Radio Station WWRB FAQ

What is Shortwave? | Becoming a Broadcaster | Maximizing Shortwave Reception | Other Questions

Q: What is shortwave radio?

A: You are probably familiar with AM and FM radio, the two most commonly used forms of radio communication in the United States. As you know, AM and FM radio stations have a very short reception range, often less than 60 miles. As a result, broadcasters on these radio station only reach whoever lives within that short signal range.

Shortwave radio is very similar to AM broadcast radio; however, unlike AM radio, shortwave has global range. In other words, broadcasters on a single shortwave station with multiple antenna systems can reach the entire world with their messages.

Q: How does shortwave reach the entire world?

A: The main reason shortwave broadcasts reach the entire world is due to the nature of a shortwave signal. Conventional AM radio signals travel along the ground, and are easily blocked by obstacles. Very quickly, they lose their power and the station becomes unreceivable.

Shortwave signals do not follow the ground. Instead, they take advantage of the ionosphere, a layer of Earth's atmosphere located approximately 50 miles above the ground. The ionosphere has the unique ability to reflect shortwave radio waves. Therefore, a shortwave station `fires' its signal at the ionosphere. When the signal reaches the ionosphere, it's reflected back towards the surface of the earth. As a result, shortwave radio stations are heard hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from their transmitter sites. Furthermore, by carefully selecting the antenna direction and frequency used, a radio station can specifically target areas of the world. Shortwave radio stations that cannot select from a range of antennas or frequencies cannot reliably reach the entire world.

Q: Why are multiple antenna systems necessary?

A: All shortwave stations in the United States are required by Federal Communications Commission rules to use directional antennas. A directional antenna functions much like a flashlight: it concentrates the signal generated by the station's transmitters in one direction, called the antenna's main lobe. For example, if a broadcaster wants to be heard in South America with a strong and consistent signal, you must use an antenna with a main lobe that points towards South America, such as our 150 Wide Spaced Yagi antenna. A station that has an eastwards pointing antenna main lobe cannot reach South America reliably because it is sending its programs in the wrong direction.

Q: Is it true that regardless of transmitter power, for a shortwave station to reach a certain place, it is essential to match the antenna direction?

A: Absolutely true. It is essential for a station to send its programs on the correct antenna regardless of power for, like a flashlight beam, this is the direction the station's signal will be concentrated. Extremely poor and inconsistent coverage can be expected if a station is not beaming its signal to the target area of its broadcasts. On shortwave it is not a matter of the transmitter power used, but the antenna main lobe direction utilized. As an example of how little transmitter power affects a listener's received signal, if you double a shortwave station's transmitter power from 50,000 watts to 100,000 watts, listeners will rarely be able to discern the change in signal resulting from the doubling of transmitter power.

Q: I was reviewing your program schedule and noticed that certain frequencies of Radio Station WWRB are only on the air at certain specific time periods. Why is this?

A: Radio Station WWRB is committed to providing its broadcasters with the best possible air times to insure that all broadcasters have the greatest possible number of listeners in their prime time night time target areas. Broadcasting too early or too late misses the 'window' available to speak to a broadcaster's intended audience: they may be asleep or preoccupied with day to day tasks. It is essential that broadcasts be aired when it is the target audience's prime time night time (their early evening to midnight.) This is when the audience is ready to relax and listen to their shortwave radios during their leisure time, just like here in America during evenings after work. The times and frequencies that Radio Station WWRB has chosen to broadcast on are specifically selected to reach a global prime time night time target audience using the correct frequency and antenna main lobe.

Q: What are the most important aspects of shortwave broadcasting?

A: The most important aspects of broadcasting on shortwave are the number of antennas targeting large landmasses, the number of prime time nighttime times a program is played each week, and the number of frequencies used. Much like an airline, multiple flights (broadcasts) depart from the same airport in many differing directions (different antenna directions and frequencies) at different times of the day. This allows people to fly (listen) at their leisure (prime time early evening to their midnight for the intended audience,) ensuring maximum exposure and effectiveness. Therefore, a program should be played multiple times, using multiple antennas and multiple frequencies for maximum exposure. Most of our broadcasters are on daily, broadcasting on different times on several frequencies and using several antennas; as a direct result, their broadcasts are much more effective, reaching a large target audience.

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