Montreal Radio Blog

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shortwave Radio and RCI

I still have a shortwave radio I purchased in 1989. I took a trip oversees and wanted to see if I could pick up Radio Canada International. It's hard for younger people to imagine a time when you weren't able to have instant access to information, but yes that is the way it was. Back then (late 1980s), about the only way to keep in touch with home aside from long-distance calls (which were still a big deal!), was to pick up the U.S.A. Today or try to pick up shortwave signals.

It was really amazing when you picked up a signal in english that was clear enough to understand! Voice of America was beamed around pretty well, but RCI seemed harder to catch. You had to acquire a schedule which included frequencies. It was necessary to send a request to the broadcasters by mail and wait for them to send it back to you. Oh yeah, things have surely changed since then!

You knew you had found the right frequency/time combination when you heard the first four notes of O'Canada right as they were about to begin their transmission. Then the voice said that you were listening to Radio Canada International - from Montreal. Instantly, you had access to Canadian news, weather and sports scores, among other things.
RCI is run by the CBC, sort of... I think right now they broadcast in 7 languages. The service used to broadcast in considerably more languages than that. RCI launched in 1945, primarily as a way for Canadian service men to stay in touch with news from home.

Pretty much all of their stuff is now available online. They can also be heard on Satellite radio. I'm not sure about their current situation, but I know for a while they were struggling to stay alive. Some federal budgets announced cuts that threatened to do away with the service altogether. Many claimed that the Internet makes shortwave services obsolete, but that is pretty naive thinking. There is still a sizable portion of the planet that does not have access to the Internet.

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