EDXC Conference in Prague
by Anker Petersen.

After a year 2004 without any annual Conference of the European DX Council (EDXC), Tibor Szilagyi of the Hungarian DX Club had taken the highly appreciated initiative of organizing an EDXC Conference, this time in the heart of Prague, the Czech Republic, on April 28 - May 01, 2005. The 35 participants from 12 countries stayed at the fairly cheap, but good Rhea Fortuna Hotel which indeed improved the personal communication between old and new friends. At the rooms even were DX-possibilities on an old RF 632 receiver where MW and FM could be dialed. Local FM-stations included the BBC in English and RFI in French.

The following DSWCI-members attended the Conference:
Toshi Ohtake (Japan), Tibor Szilagyi (Sweden), Jarmo Patala (Finland), George Brown (Scotland), Maria Gösselova (Czech Rep.), Luigi Cobisi (Italy), and from Denmark: Kaj Bredahl Jørgensen, Bent Nielsen and myself.

Amongst other participants were noted three former leaders of the EDXC: Michael Murray (UK), Risto Vähäkainu and Arto Mujunen (both Finland). By the way, the Finnish delegation counted 14 persons! Unfortunately none of the members of the local Czechoslovak DX Club did attend this big event in Prague. We certainly missed them! Of particular interest was the presence of mrs. Bi-Whei Chiu from R Taiwan International with office in Bonn for some years. Harald Gabler who organized the 2003 Conference in Königstein, Germany was there and also Edward Dunne from Ireland and Christopher Lewis from the UK. From St. Petersburg joined Alexander Berezkin and from the U.S.A. the three good friends of the EDXC, including Andrew Janitschek (A.J.)  of R Free Asia whom we owe big thanks for ensuring that we could have the formal part of the Conference at the building of R Free Europe/R Liberty (RFE/RL) free of charge.

Toshi Ohtake (center) and Bent Nielsen in front of the RFE/RL building in Prague
Toshi Ohtake (center) and Bent Nielsen in front of the RFE/RL building in Prague

On Friday April 29 we entered this building after a strict security check. During the communist period it was used as Parliament of the Czechoslovak Republic and the RFE/RL guides Mr. Ondrej Lukas and Ms. Tereza Nemcova first briefed us in the historical Federal Parliament Hall about the mission and work of RFE/RL today and then showed us around in this big building with its modern, mobile studios and 600 employees.

The Ex. Czechoslovak Parliament 2005
The Ex. Czechoslovak Parliament 2005

The success of the RFE/RL broadcasts towards Eastern Europe during the Cold War resulted in an invitation from President Havel and the Czech Government in 1994 to the U.S.A. that RFE/RL could take over this building and move its headquarters and main studios from Munich. It has been operational since March 10, 1995 here from the heart of Prague neighbour to the National Museum, the Opera and the famous Wencelas Square. However, due to the big security risk on this position, RFE/RL plans to move to an undisclosed location in two years time

Today RFE/RL broadcasts in 6 Balkan languages, 18 languages of the CIS and in 5 languages to the Middle East & Afghanistan. It operates a network of 23 news bureaus and offices in that region with over 1,400 contributors reporting local news and current affairs. In Afghanistan over 60% of the population listen to RFE/RL on a weekly basis!

It is also gaining a large new audience throughout the world via the internet and locally affiliated FM-stations. In Bosnia, Macedonia and Armenia RFE/RL furthermore has TV-stations. On average its multilingual website www.rferl.org registers 6.9 million page views per month. Most of the feedback from listeners nowadays come via the internet.

The morning and part of the afternoon session of the EDXC Conference was entirely devoted to EDXC matters. At the end of 2003, the three-year term of Luigi Cobisi as Secretary General and Paolo Morandotti as Assistant Secretary General ran out and they could not be re-elected according to the EDXC Statutes from 1998. No other candidates were proposed by the Full Member Clubs, but Messrs. Cobisi and Morandotti were asked to continue the EDXC on an interim basis while a working group had a close look at the Statutes.

This resulted in a proposal of a completely revised set of Statutes which the Full Member Clubs agreed upon in April 2005. The most important change is that individual DX-ers now can get Full Membership besides the DX-Clubs and Umbrella Organizations.

The interim Secretary General concluded the debate by stating that the EDXC is now revived and will during this summer get its membership reconstructed and establish a Board of Directors. Then proposals are invited for new leadership of the EDXC, for membership fee for 2005 and for the next EDXC Conferences. There was an interest for organizing Conferences in St. Petersburg during autumn 2006 and later on in the United Kingdom.

From left: Lewis Coulborn, Tibor Szilagyi, Luigi Cobisi, Bent Nielsen, Christopher Lewis and Edward Dunne at the EDXC Conference. Outside the window is the National Museum of Prague.
From left: Tibor Szilagyi, Luigi Cobisi, Bent Nielsen, Christopher Lewis and Edward Dunne at the EDXC Conference. Outside the window is the National Museum of Prague.

In the afternoon, I gave an update on the situation on the Tropical Bands and talked about my recent Dxpedition to French Guiana and Guadeloupe. This will be published in DSWCI Shortwave News later on.

Toshi Ohtake then gave an update on the DX-situation in Japan. The Japan SW Club also has problems in getting young DX-ers. In 1996 the majority of its members was 20-40 years old, but a survey in 2004 shows that the majority are now is 30-50 years! The VOA and BBC are still very popular despite that both of them  have dropped broadcasts in Japanese. It causes big concerns that PLC may be allowed inside houses in Japan.

Then mrs. Bi-Whei Chiu who is a reporter for the German Section of R Taiwan International gave a lecture in English about that station. It was formed in 1928 as the CBS in Nanjing and later moved to Taipei. Its external service "The Voice of Free China" was established in 1949 and during 1979-2003 accompanied by "Voice of Asia". She returns on Sep 01 this year to Taipei as a producer in the German Sec. and welcomes letters from DX-ers.

This was followed by an update by A.J. about R Free Asia which broadcasts in nine Asian languages and still welcomes reception reports from DX-ers by e-mail to qsl@rfa.org or to their postal address in Washington. Their automated QSL system is popular. RFA even had produced a special QSL-card for this Conference!

Group Photo at RFE/RL building after the Conference.
Group Photo at RFE/RL building after the Conference.

The next morning our group had a very interesting visit to the Radiohouse of Radio Prague located just 200 metres from the RFE/RL building. The Czech Radio began broadcasting in 1923 as the second broadcaster in Europe after the BBC! Their young Chief Engineer, mr. Martin Zadrazil, gave us a highly professional tour around from the ancient concert hall studio from 1932 to the new building with state-of-the-art modern technology. Their studios and relays to transmitters and satellites are digital, but they are reluctant to introduce DRM as long as there are so few DRM-receivers on the market. Since May 01, 2005 they broadcast two domestic programmes on the Internet and they will add DVT and DAB soon. It was noted that their domestic programme P6 is a joint venture between the Czech Radio and RFE !

We then had an interesting meeting with the Director of Radio Prague International, Ph. Dr. Miroslav Krupicka. He said a.o. that their broadcasts in six European languages are financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If listeners (incl. DX-ers) wish further languages broadcast, he would support it, but requests for e.g. Italian or Swedish have to be sent to the Ministry for decision.

He was accompanied by mr. Oldrich Cip who has been SW frequency manager for R Prague for decades until his retirement there. But this brought him to the High Frequency Coordinating Committee (HFCC) Headquarter's in Prague which since the 1950ies has tried to coordinate the use of SW frequencies world wide. Today it plans shortwave frequency use for 80 % of the world's SW transmissions. He has been Chairman of the HFCC for several years and on February 07-11, 2005, he chaired the HFCC meeting in Mexico City with delegates from 36 countries.

Mr. Cip explained to us that international frequency management has improved since the end of the Cold War and overbooking of frequencies has diminished, but improvement is a slow process.

The HFCC fully supports the wishes of many SW listeners that the DRM broadcasts should be allocated certain frequency bands, but this is opposed by some big broadcasters who insist on continuing their use of certain traditional frequencies which are wellknown by their listeners.

He also pointed out the other new threat to SW listening, i.e. the increasing use of Powerline Communications (PLC) via the internet. In New York, for instance, this has raised the noise level so much, that R Prague no longer can be heard on SW.

Director Krupicka and Oldrich Cip
Director Krupicka (right) and Oldrich Cip

On Saturday afternoon and Sunday, many of the participants joined guided sightseeing tours through Prague and to the beautiful, historical castles at Karlstejn and Konopiste. Such tours in connection with EDXC Conferences are not only holidays, but they also give the participants much more time to meet and talk with each and everyone. On Saturday evening there furthermore was the traditional EDXC Banquet with a three courses Czech Dinner and nice music, followed by a lottery with many prizes e.g. from R Prague and Deutsche Welle.

Let me give you two examples on the extraordinary personal contacts with "Friendship through knowledge" which such EDXC Conferences can provide:

After the visit to R Prague, we all had lunch at the nearby restaurant "Nad Rozhlasem" - At the Radio! The Danish delegation was joined by the participating Japanese DX-er Nobuya Kato and we had a very interesting conversation. He revealed that he had listened to the former SW broadcasts from R Denmark many times and he even was able at the lunch table right away to hum its opening tune: "Som en rejsenlysten flåde"!

After the tour around the Emperial Hunting Palace at Konopiste, Mrs. Bi-Whei Chiu joined us for the lunch there. She explained that everybody on Taiwan has to learn Mandarin at school, besides their mother tongue Amoy or Hakka which have the same Chinese characters as Mandarin. As she also speaks fluently Amoy and Hakka, she gave us a clear demonstration on the differences between these two languages by saying the sentence: "We have now finished our lunch" in Amoy and Hakka. She also explained that although the written characters are the same, these dialects are as different in pronunciation as old Bavarian and Plattdeutsch. Their people do NOT understand each other when talking! "Chinese" is much more than Mandarin!

Thus we strongly believe that, if nothing else, it is a MUST for DX-ers to have annual EDXC Conferences where we can exchange our points of view on the DX-hobby and create and maintain the very good personal relations with other DX-ers and broadcasters. Our big thanks to Tibor Szilagyi and Maria Gösselova from R Prague for a perfect organization of this Conference!

At Wencelas Square from left: Bent Nielsen, Toshi Ohtake, Kaj Bredahl Jorgensen and his wife Else.
At Wencelas Square from left: Bent Nielsen, Toshi Ohtake, Kaj Bredahl Jorgensen and his wife Else.

At the famous Karl's Bridge from left Else and Kaj Jørgensen, Luigi Cobisi and Bent Nielsen.
At the famous Karl's Bridge from left Else and Kaj Jørgensen, Luigi Cobisi and Bent Nielsen.

At an outdoor restaurant under the Karl's Bridge from left Kaj Bredahl Jørgensen, Luigi Cobisi, Bent Nielsen and Anker Petersen.
At an outdoor restaurant under the Karl's Bridge from left Kaj Bredahl Jørgensen, Luigi Cobisi, Bent Nielsen and Anker Petersen.

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