Ever thought of listening to remote radio stations in far-flung places' It’s a hobby of many a radio enthusiast, right here in Calcutta. A band of loyal shortwave frequency listeners tunes into broadcasting stations worldwide. So, a person in Purulia can frequently be found tuning in to a programme in Peru.
Thousands of radio DX-ers (“technical jargon for distant stations listeners”) exchange information and signal strength reports, and participate in contests of international radio stations. It involves listening in to stations across the world, be it Voice of America or German radio. All one needs are good-quality receivers with high selectivity and sensitivity. This, say DX-ers, is lacking in Calcutta.
“There are nearly 2,000 radio DX-ers in West Bengal,” says Arya Ghosh, assistant secretary, Calcutta VHF Amateur Radio Society, life member, Amateur Radio Society of India and an enthusiastic DX-er. “Every time I listen to a foreign radio station, there is usually a letter from someone in Bengal. But, the receivers available are not adequate.”
Cheap Chinese radios, for around Rs 350, flood the local market, but lack the power of sensitivity, enabling one to intercept the weak stations, and selectivity, which means the quality to tune in to the desired station and discard the unwanted ones. International sets, sold in the grey market are priced too high, there is no guarantee and no way to repair them, says Ghosh.
“I face a lot of trouble listening to the weak stations, and there is chaos as one station arrives on the other. What the radio-hobbyists need are world-class radio receivers with digital frequency readout, which are phase-locked loop (PLL) synthesised and have frequency stability. For this, the multinationals manufacturing the receivers have to come forward,” he adds.
Saibal Banerjee of JDS Technologies, a franchisee of electronics giant Grundig, explains that while they do get the worldband radio sets on order, stocking them in Calcutta is not financially viable. “There isn’t enough demand. Also, they cost several times more than the Chinese radios, at around Rs 3,500.”
But according to Ghosh, DX-ing is a hobby that needs the right equipment before people can get into it. “With the arrival of FM channels, radios are very popular. A radio still bridges the communication gap. If someone tunes into a station abroad and likes it, he’ll continue to do so. But you won’t know till you’ve tried it. The equipment has to be available first. They might be expensive, but the consumer should have the choice,” he sums up.