Do Hams Still Listen to Shortwave? They do in Canada!

Listening to the shortwave commercial stations (along with CB radio) has been a key gateway activity for entry into amateur radio. That was back when commercial shortwave was vibrant and perhaps in its heyday. There is still a very active set of SWLs contributing to the popular website and the legacy work by the well-known Van Horn family to just name a couple. The Spectrum Monitor publishes information about shortwave listening, too. Of course, the Grand Daddy publication, the World Radio TV Handbook is still around. But do amateur operators still listen to the shortwave radio bands? In this article, I want to address the question I just raised with a clear answer: They still do in Canada!

The Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) fielded a national survey of Canadian hams in 2021. A total of 2,089 responses were received, of which 1,630 (78%) were from RAC members. Approximately one-third of all RAC members took the time to complete the survey. This is an example of “voluntary response sample” and is not a probability survey. The final report compared responses to known population characteristics which suggested that the realized sample data is generally representative of Province and license characteristics. I’ve just completed a full report from the data which is available on my website. The results on shortwave listening are the focus of this article.

The results show that indeed Canadian amateurs listen to the shortwave frequencies outside of ham radio bands. Out of 38 specific operating activities, over a fourth (28.8%) of Canadian amateurs said they are involved in shortwave listening in a typical month. This was ranked 16th out of 38, ahead of QRP operations, Elmering, weather spotting, and other activities thought to be popular in amateur radio. This result may be surprising to the reader. But my further analysis shows a clearer picture of how traditional shortwave listing activity is integrated with other ham activities.

I have included in Figure 1 a map of all license-holders in Canada from the amateur radio regulator, ISED. The provided licensee address was georeferenced to the street-level for the vast majority and city-level for the remainder. There is also a bar chart showing how SWLing varies by Province.

Amateurs in Canada are concentrated all along the Southern border and in the urban centers of the Southeastern seaboard. There is another concentration on the Western coast near Vancouver. For the survey results, the bar chart in the bottom panel of Figure 1 illustrates how shortwave listening varies. A majority of hams in Newfoundland and the Northwest Territory use shortwave radio for listening. Those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba round out those Provinces above the overall survey mark of 28.8 percent. Excluding Nunavut Province with only 2 survey respondents, the lowest engagement in SWLing is Alberta. The remaining Provinces are about equal, in the lower twenty-percent figure.

Do these results make sense? The physical isolation of the two highest Provinces makes using shortwave broadcasts very practical in many ways. But there is more to it as I investigated whether SWLing is a more obscure activity in ham radio or is it more integrated into portfolio of things that current amateur operators do today?

In Table 1, I summarize my crosstabulation of shortwave listening by other activities (some 37 tables). The three groups summarized in the table reflect whether there was a statistically significant relationship between the two activities and, if so, whether SWLing was greater or less when the ham said they participate in the comparison activity. If there is no significant relationship, then shortwave listening is about the same whether the other activity is engaged in or not. If shortwave listening is a surprising yet obscure activity, there would be few other activities associated with it. Or, perhaps there might be no relationship at all with a random assortment of hams tuning into to those bands.

What the results in Table 1 demonstrate is how significantly integrated shortwave listening is with a number of activities central to the hobby. There are only seven activities without an association and one with a negative relationship. Contesters tend to pursue SWLing significantly less. This is the opposite, however, of what DXers report. Ham operators who listen to shortwave bands also practice a variety of popular activities in their practice of the hobby. These findings tend to remove any doubt as to whether listening to shortwave radio bands is fully an integrated part of contemporary amateur radio in Canada.

Another question about these results is whether it is simply a residual activity of the large Baby Boom cohort? Should this be the case, SWLing is likely to age out of existence over the next couple of decades. If so, shortwave listening would be highest among the most senior survey respondents and lowest among the youngest.

In Figure 2, I constructed a line chart of shortwave usage by age group. There is a clear downward trend as SWLing is highest among younger hams than more senior ones. The significance test suggests that this overall age pattern is not significant. The result is that the survey result of a quarter or more of Canadian hams engaging in shortwave listening is not a holdover of amateurs from a previous era of the hobby as younger hams.

Even with there being a non-significant trend in opposition to the Baby Boomer remnant hypothesis, I examined how long these hams had been licensed (tenure) and a complementary question in the survey regarding long many years they had been active. Perhaps it is not age per se but length of experience as a licensed or active ham that might influence whether nor not shortwave listening is attractive. These results, too, showed almost no difference regarding shortwave listening and length of experience or activity in the hobby. This are positive findings for shortwave band usage outside of amateur radio.

To further assess how shortwave listening might be linked to other factors, I compared the rural-to-urban locations of amateurs in the survey. There are no significant differences even when compared within these Provinces. The rural-to-urban locale does not explain why some Provinces have higher shortwave listening levels than others.

To conclude, these are somewhat unexpected findings based upon the rhetoric that ham radio operators tell themselves in the public sphere. We frequently hear that shortwave listening is passe, that the commercial and government broadcasters are retreating, and so forth. These may be factually the case from the supply-side of non-ham shortwave transmissions. But the hams in Canada do listen to shortwave broadcasts or one type or another in addition to participating in the core set of activities that comprises amateur radio. Contesting is the sole specialty that is negatively related to such listening. By contrast, DXers are more likely to listen (30.2% vs 23.6%). There are Provincial variations in listening but no patterns within any of them that vary along the rural-to-urban continuum.

The relationship of SWLing to the rest of the amateur radio hobby’s activities appears well-integrated. While the broadcast sector of the shortwave industry is at a low ebb right now, amateur radio in Canada still embraces listening to the non-ham bands. We do not know how this national survey of Canadian amateurs may compare to those of other nations. However, it is the sole survey of which I am aware that measures the activities of amateur radio operators in such detail. Until we do have comparative surveys, the RAC Survey 2021 is our only objective insight into ham radio activities.

Some readers may view these surprising results through their own “personal windshield” of listening experiences. “Why, I don’t know any hams who listen to shortwave broadcasts,” they might say. Others could counter, “Well, we need some “good” survey data on this issue.” I’ve spent a career conducting surveys, teaching survey research methods to PhD students (and fellow faculty), and advising some of the largest survey organizations in the world, such as NORC at the University of Chicago, the SRC at the University of Michigan, and the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service to name a few. The RAC Survey of 2021 is not a high quality statistical probability sample costing a few hundred thousand of dollars. But it is the best one I’ve seen to date on a national scale with behavioral measures of amateur radio operators. So while the reader’s experiences on SWLing might indeed be differ, it is the aggregate picture that we have never had national level results like those in the RAC Survey 2021. Do they apply to the U.S.? Well, would you rather go just with your personal windshield to generalize or take the picture these results present as our best guesstimate for similar behavior in the States?

Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

ICQ Podcast Episode 432 – Dayton Hamvention 2024 Part 2

In this episode, we join Martin Butler M1MRB, Dan Romanchik KB6NU, Caryn Eve Murray KD2GUT, Edmund Spicer M0MNG, and Ed Durrant DD5LP to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. Colin Butler (M6BOY) rounds up the news in brief and the episode's feature is Dayton Hamvention 2024 Part 2

We would like to thank Ellis Simon (GM4GZW) and our monthly and annual subscription donors for keeping the podcast advert free. To donate, please visit -

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Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].

Marine Radiofax Weather Charts Via Shortwave Radio – WEFAX

Weather out over oceans?  That, and more.

More than international broadcast stations and amateur radio operators exist on the shortwave radio spectrum.  For instance, any non-broadcast signal that is not amateur radio is often lumped together into a category known as Utility Radio, abbreviated, UTE.  To dig deeper into UTE activity, you could check out the UDXF – the Utility DX Forum, located here:

Utility stations (UTE) are quite common, from marine (ships, fishing vessels, etc.), transoceanic air traffic (international passenger or cargo jets and other aeronautical trans-oceanic radio traffic), to military radio (weather, coordination, and much more).  UTE is a rich subdomain of the radio experience.

As an amateur radio operator, I listen to and monitor utility stations on shortwave, at times when not operating as an amateur radio station.  I check weather for air traffic or for marine traffic, because it helps me see the larger-scale weather patterns.

Sample Weather Satellite Picture via Shortwave

One of the captured weather images via shortwave radio.

Here is a video I made of my reception of weather charts via shortwave radio from radio station NMC, at Point Reyes, CA, using FLdigi software to receive these weather fax transmissions:

WEFAX 22.527 MHz on 2024 JUNE 14

This video is a screen and sound capture of my reception of weather charts and images by shortwave radio, from a station in California running about 4 kilowatts of RF power. This HF WEFAX (Weather Facsimile) service is on every day for ship (marine) weather dissemination so that ships out on the ocean can get weather charts and images not by satellite, but by receiving shortwave signals.

Below is a snippet from the published schedule from Point Reyes WEFAX Radio, callsign NMC, as follows:

22527 kHz – tune offset 1.9 kHz (see note, below)

----- --------------------------------
19:53 96HR 500MB FORECAST

The above snippet of the NMC chart transmission list is from the page, “NMC Point Reyes, Marine Radiofax Broadcast Schedule” found at:

One of the captured weather images via shortwave radio.

One of the captured weather images via shortwave radio.


Here is a detailed description of the weather charts, and online access is at:

Note: In the video, you see that I am tuned to 22.526 USB thus I was tuned to 22526 kHz USB, based on this: “Unless otherwise stated, assigned frequencies are shown, for carrier frequency subtract 1.9 kHz. Typically dedicated radiofax receivers use assigned frequencies, while receivers or transceivers, connected to external recorders or PC’s, are operated in the upper sideband (USB) mode using carrier frequencies.”


April 12, 2024


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Ham College 114

Ham College episode 114 is now available for download.

Technician Class Exam Questions – part 1
T1A – Purpose and permissible use of the Amateur Radio Service. Operator/primary station license grant, Meanings of basic terms used in FCC rules, Interference, RACES rules, Phonetics, Frequency Coordinator.


George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].

Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 335

Amateur Radio Weekly

A super-simple standalone WSPR beacon
IgrikXD managed to hit Texas and Colorado from the edge of the North Sea on several bands, which isn’t too shabby with a fraction of a watt.

After dubious shootdowns, NORAD now checks with balloon hobbyist groups
NORAD has learned to check hobbyist websites to identify balloons since the US military shot down three unidentified objects in 2023.
Task & Purpose

The RigPix Database
A no-nonsense, multi-gigabyte source of information and pictures of radios, accessories and more.

The Matrix HAM Radio Community continues to grow
Come and say hello, a welcome awaits.

The Ionosphere
Earths ionised upper atmosphere.

Preparing radio and trail gear for a once-in-a-lifetime hike
A quest to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Decoding Meshtastic in realtime with an RTL-SDR and GNU Radio
Aaron shows how to install the Meshtastic GNU Radio software on DragonOS.


1946 Packard car radio
Let’s try to save it.
The Radio Mechanic

KH6WI’s Portable Amateur Radio satellite setup
Setup for working Amateur Radio satellites while portable and while doing amateur satellite roves.

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Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 334

Amateur Radio Weekly

The gradual normalization of automated FT8
The one-man FT4GL DXpedition on Glorioso is ground-breaking.

Ham Map
A map that shows WWFF, POTA, SOTA, and GMA references.

QO-100 satellite ground station complete build
My QO-100 satellite ground station is built around my little Icom IC-705 QRP transceiver, it’s a great little rig and is ideal for the purpose of driving a 2.4Ghz transverter/up-converter.

Noise management on Field Day
One bad apple can really be aggravating, so here are a few techniques you can use to keep the peace.

CQ Pride special event June 7-17
An Amateur Radio event intended to celebrate pride month, support inclusion in Amateur Radio, and to enjoy some time on the air.
Pride Radio Group

11 Meter Field Day is June 29
The EPFD is a radio sports event which involves Freeband enthusiasts uniting for a day or 2 in the great outdoors—armed with a portable station—and chasing DX.
Delta Alfa

First time net control
My first time ever being net control and it was a blast.

Amateur Radio making a comeback in Northwest Missouri
Missouri Valley Amateur Radio Club takes steps to increase membership.

NI1Q’s long-awaited Elecraft KH1: Worth the wait?
After 126 days, a long-awaited unboxing: The KH1 arrives.

A reason to get on the air
What motivates you to get on the air?


TX Factor celebrates 10 years with 30th episode
Bob G0FGX demonstrates the Groundstation 2 from DX Patrol in the first of a two-part feature on operating via the QO-100 geostationary satellite.
TX Factor

Portrait of a scientific glassblower
Jim Breen, the highly-skilled artisan, has created glass apparatuses and other vessels for Berkeley researchers — not just those in chemistry.
UC Berkeley

The greatest clock (and map) ever made
I needed to restore a Geochron World Clock, which first meant learning how they work.

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Amateur Radio Weekly is curated by Cale Mooth K4HCK. Sign up free to receive ham radio's most relevant news, projects, technology and events by e-mail each week at

TX Factor – Episode 30

We’re back with our 10th year anniversary show!

Bob G0FGX demonstrates the Groundstation 2 from DX Patrol in the first of a two-part feature on operating via the QO-100 geostationary satellite. He looks at the hardware and software needed to achieve your first QSO at home or out mobile.
We visit the new QTH of the Sidmouth Amateur Radio Society in South Devon, UK and meet Dave Lee G6XUV who helped SARS to secure a derelict former sports social club from the local town council and renovate it into a community hub and club QTH.
Bob reviews the latest mobile transceiver from Yaesu – the FTM-500D and demonstrates the many advanced features of this versatile FM and digital rig.

Watch now via our website:

Nick Bennett 2EØFGQ co-hosts TX Factor with Bob McCreadie GØFGX and Mike Marsh G1IAR. Contact the team at [email protected]

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