Deutsche Welle‘s (Voice of Germany) Chinese service will reportedly no longer be on the air. Shortwave broadcasts to China are to end soon, reports Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg‘s (RBB) shortwave editor. The winter broadcasting schedule which is going to take effect on October 28 does still include shortwave frequencies for the Chinese service, but these transmissions, relayed from the United Arab Emirates and from Singapore, could be cancelled on short notice.
According to the German Journalists Association (Deutscher Journalisten Verband), Deutsche-Welle spokesman Johannes Hoffmann told EPD Media that shortwave had lost much significance in China, and that according to estimates, the number of users in China who accessed the station’s internet content surpassed the number of shortwave listeners.
A Taiwanese blog, Taipei DXer, wrote on Thursday that neither of the two summer frequencies currently used by Deutsche Welle, 11965 or 17770 kHz, had recently provided great reception. 17770 kHz was S=3 (moderate) at best, and sometimes as bad as SIO=131. Signal quality on the Singapore frequency of 11965 kHz had also been poor recently, Taipei DXer wrote. The blog didn’t mention the reported closure in that post, and the Chinese-language web in general doesn’t seem to take note of the issue. Apparently, Deutsche Welle itself hasn’t reacted to the RBB and journalist-association reports yet.
The German Culture Council (Deutscher Kulturrat) criticized the decision to cut all shortwave frequencies in a press release on October 1. Deutsche Welle, which supplied quality journalism and was highly appreciated globally, as an independent source of information, a cultural ambassador and a builder of bridges for intercultural dialog needed appropriate and continuous funding (Der Deutsche Kulturrat setzt sich seit Jahren für eine angemessene und kontinuierliche Finanzierung der Deutschen Welle ein. Die Deutsche Welle liefert Qualitätsjournalismus und ist weltweit als unabhängige Informationsquelle, Kulturbotschafter und Brückenbauer für den interkulturellen Dialog hochgeschätzt).
“Broadcasting freedom (Sendefreiheit) needs shortwave”, says the Cultural Council’s headline, which may or may not refer to the freedom of the airwaves or freedom of radio (Rundfunkfreiheit).
Christian Höppner, who doubles as a member of the Deutsche Welle broadcasting commission (Rundfunkrat) and the Cultural Commission’s vice president, said that
Switching off shortwave is a wrong signal. Other countries have recognized the significance of their foreign broadcasters long ago and are investing much more into their media ambassadors. The German Bundestag [federal parliament] and the federal government need to secure the performance of Deutsche Welle’s public mission for the future, too, by significantly increasing the financial resources, as after the reform process, cost reduction potentials have mostly been exhausted.
(Die Abschaltung der Kurzwelle zur Verbreitung des Programms der Deutsche Welle für den chinesischen Senderaum setzt ein falsches Signal. Andere Länder haben die Bedeutung ihrer Auslandssender längst erkannt und investieren in erheblich höherem Maße in ihre medialen Botschafter. Der Deutsche Bundestag und die Bundesregierung sind gefordert, die Erfüllung des öffentlichen Auftrages der Deutsche Welle durch eine signifikante Erhöhung der finanziellen Mittel auch für die Zukunft sicherzustellen, da nach dem Reformprozess die Einsparmöglichkeiten weitestgehend ausgeschöpft sind.)
Deutsche Welle has certainly done its best to save money: in a listerners’ essay contest launched on September 19 this year, only one I Pod Nano 8 GB was offered for the overall winner. The next five winners would earn themselves one piece of high-quality electronic scrap – i. e. shortwave receivers – each, probably to listen to China Radio International.
But then, maybe Deutsche Welle itself only learned about the planned closure of their shortwave frequencies some time after mid-September. Or maybe they are still hopeful to retain at least two shortwave frequencies. Or the radio sets had been in the storeroom for decades, and this was Deutsche Welle’s last chance to get rid of them.
Either way, if you aren’t professionally connected with the station and fulfil some other requirements, too, you can still send them your essay (in Chinese) on what Sino-Indian relations mean to you. October 15 will be the closing date.
Update, Oct 17, 2012
According to Taipei Dxer, a blog also mentioned within the post above, Deutsche Welle announced its winter frequencies on October 13. From October 28, frequencies would be 9,610 kHz from 13:00 – 13:30 GMT, and 11,600 and 13,700 kHz from 13:00 – 14:00 GMT. Apparently, still no announcement from DW about an impending end to shortwave broadcasting in its announcements.