Deutsche Welle plans cutbacks

Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcaster that has been operating since 1953, has been ordered by the German government to cut expenses. Deutsche Welle has prepared a 400 page report detailing plans to tighten its focus by dropping shortwave and reducing mediumwave (what is known as AM in the United States) broadcasts. For more details, here is a Deutsche Presse-Agentur story and also a Deutsche Welle press release (in German).

Deutsche Welle’s new focus will be FM broadcasts in target areas, which include Asia, Africa, Arab countries, Iran, and Latin America. In another big change, Deutsche Welle will no longer target German expatriates. It also sounds as though the German government will have more of a role in keeping Deutsche Welle’s output compatible with German foreign policy.

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Although obtaining an amateur radio license no longer requires demonstrating a proficiency in Morse code, interest in Morse code doesn’t seem to have taken the nose dive that some had predicted. I think that many now regard Morse code as an elite skill rather than the unpleasant (but mandatory) task it used to be.

Another Loss for North American Shortwave

I was saddened to learn that Radio Netherlands is ending shortwave transmissions to North America, effective October 26, 2008. Radio Netherlands was one of the first shortwave stations I ever heard and I have spent many enjoyable hours over the years listening to their programs.

I’m sure this move makes financial sense for Radio Netherlands, just as I’m sure dropping shortwave broadcasts to North America made financial sense for the BBC. There are no broadcasters with budgets large enough to transmit to everywhere in the world and it only makes sense to allocate limited resources to areas deemed most important. But it’s still sad to watch the steady decline of shortwave services to North America.

Reprieve for Online Radio

Many believe that online radio is the successor to all radio, not just AM and FM but also shortwave. I personally find that hard to believe unless broadband access becomes more common than it is now. But just about everyone agrees that the royalty rates for online radio in the United States are set too high for most stations to survive. It would therefore seem obvious to me that the rates need to be lowered. For once, that may be happening.

Satellite Radio and the HD Radio Requirement

Back when there was debate about the Sirius and XM satellite radio merger, various groups suggested potential conditions that might be made part of the deal. Some were discarded but others were agreed upon. For example, both companies made an open device pledge that will allow manufacturers to add features to their receivers.

One frequently suggested condition was a requirement that all new satellite radios be capable of receiving terrestrial HD Radio stations. The FCC didn’t make that part of the deal, although they are still requesting public comments on the idea. Now Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) has introduced the “Radio All Digital Channel Receiver Act”, which would make the FCC implement that HD Radio requirement.

An Expanded FM Band?

A group known as the Broadcast Maximization Committee, or BMC, made an interesting proposal to the FCC last month.  They want to expand the FM radio band to encompass television channels 5 and 6 (the ordinary FM band is positioned between television channels 6 and 7). The goal for this would be to reduce interference. You can read their complete proposal here: TV Channel 5-6 Radio Proposal.

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