EAST AFRICAN REPORT

BY CHRIS GREENWAY

ARTICLE FROM COMMUNICATION - EDITION 323 - OCTOBER 2001

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Greetings again from Nairobi, just 90 miles south of the equator. At this time of year, around the equinox, the sun at midday is directly overhead and so you can have the interesting experience of walking all the way round a building and not seeing its shadow.

 

The sun being so high in the sky means that ionospheric absorption during the day of signals in the lower shortwave bands is very high. On these frequencies, only signals with short skip distances (i.e. with the signals more-or-less going straight up and down) can penetrate the strong absorption of the ionosphere's D-layer.

 

This means that at noon (0900 GMT) the only signals normally audible here below 7 MHz are Radio Tanzania on 5050 (see below), Radio Ethiopia (5990), Radio Rwanda (6055), Radio Fana from Addis Ababa (6210 and 6940), and Radio Kahuzi (6210) in the Democratic Republic of Congo audible behind the stronger signal from Fana.

 

Even above 7 MHz the signals from Eritrea signing on at 0930 GMT on 7100 and 7175 kHz are very weak indeed, and those from normally-reliable Radio Uganda on 7110 and 7195 can occasionally fade down into the midday noise at this time of year. Here I will mention that I have always admired the excellent audio quality from Radio Uganda. I think they must have an acoustically well-designed and well-built studio, which is much appreciated by those of us who have to transcribe their news bulletins word for word. Their announcers also sound very "correct" and well-trained. However, their studio clock must be slow as they nearly always start their news bulletins a minute or two late.

 

WORLDSPACE

 

In last month's report I only made a brief mention of WorldSpace, noting that three Kenyan stations - KBC, East FM and Kiss 100 - are to be found on it.

 

WorldSpace certainly has a visible presence in Nairobi. All four of the WorldSpace receivers are on sale at several outlets, and a report in a local paper in August said about 20,000 receivers had been sold. The WorldSpace service is advertised locally and on the last Thursday of every month the WS African music channel Ngoma sponsors a concert at a local restaurant.

 

I had no problems in setting up my own WorldSpace receiver. The aerial is very easy to align as the satellite is so high in the sky (71 degrees above the horizon, to be precise, compared to under 30 degrees in the UK). I have seen various and slightly differing WorldSpace coverage maps, but all of them agree that Nairobi lies within the range of the eastern and southern African beams, but is a little outside the area of the west African beam. My experience bears this out as I get the full five bars on the signal strength indicator for the east and southern beams, but a "no beam" indication for the west.

 

I assume however that if I was to buy a WorldSpace yagi aerial (on sale here for about £25) I would be able to receive the west Africa beam. There is also a chance that I might be able to receive the west beam of the AsiaStar service, although that satellite is less than 20 degrees above the Nairobi horizon.

 

The "east Africa" beam is perhaps a misnomer as, going by what is available on it, it seems clear that the main target audience is in the Middle East. For example, the BBC service, although displayed as "BBC AFRE", is not one of its African streams. The only African radio stations on this beam are those on all three AfriStar services: KBC, East FM and Kaya.

 

The southern Africa beam is more interesting, carrying Kiss FM, the Kenya Institute of Education, Radio Congo from Brazzaville, the Portuguese-language station Lusofonia, Afrikaans-language Kosmos and two English/Afrikaans FM stations from Johannesburg, Jacaranda and Highveld Stereo.

 

NAIROBI FM

 

Turning to the more parochial scene here in Nairobi, the competition is hot between the three main FM stations that are after the upmarket audience: Nation, Capital and Kiss. As elsewhere in the world, breakfast time is where the battle is hardest fought. Capital uses an experienced presenter from New Zealand, Phil Matthews, at breakfast time. He faces two women: Cess Mutungi on Nation and Caroline Mutoko on Kiss. There is no doubt that Mutoko, who used to work for Capital, is the queen of the breakfast-time FM airwaves as she has an excellent "microphone voice" and a personality suited to this type of broadcasting. Here's what the Daily Nation, operators of Kiss's rival, Nation FM, had to say about her recently:

 

"When Caroline Mutoko was at Capital FM she was controlled and reasonable. Hardly ever was her speech laced with sexual innuendo, now happily or unhappily, her trademark. When it comes to individual presentation style, however, give it to her, Caroline is an unparalleled maverick. She can say unprintable words - thank goodness for radio - and speak with a brazen prurience on air without biting off her tongue. Lewd jokes aside, Caroline's shows are both witty and lively in a way that actively engages her listeners."

 

Before we leave FM I must for the sake of completeness update the list of FM stations in last month's report. Asian station East FM has moved to 106.0 and its former frequency of 91.9 has been taken over by Coro FM, moving from 88.5. Coro also retains its 99.5 outlet. The reason for these changes is not known.

 

The situation at the KBC's Eastern Service goes from bad to worse. As I reported last month, it is no longer being broadcast on shortwave (4885). Now I notice that even its FM relay in Nairobi on 89.5 is silent. Late News: On 24 September the Kenyan newspaper East Africa Standard reported that KBC’s Eastern Service has been suspended as a result of unpaid electricity bills amounting to 6m shillings [about £52,000].

 

SHORTWAVE NEWS

 

SOMALIA: The radio station based in the southern provincial town of Baidoa (that's how it's pronounced, but the formal spelling is Baydhabo) is being heard again on 6800 or 6810 kHz, broadcasting between 1500 and 1800 GMT, so definitely feasible as a catch in the UK as your sunset gets earlier. Unlike many of the factional stations in Somalia, Radio Baydhabo broadcasts in full AM. There is a tradition among the other stations of just using upper sideband and a carrier.

 

Also reactivated is the station in the northern town of Gaalkacyo (pronounced Galcaio). This one is on 6985 kHz. But beware, this frequency is also used by a Sudanese clandestine station, which in fact in Nairobi has much stronger signals than Radio Gaalkacyo.

 

Another two Somali stations to try for are:

* the Radio Mogadishu outlet operated by faction leader Muhammad Farah Aydid on 6750 or 6755 kHz

* Radio Hargeysa, in the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland", on 7530 kHz.

 

But remember that the operation of all Somali shortwave stations is erratic and their frequencies are variable. Of the four stations mentioned above, Radio Hargeysa probably has the best record of staying on-air and on-frequency.

 

TANZANIA: In last month's report I said that Radio Tanzania was now just using 5050 and 5985, but not 7280. That was tempting fate and sure enough it is now back on 7280 again, replacing 5985.

 

So, it seems safest just to say that Radio Tanzania has two shortwave transmitters in use at present, one on 5050 and the other using either 5985 and 7280. This second transmitter has a rather low audio level.

 

If you can't hear Radio Tanzania on shortwave, you can listen to it on the web at:

http://dnd.ttcl.co.tz/RTD_Ratiba.html

 

Best regards from the "City in the Sun", as Nairobi's civic slogan says. Chris

 

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Updated: 6 Nov 2001