Sun, 3 July 2011
It's ten years since Radio Netherlands organised a "short wave" of publicity stunt targeting English speakers in North America. On July 1st 2001, BBC World Service ended its broadcasts on shortwave to North America. Mark Byford, then the Director of BBC World Service, decided to pull the plug rather abruptly instead of quietly phasing out the service. It caused quite a commotion in shortwave-listening circles. As programme director at Radio Netherlands at the time, I was rather curious to see what would happen if we hired the same BBC transmitting facilities from Merlin Communications for a short period after sign-off to see what the reaction would be. I made a simple shortwave showcase programme explaining that there were other stations on the dial apart from the BBC. The programme got a satisfactory response, so much so, that after two weeks we decided to add a regular morning broadcast to North America, following on from the success that the RN Latin American service had enjoyed. At the time, there were high hopes for Digital Radio Mondiale, a digital standard for AM broadcasting. I also pointed out in the programme that broadband was not available for the majority of the audience which is why shortwave still made sense. The situation is very different today. Today, shortwave broadcasting to North America makes no economic or strategic sense at all. But it was fun while it lasted.