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Deutsche Welle to Shift Focus & Infrastructure

Shortwave use to be reduced sharply

Like other international broadcasters, Germany’s Deutsche Welle is confronting the reality that traditional consumer listening habits are giving way to other media consumption.

The organization has announced an increased focus on a broadening range of new distribution platforms — like TV, online and mobile services — while it moves away from shortwave and even some FM broadcasts. The news is likely to be another disappointment to backers of traditional shortwave, who have lamented similar moves at other big international broadcast entities.

DW wants to end or reduce expensive maintenance of aging shortwave transmission facilities and duplicative FM costs.

Its international programming focus in coming years will be on Sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East, Iran, North Africa, South Asia and Afghanistan, Russia and Latin America. Due to limited budget, it says, development of new services will only be possible if it reduces activities elsewhere.

So beginning July 1, the German broadcaster will overhaul its distribution platforms for broadcasts to Asia and Europe. DW will focus on “modules” that can be integrated into the FM lineups of its programming partners, as well as offered as standalone, on-demand services for the Internet and mobile devices.

Except for Africa and parts of Asia, its shortwave broadcasts will be discontinued due to limited use, according to DW. It will end shortwave transmission for programs in German, Russian, Farsi and Indonesian on Nov. 1. For English, shortwave broadcasts will be limited to Africa. Broadcasting times for Chinese shortwave programming will be reduced.

Starting in November, DW will transmit programming using shortwave only in the following languages: Amharic, Chinese, Dari, English and French for Africa, Hausa, Kiswahili, Pashtu, Portuguese for Africa and Urdu.

The German broadcaster will increase online and mobile services for languages that will have their shortwave transmissions reduced or eliminated.

The changes affect shortwave relay stations as well. The shortwave program broadcasts 260 hours daily with DW’s own or rented relay stations; with the new focus on Africa and regions in Asia that will be reduced to 55 hours daily at the beginning of the winter season. Only its relay station in Rwanda will be needed for shortwave broadcasts in Africa, according to DW. Its stations in Sri Lanka and Portugal can no longer be used to capacity; those relay stations will soon close.

In the future, DW will work with partner stations in central and southeast Europe to broadcast regional TV magazines and produce online services, each in the regional language. Starting July 1, FM services for Bulgarian, Greek, Croatian, Macedonian and Romanian will be reduced and eventually discontinued.

FM frequencies that were purchased or rented in Sofia, Bucharest, Pristina and Tirana will be returned, as well as the corresponding licenses. The FM broadcasts for Albanian, Bosnian and Serbian will be reduced. In the future, these will focus on partnerships with local FMs. A service in Romani will be maintained for now. For Ukraine, DW is examining whether an agreement can be made with a partner to broadcast a reduced amount of FM programming. Radio programming for Hindi will be discontinued on July 1.

DW will continue to expand its network of FM partners in Africa. The radio production for Hausa, Kiswahili, French and Portuguese for Africa will be optimized for FM broadcasts. DW will also produce a regional radio magazine daily in English, to be rebroadcast by partners in Africa.

Audio content in Arabic will be created for the Middle East and North Africa and distributed online, via mobile or rebroadcast by partners. DW will focus on FM partnerships for Bengali, Urdu, Dari/Pashtu und Indonesian for South Asia, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

— Leslie Stimson