Major English Language Broadcasters

It can be fun just cruising up and down the bands to see what stations you can receive, just like channel surfing on television. But to get started with shortwave listening it helps to know what is there to find. So in this page we'll look at some major broadcasters that you can easily find at the appointed time.

What to Look For

To get started, English language broadcasters are the easiest to find and more importantly to identify. It's also quite easy to find foreign language broadcasts, but unless you know the language, identification of the station becomes difficult.

One of the first things that is different about shortwave is that no station owns a specific frequency. Unlike medium wave, where if you tune into 1010 kHz you will always get CFRB, at least in Southern Ontario, shortwave is different. Tuning in one frequency you might get the BBC at one time, Radio France at another, and Radio Brazil at another time. So if you're not getting the station you expect you might be listening at the wrong time.

Major broadcasters do keep careful schedules so by getting a guide, such as one listed in the section Shortwave Listener's Resources, you can find out where they all reside. Stations often transmit on more than one frequency so if one isn't received well in your area try another. The following table shows some of the easier ones to receive, and their times and frequencies.

Time (UTC) Frequencies (kHz) Station
BBC, United Kingdom
2330-0130 6165, 9845 Radio Netherlands, Holland
9885, 9905 Swiss Radio International (SRI)
Radio Japan
6040, 6085, 9640
6085, 6185, 9615
5960, 6045, 6120
Deutsche Welle, Germany
9640, 11855
5960, 9755
Radio Canada International
15410, 15445
15410, 15580
5995, 7405, 9775
Voice of America (VOA) U.S.A.
Radio Australia

Figure 1. Major Shortwave Broadcasts.

Many of these stations have strong signals, resulting from using up to 500 kW transmitters, compared to 50 kW for the strongest domestic medium wave stations. Still you will often encounter fading, interference, and noise on the frequency. Such are the characteristics of the shortwave bands. If a signal is particularly poor then try one of the alternates listed in the table.

Shortwave broadcasters can occasionally change their broadcast times and frequencies. This is due to changing band conditions, time of year (higher frequencies are better in the summer in the northern hemisphere), and the change to or from daylight saving time. By sending in reception reports you will not only receive an attractive QSL card, but stations often send broadcast schedules to keep you up to date.

Once you get your shortwave buds tantalized with these stations you'll want to try for others. There are hundreds of potential stations so it can keep you busy for a long time. You might want to try out the Ontario DX Association's (ODXA) annual DX Challenge that occurs in November of each year. The challenge is to log 100 shortwave stations during the month of November. Contests like this one can be great fun and you don't need the top line equipment to compete. So now let's get on with sending SWL reception reports to begin your QSL collection.

Text 1999 Don Cassel VE3BUC
You can e-mail me at