Friday, May 22, 2015

States You May Have Never Logged Before

As with most of us DXers here in the United States, I like to keep track of the number of U.S. states I've heard on AM, FM, TV (digital and analog) and NOAA Weather Radio. Being in the middle of the country does have some advantages, while it has some disadvantages.

On the AM broadcast band, for example, I began the DX season of 2014-15 with no AM stations in my logbook from New Mexico. I logged 18 FM stations, three analog TV stations and one NOAA Weather Radio station before the start of the AM broadcast band DX season. As I write this, the AM broadcast band DX logbook from The Land of Enchantment is now at three. In November, I caught KKIM 1000 in Albuquerque (yes, the city where Bugs Bunny forgets to make that left turn) operating at night on 10,000 watts daytime power. The signal was, at times, taking out WMVP (Chicago). Later that same month, I also caught KHAC 880 Tse Bonito (on the border with Arizona) operating on day power and pattern, giving WIJR (Highland, IL) and WCBS (New York) a run for the money. Off-season, I caught KCKN 1020 in Roswell on day pattern on May 21 at 0155 CDT (0655 UTC) giving KDKA (Pittsburgh, PA) a run for the money. On the AM broadcast band, there are no stations in my logbook from Delaware, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. A lot of DXers would say that my best bet for Idaho is KBOI 670 in Boise, but with my location being 255 miles (as the crow flies) from Chicago, and that Cuba also gives The Score a good run for the money, KBOI is probably an impossible catch from the St. Louis area. I don't see any realistic chance to hear the other unheard states unless at least one station in each state puts on a DX test. It's through DX tests that AM stations from Oregon, Rhode Island and the state of Washington are in my logbook. I simply don't see any realistic chance of hearing Alaska and Hawaii from the St. Louis area, given the distance from those two states. I've only heard Hawaii on shortwave, and have not heard Alaska on any band. I'll be happy with just the "Lower 48".

Speaking of the "Lower 48", the only states I have not heard on the FM band from my listening post in Hazelwood, MO (15 miles NW of St. Louis) are California and West Virginia. I'm within single-hop range of some of the desert towns, such as Needles and Blythe; El Centro may be a stretch. I'm easily within double-hop range of the coastal cities (especially San Francisco). Only AM and shortwave signals have been heard from the Golden State. West Virginia, by contrast, presents several other challenges. Part of that state is in the National Radio Quiet Zone. FM stations are required to restrict coverages in that area to protect radio astronomy interests from interference. The western part of the state is within tropo distance; most notably Huntington, Parkersburg and Wheeling. Charleston may be stretching it a bit. The eastern part of the state (Harper's Ferry, Martinsburg, Charles Town) is within E-skip range. While I have two analog TV stations (both from Huntington) and 11 AM stations in my logbook from "Almost Heaven", no FM station has entered my logbook from West Virginia.

Analog TV also presented some challenges. Before the transition to digital TV, I had locals on channels 2, 4 and 5. That made logging states like Maine on analog TV a real challenge. WLBZ Bangor, when it was in analog, was never logged due to local KTVI being parked there. Other states weren't logged because the lowest channel station in the state was either on high-band VHF or UHF. Analog TV stations weren't logged from Delaware, New Hampshire or New Jersey as a result. The lowest channel station, if my memory serves, in Delaware was on channel 14. The lowest channel stations in New Hampshire and New Jersey were both on channel 9. Before WWOR-TV moved its city of license from New York, NY to Secaucus, NJ, the lowest channel station in New Jersey was on 13 (non-commercial WNET Newark). Due to distance and channel placement, I also did not log California, Oregon or the state of Washington on analog TV from Hazelwood.

Digital TV seems to follow the same propagation characteristics as the analog counterpart, although I've received two states in digital (Maine and New Jersey) I never logged in analog format. I've logged WLBZ 2 Bangor, ME in digital format, along with WACP 4 Atlantic City, NJ. There have been close-in states to Missouri I have not yet logged in digital format, such as Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Digital TV from those two states will be logged eventually. I haven't yet pulled in a Nebraska digital TV station on tropospheric enhancement propagation., although I've pulled in KNOP 2 North Platte via E-skip propagation.

NOAA Weather Radio (162.400-162.550 MHz) also follows the same propagation characteristics. Given its high placement in the VHF spectrum, tropospheric enhancement is more common. The only close-in state to Missouri I have not yet logged a NOAA Weather Radio station from is Wisconsin. E-skip does reach this band on occasion; my first experience with E-skip on the NOAA Weather Radio band came in 2004, with the log of KHB38 162.400 Atlantic City, NJ. This type of propagation also allowed me to log Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Virginia on the NOAA Weather Radio band. The latter two states could also provide some tropospheric enhancement logs at some point, especially from western Pennsylvania and the Virginia panhandle.  

In the 23 years since I returned to the St. Louis area from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains northwest of Atlanta, GA, I've discovered several things about my present location. New England is a lot easier to hear via E-skip on the FM band as it is on the AM broadcast band. I've only heard five stations from that region: three from Massachusetts (all from the Boston area), one each from Connecticut (WTIC 1080 Hartford) and Rhode Island (a DX test from 1220 in Providence). The West Coast has been better heard on AM than on FM. At least once a year, the three former 1-A Clears from California (KFI 640 and KNX 1070 in Los Angeles, KNBR 680 in San Francisco) come in at Hazelwood. Three of the four AM stations I've logged from Washington and the lone AM in my logbook from Oregon have been logged thanks to DX tests. Oregon and Washington have also been logged on FM. The two Oregonians I've heard have been 98.7 in Nyssa via single-hop E-skip, and 101.9 in Portland via double-hop. The lone Washington state FM (94.1 in Clarkston) has been logged via single-hop E-skip.

Some states have been logged via more than one mode of propagation. On FM, for example, Georgia and North Carolina have been logged by three different modes of propagation (E-skip, tropospheric enhancement and meteor scatter). Utah has been logged on FM via E-skip and meteor scatter. Given my location, one part of a state can be heard or seen via tropospheric enhancement, while another part can be heard or seen via E-skip. Take Pennsylvania as an example. On analog TV, three stations have been logged via E-skip (two from Philadelphia and one from the State College area) and two via tropospheric enhancement (one from Erie and the other from Pittsburgh). Tropo is most common from the western part of the state, while E-skip is most common from the central and eastern parts of the Keystone State. Another example is South Dakota. The Rapid City area has been heard and seen via E-skip, while Sioux Falls and Aberdeen have been logged via tropospheric enhancement. One market has been logged by both tropospheric enhancement and E-skip: Pierre. I've logged two FMs via E-skip, a high-band VHF station via tropo, and a low-band VHF TV station by both propagation methods. Another market that has been logged by both tropospheric enhancement and E-skip is Buffalo, NY.

Getting back to AM broadcast band DX, the sun's position can also have an effect on DX. At one hour before local sunrise or one hour before local sunset, eastern AM stations tend to pop in over the closer-in stations. For example, I was on 610 one night in November 2014, and nulled out KCSP Kansas City, MO to hear CKTB Saint Catharines, ON. On 1060 at that time of day, I could conceivably hear WILB Canton, OH over closer-in WMCL McLeansboro, IL. One hour after sunrise and one hour after sunset is when you'll likely find western AM stations still on day power and/or pattern. For example, if you're parked on 1040, there's a chance you could hear KCBR Monument, CO with WHO Des Moines, IA nulled until about an hour after sunset. Again, it's dependent on your location. In the Midwest, the best time to try for those difficult-to-hear eastern states (especially those in New England) is around one hour before sunset or one hour before sunrise, depending on conditions, or one to two hours after sunset for the difficult-to-hear western states (such as Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah or Wyoming).

As I write this, I've logged 1,605 AM, 1,288 FM, 579 analog TV, 166 digital TV and 120 NOAA Weather Radio stations. Nobody knows what new stations and new states you will hear in the years to come.

New Aircheck Page

I've finally decided to put my aircheck collection into a separate Box account from my DX. In the coming months, I intend to digitize my aircheck collection, which I collected in trades and from the markets I've lived in (St. Louis, MO and Atlanta, GA) as well as places I've visited (like Portland, OR). The first two airchecks to be uploaded are both from 1989, WLTJ 92.9 Pittsburgh, PA and WSNL 101.1 East St. Louis, IL. Both of these airchecks are unscoped. All airchecks in the collection I am uploading are unscoped.

Stay tuned for more airchecks.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Taking Advantage of a Local Station's Silent Period

It's happened to all of us in the DX community before. A local station either goes completely silent, or decides to reduce its hours of operation. Most likely, this is purely for financial reasons. In the case of KFNS 590 (which is in the process of being sold to a Christian group as I write this), it's over nonpayment of debts. A station also stays silent during the course of a sale, which is also the case with KFNS (1,000 watts day and night with separate patterns for day and night operation). In the case of KXFN 1380, their reduction of operations is not only a purely financial move, it's also because of a loss of their nighttime transmitter site. Until the station flipped from female-centered talk to extreme talk, it was a 24-hour operation. When the station flipped to extreme talk, they cut back their operations to being on from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. When the station lost the lease on its nighttime transmitter site, KXFN became a 5,000-watt daytime only operation (they operated at 1,000 watts at night, which misses most of the St. Louis metro area).  KXFN also utilized separate patterns for day and night operations.

Many DXers take advantage of the silence of a local station to try and pull in DX. In the case of the silence of KFNS, the dominant station on 590 at night becomes KXSP in Omaha, NE, which operates at 5,000 watts day and night with a non-directional antenna. The station has operated with the same facilities since they were WOW. Also received during the nighttime hours at my Hazelwood, MO location are two Michiganders, WJMS in Ironwood (on the Upper Peninsula) and WKZO in Kalamazoo (on the Lower Peninsula), along with KLBJ Austin, TX, XEPE Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico and Radio Musical from Cuba. During the hours before sunrise, a Midwesterner near St. Louis could hear WMBS Uniontown, PA with its Adult Standards format. The absence of a local on 590 also allows DX to come in on 580 and 600. On 600, one of the dominant stations at sunset into the early evening hours is WMT out of Cedar Rapids, IA. I've also heard WREC out of Memphis, TN, WSJS out of Winston-Salem, NC and the Cuban from Urbano Noris. One station on 600 I added to the log during KFNS' silence is WVAR in Richwood, WV. 580 is usually dominated by XEMU in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico at night, and WILL Urbana, IL during the daytime. Even with KFNS on the air, WIBW out of Topeka, KS makes it in at local sunset on 580. The DX possibilities could be endless while my local 590 (licensed to Wood River, IL) remains off the air during the sale.

Taking advantage of the reduction in operating hours of a local station is another way to add to your DX totals. Since KXFN 1380 began reducing hours, I've logged a number of stations on 1380. The dominant station at night is WLRM out of Millington, TN (a suburb of Memphis). Also noted at night on 1380: WVSA in Vernon, AL (along the border with Mississippi), WTJK in South Beloit, IL (on the Wisconsin border), KCNW in Fairway, KS (a suburb of Kansas City), KLIZ in Brainerd, MN and WHEW in Franklin, TN (a suburb of Nashville), along with WPYR out of Baton Rouge, LA. One station, KAGE in Winona, MN, was heard simulcasting an FM sister station (KWNO-FM 99.3 in nearby Rushford). WGNU 920 has a regular silent period on Saturday and Sunday; while WGNU is silent, KDHL in Faribault, MN is dominant, along with KARN in Little Rock, AR. I've also noted my ex-local on that frequency (as WAFS and WGKA) at my Hazelwood location. Other stations on 920 I've noted (regardless of whether WGNU is on or off) include KLMR in Lamar, CO, CFRY in Portage la Prairie, MB, KYST in Texas City, TX (a Houston suburb), as well as stations in Russellville, AL and Whitesburg, KY. 30 years ago, when the local on 550 (then KUSA) had a silent period, I would usually note KTSA San Antonio, TX dominating. Other times, I would hear KFYR in Bismarck, ND.

Since I returned to St. Louis in 1992, the local on 630 has been off the air for extended periods twice. During the first silent period in 1994 during the transition from KXOK to KJSL, I heard WBMQ in Savannah, GA, CFCO in Chatham, ON, CKRC in Winnipeg, MB, KSLR in San Antonio, TX and another station in Honduras. Since that time, CKRC has moved to the FM dial and WBMQ has cut night power from 1,000 watts to 47 watts. During the second silent period in 2013 during the transition from KJSL to KYFI, KSLR and CFCO were again noted, along with WNEG in Toccoa, GA, WREY in St. Paul, MN and XEFB in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. While the local on 630 has to protect KHOW in Denver, CO at night, it appears Denver also protects St. Louis; KHOW has not made it into the logbook at Hazelwood. Neither has WLAP in Lexington, KY (nor another Lexington station, WVLK 590).

Even FM stations have been off the air for extended periods of time, allowing DX to be pulled in. Three of Clear Channel Radio's (now iHeart Radio) St. Louis FM stations were knocked off the air after a derecho moved through St. Louis in July 2006. On 93.7, I was able to relog KTUF in Kirksville, MO, and added WTRX Pontiac, IL (now WJBC-FM) to the logbook. On 104.9, I added WFIW-FM in Fairfield, IL, KPWB-FM in Piedmont, MO and KBOE-FM in Oskaloosa, IA to my FM logbook. On 107.7, I added stations in Fairbury, IL, Otterville and Stockton, MO. From June of 1999 to the following June, WFUN-FM 95.5 was off the air for station upgrades and moving the studio from St. Ann to Olivette. E-skip conditions allowed me to log WPLJ in New York, as well as KYFO in Ogden, UT and KMBR in Butte, MT. Tropo conditions allowed me to log Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Nashville, as well as WGLO in Pekin, IL and KAAN-FM in Bethany, MO.  

When one of your locals are off for whatever reason, take advantage of that station's silence and log some DX! 

Friday, August 15, 2014

A DXer's View of the Violence in Ferguson

One of the hobbies I have picked up in recent years is monitoring public service radio traffic, especially police radio traffic. Over the past week, my Radio Shack PRO-2052 has received a lot of radio traffic coming out of Ferguson. This is in relation to the violence that followed a police-involved shooting in that town that's made international news. I'm sure you may have heard this over the BBC (either on satellite, shortwave or your local BBC outlet) in recent days.

I have lived most of my life in Hazelwood; the only time I have not lived in Hazelwood was the four years I lived outside of Atlanta (Woodstock from 1988 to 1991, and Marietta in 1991-92). I still remember the time the verdict in the Rodney King beating case was handed down in 1992. The local TV stations had cut into programming for live coverage of the violence around Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University; I still remember the afternoon drive DJ at Clark Atlanta's radio station (WCLK, 91.9 MHz), the late Ken Batie, making a plea for peace on the airwaves during his "Hot Ice" Contemporary Jazz show. Even WSB 750 had wall-to-wall coverage of the events in Atlanta back in 1992.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think something like this would happen close to home until last Saturday, when this shooting occurred. On Sunday, I had both of my TV sets on in the shack, tuned to two local stations. I switched back and forth between KMOV 24 (4), KSDK 35 (5) and KTVI 43 (2) for their coverage. Reminded of what happened 22 years ago down in Atlanta, I tuned into my old radio station, WFUN-FM 95.5, now known as "Old School 95.5". One of the DJs on the station is DJ Kut, whom I worked with at 89.5 KCFV back in the early to mid-1990s. Around 0142 CDT on August 11, I tuned my radio to Old School 95.5 and recorded more than 20 minutes' worth of programming for posterity. The recording included a message from St. Louis native Cedric the Entertainer (who grew up in nearby Berkeley) and a simulcast of KTVI's coverage of the violence. KMOX 1120 was nowhere to be heard as the violence was happening; they were running "Overnight America" instead of providing continuous coverage of what was going on. KTRS 550 was also missing, running "Red Eye Radio" instead of continuous coverage of the story. R&B radio came to the forefront as the events unfolded; local news/talk radio was, for the most part, absent.

I had my scanner on for several nights after that; the police helicopters flying over the area were using 154.725 MHz (used by several communities in northern St. Louis County, including Overland and Breckenridge Hills), later switching to 155.730 MHz (the Missouri Sheriffs' Net frequency). The latter frequency is close to the Hazelwood police frequency of 155.745 MHz. I also heard radio traffic on the frequencies used by St. Louis County Police (notably 155.655 MHz; the North County frequency is 155.130 MHz) and St. Ann Police (460.450 MHz), among others. Several municipalities in northern St. Louis County, including Dellwood, Jennings and nearby communities, use 155.550 MHz for dispatch and communications. Ferguson's police operations are primarily on 155.010 MHz. The law enforcement point-to-point frequency of 155.370 MHz has gotten quite a workout the last several days. I had even monitored the developments on satellite radio (I've been a Sirius-XM subscriber since 2007) via the BBC World Service and CBC Radio One; the story got coverage on the BBC World Service on August 11 (one of the people interviewed on that day was a reporter from KMOV). That night, the violence was covered on CBC Radio One's "The World at Six"; the first fifteen minutes of "As It Happens" that day was devoted to what was going on in Ferguson.

I began my broadcasting career in Ferguson nearly 30 years ago, at KCFV 89.5 MHz. I also spoke to the station's current General Manager, Paul Huddleston, on Tuesday (8/11) to talk about what's been going on. Neither of us knew, in our wildest dreams, that this would happen so close to home. I worked with Paul back in the early to mid-1990s at KCFV. A number of the air personalities on the station today are African-American; I'm sure they would have plenty to talk about, as far as the events that have unfolded are concerned. I worked with several African-Americans during my two tours of duty at KCFV; I retired in 2009 from a radio station which has a sizable African-American audience (WSIE, 88.7 MHz). None of us thought something like this would happen in Ferguson 30 or 20 years ago; not even three weeks ago.

I also talked about the events in Ferguson on the local Amateur Radio nets, starting with the Monday night net of the Lewis and Clark Radio Club (145.230 MHz, negative offset, PL tone 79.7 Hz); I also talked at length about it on the Tuesday night net of the St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club (146.850 MHz, negative offset, PL tone 141.3 Hz). The events in Ferguson were also on the minds of many in the local Amateur Radio community.

I was also reminded that Dellwood was the longtime home of the late DXer Terry Klasek. He probably would have been searching for coverage of these events on the few stations still on shortwave. A back room of his old QTH on Vickie Place was devoted to his radio endeavors. Having a tabletop scanner in my shack allows me to monitor the radio traffic coming out of the area. This was one piece of equipment another long-gone DXer, Rich Eddie, had in his shack in Webster Groves.

The events of the past week also reminds me of being prepared for the worst. As a member of St. Louis Metro ARES, I've taken part in several practice deployments. While the Amateur Radio community hasn't been called upon to provide backup communications for the riots (this is a rare occurrence), they were called upon when an EF2 tornado hit Hazelwood in April of 2013. Monitoring the police radio traffic from the relative safety of my shack, five miles from the epicenter of the violence, allows one to find out the basic information about what's going on before it appears on the local, national or international news.

During times of disaster or violence, it's an excellent idea to have a tabletop or handheld scanner within reach. (The picture below is of my shack, taken in June 2014.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Two State Milestones on FM: Florida #70 and Illinois #200

Every time I reach a milestone in my DX career, whether it be reaching a certain mark overall or a certain mark from a state, province or other political division, I tend to mark that in my logbook, especially when I report it to a DX club publication, such as IRCA's DX Monitor (of which I am Editor-in-Chief) or WTFDA's VHF-UHF Digest. During the month of June, I have reached two milestones on the FM band: the 70th FM station from the state of Florida, and the 200th FM station from the state of Illinois.

Coming into June, Illinois and my home state of Missouri were the only states I've received more than 100 FM stations from. My total from Illinois has stood at 199 since I logged W279AQ 103.7 Mascoutah (northeast of Belleville) in December 2013. It was well worth the wait for Illinois #200, when I logged the new WJKD 105.5 in Altamont (southwest of Effingham on I-70) on June 22 at 0300 CDT (0800 UTC). This is one of a number of FM stations that identify with the most common marketing name for the Adult Hits format, Jack. With KPNT on 105.7 (licensed to Collinsville) broadcasting in the failed "HD" system, I was lucky to pull this one through. With the 200th FM station from the Land of Lincoln now in the books, Illinois is in a club all to itself. The closest state to that is Missouri, with 173 FM stations heard. Missouri FM #175 can't be that far behind.

For the past few years, there has been a battle for third place in my FM logbook between the states of Florida and Iowa. The Sunshine State and the Hawkeye State have traded places several times in recent years; Iowa passed Florida to take over third place at 0356 CDT (0856 UTC) on the morning of September 1, 2013 with the log of KSOI 91.9 in Murray, near Osceola. Before that, Florida took over third place from Iowa on June 12, 2012 at 1956 CDT (June 13, 2012 at 0056 UTC) with the log of WBVD 95.1 Melbourne for the 60th Florida FM. On June 19, Florida once again took over third place from Iowa with the log of WJUF 90.1 Inverness at 1800 CDT (2300 UTC) with a legal ID mentioning the 89.1 outlet in Gainesville. Florida FM #70 was logged at 1902 CDT (June 20 at 0002 UTC) with WKLG 102.1 Rock Harbor, which features a Hot AC format and tourist-oriented ads for Miami and Key Largo. Florida and Iowa are the two closest to 100 logs now, although it'll be a while before they reach the 100 mark (FL is 30 stations away from 100, IA is 65 away). Texas is the one closest to the 50-station mark (three away), with Tennessee not far behind (five away from 50 FM stations). These marks could be met this year or next.

Florida is now my most productive E-skip state (69 of the 70 stations logged from FL have been via E-skip; only WKSM 99.5 Fort Walton Beach has been heard via tropo), while Illinois has been my most productive FM DX state overall (given my location in eastern Missouri, which favors the Land of Lincoln). More milestones lay ahead.

Shortwave Radio Needs to be Better Marketed

I have been a shortwave radio listener since the fall of 1981, and like many of us out there, we've been appalled with the reduction in shortwave broadcasting by the major broadcasters, especially to the Americas. It got me to thinking about what the weakness is with shortwave broadcasting; the problem is that shortwave radio is being poorly marketed.

One of the things that shortwave broadcasters are not doing right is promoting the advantages of shortwave radio over local medium wave (AM), FM and digital broadcasters, Internet radio and even satellite radio. Here are the major advantages shortwave radio has over local MW (AM), FM and digital broadcasters, Internet and satellite radio:

1) A much larger signal footprint, or coverage area. In the United States, your most powerful AM stations (the maximum limit is 50,000 watts) are limited to a 750-mile radius at night. AM signals are dependent on ground conductivity; daytime coverages range from 125 miles (for WSB 750 Atlanta, GA) to 400 miles (such as KNBR 680 San Francisco) or more. The most powerful FM stations in the United States (the maximum power is 50,000 watts in much of the Northeast and parts of California, 100,000 watts elsewhere) cover, at most, a 100-mile radius around the transmitter site. Digital broadcasters are generally confined to covering their own local area (DRM and "HD" radio stations don't really count; that's not REAL digital radio). Satellite radio services (such as Sirius-XM), only cover part of a hemisphere. Sirius-XM, for example, only covers the United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico to Mexico City. U.S. shortwave broadcasters, which have a minimum power of 50,000 watts and can broadcast up to 500,000 watts of power, are generally free to cover the earth, provided that their signals are beamed to another area of the world, such as Europe, South America or Asia. The signal is heard like a local station in most of the United States and other parts of North America. For example, when the Voice of America used 15580 kHz to Africa via Greenville, NC, the signal came in like a local AM radio station while driving through the St. Louis metropolitan area. Shortwave broadcasters do not publicly promote the advantages of a shortwave signal over local MW (AM), FM, digital (Eureka 147) or even a satellite radio service; they really need to promote this signal advantage to the general public.

2) The signals have characteristics of both AM and FM. In mobile applications, while the transmission of shortwave radio is in AM mode (some transmissions are in single sideband, or SSB), some characteristics of FM radio are also present in shortwave radio signals. For example, shortwave radio signals don't fade under overpasses, like FM signals. Shortwave broadcasters have also not been promoting this advantage over local radio signals, and really need to market this more effectively to the general public.

3) The major economic advantage: shortwave radio programming is free, like your local AM and FM radio stations. Access to the Internet for Web-based radio stations and programming is NOT free. One has to pay a monthly access fee for Internet service; it's not cheap these days. And with proposals running about to end freedom on the Internet (Net Neutrality) in the United States, such connections could become much slower. Satellite radio is also a pay service; a subscriber to satellite radio has to pay a quarterly fee for access to programming not available for free on local AM and FM radio. With a powerful signal and virtual worldwide coverage, the higher quality programs of shortwave broadcasters are available to the listener WITHOUT having to pay a monthly, quarterly or even annual fee to an Internet or satellite radio provider. Shortwave broadcasters need to better market the economic advantages of shortwave radio (which is free) over Internet and satellite radio (which are pay services) to the general public. Internet radio is also NOT real radio; the only real radio uses a transmitter, tower and/or satellite.

4) Shortwave broadcasters are free of corporate ownership and control. Today's MW (AM) and FM stations, especially here in the United States, are corporate owned. The agenda of your local MW (AM) or FM station (especially if you live in the United States) is not set in your hometown; it is generally set in cities like San Antonio, TX, New York, NY, Indianapolis, IN and Minneapolis, MN; these agendas are usually arch-conservative in scope. The on-air policies of local radio (especially in the U.S.) emphasizes a "one size fits all" approach; they're dumping grounds for extreme right wing talk show hosts, sex-driven and bloodthirsty "shock jocks" and homogenized playlists. While many shortwave broadcasters are public broadcasters, they usually have more fair news coverage and much better programming than your corporate-owned local radio station. A number of shortwave broadcasters also air Christian programming; they operate as a ministry outreach instead of as a for-profit entity or a public broadcaster. A few are owned by enterprising broadcasters, like Allan Weiner, who provide a place for voices that aren't commonly heard on your local radio station. There are a few U.S.-based broadcasters (most notably WWRB in Tennessee) who provide air time to program hosts even further to the right on the socio-political spectrum than extreme right wingers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Shortwave broadcasters need to promote the fact that they have ZERO corporate control as a major advantage over your local MW (AM), FM or even DAB station, not to mention the higher quality programs of shortwave over those heard on your local MW (AM), FM or DAB station. 

5) Shortwave receivers are more widely available than you think. It is an often-held myth that "there aren't that many shortwave receivers available." That is not the truth. Shortwave receivers are widely available; one just has to look for them. In the United States, Radio Shack has a selection of Grundig/Eton shortwave receivers available; the same can be found at outdoor stores like Cabela's. Many shortwave receivers are affordable now; some can be found for as low as U$30. By contrast, the cheapest Internet receivers are over U$100; receivers that receive the failed "HD" digital system will set you back at least U$150. A converter for your car (such as the MFJ-306) are built for digital readouts; that will cost you less than $120. The availability of shortwave receivers should also be pointed out as a tool to market shortwave radio as an alternative to your local MW (AM), FM or DAB station.

These five important points must be made to the general public in order for shortwave radio to become an alternative to your local MW (AM), FM or DAB station, and a free alternative to Internet or satellite radio. There needs to be some sort of advertising campaign to market shortwave radio as an alternative to local, Internet and satellite radio; maybe the shortwave stations (such as members of the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters, or NASB) could ask potential audiences: "Why You Should Listen to Shortwave Radio", and tell potential audience members about the advantages of shortwave radio over your local radio station. These five points can't be emphasized enough. In order to make shortwave radio more widely available to the public, there should be a more concerted effort by receiver manufacturers to make shortwave receiving capability more readily available to the listening public.

One of the biggest things that need to be done is to require all MW (AM) and FM receivers with a digital readout in the United States to have the capability to receive the International Shortwave Broadcast bands (120, 90, 60, 49, 41, 31, 25, 22, 19, 16, 15 and 13 meter bands, or the 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18 and 21 MHz bands). Such receivers should have digital signal processing and C-QUAM AM Stereo capability, and be free of failed terrestrial digital systems like DRM and "HD" Radio. U.S. radio audiences need to realize that the Cold War is over, and we are not as subjected to Communist propaganda as we were 30 years ago, when we had Radio Moscow, Radio Beijing and East European countries to fill us with their view of the world. We have the right to listen to stations like the BBC, DW Radio, NHK World, KBS World and Radio Australia on our home or car receivers via shortwave; U.S. listeners have been denied that right for over 60 years now. Another change that's needed is to lower the minimum power of U.S. shortwave broadcasters to 5,000 watts from 50,000 watts, and make it a national, as well as an international, broadcasting service. We don't have very many listening alternatives that are NOT controlled by corporations left in the United States; therefore, we should have no corporate ownership of shortwave radio stations in the United States. Shortwave is just fine with independent owners like Jeff White, Allan Weiner and George McClintock, as well as public and Christian broadcasters, and should not be ruined by the likes of Clear Channel Radio, Cumulus Media, CBS Radio, Emmis Communications and Hubbard Broadcasting. Corporate radio has already ruined local MW (AM) and FM radio in the United States. We also should have more tourist-oriented shortwave stations focusing on a region of the country, such as the Midwest, and more full-service stations on shortwave; full service radio is not on our MW (AM) and FM dials so much anymore. 

Ladies and gentlemen, shortwave radio needs to be better marketed to the listening public.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

E-Skip Openings in Late May and Early June

It was well worth the wait for the E-skip openings; the first one took place on May 25. It started at 1030 CDT (1530 UTC) when I pulled in XELN-TV 4 out of Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico. Channel 3 had the usual stations: XHPN Piedras Negras, Coahuila and XHBQ Zacatecas were in before 1200 CDT (1700 UTC). Shortly after 1300, I pulled in two stations from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua: XEPM-TV 2 and XEJ-TV 5, all in analog format. Better catch these now before they go digital! On the FM side of the dial, the opening started down in the Rio Grande Valley, with KESO 92.7 South Padre Island, TX in at 1105 with a spot cluster in Spanish. Three Chihuahua FM stations made it in as well: XHDI 88.5 Ciudad de ChihuahuaXHHPR 101.7 Hidalgo del Parral and XHSBT 99.5 Buenaventura before 1300 CDT (1800 UTC). 

The action began shifting north to El Paso and southern New Mexico after that, with another log of KBNA-FM 97.5 El Paso; the UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso) mention gave it away. Another El Paso FM noted was KSII 93.1. From southern New Mexico, I noted KDEM-FM 94.3 Deming mixing with 120-mile distant KATI California, MO. Albuquerque (yes, the city where Bugs Bunny forgets to make that left turn) came through on FM, I noted a call change with KLQT 95.1 Corrales, which I first noted as KABQ-FM in July 2009. KMGA 99.5 was also noted from Albuquerque. Two Arizona FM stations made it through, with KMVP-FM 98.7 Phoenix noted with an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game from Citi Field in New York (they were playing the Mets that day). Another one noted was KXAZ 93.3 Page, which now has an Adult Hits format for the Lake Powell area. The maximum usable frequency reached 162.400 MHz, noting WNG548 in Show Low, AZ at 1435 CDT (1935 UTC) with a weather forecast, conditions and mention of nearby Springerville. WXJ34 Albuquerque, NM noted with a weather summary for the upper Rio Grande Valley and metro Albuquerque at 1437 CDT (1937 UTC). Mexican TV stations were still in through 1445 CDT (1945 UTC). Northwestern New Mexico was still in before 1500, noting KTRA 102.1 Farmington and, close to the top of the hour, KAZX 102.9 Kirtland, serving the Four Corners area.

By 1500 (2000 UTC), the action had shifted to Colorado. A new station was noted from the Colorado Springs area in KKPK 92.9. Severe storms were moving through the Colorado Springs area at the time; I was fortunate to record KATC 95.1 being interrupted  by a severe thunderstorm warning for the Colorado Springs area. Three new Denver stations were also noted, including only my third "Franken-FM", KXDP-LP 87.7. After next year, these stations will be a thing of the past. The other two new Denver FM stations noted were KYGO 98.5, which simulcast on AM 950 at one time (the 950 pattern is beamed toward the east at night), and KQMT 99.5. I even got into the ski resort areas, with KSKE-FM 101.7 Eagle, near Vail, and KIDN 95.9 Burns, between Eagle and Hayden. Two new Utah FM stations were noted, KWUT 97.7 Elsinore and KZNS-FM 97.5 Coalville; the latter simulcasting one of the all-sports stations in Salt Lake City (KZNS 1280). Before 1600 CDT (2100 UTC), Wyoming stations began to be heard. KUWR 91.9 Laramie was noted at 1559 CDT (2059 UTC) with an ID for Wyoming Public Radio, along with another Laramie FM, KIMX 96.7, which uses the slogan "I-Mix". KSIT 99.7 Rock Springs was also noted at 1556 CDT (2056 CDT) with a rock format and legal ID; KQLT 103.7 Casper also had its Country format interrupted by a severe weather warning for the Casper area at 1630 CDT (2130 UTC). Western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming began coming through between 1635 and 1715 CDT (2135-2215 UTC), with South Dakota stations KRCS 93.1 Sturgis, along with Rapid City stations KLMP 88.3 and KOUT 98.7 noted. KLMP 88.3 runs a Contemporary Christian format, but is also one of the few non-commercial stations to run arch-conservative Fox News Radio. Two more Wyoming FM stations made it in: KHRW 92.7 Ranchester and KLED 93.3 Antelope Valley-Crestview. The city of license for KLED ("The Legend", a Classic Country format) was the longest I could ever fit into any of my logbooks! Before the opening faded from FM, I pulled in a call letter change: KURL 93.3 Billings, MT. I last noted them as KYYA. Ownership limits led to a swap of 93.3 MHz and 730 kHz, with KYYA moving to 730 kHz with a News/Talk format, while KURL moved its Christian programming to 93.3 MHz.

Two new digital TV stations were also added to the logbook on May 25. One of these is KNOP 2 North Platte, NE; the shortest E-skip digital TV log at 575 miles (919 km) from Hazelwood, MO. I pulled in the main channel (carrying NBC's coverage of a golf tournament) and the second channel, carrying the local Fox affiliate. This is a video capture of KNOP 2.1:

The second new DTV log was KYUS 3 Miles City, MT. Even with very low power, this is quite a haul at 945 miles (1,521 km). I was able to get PSIP information from this station:

KYUS is my first digital TV log on Channel 3. I also logged this several times in analog format, especially when relaying KULR 8 in Billings. Two new analog stations were noted, both on Channel 6 and both from Saskatchewan. CFQC-TV2 North Battleford and CKCK-TV2 Willow Bunch both battled for domination on the channel at 1819 CDT (2319 UTC).

Another E-skip opening occurred on June 1; the maximum usable frequency on this one was 90.1 MHz, noting XHRYS Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico with a Top 40 format, weather conditions and local ads in Spanish at 1544 CDT (2044 UTC). Four Mexican analog TV stations were also noted: XHWX 4 Monterrey,  Nuevo Leon, XHAE 5 Saltillo, Coahuila, XHTAU 2 Tampico, Tamaulipas and XHPN 3 Piedras Negras, Coahuila; the first two between 1430 and 1500 CDT (1930-2000 UTC) and the other two between 1715 and 1730 CDT (2215-2230 UTC).  The June 2 E-skip opening allowed me to re-log analog Channels 2, 4 and 6 in Havana between 1045 and 1130 CDT (1545-1630 UTC). Still another opening on June 6 allowed me to pull in only my second Cuban FM, CMBV 93.3 Havana (Radio Taino) with Latin pop music, promos and Cuba mentions in Spanish at 1955 CDT (June 7 0055 UTC). On that same day, I re-logged XHTAU 2 Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico at 1125 CDT (1625 UTC), as well as Havana, Cuba on 4 and 6, as well as Santa Clara, Cuba on channel 3 (analog format). The E-skip opening of June 9 afforded me a huge opportunity to fatten my CW logbook, working stations in the Northeast U.S., as well as Ontario and Quebec in Canada on 6 Meters CW. I did work a New Hampshire station on 6 Meters SSB, though. The MUF peaked at Channel 2, with CIII2 Bancroft, ON (in analog) noted at 1648 CDT (2148 UTC) with a Toronto newscast, including a traffic report. The opening of June 11 also peaked at Channel 2 to Ontario, again noting CIII2 at 1655 with the local news.

With the addition of a couple local 10-watt FM stations to the logbook, my FM total now stands at 1,262 as of June 11, 2014 from 46 U.S states and the District of Columbia, eight Canadian provinces, seven Mexican states and the Federal District (Mexico City), and Ciudad de la Habana in Cuba. The analog TV logbook now stands at 577 from six countries (U.S., Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela), the digital TV logbook now stands at 164 stations from 18 states, and the NOAA Weather Radio logbook now stands at 114 stations from 22 states.