Radio Australia shortwave shutdown

Radio Australia now no longer broadcasts via shortwave.

Others have covered the news in more detail – in particular, highlighting the shortsightedness of shutting down an affordable service used by remote communities in northern Australia and on Pacific islands.

For me it’s just another inevitable step down the path shortwave seems to be going. There’s still plenty to be heard on shortwave – and a decent array of international sources to intrigue and fascinate. But as each service – usually a country – shuts down their shortwave transmitters, the service becomes of narrower and shallower interest. You need only tune around the wavebands these days to see how prominent China Radio International has become. (Receiving broadcasts direct from as far away as China is still exciting, but it gets less so when they’re repeated via transmitters closer to home.)

The Radio Australia shutdown reminds me of the fact that Radio Canada International shut down its own shortwave services in 2012. This was a long time after I started playing with my first shortwave radio, but RCI became a favourite of mine for its science show, its news and culture magazines, and most of all its correspondence show where they’d read out letters(!) and emails from listeners around the world. I signed up to receive the RCI’s programme schedule by post, and was delighted to also receive other merchandise including little plastic pennants with the station’s branding.

As of today, Radio Australia has gone the way of Radio Canada International, and many others. I didn’t listen to Radio Australia much – had never really been able to, to be honest. But on the rare occasions that it came through clear enough to make out, it was nothing less than a thrill. That the signal had made its way however far from Shepparton, and via however many bounces off the surface and atmosphere of the earth to make it into my little plastic receiver… Amazing.

I’ve had mixed successes tuning the shortwave bands since moving house last September. A new building festooned with insulation, cabling and new sources of radio noise is a bit less conducive to shortwave listening than a third floor flat near the top of a hill, as was my previous accommodation.

But I’m glad I was able to take a short recording last May, of reception of Radio Australia during a DXpedition just a little further up the hill to the top of Hampstead Heath. My own little souvenir of something becoming ever rarer.