In both The Spectrum Monitor magazine and The SWLing Post Thomas has written a very informative piece about the current state of shortwave radio. With a lot of the ‘Big Guns’ in recent years either abandoning shortwave altogether (R. Nederlands, CBC, R. Spain and many more) and others cutting their coverage (VOA, BBC) there is cause for concern about the future. As Thomas (and others in the past) point out, shortwave crosses boundaries effortlessly and is very hard to block, requires minimal equipment and power. On the other hand, Internet streaming of radio channels requires all the infrastructure that entails, along with the cost of a broadband connection and the equipment (pc, laptop, phone etc) to listen. Many of the areas targeted for shortwave do not have the means to provide the infrastructure, and the people on the ground cannot afford the equipment to listen. In those countries, notably China and North Korea, where the infrastructure is available, there are so many restrictions in place as to what the end-user can listen to/look up etc. It is true that both the previously mentioned countries do jam shortwave, especially China with its Firedrake transmitters, but it is still possible to receive something on other frequencies. They cannot all be blocked.
My take on this is that the spectrum space left void by the big broadcasters will be taken up by more independent regional broadcasters, who will carry content for a specific area. This is typically what happens in S. America, where there are the large state-run stations such as R. Argentina, but also a plethora of smaller stations targeting a specific area or region. And the content is pitched at that region. This will, to my mind, actually make our hobby more interesting in that digging out these lower power stations will take all our skills and know how. It will be more difficult to do on a small portable receiver, but in turn, those receivers will become better as the manufacturers respond to the demand.
So in closing, I still believe (as Thomas does) that shortwave has a future. There will always be those who feel disenfranchised due to lack of information and news, and it follows there will always be those who will fill the void. As humans we crave information and that craving is not going to go away just because a few large companies or governments give up on shortwave. Radio broadcasting on shortwave is here to stay, but over the years in will fundamentally change from that which most of us remember from the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s.
All the best and good DX!