, this will test whether government surplus transmitters could be used to transmit a DRM signal to cover the entire state of Alaska and what transmitter power would be necessary. If it worked, this could be used to establish a statewide local radio service for Alaska.

DRM in this case stands for Digital Radio Mondiale. To quote from the official DRM web site:

Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) is the universal, openly standardised, digital radio system for short-wave, medium-wave and long-wave – digital radio for the radio frequencies below 30MHz.

I have heard about DRM for years, but with the apparent demise of shortwave broadcasting (at least in North America and Europe), I had expected the idea of digital shortwave broadcasting to fade away. Many people think that DRM has come too late to make much of a difference, although the DRM Consortium might disagree with that assessment. At its best, DRM could mean shortwave broadcasts with no fading, whistling, hiss, or any of the other things that have always characterized shortwave listening. Some people regard that as heresy (shortwave listening is supposed to be difficult), but I find the concept very appealing. Maybe there are some other unconventional uses out there for DRM that could help shake things up a bit.

The source of the article, 26MHz.us, is an interesting site on its own. They are trying to promote FCC rule changes that would allow domestic local radio broadcasting on the 26MHz shortwave band using DRM. It might not be common knowledge, but shortwave broadcasters from the United States are not allowed to target listeners within the United States. The FCC only licenses shortwave stations for international broadcasting, for reasons that I believe date back to the Cold War.

There are many obstacles to the 26MHz idea (such as the complete absence of DRM receivers), but I am intrigued by the idea of one local station covering a state as large as Alaska. I am reminded of a story I once heard from someone who took a trip to eastern Europe back in the 1980’s. I don’t remember why he went, but he ended up driving a truck from one city to another distant city and then back again. What I found remarkable was that even though his trip covered many hundreds of miles, he listened to the same longwave station on his car radio, day and night, for the entire trip. Longwave is different from shortwave, but that would sure be hard to achieve with a FM station!

2 comments on “Alaskan Shortwave Test

  • Thanks for the visit, Matthew.

    The Alaskan experiment is not at 26 MHz. It will use other bands more suited to coverage of that very large state. 26 MHz would be for city or smaller coverage.

    International broadcasting is in decline in the developed world, but other countries besides the U.S. face a shortage of frequency spectrum for local broadcasting. The unique 26 MHz band, combined with DRM could be one solution if broadcasters and receiver makers get on board.

  • Thanks for the comment and the clarification. I like your ideas for local
    broadcasting on shortwave and I hope the FCC changes the rules to allow
    this. Good luck with your efforts.

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