Shortwave Newbie: Parents Dead, next Generation

“The next generation of shortwave broadcasting has begun, broadcasting news, culture, and perspective 24 hours a day, on 9395 kHz.”

Thus speaks Global 24 Radio, a commercial station using a transmitter at the WRMI shortwave farm in Okeechobee, Florida. I listened to Global-24 from 03:00 to 04:16 UTC this morning. Part of the program were Feature Story News (news on the hour at 03:00), Radio France International (RFI) news (news on the hour at 04:00), and a Jazz program around the newscasts.

Glenn Hauser‘s audiomagazine World of Radio has been invited to be part of a Radio Night program on Global-24, according to WoR’s October 30 edition (WOR 1745, 27th minute), and that would be on Tuesday nights. My own first impression is that Global-24 aggregates newscasts from different stations or services (the a/m Feature Story News appear to provide quite a number of smaller radio stations with ready-to-use newscasts, but there are also big networks among their customers, according to their reference list). There are other outsourced feature programs on Global-24, too, but according to WoR, they also have a mailbag show, i. e. a program produced by Global-24 itself. Hauser, himself reportedly an agnostic, was told by the broadcaster’s general manager that there would be not .. any  religious programming on schedule.

As for the chances that the new station will be with us for many years to come, Kai Ludwig of Radio Berlin-Brandenburg‘s media magazine didn’t voice an opinion of his own in a report of October 23, some nine days before Global 24 Radio went on the air, but quoted skeptics (without naming them):

The announcement has been met with skepticism on various occasions, as even in the past, when shortwave was much more significant than nowadays, a number of projects of this kind failed economically. This starts with the broadcasting facility of Radio Miami International. [The facilities] date back to former Radio New York Worldwide. The broadcasting equipment was sold to Family Radio after [Radio New York WW’s] closure in 1974.

Der Ankündigung wird verschiedentlich mit Skepsis begegnet, nachdem auch in der Vergangenheit, als der Verbreitungsweg Kurzwelle noch eine ungleich größere Bedeutung als heute hatte, eine Anzahl solcher Projekte wirtschaftlich scheiterte. Dies beginnt schon bei der heutigen Sendeanlage von Radio Miami International. Sie geht auf das einstige Radio New York Worldwide zurück, nach dessen Schließung die Sendetechnik 1974 an Family Radio verkauft wurde.

Family Radio (aka WYFR) themselves haven’t closed down completely, but they sold their transmission site in Okeechobee to WRMI in December 2013. That’s where Global-24’s programs are now aired from, too.

Popular on shortwave, especially in Japan, but no great economic success: KYOI, a hit radio broadcaster from Saipan,  1986 QSL

Popular on shortwave, especially in Japan, but no great economic success: KYOI, a hit radio broadcaster from Saipan, 1986 QSL

More unsuccessful cases in the past would be WRNO and Super Rock KYOI, writes Ludwig,

who broadcasted from New Orleans and Saipan respectively, on shortwave, from 1982. KYOI was sold to the religious community Christian Science after a few years, who used the facilities for their spoken word programs, and then eventually sold them to the International Broadcasting Bureau, in 1998.

Weitere Fälle sind WRNO Worldwide und Superrock KYOI, die ab 1982 von New Orleans bzw. Saipan aus Musikprogramme auf Kurzwelle sendeten. KYOI wurde nach wenigen Jahren an die Religionsgemeinschaft Christian Science verkauft, die ab 1989 die Sendeanlage für ihre Wortprogramme nutzte und sie schließlich 1998 an das International Broadcasting Bureau veräußerte.

WRNO too had switched to spoken word programs in the early 1990s, writes Ludwig, and was sold to a missionary society after the turn of the century.

WRNO had been founded by Joseph Costello (Joe Costello III), born in or around 1941 in Algiers/New Orleans, Louisiana, who appears to have been very successful as a media entrepreneur in general, if this  (source unverified) 1997 obituary in the Times Picayune is something to go by. But he wasn’t terribly successful with WRNO shortwave in particular. In November 1991, he told then Radio Netherlands Media Network‘s Jonathan Marks that

The commercial viability for shortwave radio is just not there. In our country, advertising is sold on the rating-point system, and millions and millons of dollars in every city in the country are based on who has the share of the audience. They do a small sample of six-hundred to a thousand people and then project that out to represent a whole city or a whole metropolitan area, and then millions of dollars are placed on how you score in that sample. And to approach a buyer in New York or in any major advertising capital in the United States is … first off, they don’t understand it. At this point, Jonathan, it is not as economically viable as I thought it might be on the end of its first decade.

Maybe the rating-point system has changed since, or isn’t a problem now. Or, maybe, Global-24 is based on a different business model. While shortwave may have declined in significance, the station is able to reach out to listeners both by shortwave and the internet, and is indeed using either medium. And, of course, leasing airtime from an existing broadcaster may not be as cost-intensive as building your own transmission site. At times, a transmission roomer may have to pay for the full costs, plus a profit margin. At times, maybe, a contribution margin will make the landlord sufficiently happy.

Costello, for one, had seemed to approach his shortwave adventure with a mixture of business sense and hobby, in the early 1980s. There was no standby transmitter, he told Marks, and the only existing one, water-cooled, was at times affected by the water taken from the Mississippi.

All the same, the station received between 1,000 and 1,500 letters a month, according to Costello. What defines the difference between failure and success for Global 24 Radio remains to be seen. For sure, the audience reach of shortwave broadcasters can be measured, if people care enough.

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Related

» Shortwave Log, WRNO, Aug 31, 2014
» The KYOI story, Calvin Melen, 2002, 2011

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