Tuesday, January 22, 2008

World Radio TV Handbook - WRTH 2008

WRTH2008Publisher: Nicholas Hardyman

No of pages:

Publisher: WRTH Publications Limited, PO Box 290, Oxford, OX2 7FT, United Kingdom

Order Fax: +44 (0)1865 514405.

Web (secure online ordering):


Cover price: £23.00 including airmail postage worldwide.

ISBN: 978-0-9555481-0-9

Published in the USA by Watson-Guptill Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-9595, USA

Distributed in Germany by Gert Wohlfarth GmbH. E-mail: info at wohlfarth.de

The World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH), subtitled the Directory of Global Broadcasting, published its 2008 edition in December 2007. There is a very small decrease (16) in the total number of pages, probably reflecting cuts in the output of many international broadcasters in the past year. This is mentioned in the editorial, where Publisher Nicholas Hardyman says that "any country wishing to broadcast its world view reliably can only do so by retaining an effective and up-to-date HF broadcasting capability."

But the WRTH is not stuck in a timewarp. Full use is made of a website to deliver updates to the printed book, and the editorial mentions that it is hoped to launch a new section called "FMXtra" in 2008, that will provide information on "the large number of low-power FM stations for which there is no room in the printed book." This will be a welcome addition, though the scale of such an effort will be daunting, given the thousands of stations involved.

Two radio stations are the subject of special feature articles. One is Falklands Radio and the other, which we were delighted to see, is Radio Voice of the People, which broadcasts to Zimbabwe via the Radio Netherlands Worldwide Madagascar relay station. Both these station profiles are illustrated with colour photos.

Receiver reviews

Very few new shortwave receivers of any quality are being produced at the moment, and this is reflected by the fact that four pages of the review section are devoted to a restrospective look at a classic receiver, the Racal RA1792. But DRM-capable receivers such as the Morphy Richards 27024 and the Himalaya DRM 2009 are also featured. Digital Update takes a look at digital radio and TV developments during 2007. The conclusion drawn by the WRTH is that "the advance of digital techniques continues apace, especially in television, but it will be some time before the picture becomes clearer."

The receiver reviews in WRTH are selective rather than comprehensive. For a detailed survey of analogue receivers currently available in the shops, the casual shortwave listener needs to turn to other sources, such as Passport to World Band Radio.

The reference sections

The listings of radio and TV stations around the world have always been the raison d'ĂȘtre of WRTH and, with the exception of international broadcasts, these continue to increase as the years go by. The WRTH, while widely used by international broadcasting professionals, was originally created with the listener primarily in mind. Consequently the US listings, for example, contain only the higher powered AM stations likely to be heard well beyond their official coverage area, and FM stations serving major metropolitan areas. But the FM listings have limited usefulness, as they do not give any details of format, or even how to contact the station. This will hopefully be rectified when the new FMXtra section is launched on the website.

Essentially, the structure of the book remains as it has always been: stations are listed by country and frequency. There are separate country listings for domestic and international broadcasting services. There is also a separate section listing clandestine and other target broadcasts. The frequency lists are divided into five separate mediumwave tables covering different geographical regions, and a single shortwave list in frequency order. There are also handy lists of international broadcasts in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish in time order. All times in the WRTH are in UTC.

User-generated content

The radio listings in the WRTH are generally of a very high standard, and the list of contributors reads like a who's who of international radio listening. In a sense, the WRTH relies to a considerable extent on user-generated content, as these contributors are also among the book's most active users. This contrasts with the approach taken by Passport to World Band Radio which relies more on a combination of official schedules and intensive monitoring by a small team of experienced editors.

The shortwave frequency information is as up-to-date as it could possibly be, bearing in mind the very short time between the start of the winter schedules and the print deadline of the book. The copy deadline for the schedules of the international broadcasters was 10 November 2007.

TV listings remain the weakest link

As far as content is concerned, the radio listings are excellent, but the TV section of WRTH remains its weakest link due to the limited space available. A note at the top of the TV section says that "it's hoped to make more comprehensive information available in the future, including on the WRTH website". This seems like a good idea, but the same comment appeared in last year's edition, and not much has changed. The criteria for what to include in the TV section seem random at best. The introduction says "Space is limited in this section and transmitter details are include where space permits; local stations are included if the number does not exceed the space limitation."

As it stands, the TV section occupies 40 pages, but its usefulness to either TV DXers or professionals is questionable. It appears that the WRTH is produced by dedicated radio enthusiasts with little or no interest in TV, and the section is retained purely to justify the book's title. Clearly, someone with a real interest in TV is needed to clean up this section, at the very least to establish logical criteria for what to include. Forty pages of information on world TV could still be very useful if put together by someone who understands what's important and what isn't.

A labour of love

Despite our misgivings about the TV section, the UK publisher of WRTH continues to make substantial improvements to the overall content and quality of the book year by year. The 2008 edition, the 62nd, is once again the best and most comprehensive ever. There is no price increase compared to last year, and especially when you consider how much information you get, it's a real bargain. Therefore, we highly recommend it.

If you're interested in seeing what earlier editions of the WRTH looked like, still available are two CDs called WRTH 1946-58 and WRTH 1959-70 containing complete scans of all those editions in PDF files. The CDs were independently produced by the German listeners' organisation ADDX.

This review was done independently of the editors and publisher. We have no financial connection with either and provides the information above in good faith.

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