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 What are SWL Cards?

Reporting and QSLs : Short Wave Listeners

"QSL" is the radiotelegraph code meaning "I confirm" or "I acknowledge receipt".  In short-wave listening, a "QSL" is a card or letter from a radio station confirming that the recipient indeed heard the station.
Most international broadcast stations today use regular monitors to assess how well they are being heard and no longer rely upon listener letters.
 However, most broadcasters still respond to listener reception reports with QSL cards or letters. Many SWLs have amassed impressive, colorful collections of these souvenirs of their listening experiences.
To receive a QSL from a station, you need to send a "reception report" to the station giving information about what you heard, the reception conditions, and what you liked (or didnít like) about their programming. A good reception report should include the following:
  • the date and time (in UTC) you heard the station
  • the frequency on which you heard the station
  • details about what you heard sufficient to establish that you indeed heard the station; these are things like names of announcers and programs, titles of musical selections, station slogans, etc. (be sure to include the times you hear the various items)
  • an evaluation of the signal quality, including strength, degree of fading, and any interference you were experiencing (include the names and frequencies of interfering stations)
  • the make and model of radio you are using, along with any external antenna you use
  • comments and suggestions about the stationís programming
 
         
To encourage frequent reception reports, many international broadcasters change designs of their QSL cards frequently and offer special series of cards that require you to send reports at regular intervals. In the late 1980s, for example, Radio Denmark offered a set of QSL cards that formed a painting when all cards were collected.
Other stations send out stickers, decals, and pennants made of paper, plastic, or cloth to regular reporters. And a reception report to a station will typically get you on their mailing list for program schedules for years to come.

 

Donít be afraid to candidly state what you really liked or disliked about their programming, and feel free to make suggestions about what you would really like to hear. Some times major changes have been made as a result of these suggestions.

 

Not all short-wave broadcasters actively seek reception reports, especially stations in smaller nations that are privately owned and operated (as is often the case in Latin America). Here you must get creative in order to get the station to reply. While English can be used when reporting to major international broadcasters, you should always report in a major language used in that nation when reporting reception of smaller short-wave stations.
You should also include some souvenirs of your area, such as picture postcards, commemorative stamps, etc. It also helps to prepay the postage for a reply. The easiest way to do this is with mint stamps of the country; these can be obtained from stamp dealers or from individuals who sell these to the SWLing and ham communities. However, you could always send along two or three international reply coupons (IRCs), which are available at larger post offices.
 
To find the correct address to send your reception report to, consult a publication such as Passport to World Band Radio or the World Radio TV Handbook. These publications will also include information as to what languages you can send reports in, whether return postage should be sent, and which station personnel should receive your letter. 
Always send your reports via air mail; the extra cost over surface mail is a small price to pay for the extra speed and reliability of air mail service.
 
Some non-broadcast stationsóespecially time signal stations, maritime stations, and hamsówill also reply to listener reports, especially if the listener prepares a QSL card and sends it along with their report.
A lot of people enjoy short-wave listening without bothering to send reception reports and collecting QSLs, and indeed there are several listeners (and stations) that consider the entire practice to be a waste of time and energy.
Today, QSLs cards from stations in countries like the USSR, Czechoslovkia, East Germany, Sikkim and  other countries that no longer exist. These are pieces of history Iím glad I decided to preserve!
 
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