CQ CQ CQ – Ham Radio Thursday: Vatican Radio’s suicide based on bad econ and bad info

First, the bad news.

From Sandro Magister on the sad sad sad blinkered decision to shut down Vatican Radio’s shortwave operations.

There was a big stir over the post from Settimo Cielo [HERE and HERE] on February 20 about the precarious situation of Vatican Radio now that it has ended up in the hands [clutches?] of Monsignor Dario Viganò, prefect of the newly created secretariat for communication.

In particular, the cutting of shortwave broadcasts and the announcement that the transmission station at Santa Maria di Galeria will be closed have plunged into dismay the supporters of this radio broadcasting system that was the glory of Vatican Radio, because of its unique ability to arrive as a free and true voice even in the most geographically and politically inhospitable places of the world.

It was useless for competent voices to inform Monsignor Viganò that closing the center at Santa Maria di Galeria makes no strategic sense.

This closure would come, in fact, precisely when some of the most powerful radio networks of the world are not reducing but increasing their shortwave broadcasts.

This is the case of the BBC in England and of Japan’s NHK.

One year ago the British government allocated 85 million pounds for the BBC to reach millions more listeners by shortwave, in addition to the current 56 million, especially in Russia, North Korea, the Middle East, and Africa.

As for NHK, it has already asked Vatican Radio for permission to use its facilities at Santa Maria di Galeria to enhance its shortwave broadcasts to Africa, since it is already at top capacity at its broadcast center in Madagascar, which it has relied upon until now.  [So, it’s about the income.  This comes as the Vatican is letting out its property to open up McDonald’s in the sight of the cupola.]

The center in Santa Maria di Galeria is universally recognized for its excellence and would be a sure-fire source of revenue if, in addition to continuing its own broadcasts, Vatican Radio were to rent out its facilities to other broadcasters. [Typically, they seem to see its use as a kind of zero-sum situation.]


And then there is another misconception that Monsignor Viganò employs when in order to justify the shutdown of shortwave he appeals to the environmental encyclical of Pope Francis, “Laudato Si’.” [The document which vilified air conditioning.]

He said in an interview with the magazine “Prima Comunicazione”:

“I think of the emissions of carbon dioxide that shortwave produces. [?!?] We cannot proclaim ourselves outside of the magisterium of the Holy Father.”

In reality, this consideration of his does not have the slightest scientific foundation, as was promptly explained to Viganò not by one but by several experts.  [Why be bothered with facts when you can … ehem… score points!]

On the specialized portal Italradio, for example, the prefect of the secretariat for communication could have found the explanation that analog radio broadcasts release much less CO2 into the atmosphere than the digital technologies with which he would like to replace shortwave.  [Because everyone out there in the bush in Africa has handy internet and smart phones.]

And there are those who have calculated that a shortwave transmitter with its antenna plus a receiving radio consume, in total, no more than 6 kW of electricity, equal to two domestic consumers. Twenty times less than a streamed broadcast, with all the technological apparatus that this involves.

Now the good news.

For those of you who are also digital, one of our participants here, who had set up the Echolink node available to us (554286 – WB0YLE-R  – Thanks! – Remember: You must be licensed to use Echolink), has also been working on… well… I’ll let him explain.  Here are a couple screen shots of our sms trialogues about creating the ZedNet…



Regress and progress.

I created a page for the List of YOUR callsigns.  HERE  Chime in or drop me a note if your call doesn’t appear in the list.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. abasham says:

    Perhaps a mixed blessing… Certainly this is an infuriatingly silly decision, but maybe this opens up space for something like EWTN radio to fill the gap. I mean, come on….would you rather have EWTN or this particular group in today’s Vatican filling the airwaves?

  2. The original Mr. X says:

    Radios also use about ten times less energy (IIRC) than televisions. If we want to be environmentally friendly, encouraging people to listen to the radio rather than watch TV would seem like a sensible thing to do, surely?

  3. FrAnt says:

    The crew at the Vatican these days also believe that puppies will be extinct because of global warming. I am sure other sources will provide Catholics of China, N. Korea, and other persecuted Catholics will have internet access to Catholic teaching and news. /s
    It is amazing and sad how the Vatican mirrors society.

  4. Charles E Flynn says:

    This is the latest in the line of ever-better radios available only to humanitarian agencies. The public can buy them only for donation. It has three shortwave bands:

    The Prime solar and wind-up radio

  5. Plebs Sancta Dei says:

    *** Fr. Z … HELP!!!! *** I would like to participate as a listener of ham radio, but I haven’t a clue how to do so! Can you or someone here explain the basics of simply listening in?

    When I look at the models of shortwave radios for purchase, I only see numbers on the dial, not call signs.
    Is this something that involves two-way communication, or is it like listening to a radio station?

    I would have sent this to your Ask Father, but I thought that might only be for questions related to the Faith. Thanks!

  6. Joe in Canada says:

    Which wise priest was it who said that the Vatican’s motto was “yesterday’s technology tomorrow!”?


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  7. Father (and others?):

    If you want to listen in (to participate, you MUST have a valid amateur license. I just gave a test to a priest out of the diocese of Trenton on Monday last…at least for the entry level, it is NOT an exercise in orbital mechanics or quantum physics. Basic radio law, operational questions, etc. You CAN do it.); the hose link URL above will let you listen in (not talk, just listen…).

    How about we try activating ZedNet, for those who have either DMR/Brandmeister or Wires-X capabilities? Right now, haven’t sussed out entirely the asterisk/allstar portion of the configuration to get the analog/echolink side in (I’ll admit it’s been low down on the list for a while), but, if there are folks interested who are 1) near a brandmeister repeater, or have a DV4Mini or DV4Dongle or SharkRF unit, or 2) are near a Wires-X repeater, standing up the network is certainly doable.

    Up to a one hour net? Directed? Check in, and traffic in order of check-in?

    When I do get the allstar side of the equation up and running, I’ll move the echolink at the same time, which will give a combined network that supports:

    1. Analog via Allstar/Echolink
    2. WiRES-X via room 28598
    3. DMR via the Brandmeister worldwide network.

    Who says it has to be boring being a ham operator? And when TEOTWAWKI happens…practicing our communications skills will have paid off…

    [That sounds like a good plan!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. Barnacle says:

    To all those folks who insist on fiddling with stuff, be it Vatican Radio or our beautiful beautiful liturgy: if it ain’t broke, DONT FIX IT!!! (Sorry I shouted.)

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