WRITING RECEPTION REPORTS AND OBTAINING QSL CARDS


Originally, listeners sent reception reports to stations to indicate how well signals were propagating around the world. Stations would verify and acknowledge the reception reports by sending a QSL card. Today many stations use real-time remote monitoring stations. These make listener reception reports less necessary, except in cases of regional interference. These days, QSL cards serve more for station promotion than for broadcast quality reports.

To receive a QSL card and station stickers from a radio station, you must send them a reception report in the format below. Given station backlogs, it may take from days to years to hear back from a station. In some cases, stations will let you choose your QSL card from images they post in magazines or on their web sites. Some QSL cards are quite artistic, such as Radio Japan's QSL collection. Others may depict imagery of national pride, history, celebrations, struggles, or current political initiatives.


RECEPTION CODES

When early radio stations began receiving broadcast signal quality reports from their listeners, efforts were undertaken to create reporting standards that would be recognized by stations worldwide. Standard codes helped stations quickly compare and interpret reports about their broadcasts. The first and most popular code was the SINPO code seen below, with each letter representing specific signal characteristics rated from 1 to 5.

Signal Strength Interference Natural Noise Propagation Conditions Overall Merit
5-Excellent 5-None 5-None 5-Excellent 5-Excellent
4-Good 4-Slight 4-Slight 4-Slight disturbance 4-Good
3-Fair 3-Moderate 3-Moderate 3-Moderate disturbance 3-Fair
2-Poor 2-Severe 2-Severe 2-Severe disturbance 2-Poor
1-Barely Audible 1-Extremely strong 1-Extremely strong 1-Very poor propagation 1-Unusable

If you find mention of the SINFO code, it is similar to the SINPO code with the term Propagation replaced by Fading. Both terms are essentially the same.

While the SINPO code may look concise, it soon becomes evident that it is very subjective. The original SINPO code defined technical specifications for each number; for instance, a 3 in the Propagation column meant a fixed number of signal fades per minute. Today these specifications are seldom adhered to; thus, people often rate the same signal differently.

Some inexpensive communications receivers and domestic radios do not provide a means for objective signal comparison. They commonly use signal strength S-meters that are merely tuning indicators, so meter readings are dependent on the setting of the RF gain control. In this case, your ears are a better judge of signal strength.

Some literature promotes SINPO as the best code for distance (DX) reporting; however, many listeners cannot accurately rate Propagation and cannot distinguish between man-made Interference and Natural atmospheric noise. Most professional monitoring stations use a simpler code. The following table shows how Interference, Natural Noise and Propagation are combined into a single Interference rating. The SIO code is based on the SINPO code, yet is much simpler to create.

Signal Strength Interference of any type Overall Merit
5-Excellent 5-No interference 5-Excellent
4-Good 4-Very slight 4-Good
3-Fair 3-Moderate 3-Fair
2-Poor 2-Heavy 2-Poor
1-Useless 1-Extreme 1-Unusable

When using the SIO code, it is best to perform your analysis in reverse. Evaluate the Overall Merit of the signal. How easy, pleasant or difficult is it to hear? Assign it a number. Now examine the reasons for your rating. For example, you may have an SIO of 244 if the Signal Strength is weak but there is no Interference. On the other hand, you may have an SIO of 442 if the Signal is strong and without Interference, but the broadcast audio was heavily distorted due to a fault in the transmitter.

Stations often have difficulty detecting certain problems with only transmitter-site signal measurements. In such cases, your critical report may alert a station to a problem. If you report Interference as a 1, 2 or 3, you should describe the interference. Evaluate the interference to see if it is on the same frequency (co-channel) by moving the tuning knob back and forth across your desired frequency. Determine whether the interference fades on both sides of your desired frequency, or if it strengthens while moving higher or lower in frequency relative to your desired frequency. Report whether the interference is lower, higher or the same in frequency to your desired frequency, and describe the interference sounds you hear. Next evaluate the signal for man-made or jamming interference. Man-made interference runs the gamut from hairdryers to automobile engines and power systems noise. It commonly sounds like clicks, buzzes and rough static. Jamming interference is designed to deliberately interfere with an international broadcaster's transmission, and is usually a strong buzzing sound. Jamming has generally decreased but is still common in the Middle East and Asia. Reception may also be spoiled by loud "crashes" caused by local thunderstorms near the receiver. Indicate if you are experiencing thunderstorms at the time of your report.


MAKING A RECEPTION REPORT

Following are the elements of a reception report:

Your Name and Address should be block-printed or typed on every sheet of your report.

The Station Address should include the name of the particular program or presenter. English programs should be sent in c/o "English Language Service", Spanish programs in c/o "Spanish Language Service", etc.

The Date should be in the format Saturday, 1 January 2000.

The Time should be listed in "Coordinated Universal Time" (commonly shortened to the French abbreviation UTC). Some countries use "Greenwich Mean Time" (GMT), which is essentially the same as UTC until dealing with milliseconds. UTC time is unaffected by summer or winter daylight savings time. Most stations use the 24-hour clock system to avoid confusion with AM and PM (for instance, 9:00PM would be 2100).

The Frequency should be listed in kilo-Hertz (kHz). Some older receivers use the term kilocycles (kcs), which is equivalent to kHz. If you know a station transmits on multiple frequencies, try the other frequencies and report on those too. Attempt to be accurate to 5 kilo-Hertz.

Multiple Samples of multiple frequencies on different days are more useful to a station than a single report on a single frequency. Note the reception quality of a number of frequencies carrying the same program over a period of three to six days. When a particular channel is blocked by interference, sometimes a station will check to see whether another frequency nearby is more suitable as an alternative.

Listing your Receiver Type is useful to the frequency department of a station. Quote the receiver description found in your manufacturer's brochure. (Example descriptions: 8-band SW dual-conversion portable, or Yaesu Musen FRG-100 Communications Receiver w/TCXO, dual-conversion superheterodyne, 50-30000kHz [USB/LSB, CW/NAR, AM/NAR, FM]). Be sure to indicate whether it is a "domestic" type (with mediumwave or VHF/FM as well as shortwave) or a "communications" type (made primarily for listening to shortwave broadcasts up to 30 MHz). It may be helpful to include the brand name and model as some stations compile statistics on common receiving equipment.

Your Antenna Configuration may indicate your ability to receive a station's signal. If you know your antenna type (also referred to as an aerial), list it by name, such as "magnetic long-wire balun", "inverted L", "dipole" or "telescopic rod." Many listeners create a very effective antenna by simply hanging a wire out the window. This configuration is often called a "random longwire aerial." If the wire is suspended between trees, refer to it as a "suspended longwire antenna." In addition, indicate the antenna length and the distances of each end of the antenna above the ground.

Program Details should include the program title, the name of the presenter, and some of the important points of the broadcast. For musical programs, note the performers' names. Demonstrate to the station that you were listening for at least 10 to 20 minutes.

Be sure to include your Program Comments. Stations really are interested in the impact of their programs. A good report will briefly address the following topics:

      Was the material relevant and of interest?
      Was it presented with quality and clarity?
      Was it biased in its presentation?
      How did the material influence you?
      Was the presentation cohesive in its topics, music, and style?
      Did magazine-format programs cover topics of equal interest and relevance in a cohesive manner?
      Was the rate of speech clear and understandable?
      For musical programs, did you enjoy the music? Was there any interference?


A SAMPLE RECEPTION REPORT




From: Christopher D. Watkins
Chairman & CEO
c/o Industrial Mindworks, Inc.
3776 Lavista Road
Suite 100-A
Atlanta, Georgia 30084-5610 USA

Date: Monday 20 March 2000

To: Media Network
English Language Service
Radio Netherlands
P.O. Box 222
1200 JG Hilversum
Holland

To whom it may concern:

I am reporting reception of your English-language broadcasts directed to North America.

Date Time UTC Frequency S I O Comments
Thu 16 Mar 2000 0100 9845.00 4 4 4 strong, steady signal
Fri 17 Mar 2000 0100 9845.00 4 4 4 strong, steady signal
Sat 18 Mar 2000 0100 9845.00 4 4 4 strong, steady signal
Sun 19 Mar 2000 0100 9845.00 4 4 4 strong, steady signal

Program Details: COMING SOON

Program Comments: COMING SOON

Receiver: Yaesu Musen FRG-100 Communications Receiver w/TCXO option, dual-conversion superheterodyne, 50-30000kHz (USB/LSB, CW/NAR, AM/NAR, FM)

Antenna: Random Longwire Aerial 10 meters long from 3.5 meters to 1.5 meters from Earth

I hope my reception report is of use to the station. If the details are correct, please verify with a QSL card. If you have a station sticker, I would greatly appreciate one.

All the best to you,
Christopher D. Watkins




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