Deutsche Welle cuts Shortwave, targets “Opinion Leaders”

Radio Berlin International (RBI) QSL, 1980s

Once upon a time on shortwave - Radio Berlin International (RBI) QSL, 1980s

A few months less than 21 years after East Germany’s Radio Berlin International (RBI) went off the air, the Deutsche Welle (DW, Voice of Germany), once RBI’s West German rival on international shortwave, has announced that it is going to do likewise – in German, anyway. From a DW press release of May 18 (Wednesday CEST):

From November 1, 2011, DW will terminate its shortwave broadcasts in German, Russian, Farsi, and Indonesian. Shortwave transmissions of English programs will be limited to Africa, and the Chinese program will be reduced from 120 to 60 minutes. In these languages, too, DW will strengthen its supplies online, video and audio on demand, and mobile supplies. Whereever it makes sense, radio productions for dissemination via partners will complement this portfolio.

Starting from November, only radio programs in the following languages will be broadcast on shortwave: Amharic, Chinese, Dari, English and French for Africa, Haussa, Kisuaheli, Pashtu, Portuguese for Africa, and Urdu.

Broadcasts through relay stations are scheduled to end in Trincomalee (Sri Lanka) and Sines (Portugal), also on November 1. Only Kigali (Rwanda) will remain in operation.

These measures would lead to significant cost reductions, and enable the Welle to develop further, according to the press release.

The last paragraph is translated as follows, by the Southgate Amateur Radio Club‘s website:

For many areas around the world, it will be necessary to further development online and mobile services in order to reach DW’s target audience better: Individuals who are interested in diverse perspectives and use a large amount and variety of media resources. That especially includes opinion leaders and future opinion leaders*) as well as people who lobby for democracy, freedom and progress in authoritarian countries and thereby strengthen the civil society.



*) The German original doesn’t describe its desired audience as opinion leaders, (which would be Meinungsführer in German), paraphrasing the term as “those [people] who wield influence on a country’s pulbic opinion, or will be influential in the future […]” (jene, die Einfluss auf die öffentliche Meinung eines Landes haben oder zukünftig haben werden)


» Major Shortwave Cuts, Shortwave Central, May 20, 2011
» Revolutionary: VoK opens Website, April 18, 2011
» International Shortwave Broadcasting “Stuff of the Past”, April 2, 2011
» Just another German Press Review, January 25, 2011
» BBC World Service drops Languages and 648 kHz, January 28, 2011
» Radio Bremen abandons Medium Wave, July 29, 2010
» From German to Foreign Listeners, February 16, 2009

14 Responses to “Deutsche Welle cuts Shortwave, targets “Opinion Leaders””

  1. Thanks for the link, Adam! Nice to see that I was a bit faster than a Huanqiu correspondent who works in Berlin (or Huanqiu itself) to find the news.

    Huanqiu doesn’t keep to the established narrative that Zhang had been sacked (the Chinese press had suggested that before). She had in fact been transferred to Deutsche Welle‘s economics department, still working there, and I doubt that there was a legal basis for doing that merely for her arguing in favor of the CCP’s record in a talkshow. Such a decision wouldn’t have stood in court, and my guesswork is that there were procedural reasons for her removal, as I wrote here. (I also offered my interpretation there as to why the cases are far from being public ones.)
    Huanqiu now simply refers to the 2008 story as the “Zhang incident”. They do say however that four employees were fired between the end of last year and early 2011, for being “politically incorrect” (政治不合格). If this refers to this journalist, too, her case has since been decided at Bonn labor court, and the court decided in favor of Deutsche Welle. So if political motivation was indeed the issue here, it didn’t stand in court in her case. If her colleagues have taken their cases to a court, too, I don’t know, but might try to find information on Sunday (if you aren’t faster).

    As for the BBC, the information that there will be no more broadcasts should be correct. They discontinued the Mandarin programs on shortwave (Cantonese continues on shortwave, at least to some extent), but last thing I heard is that the BBC provides podcasts in Mandarin which are updated every two hours (a service Huanqiu probably doesn’t wish to advertise). It’s interesting anyway. BBC and VoA kept pointing out how insignificant shortwave had become, and how much more important the focus on new media was. Huanqiu’s referral to the end of BBC Mandarin broadcast may also mirror the importance China itself attaches to shortwave radio, in contrast to our broadcasters. China Radio International (CRI) has rented many bc hours from an Albania, which serves as their broadcasting center for Europe, and can be heard clearly here in Chinese, and all major European languages. (That said, their signals directly from China on the 16 meter band are almost as strong.)
    Personally, I believe that the cuts at the BBC’s, VoA’s and Deutsche Welle’s shortwave broadcasts are a mistake – shortwave is grossly underestimated here. On the other hand, as the Welle says itself, they want to target “opinion leaders” – something that doesn’t speak for the Deutsche Welle in my view. Why should a peasant in Gansu Province, as a listener, matter less than a teacher or an existing / potential human rights campaigner in Shanghai?
    The best thing a station can do is to provide accurate information, and if that’s the kind of information that is missing in their own media, that’s just more reason to keep the broadcasts going.

    Some more info both on BBC and Welle here. Southern Weekend actually wrote the best article on the BBC’s Mandarin service I’ve found anywhere on the internet – be it by international, be it by Chinese media elsewhere. Much information about the service’s history, too, and I wish I had the time to translate all of it.



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