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Shortwave cuts could cost lives

By Ian Nance - posted Tuesday, 7 August 2018

I've spent the majority of a fascinating communications life in the broadcasting profession, firstly in radio then in television and film. But also it has been my technical hobby, building, testing, and operating all sorts of transmission systems for the sheer pleasure of scientific knowledge.

Hence I've been interested, and more than a little concerned, at the government's decision to let go of Radio Australia, this country's invaluable overseas broadcasting arm.

Here are my opinions on a facility which acts as our collective voice in a world of competing media interests.


There is no sound reason (pun intended) why Radio Australia should be a failure.

There were many arguments advanced for its closure, the main ones being that the technology was old, outdated, and now supplanted by various digital technologies.

To which I retort "rubbish!"

Radio Australia is a most readily accessible system for our overseas audiences, with only simple, battery powered, cheap, readily available short wave receivers needed by millions of listeners.

Radio Australia can always be there in some of the most remote parts of nations that are less developed economically or culturally than our own lucky country, or else be broadcasting to other societies of a totally different mien.

The informational benefit to overseas residents is the existence of a shortwave broadcast reception method which is technically simple to use and simply powered.


Content has never been a big problem with news and current events featuring strongly alongside Australian cultural aspects such as sport, music, and overall politics. But one of the most critical aspects of Radio Australia is its ability to serve as a counter-emergency alerting and information system for natural disasters or civil disturbance.

The arguments to abandon Radio Australia broadcasts seems to have stemmed largely from inexpert bureaucrats who had little appreciation of the art and philosophy of public broadcasting, its one-way streaming of messaging rather than interactivity, as well as its structural simplicity. Rather, their decisions appeared to be economic and overly reliant on the emergence of recent technologies and a subsequent fascination with them.

Their reasoning was that FM, satellite and internet systems would and could supplant the existing high frequency AM transmitters radiating Australia's voice around the world, but with particular importance to our immediate Pacific regions

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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