Over the past few days, I and many other shortwave listeners have noted that Radio Australia can no longer be heard on the air. Many of those who contacted the broadcaster received a cut-and-paste statement in response, saying that the outage is a result of technical maintenance. The wording is somewhat suspicious, however:
We are currently working with our transmission provider on a number of shut downs over the past week and again over the next week to investigate a range of technical and commercial issues for the service.(emphasis mine). This reminded me of a comment from one of my blog readers, left in response to our endangered shortwave stations initiative:
rubbersoul1991 on 3 May 2016 at 02:46
Thanks for the post. The Australian Government is about to hand down its 2016/17 budget tonight and has foreshadowed another round of cuts to the ABC. The new head of the ABC is an ex Google executive [...] so a nuanced response may not be forthcoming. These are dark days for Radio Australia and it may not survive another year.The budget was passed shortly after the comment was left, but could Radio Australia be quietly testing the waters with ceasing shortwave broadcasts in advance of the next round of possible cuts?
The usual arguments about the economics of running a high-powered shortwave radio service are well known and have been discussed many times over. And time and again, what is missing from these discussions is the humanitarian aspect: depriving people in the less advantaged territories of the ability to receive global broadcasts at no cost results in a less equal world. A good friend of mine from India who went on to become a highly successful academic in the USA attributed his career path to regularly listening to the BBC World Service and Voice of America on shortwave while growing up in a poor neighbourhood. True, India is now much better connected than it was back then, but in how many other regions will shutting down shortwave radio result in lost opportunities for the people there to connect with the rest of the world? We wouldn’t dream of cutting Internet access in poor neighbourhoods in our own countries; shutting down all libraries in less privileged parts of our cities would result in an outcry. I find it hard to believe that this point is lost on the people charged with making such decisions and one can only hope that this is indeed a temporary outage. Continue reading →