L.W.’s Book Review: World Radio TV Handbook

The World Radio TV Handbook (“WRTH”) is a large annual handbook that contains a comprehensive directory of radio and television broadcasting stations worldwide. It also includes articles, technical reviews and commentaries about many aspects of shortwave listening, DX (long distance) chasing, and selection of suitable radio receivers.

Revised and published annually, the reader is assured that the information contained therein is fresh and accurate. (I did my review based on the 2011 edition.) Anyone who has listened to a shortwave radio will know that it is often difficult to determine the identity of the station as it is being heard. Moreover, many stations operate concurrently on the same frequency. The vagaries of HF propagation normally insure that the targeted audience receives the signal beamed toward them, but many times the signal from a station may be heard where not normally expected. Enter the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH), which will give the identity of all stations operating on a specific frequency, the times of the transmission, the language being spoken, and an indication of the scheduled content. Not only does this allow the listener to more accurately determine what he is hearing, but the times and audience targeting will enable the listener to schedule and record it unattended.

The information in this book is gathered year-round by the publisher, as well as being directly provided by the broadcasters themselves. Shortwave listeners (SWLs) also contribute station reports, which are of particular value in listing and monitoring clandestine and very small local stations. The listings include virtually all commercial broadcasters, their frequencies ranging from long wave (below 535 KHz), medium wave (535 to 1705 KHz), shortwave (1.8 – 30 MHz), FM (76 to 108 MHz) and terrestrial television.

WRTH has five sections; Editorial, Contributors, Reviews, Features, and Information. The Editorial section consists of a general overview of commercial broadcasting, anticipated changes and so on; a review of the state of the broadcasting industry in general. The Contributors section names those individuals who have been instrumental in providing fresh reception information, especially the rare and hard to find stations. It is notable that the contributors are global, indicating a healthy interest in broadcast listening worldwide. The Review section has reviews of current shortwave-capable receivers in all price ranges, from a few dollars to many thousands. These reviews are concise and very useful for the targeted audience, the hobbyist shortwave listener, but are less technical than reviews in more focused publications, like the amateur radio publication QST. However, the lack of detailed technical measurements seldom make any real difference to the typical shortwave or medium wave listener. A wide selection of articles populate the Features section, ranging from classic radio receivers to digital reception to a preview of anticipated propagation for the coming year.

The majority of the content of WRTH is in the Information section, which contains all the frequency listings. This section is further broken down into several categories, each designed to be helpful as the listener scans the bands. The listings serve both types of listener; schedulers and cruisers. A scheduler will locate the country and language of choice, pick the most appropriate frequency for the current level of propagation, then tune to that frequency at the appointed time and hopefully hear or record the selected broadcast. A cruiser typically finds a band where propagation and reception is good, then tunes about until finding a station of interest. By determining the language and content of the program, the listener can then use the listings to find the most likely candidate(s) for the station being heard. This can be confirmed by hearing the station ID on the hour.

The listings themselves are broken down several ways, each given its own place in the book. National radio listings consists of stations whose broadcasts are targeted within the station’s home country boundaries. These are your typical local MW broadcast stations, but also include FM and ground-based TV stations. International radio listings contain stations that specifically target and beam toward other regions of the world. Typically these are very high powered shortwave transmitters, operating on multiple frequencies, many times with identical broadcast content. These stations generally provide cultural content, music, and a healthy dose of propaganda. Most of these high-power stations are government owned and operated, which will define the program content. Frequency listings contain frequencies and the stations to be found on them, in increasing order of frequency. This list is most useful when hearing a station that you want to ID quickly. By looking at the entry you can get the station power, country of origin and call sign with location. If you are a cruiser you will find this to be the place most useful to you.

Terrestrial television is covered thoroughly in the USA as well as abroad. Due to the nature of UHF propagation, foreign TV stations will seldom, if ever, be detected outside of the station’s immediate locale. The movement toward digital television has also limited the usefulness of these listings as digital transmissions are ineffective beyond line of sight. The TV listings are interesting but will be of very limited usefulness to the prepper.

The final part of the book is the Reference section, which gives miscellaneous related information for using the guide. Examples are Main Country Index,Geographical Area Codes, Abbreviations and Symbols, and so forth. These entries are helpful in understanding and getting the full information from the foregoing frequency and station sections of the book. Of particular interest is the Standard Time and Frequency listings, which give the frequencies, times and locations of these stations. Time and frequency stations are handy for calibrating your receiver tuning, and getting an accurate time setting when other methods are unavailable, and checking propagation from a specific area of the world.

WRTH covers all licensed and many clandestine radio and TV frequencies worldwide. For its intended purpose and audience it fulfills expectations very well. It is complex on first viewing but with a modest effort anyone can learn to use this handbook quickly. The listings will never be 100 percent accurate because of continual changes in transmitter frequencies, locations, power levels and the inevitable political issues prevalent in some countries. Some readers may have trouble initially understanding the acronyms and technical abbreviations. There is a bit of a learning curve to a beginning user. However, the Features and Reviews section includes a page on how to use the listings as well as a detailed set of world maps which help orient the reader to the locations of the listed stations. The Reference section also covers abbreviations used throughout the book.

This handbook is of great usefulness to shortwave listeners, radio hobbyists, preppers and anyone interested in the variety and geographical locations of transmitters throughout the world. I have used this book as an aid in my radio monitoring for over thirty years. The accuracy of the publication is such that I usually keep my copy for two years before getting a new one. However, if you want to have the absolute latest printed compendium of frequencies, then purchasing a copy annually is your best choice.

Sean Gilbert, George Jacobs, Bengt Ericson. Dave Kenny, Mauno Ritola, Bernd Trutenau, and Torgeir Woxen

Copyright Date 2010

Published by Nicholas Hardyman – WRTH Publications Ltd.

ISBN 978-0-9555481-3-0

Amazon.com is now selling the 2012 edition of the World Radio TV Handbook