Shortwave gives way to the web

swissinfo bosses believe the Internet is the future Keystone Archive

swissinfo/Swiss Radio International is to axe its analogue shortwave broadcasts by 2004 following a decision to focus on the Internet.

This content was published on December 15, 2001 - 10:31

The Swiss parliament has been discussing the future of SRI's output, amid concerns that cutbacks in traditional shortwave broadcasts would limit the possibility of the Swiss living abroad to access information about their own country.

But the director of swissinfo/SRI, Nicholas Lombard, said the Internet had surpassed shortwave as a means of delivering information and improved access to SRI's output.

"I do not consider the Internet to be a replacement of shortwave, but it is another transportation platform of news and current affairs and it reaches very similar audiences," Lombard said.

He added that fears that people would be alienated by the shift to Internet were unfounded because swissinfo/SRI's audience were as likely to have access to the web as they were to radio.

Opinion leaders

"We have always catered for opinion leaders, and people with higher level of education, and that has not changed at all."

He said this was backed up by the languages in which swissinfo/SRI communicated with its audience. Broadcasts to Africa, for example, were not in native African tongues such as Swahili or Hausa, which would have reached the largest audience possible.

Instead they were in English, and the Swiss national languages, French, German and Italian.

swissinfo/SRI's management hope and expect that loyal listeners will continue to follow swissinfo/SRI on the web, and that the site will attract a wider audience.

"I don't think that the listening group of shortwave has changed," said Lombard. "But with the venue of Internet platform we are now catering for another audience and the success of the various language sites proves that we are, I think, partly right with our strategy: namely that we are winning new publics and new audiences."

Shortwave axed

The swissinfo/SRI director said he regretted phasing out analogue shortwave, but that financial constraints meant he had no choice.

"We have to use the licence fee money in the best possible way and I think that with this multimedia platform we are providing a better service than with a dying out technology, which is analogue shortwave."

Cutting shortwave was also unavoidable for environmental reasons, Lombard said.

"We also had to abandon shortwave because all our transmitting sites in this country, except for one antenna, were closed down for environmental purposes."

The issue of electrosmog is high on the political agenda in Switzerland, and the government is trying to limit the number of antennas, both for aesthetic and health reasons.

The issue of providing fast access to accurate and detailed information about Switzerland to its citizens abroad has become more pressing in recent months, in the wake of a series of catastrophes, such as the collapse of the national airline, Swissair.

Lombard emphasised that SRI had always had a mandate to keep the Swiss abroad informed, but that the remit was broader than that, and extending to anyone and everyone interested in Switzerland.

"swissinfo/SRI has to concentrate on the 'niche' and that niche is Switzerland so Swissness is what we are aiming at."

Digital shortwave

The cutting of analogue shortwave did not mean that shortwave had no future for swissinfo/SRI, Lombard said.

"We are continuing to explore all sorts of new venues on the technological front. Digital shortwave and also direct satellite broadcasting might have possibilities as well."

by Samantha Tonkin and Anna Nelson

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