The 2012 edition of the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) was published in early December 2011. The appearance and format have not changed much over recent years, but the content certainly has.
Although the WRTH has been known for decades as the “DXers' Bible”, there are several signs in this edition that the publisher will not make the mistake some other publishers made of pretending that shortwave is still the only platform for international broadcasting.
In particular, the venerable George Jacobs, who has reached his 50th year writing the annual high frequency (HF) propagation predictions, says
“With my experience gained during 50 years of reporting, I do not question, and I strongly agree, that the future for international broadcasting is the continued dramatic rise of the satellite and internet platforms. I believe, however, that HF broadcasting will continue to have an important role to play far into the future, albeit as a complement to these newer platforms.”
Mr Jacobs knows what he is talking about, as he has been in the international broadcasting business for 65 years, including a period as Chief Engineer at the Voice of America. So perhaps we at RNW are not as stupid as some non-experts have claimed we are in recent years!
The WRTH editorial includes the following:
“In view of the rise of the internet as an outlet for international broadcasters, we have decided to include details of languages available on the Internet in the international section.”
This a welcome change, as it ensures that stations such as Radio Sweden can still be included, rather than ignored as if it doesn’t exist. Having said that, I was surprised that Swissinfo, formerly Swiss Radio International and one of the first international broadcasters to switch off shortwave – also a key partner of RNW - has not been included, even though it is part of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
The WRTH still devotes most of its 672 pages to traditional over-the-air broadcasting, and there is still a shortwave receiver review section. Of course, the bulk of the book is devoted to listing thousands of radio and TV stations worldwide.
I note that the amount of space devoted to TV has stayed at around 40 pages for many years, and this distorts the relative importance of different stations and networks. China, for example, is compressed into just over a third of a page, about the same as Denmark.
But of more concern, I could not find any reference to some of the big international satellite TV networks such as China’s CCTV News and Iran’s Press TV. These networks are international broadcasters, but seem to have fallen into a hole between international radio and domestic TV. Anyone buying the WRTH who doesn’t know they exist will be none the wiser.
I would suggest that, for international broadcasting, the editors give serious thought to including these international TV networks in the same section as radio and internet. This would give a better idea of the relative importance of the different platforms. I would argue that, in many cases, the satellite TV services that are not listed reach many more people than some of the radio services from the same country. They certainly cost a bigger proportion of the budget!
A must-have publication
Small quibbles aside, the WRTH is a must-have publication for all who work in international broadcasting, and those who like to hear or see broadcasts from outside their own country. Some may wonder if a printed book is still needed in an age when so much information can be found on the internet. But anyone who has tried listening to a weak radio signal with the computer switched on close to the receiver will know how much noise a computer can produce. So having access to printed information is still very useful.
The WRTH does have computerised information too – I reviewed the WRTH Bargraph Frequency Guide earlier in 2011, and new editions will be produced in January 2012 and later in the year for the summer schedules. There are also regular updates drawing attention to significant changes to the listings. More information on the WRTH website.
Publisher: Nicholas Hardyman
No. of pages: 672
Publisher's address: WRTH Publications Limited, PO Box 290, Oxford, OX2 7FT, United Kingdom
Order Fax: +44 (0)1865 514405
Web (secure online ordering): www.wrth.com
Cover price: £24.95 including airmail postage worldwide.
Distributed in the USA by Innovative Logistics, 575 Prospect St, Lakewood, NJ 08701. Web: www.innlog.net.
Distributed in Germany by Gert Wohlfarth GmbH, Stresemannstrasse 20-22, D-47051 Duisburg. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. ISBN: 978-3-87463-504-2.