During the last two AM-seasons I have found out that our 60-degrees wire works quite well towards Taiwan. So I have heard some nice catches from Taiwan before, but this September was exceptional. I heard so many new stations from Taiwan that I really started to study the secrets of broadcasting in Republic of China. Here are some thoughts of what I learned and heard.
LanguageThere is a reason why even the most experienced DXers consider Taiwanese stations one of the most difficult DX-targets in the world. One might say Chinese stations are piece of cake compared to Taiwanese. Most of the Chinese stations can be identified based on just a few keywords and phrases as you can learn from the great article "How to Identify Chinese Radio Stations" by Mika Mäkeläinen. That is not the case for Taiwanese stations. Private stations have no standard time announcements or common form of station id. Most stations don't even speak Mandarin Chinese.
Taiwanese stations broadcasts in three major languages: Taiwanese, Chinese (Mandarin) and local minority languages (Hakka, Minnan etc.). Taiwanese (with its two major variants Taiwanese Hokkien and Amoy) is the most commonly used on Taiwanese stations. Although Taiwanese belongs to same language group with Mandarin, it's quite different language.
Even though you don't understand any Mandarin or Taiwanese, you will soon notice the difference in Chinese characters and how they are transcribed into the Latin alphabet. For example names of the radio stations in mainland China and Taiwan are different both in Chinese characters and in Latin alphabet.
In mainland China Chinese is written in Simplified Chinese character set endorsed by General Mao's government from 1950's. Taiwan has never adopted Simplified Chinese characters and use of them in official documents is even prohibited. So Taiwan uses the more complex Traditional Chinese character set. Take for example radio station Chengsheng Broadcasting Corporation that writes its name as
正聲廣播公司 in traditional Chinese. But when I use Google Translator to convert the characters, name is:
正声广播公司 in simplified Chinese. Notice the difference between second and third character.
Probably the best Asian radio directory Asiawaves.net uses simplified Chinese when writing Chinese and Taiwanese radio station names. If you copy a Taiwanese station name from Asiawaves in order to find more information about the station, you might have to convert Chinese station name to traditional Chinese before using it for Google searches. I also have Mandarin reception report form translated to me, and when I use it to report Taiwanese stations, I must first convert characters to traditional Chinese.
Another difference is the transcribing of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet. In Mainland China Pinyin is the official phonetic system for transcribing Chinese into the Latin alphabet. The spelling of Chinese geographical or personal names in pinyin has become the most common way to transcribe them in English. Pinyin has also become the dominant method for entering Chinese text into computers in Mainland China, but not in Taiwan where Bopomofo is most commonly used. Bopomofo was introduced already in the 1910's alongside the Wade-Giles transcription system. Although Taiwan officially abandoned Wade-Giles in 2009, people in Taiwan use or transcribe their legal names in the Wade–Giles system.
If we take the previous example of Chengsheng BC and paste the traditional Chinese characters to Google Translator which uses pinyin transcription system, we will find out that
Chengsheng (Wade-Giles) is Zhèng shēng in pinyin.
Not a big difference?
Let’s take another station name. This is time AM792 Keelung Broadcasting Station.
Keelung (Wade-Giles and 基隆 in trad. Chinese) is Jīlóng in pinyin.
English pronunciation is roughly the same but transcription in Latin alphabet is quite different.
It was surprisingly difficult to find the list of Taiwanese numbers that would have matched the numbers I heard on the air. When I googled “numbers in Taiwanese”, I got many lists and YouTube-videos varying greatly from each other. I still don’t know is it because of different dialects (Hokkien, Amoy, Minnan) or something to do with differences between spoken word and official written form. Following list of Taiwanese numbers is completely my own based on what I have heard on the air in comparison to several lists found online.
Taiwan BC, Hsinchu AM 1206
Clip starts with phone number khong-pat-khong-khong (0800-) and station announcement starts from 34 sec: “Taiwan Kon Po Kon Shi. Hsin(chua?) Kon Po Den Tai AM it-li-khong-liok (1-2-0-6)”
BCC Hsinchu AM 1017 local station identification
At 15 sec BCC’s distinctive top of the hour time signal and from 29 sec station announcement:
“Tiyon Gok Kon Po Ko Shih, Hsin(chie?) Kon Po Tien Tai... AM it-khong-it-chhit (1-0-1-7)”
What I heardMy AM-season started with great Far East conditions on 31st of August 2015. That night I heard two stations from northern Taiwan previously unheard for me.
AM792 Keelung Broadcasting Station, Keelung is listed in WRTH as 1 kW station. Still it was audible at least three times in August-September. Keelung BS verified my report quickly with short English e-mail and some pictures from the events station has hosted. On the 27th of September Keelung came loud and clear with 17UTC id: “Keelung Kongpo Diantai AM chhit-kiu-li (792)". Listen Id at 10 sec.
819 Cheng Sheng BC, Taipei was a real surprise on this difficult frequency normally dominated either AIR Delhi, Shanxi or North Korea. But not at 1858UTC on 31st of August when ChengSheng was alone in the frequency giving local id in Mandarin: "Cheng Sheng Taipei… diantai AM ba-yi-jiu (819)". Listen id. This is the only time I have heard Cheng Sheng on this frequency. So it’s not an easy catch. Taipei and Keelung are only some 15 kms away so no wonder they were audible at the same time.
Cheng Sheng BC is very DX-friendly station. They verify correct reports with beautiful laminated full color QSL-certificate where they put listener’s picture in the middle.
Nice Taiwan openings continued three weeks later on 15th and 17th of September. I noticed some more BCC stations like 882 BCC News Network Hsinchu-tx and local ids from 891 BCC Tainan and 1017 BCC Hsinchu. 1206 Taiwan BC Hsinchu was booming at 20UTC on 17th and left no change for dominant Jiangsu Gushi Guangbo. Listen local id: “Taiwan Kon Po Kon Shi. Hsin(chua?) Kon Po Den Tai AM it-li-khong-liok (1-2-0-6)” at 34 sec.”
Listen id at 20 sec. I have no idea how they pronounce those numbers after AM ? Also 1260 ChengSheng Taipao was audible at the same time with local program. Listen id here at 7 sec. They are using Taiwanese version of an old Harry Belofonte tune “Banana Boat Song” as their interval music.
My new discovery this fall was that Far East stations can be heard (at least in southern Finland) quite late at night up until 20-21UTC if the frequency is “Eurofree”. On 26th of September I noticed great late night opening to Taiwan that offered me three new stations.
1224 kHz is an interesting Asia fq these days. Guangxi Jingji Guangbo with 97.0 Nü Zhubo – Hostess Radio program is the usual dominant. Fortunately most Chinese stations have silent period at local night time leaving frequencies empty for other Far East stations. 1224 JOJK NHK-1 Kanazawa was also pretty common this fall giving local id before top of the hour at 20UTC. I also heard KBS-3 Gwangju with HLKC ids few time and even Neimenggu RGD from Chinese inner Mongolia. But in the evening of September 26th two Taiwanese stations dominated frequency.
Listen id at 17 sec. BCC Country Network, Kaohsiung was also on frequency at the same time as you can hear from BCC’s distinctive top of the hour time signal on the same audio clip at 1:14 sec. After some e-mails and Facebook messages HwaSheng BC finally verified my report with nice e-mail in Chinese.
1350 Chung Hwa 1 BC, New Taipei City has become pretty common catch this fall. First time I catch it with an id on 26th of September and since then I have heard the station at least five times now. On 1350 kHz Chung Hwa (or Chung Hua) broadcasts 1st programme “…1 Den Tai. Chung Hwa Kong Po Kon Shi”. Listen id.
top of the hour id from "Taiwan Guangbo Gongsi, Chung Hsing Guangbo Diantai" aka Taiwan BC Chung Hsing Broadcasting Station, Nantou.
Another surprise was 1026 Chung Hwa 2 BC, New Taipei City. On 1026 Tien Sheng BC has been heard quite regularly but Chung Hwa 2nd program is a rare catch. Id was almost the same as Chung Hwa 1st program on 1350 kHz, only the words before “…diantai. Chung Hwa Kong Po Kon Shi” were different.
Already in fall 2014 I was puzzled with station on 1161 kHz. It was using a familiar Christmas Carol as its interval melody on top of the hour, but I never heard spoken id. This October I heard the same melody again and later also some program that sounded Taiwanese. After some googling I end up to Feng Ming Radio’s web site (at http://www.fengmin.com.tw) where I found audio stream of their program. From audio stream I heard the same melody at the top of an hour, so I was now positively able identify the station as 1161 Feng Min BC, Kaohsiung. I e-mailed two audio clips to the station and they quickly confirmed my reception with QSL-letter in Chinese.
I have sent mostly e-mail reception reports to Taiwanese stations. Currently bit more than a half of the stations have answered my reports. Percentage is much higher that from the stations in mainland China. I have used Chinese reception report form but over half of the replies have been in English. I would say that most Taiwanese stations are able to communicate in English, but some still prefer Chinese.
Any comments and corrections to this article are appreciated.
Thanks to Pyry Mäkeläinen for floating audio player code.