Deutsche Welle: Before we go Off Air Forever, tell us how you feel about Sino-Indian Relations

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.

Deutsche Welle Singapore frequency

Two sweethearts, and the summerwind:
Deutsche Welle Singapore summer frequency, 11965 kHz, …

Deutsche Welle frequency United Arab Emirates

… and Deutsche Welle United Arab Emirates summer frequency, 17770 kHz.

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.

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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.

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Related Tags

» Deutsche Welle
» shortwave

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6 Responses to “Deutsche Welle: Before we go Off Air Forever, tell us how you feel about Sino-Indian Relations”

  1. Well that’s fairly huge….

    Isn’t there an argument to be made for the inability of the state to censor broadcasts selectively, as opposed to web content which is more easily — and narrowly — blocked?

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  2. I’m not trying to speculate about how many members of the broadcasting commission at Deutsche Welle are actually aware of that technical advantage on shortwave, Adam – commission members may have mandates on quite a number of commissions, and without much personal interest in what is going on there.

    Anyway, the case that only shortwave is really unpredictable for censors has often been made, by Kim Elliott, for example:

    Keep shortwave, for now. The BBG is correct that shortwave radio ownership and listening rates are very small in China. Even domestic FM and AM radio has been much less popular than television in the country. Nevertheless, because of the high cost of shortwave transmission, and the unpopularity of shortwave in China, there is incentive for a premature declaration of victory in internet censorship circumvention efforts. Shortwave arguably remains the medium most resistant to interdiction. It is the only medium with a physical resistance to jamming, because radio waves at shortwave frequencies often propagate better over long than short distances. When an objective, independent assessment determines that average internet users in China can conveniently work around government censorship, the shortwave transmitters can be turned off.


    Another aspect: public diplomacy is no priority in the view of most tax-payers. That’s understandable to an extent, especially when looking at how ludicrous some PD approaches actually are (insiders seem to overestimate the impact their trade can have), but that shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that PD would be irrelevant. In fact, I’m wondering if it wasn’t above all the budget cuts which got the Welle into trouble during the past four years. They didn’t only have to explain to politics what they were doing (in the Chinese department, for example) – they also have to explain what they are here for.

    In my view – but I think I said this before -, Deutsche Welle is useless if they only want to reach people who have internet access, and who know how to get over the GFW. If you are only there to reach Meinungsführer, and don’t consider people in rather rural areas (or migrant workers, for that matters) a worthy audience, too, you’ve probably become too aloof to make a difference anyway.

    I know two countries whose people are particularly leery of anything that smells like manipulaton. One is China, and the other is Germany. That doesn’t mean that people can’t be manipulated, but such efforts are as unpredictable as shortwave. There can only one efficient answer to Chinese suspicions: plain, professional journalism which in itself would spell promotion of open-society concepts. Either that, or la muerte for Deutsche Welle.

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  3. Und in zwei oder drei Jahren besteht die Deutsche Welle dann nur noch aus einer popeligen Website und Mittelstands-Werbefernsehen, über das man sich im Hotelzimmer für ein paar Minuten beömmeln kann.

    Wie so oft, den alten Mitarbeitern wird es in der Seele wehtun, und die “jungen Fachkräfte”, die mal “was mit Medien” machen wollten, können dann versuchen, in den Werbeagenturen unterzukommen.

    Die Zielgruppe der “young urban professionals” in Shenzhen rutscht schlimmstenfalls – aber das wäre dann wirklich der GAU – vor Lachen unter den IKEA-Couchtisch und schaltet wieder auf al-Jazeera oder CNN um.

    Und all die anderen, die unabhängig informiert sein wollen, hören “Voice of America” oder “Stimme Russlands”.

    Ich kann gar nicht so viel fressen, wie ich kotzen möchte.

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  4. Ich kann gar nicht so viel fressen, wie ich kotzen möchte.

    Translation machine says: “I can not eat as much as I want to puke.” Seems it is getting better and better, and keeps enriching its word power.

    I enjoyed reading the above.

    I believe there’s an online post both of you will enjoy, KT, Tai De, even if for different reasons:
    Leash Train Your Cat in 7 Excruciating Steps.

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