German Radio Amateurs Breathe New Life into “Orphaned” Shortwave Channel
Some radio amateurs are frustrated broadcasters, and when German national broadcaster the Deutsche Welle closed down a 500 kW shortwave broadcast transmitter near Munich, an entity headed and operated by hams applied for and was granted the vacant channel of 6070 kHz in the 49 meter shortwave band. DARC Radio — which has a business association with the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC) but is privately owned — now has a 10 kW broadcast station, branded “Channel 292,” up and running, and a new Amateur Radio DX program will debut next month.
“After the demolition of one of the world´s biggest shortwave facilities of the Deutsche Welle last year, we managed to get an official radio broadcast license for the German Amateur Radio Club and have built up a shortwave transmitter with some parts of the old 500 kW transmitter from there,” said DARC Radio Project Manager Rainer Englert, DF2NU, an ARRL member and president of the Munich South Section of the DARC. “As far as we know, there is no similar ham project like this worldwide.”
The Deutsche Welle used the 6070 kHz channel until mid-2013 for European transmissions. DARC Radio hopes to fund its operating expenses by leasing airtime.
The DARC is a customer, and under its banner, a weekly Amateur Radio-oriented magazine of DARC news, contest schedules, DX information, interviews, DXpedition reports, market reviews, technical hints, and “some nice old music from the 70s and 80s” will debut on Sunday, March 22, at 1000 UTC, Englert told ARRL. The program will be in German, but the RSGB has expressed interest in contributing English-language program segments, he said. The inaugural DX magazine will be repeated on Monday, March 23, at 1600 UTC.
According to the DARC, the initial March 22 broadcast will air from a 100 kW transmitter in Austria, while the repeat broadcast on March 23 will emanate from Radio DARC’s 10 kW transmitter near Ingolstadt, Germany.
Rainer Ebeling, DB8QC, owns the official licensee — Intermedicom GmbH (LLC). He repurposed parts from the driver stages as well as a few transformers from the former Deutsche Welle transmitter for DARC Radio’s 10 kW transmitter. “The antenna is a low-hanging, simple dipole with very high radiation angle, optimized for short-range coverage,” Englert explained. The station easily covers much of Western Europe, he said, and also has been heard in Russia.
“We definitely have monitored Channel 292 via a web SDR in Toronto,” he said, adding that the best time to hear the station is when both ends of the path are in darkness.
In North America Canadian broadcaster CFRX occupies 6070 kHz, transmitting at 1 kW and beaming west; Radio Havana also uses the channel. Englert said other broadcasters, perceiving it as a vacant channel, have been encroaching on 6070 kHz at night, when the station is off the air. SWLs routinely report stations operating at very high power from China, Iran, Korea, and even the Vatican.
Although its license allows full-time service, the station has mostly been on the air from 0700 until 1700 UTC. Englert said others, in addition to DARC, have been leasing airtime — currently filling about 20 hours per week. DARC Radio’s hourly rate is rock bottom — about $17.50 US. “This rate really only covers expenditures like electric power and the write-off of the power amplifier,” he said. “The transmitter sucks almost 40 kW out of the grid at 100 percent modulation.”
The station airs “The Golden Days of Offshore Radio” weekdays at 0700-0900 UTC, with offerings that evoke the era of pirate stations RNI, Radio Caroline, Radio Veronica, and others. In fact, the Channel 292 brand recalls the Channel 192 pirate station of the 1960s and 1970s. It also airs programs in Dutch and Spanish.
All reception reports to Channel 292 will be answered with a QSL card. Outgoing cards will go out via the DARC QSL bureau.
“The orphaned shortwave frequencies hardly interest anyone these days,” allowed the DARC. “Not so radio amateurs, who will take advantage of these new possibilities to also get broadcasting licenses.”