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Six pips are broadcast, with the start of the 6th pip being the start of the new minute, on many broadcast radio stations.  They are often broadcast 'over the top' of other material, which can make them difficult to read.  Historically, the time pips on Government radio stations had a link with the national standards organisation, but in many cases this is now 'sub-contracted' or 'outsourced' to private operators with the loss of objective guarantee of quality.  Where these time pips are found to be correct (not easy to determine), they are a widely available useful tool to set a stopwatch or to set or check a local quartz bleeper.  (As with all methods, it is essential to check them from time to time against another time source.)

New Zealand:  if accurate (?), then in principle they should be usable
The  Measurement Standards Laboratory of New Zealand  advises the following about these time pips:
"The most widely used time signals are those broadcast by Radio New Zealand on the National Radio station.  These are derived from the MSL caesium clocks and are transmitted every hour.  They consist of six "pips" of 1000 Hz tone, at one second intervals, the beginning of each pip marking the exact second.  When a pip marks the exact hour, its length is doubled.  When a leap second is inserted seven pips are broadcast."

However, in New Zealand, in recent years there have been persistent reports from users who state they found occasions where the pips were a fraction of a second (~ 0.2 sec ??) late. This is of concern and it would be good to have this verified.  If the time pips on the full hour were correct, they would be a useful tool for observers to set their stopwatch or local clock. We need to check with the MSL whether this service is "audited", i.e. whether it is cross-checked against a time standard.    QUESTION:  Could NZ members please advise us if they have hard information on whether the time pips are indeed OK?

Australia:  correct time pips from (many) ABC Radio stations -  For how much longer..?

A few words of CAUTION:  until early 2003 the ABC local radio time pips were accurate, but there is some information that as from mid - 2003 there was a change in the way they are derived,  In the worst case, the generation of these time pips might now be linked to the 'new' operator of the Telstra 1194 time service, which has now LOST ITS 'LEGAL TRACEABILITY'.   However, they may (??) still be OK but we cannot confirm this at present.

The time pips on the full hour on Government Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio stations, until early 2003, were of high quality and legally traceable.  Therefore, when time pips were heard on ABC stations, they could be used.  In view of the changes to the source of the time code, until we receive better, authoritative information, their reliability is no longer assured.  These time pips are heard regularly on most Local (State Capital) and Regional (State Rural) ABC radio stations, where programmes are produced locally.   In recent months (late 2004) they have also been heard on ABC "Radio National" which broadcast 'national' programmes across Australia (but not on "NewsRadio"; formerly the Parliamentary and News Network, PNN).

NOTE: in the past the reason given for broadcasting time pips only on 'Local' ABC stations was that the ABC would broadcast time pips only when they are accurate.  In practice this means that they "should" only be broadcast if a programme is produced locally in the State where it is heard.  Because the programmes for "Radio National" and "NewsRadio" are often distributed by satellite links, they are subject to large delays.  Therefore the ABC had a system in place whereby programme streams that 'may' be carried by satellite do not include time pips.  However, in late 2004 we now also hear time pips on "Radio National" but the source of these (is it 'local' or 'national'?) is currently not known.  Do the readers of this site have better information on this?

NOTE:  in 2003 we were advised by users that the ABC in Western Australia and in South Australia no longer broadcast these time pips.   They are continuing in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT.  Please advise if you have further information on this, thank you.

NOTE:  around 2006 - 2008 onwards most ABC stations (again) broadcast time pips.  On a quick check they 'appear' OK but we have no confirmation from official sources of their origin and reliability.

It is recommended that time pips on commercial stations not be used.
Time pips on commercial radio stations are not often heard, but their accuracy is not proven.  Some operators use their own clock, which is not traceable, i.e. "they could be right, or they could be wrong....".  We have currently no reliable information on their accuracy, but 'anecdotal' evidence suggests that they may be not accurate.  Do any of our readers have better information on this?

Do not use time pips on Short Wave broadcast stations (e.g. the BBC)
Do not rely on time signals on SW broadcast stations like the BBC World Service.  Their time pips on the full hour are probably accurate at the location of the originating studio (e.g. Bush House in London), but SW broadcast programmes are distributed around the world using long paths that often include satellite links which add very large delays.  As received, they can be very significantly delayed, and this problem of distribution delay applies to all SW broadcasters.  >>>>>  An exception is Radio New Zealand International (RNZI), because this only uses two transmitters (one regular SW, and one DAB) located in NZ.  The signal from RNZI is therefore similar to that from the regular NZ National Radio.

Hong Kong
Are you observing from Hong Kong?  The Hong Kong Observatory has a long history and around 2006 still provided an excellent Time Service through time signals on local broadcast stations.  This may well continue; please see their web site for full details

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