Friday, March 13, 2020

MN.14.12.1989. Spy Numbers special

This programme focuses on the mysterious world of spy number stations, a topic which frequently came up in the early Media Network programmes. One of the most interesting editions included an extensive interview with the author "Havana Moon" who we were able to contact on condition we didn't reveal his location or name. 

"Spy Numbers Transmissions" are a shortwave oddity which have been around for the last 70+ years. In 1989 they were commonly heard in English, German, Spanish and the Slavic languages and took the form of four and five-digit groups of numbers which were preceded by a three-digit "identifier" and a "group count" which corresponds to the number of number groups transmitted in the crypt. They are generally broadcast by a mechanical-sounding female announcer, although Morse code (CW) "cut number" transmissions are also frequently reported. The "who" and "why" aspects of these transmissions are, for the most part, unknown. Their mysterious nature has resulted in their common characterization as 'spy' transmissions. The spy theory has been enhanced over the years by the FCC's inconsistent position in response to numerous inquiries by the Shortwave Listening community. In regards the "where" - a number of sites have been identified in recent years, notably in Warrenton and Remington, VA and Miami, FL. In addition, with the aid of sophisticated (radio direction finding) equipment and the invaluable assistance of highly authoritative and professional resources, several new transmission sites have been positively identified, including sites in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba and Cozumel. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Sunday, March 08, 2020

MN.22.05.1986.EDXC Paris

I remember recording this edition of the programme very late at night in the hotel room. I made the recordings on a UHER 4000 and spent about 3 hours cutting tape with a razor blade and splicing block. I recall that EDXC didn't get too much support from Radio France that year, so they resorted to holding it in a rather dodgy hotel. When I got back to my car, all four tyres had been spiked and we had to pay a local garage a small fortune to tow the car and repair things. 

The programme starts with progress on France's first direct broadcast satellite TDF-1. In the end, the whole project was eclipsed by the Astra satellite. We were at the very beginning of connecting a computer to control a shortwave radio. I spoke with the late Kjell Stroem of Yaesu who was clear that this was the future. Roger Ellis of Japan Radio Company said the 1985 turnover of the company was 450 million dollars. We spoke to Larry Magne in PA, USA who had published a series of test reviews. They had the RDI NRD-525 and an overview of how to judge specifications. Jeff White had news to report about Radio Discovery. George Wood of Radio Sweden explained about the DXers Guide to Computing and why they had to charge $3 for it. Andy Sennitt updates us on the WRTH 40th anniversary. He reports hearing the clandestine Radio Iran on 9400 kHz. Roland Paget the conference organiser said there were 170 participants. Mike Bird concludes with the propagation report. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.10.03.1983 PA6PCJ Botswana HOS

This is an early Media Network in which John Campbell reports that Radio Liberation, the voice of Chilean Resistance, has been trying some guerrilla broadcasting by breaking into the audio of several sports networks during football matches.  Radio Delmare in Belgium has become more audible. There was a promo for PA6PCJ, with a special ham radio station operating from the station building. I remember co-hosting some of the broadcasts on April 30th together with Grant Coburn. We review the Moscow Muffler, designed to improve reception when the Russian Over the Horizon station in Ukraine was active. We talk to Mike Lamb on a rather ropey line to Lynwood, WA to ask him how it works. There was a fascinating interview with David Harris who was technical director of Radio Botswana in Gabarone. In 1985, shortwave was the only viable way to serve such a huge country. VOA has also benefitted. David was quite critical of DXers who were sending in useless reports and therefore decided NOT to QSL foreign reports. The programme concludes with Richard Ginbey who reports Voice of the Gospel via Moyabi, Gabon. Stations are opening in Nigeria. Paris Calling Africa from RFI is expanding its English output. We concluded with an interview with Henri Remmers who claimed this new satellite programme called Holland on Satellite was reaching 6 Million viewers. This marketing exercise didn’t last long, despite a contest to win a trip to the Netherlands. Feedback on this programme or the collection welcome to 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Saturday, March 07, 2020

MN.04.05.2000 Revealing Making Of MN

As we enter Media Network's 19 years on the wireless, and 5 years on the Internet, it's time to share a few anecdotes on how the programme is made. Diana asked Jonathan whether production of Media Network was a full-time job, we solve the mystery when Radio Netherlands and Radio Sweden were swapped around, we remember PA6FLD in February 1985, how did Jonathan build on the heritage of DX Juke Box, How Victor Goonetilleke discovered a new station from Baghdad before the official monitoring stations and the philosophy behind the jingles. We also reviewed a new Worldspace Sanyo DSB-WS1000 after a visit to a mall in South Africa. We encountered some challenges with this radio. We concluded this was a rather expensive way to pick up the BBC Radio, Kaya FM.  But the 4-inch satellite dish is not weather-proof. We predicted that Worldspace will be the next Iridium. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Monday, March 02, 2020

MN.26.05.1988 EDXC Antwerp Analysis

A report on The Antwerp EDXC Conference organised by (the late) David Monson. This was an unusual meeting. We learned about the danger of solar flares on satellite communication. The BBC World Service had a rather boastful promo and an interesting speech from Andrew Popperwell. Brian Flowers of the Eurovision explains how their system works. Radio Moscow has started broadcasting its English programmes via the SatCOM satellite to North America. Radio Sweden announces it is on ASTRA. Page 496 has the schedule plus extracts of Sweden Calling DXers. We talk to Wolf Harranth about the QSL Card collection and what they are doing in Vienna to preserve the past. The DSWCI Tropical Band Survey is just out. There is news about Caroline on 558 KHz. Tom Walters explained that the BBC’s Hong Kong relay is performing well. Seychelles will also be used to serve East Africa. Radio Antilles is also important for the Caribbean. The launch of Newshour is announced. Wolfgang Pleines reports that DW Trincomalee is being reactivated.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.12.05.1988. Glasnost Berlin

Driving back from a visit to the VOA Greenville transmitter site, we passed through Fredericksburg That reminded me that Mike Bird has started referring to the Fredericksburg Index in his solar forecasts. It turns out there is a connection.

On the last Monday in the month Radio Glasnost, a new programme on a West German FM station is airing messages from East German (religious and environmentalist) groups. The show airs via Radio 100. But conservative groups object to the programmes and attempts have been made to silence the broadcasts. There has also been talk of jamming of recent broadcasts. The programme also talks to Pat Gowen who explains what the Phase 3C satellite will do for Amateur Radio. Pat explains the problems with earlier launches including Oscar 10. The memory has gone because of the Van Allen Belt. The Transatlantic Traveloge reports from the Dayton Hamvention. We talk to Joseph Fell, who explains why NiCD batteries fail earlier than expected.  He has developed a solution called the GMS-403. Bob Horvitz reports on a new Interactive radio system called TV Answer so you can broadcast answers to the cable head end on 218.5 MHz. But in fact, it only being used for music videos. The programme concludes with a propagation forecast from Mike Bird.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.30.07.1987 Radio NY International

This edition covered the history of US Offshore broadcasting.  The good ship Sarah fitted out in Boston harbour has just taken to the high seas to broadcast as Radio New York International. Lou Josephs and Dennis Powell helped tell the story of various stations like Carl Macintyre’s 1973 Radio Free America and KPF941. MTV Europe is coming to Europe spending 25 million dollars in the launch. We find out why. And some people are questioning the need for USIA WORLDNET with a budget of 30 million. They claim reach to 81 cable systems. Victor Goonetilleke has been recovering from the tropical flu but thanks to a new receiver he has been hearing a new transmitter in Burma. Thailand is also booming.  Voice of Kenya is also an easy catch at 0200 hrs. Iran’s Flag of Freedom clandestine station is being heard at 1630. Christian Science Monitor station. I'm pleased at the sound of this recording taken from the 15 ips master. Agree?

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Saturday, February 22, 2020

MN.30.04.1992. Newsreview

There was a lot going on the shortwave bands in April 1991.

Radio Afghanistan has been taken over and they have suspended all their external broadcasts. The Message of Freedom Radio has also been heard on 7090 kHz. Radio Georgia has been heard in English. Radio 16th of December has appeared targeting Haiti. We re-tested the Sony ICF-SW-77. We bought a new one to see whether it has really been improved. Bob Grove reports that the SR-1000 receiver has been cancelled and replaced by the SW-100 project at 800 dollars. Radio Netherlands your official information station. World Radio Network has started up on the Astra satellite. Tim Ashburner spoke to us from Wimbledon. The programme concludes with a call to Vasily Strelnikov in Moscow who notes that radio stations are sprouting like mushrooms in the rainfall from Chernobyl. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.07.02.1991 Mother of Battles Remembered

This programme was made a couple of weeks after Operation Desert Storm had started. After an item about Kashmir, we contacted Victor Goonetilleke to catch up on Operation Desert Storm. I think we underestimate just how up to date our monitors were. 

From Wikipedia: The Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), codenamed Operation Desert Shield (2 August 1990 – 17 January 1991) for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) in its combat phase, was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait arising from oil pricing and production disputes. 


This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.17.01.1991 Cry from Kaunas

Well, I believe that listening to a shortwave radio in the 80’s and 90’s was far more exciting then than now when over 120 countries had stations active on the bands. Thanks to support from a global network of listeners and monitors we were able to make weekly updates on what was being heard on the wireless. And will never forget the programme we made about the Russian invasion of Lithuania on 17th of January 1991. While the world was focusing on an invasion in the Gulf, our listening antennas we turned towards Vilnius. Towards the end of the programme, we also had a short update from the Gulf. The photo shows a Russian jamming station in Vilnius designed to block shortwave broadcasts coming from the West. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.02.04.1992 Falklands Retrospective

Jonathan Marks here with another dip into the Media Network vintage vault. I think, listening to shortwave radio in the 80’s and 90’s was far more exciting then than now when over 120 countries had stations active on the bands. Thanks to support from a global network of listeners and monitors we were able to make weekly updates on what was being heard on the wireless. And on anniversaries, like 10 years after the Falklands conflict in 1982, we were able to give the story much more context. I’ve been looking for this programme from 1992 for some time, but now here it is. We also asked Dr Kim Andrew Elliott to report on a meeting of International broadcast bureaucrats. We can see that the broadcasters were having problems defining their mission. And when it comes to frequencies, Jan Willem Drexhage said that at a conference in Budapest 1180 incompatibilities.    

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Sunday, February 16, 2020

PA6FLD, ham radio from the largest antennas in the world

In February 1985, I helped to organise a rather special event over the weekend of 16th February. We broadcast live from the new Flevo transmitter site and invited ham radio operators from around the world to contact us. We were using some of the largest HF antennas in the world - 120 metres high. Today nothing remains of those giant beacons to the world having been demolished in 2019. But I like to think that for several decades more people came to know that Flevoland was the source of some very interesting programmes. This was the edition broadcast at 0930 UTC to Europe.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

PA6FLD Misusing a giant antenna array

35 years ago on Feb 16th 1985, a small group of radio enthusiasts "misused" the giant shortwave broadcast antennas on the new Flevo transmitting station near Zeewolde. At the weekends, the new station was off the air, the old shortwave broadcast site in Lopik being still operational. So we made a series of regular broadcasts from the Flevo station, using the transmitters at Lopik. And the engineers lashed up a special plug so we could connect ham radio gear to the new antenna masts to see how far we could be heard. It was a fantastic success, to a point where the official launch of the station a few months later was a bit of an anticlimax. This was the first transmission at 0730 UTC directed to the Pacific. 

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

MN.31.12.2019 Romanian Revolution 1989

This video edition started when I found six cassettes I recorded during Christmas 1989. Radio Bucharest, which had traditionally been a boring propaganda station during the Ceausescu dictatorship suddenly become the voice of Romanian liberation. This is the story of the People's Revolution and how it changed the lives of the broadcasters at Radio Bucharest. This is primarily an audio production, but I did want to add some video footage I made during a visit to Bucharest in 2006. As far as I know, the stories heard here have not found their way into other media. So the idea is to add to the storytelling around the Romanian revolution. Always interested in feedback to

MN.20.04.1995. Receiver Updates

We’re trying to solve some reception problems from Dushanbe. There are changes going on with Grundig North America, with the transfer of the design from Fuerth to California. Lou Josephs recommends shopping around for receiver bargains. 47th Street Photo adds 8% sales tax. We talked to Richard McLaughlin of LOWE electronics about the HF225 and HF150. Benelux and Germany are the strongest markets. They will launch the HF250 at Dayton. Radio Netherlands will launch its HTML pages on April 21st 1995. A special AM station on the NAB convention. Arthur Cushen heard it on 1660 kHz.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault