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James Cridland - radio futurologist
Shortwave radio: who owns the receivers?

Shortwave radio: who owns the receivers?

· 4.4 minutes to read

Above: a name badge (my name!) from when I presented about the future of radio in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2012; and the local beer.

RT was taken off the air in Europe, the US and Australia. A station that often represented a different point of view from Western authorities was removed after government pressure.

Эхо Москвы (Echo of Moscow) was taken off the air in Russia. A station that often represented a different point of view from Russian authorities was removed after government pressure.

There is one difference, of course - in this interview from the BBC World Service, a journalist for Эхо Москвы, Tatyana Felgenhauer, is asked what’s next: “arrest”, she instantly replies. It’s quite the listen.


Many international broadcasters have restarted their shortwave broadcasting into Ukraine. The BBC World Service is producing a Ukrainian service (but for only four hours a day).

Of course, commendable: but, as this 2010 piece from RadioWorld points out, shortwave broadcasting has mainly ceased, and back then, even in places like India and Vietnam, shortwave listening had shrunk to tiny figures.

The demise of shortwave listening can only have exacerbated over the last ten years, as more services have been switched off. The ABC turned off shortwave in the Pacific in 2017. All India Radio is studying switchoff too. Shortwave for this midwestern USA listener in 2020 consisted of a lot of religious broadcasting, propaganda, offensive content, and (oddly) Bell’s 1010 CFRB, a news/talk station in Toronto, which has an international shortwave relay.

More than 20 years ago, Graham Mytton shared some research data about shortwave radio ownership. That claims that in neighbouring Slovakia, 77% of households had access to shortwave radio at the time. Assuming that data is from 1998 or so, however, it’s probably worth remembering that the country was just six years into being: and parts of Europe were still emerging from the cold war.

I can’t find any data showing ownership of shortwave radio receivers that is newer than Mytton’s. I’m sure it exists; but would love to learn more about shortwave receiver ownership. Does anyone know anything?

Incidentally - I looked into buying a shortwave radio the other day. What I’d like is a radio with shortwave, mediumwave, FM, DAB and DRM - a radio capable of receiving anything that’s out there. I can’t find one. Anyone know of one?

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In Poland, RMF Ukrainia on 98.6 FM has started broadcasting for Ukrainian refugees. You can listen here - when I tuned in, it was in English - a news bulletin helping people with school admissions for refugees, the weather telling you to take warm clothes if you’re going to the border. RMF is part of Bauer. Good call.


  • I wrote for the EBU’s tech-i magazine (p16) about the need for radio to move to digital-first content, so that it can attract younger audiences.

  • Elsewhere, impressive data from ESPN - showing that it has over 50 percent of total US sports audio listening. Note - not radio listening, but “audio” listening, which rather underlines the benefit of a multiplatform future.

  • A good listen - Pierre Bouvard talking about US radio ad load, and comparing it with podcasting on the Sounds Profitable podcast. Bouvard suggests that podcasts are under-commercialised, given their comparatively light ad-load. Others might suggest that radio is over-commercialised, of course…

  • Union Jack Radio, a set of three national radio stations, has closed. The company has entered administration and staff will be made redundant. Geoff Lloyd has written his thoughts. Very cleverly, it was set up as a separate business from Jack FM Oxford, with which it shared buildings and some staff functions, so independent radio in Oxford is still alive and well.

  • A small plug for livenow·news, my streaming news TV website. You’ll find a lot of different TV news channels there: including RT, though (until they restore their own stream) you’ll not see it in Europe. I’d love to build an AndroidTV app for this, but I assume Google wouldn’t approve it.

Want to supercharge your radio show? Here’s a £1 week-long trial of Show Prep - from a world class radio consultant and the best show-prep writer in the UK. Great for UK stations, or for English-language stations everywhere, too. (ad)

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I’ll be at Podcast Movement Evolutions in Los Angeles in March, and also speaking at Radio-Canada’s Ohdio conference in March too. I’ll also be at Radiodays Europe in Malmö, Sweden in May, The Podcast Show in London in May, and Canadian Music Week in June. I’m very much looking forward to getting back on the road.

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