Hello friends, Because of the US government shutdown, VOA Radiogram 28, first broadcast September 28 and 29, was repeated the following two weekends. Also, I was not able to read or send emails using this account. I will need a few days to respond to your emails and to send e-QSLs for VOA Radiogram 28. I returned to work Thursday, giving me just enough time to produce a new program for this weekend, using Fldigi version 3.21.76AH. Once again we will test the new ability to transmit images in the MFSK64 and MFSK128 modes. This will include the transmission of the same picture in MFSK16, 32, 64, and 128. Correct decoding MFSK64 and MFSK128 images will require one of the alpha versions of Fldigi, available from The current version is 3.21.76AN, but I think any version back to 3.21.76AB will provide satisfactory results. Here is the lineup for VOA Radiogram, program 29, 19-20 October 2013: 2:53 MFSK16: Program preview 7:22 MFSK16/32/64/128: Same image in each mode 3:38 MFSK32: SpaceX launch, with image 3:34 MFSK64: Vegetables resist radiation, with image :27 MFSK32: E-mail address 2:11 MFSK128: Affordable Internet, with logo 3:30 MFSK64/Flmsg*: News from 2:04 MFSK32: VOA Radiogram logo 632x56 :38 MFSK32: Closing announcements *Use Flmsg (also from with Fldigi. To make Flmsg work with Fldigi, in Fldigi: Configure > Misc > NBEMS -- Under Reception of flmsg files, check both boxes, and under that indicate where your Flmsg.exe file is located. As usual, please send reception reports to . Audio samples and screenshots are also appreciated. VOA Radiogram transmission schedule (all days and times UTC) Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina. I'm very happy to back in contact with VOA Radiogram listeners and look forward to your emails this weekend. Kim Kim Andrew Elliott Producer and Presenter VOA Radiogram @VOARadiogram VOA Radiogram transmission schedule (all days and times UTC): Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

Decoded from Flávio's YouTube video of his reception of WRMI, 9955 kHz, at 0000 UTC 23 December 2012.

This screenshot of Fldigi shows the noise on WRMI's 9955 kHz channel. The noise, mostly Cuban jamming, is in the lower audio reaches. So I put two MFSK16 digital text signals in the upper audio ranges: centered at 2500 Hz and just under 3000 Hz. Here you can see the gibberish caused by the noise preempted by the WRMI ID, 100% copy, with a carriage return before and after...

WRMI's PSKR125 IDs on Saturday were also successful, at least part of the day.

Dear all

I am writing to let you know that today, we have handed back the keys of Bush House to the landlord - marking the final chapter in our historic connection with this iconic building, home to the BBC World Service for over 70 years. Richard Thomas, Chief Operating Officer Global News, was present to officially hand over the building to Andrew Williams, Director Project and Development Services, Jones Lang Lasalle.

Since we left Bush House earlier this year, our decommissioning team has been busy preparing the building for this moment, which included helping to manage the auctions in which I know many of you took part. Here are just some of the headline facts and figures: 23,374 sq metres of office space were vacated and 930 individual rooms cleared in total, including 148 studios. 40 tonnes of waste was collected and 95% of that was recycled. In addition, 22 tonnes of batteries were recycled, and 96 truckloads of miscellaneous items were removed and recycled, including 1.86 tonnes of stationery which will be re-used by London schools. In terms of the auction, there were just under 4,000 lots and over half a million hits to the auction website.

Before the landlord can re-let the building as office accommodation, Bush House will undergo a programme of refurbishment, starting in December 2012. The majority of work will take place in the office spaces while the finishes in the stairways and lobbies will be retained. This link will take you to some artist’s impressions which will give an idea of how the building will look once the refurbishments are complete.

As you can see, there are plans to open up and enlarge the external receptions in North East Wing, South East Wing and Melbourne House, to give each an individual identity and the courtyard will remain as a car park/delivery point.

As the World Service approaches its 80th anniversary in December this year, I am sure there are many of us who will reflect on the part that Bush House played in our own lives as well as that of the BBC as a whole.


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25 October 2012

Dear colleagues

Today we are announcing distribution changes for the World Service as part of Year 3 Comprehensive Spending Review savings. As I said last week, these changes will deliver £4.8m of the required £12m savings that need to be achieved in the final year of Grant-in-Aid funding.

The changes are in line with our overall strategic aim of ensuring that we are able to respond to changing audience needs and invest in the way audiences consume news. In recent years, as alternative means of accessing media have proliferated, short wave audiences have declined. Audiences increasingly rely on medium wave, FM, television and digital media.

This is especially so in the Arabic speaking world, where satellite television is widely available and is complemented by radio services on medium wave, FM as well as the internet. Over the years, we have responded to these changes through our network of FM relays, a 24-hour television channel, and the website.

From the end of March 2013, we will implement the following distribution changes:

Short wave

· The English short wave service will continue to all regions, but will be reduced from between seven and 19 hours per day, depending on region, to six hours per day across all regions.

· Arabic short wave to the Middle East will stop. However, in Sudan, where there is a strong need for humanitarian information and limited access to other media, we will continue to provide a short wave service.

Medium wave - Middle East

· The Arabic medium wave service to Syria and Lebanon will continue, but will be reduced from eighteen hours per day to eight hours at peak times.

· The Arabic medium wave service to Egypt will be reduced from 17.5 hours daily to six hours per day. Medium wave to the Gulf States will remain at six hours per day.

· The English medium wave service to Israel, Lebanon and Jordan will be reduced from 16-18 hours daily to four hours per day and will be broadcast on a new frequency.

We estimate that the changes being announced today may result in a loss of up to 2.5 million listeners, an overall loss of 1% of the total Global News audience across all platforms. Any loss of audience is of course regrettable but we are not in a financial position to continue to distribute our services on all frequencies.

As a result of these changes, the shortwave transmitting station in Cyprus, which is managed by Babcock and staffed jointly by them and local Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff, will close with the loss of 26 posts. This site has delivered BBC broadcasts for over 70 years and I?d like to thank staff, past and present, for the service they have given the BBC during these years. Whilst today's distribution changes will not result in any post closures for the BBC, we will of course be working with FCO and Babcock colleagues to assist the team in Cyprus through these changes.


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Below is an e-mail from BBC World News Editor Jon Williams to staff, dated 6 October 2011, with details of the changes to BBC world newsgathering and BBC World Service due to the BBC budget cuts:


By now, I hope you’ll have had the chance to see or read the proposals from Mark, Helen & Fran. I'm sorry for the length of this email, but I want to set out in more detail what this means for us.

Across the News Group, integration is at the heart of “Delivering Quality First”. For World Newsgathering, from April 2014, it will mean a transformation of what we do, and how we do it. Working with our language service colleagues, our goal is to build a single, multi-lingual, multi-location, multi-platform newsgathering operation, telling the big stories for audiences in the UK, and around the world.

It’s quite an ambition. Our proposals will mean big changes. But the prize at the end is a team that is more….

Diverse: we look & sound more like the audiences we serve, rather than the place we broadcast from.

Agile: a more flexible operation that is ahead of where the stories are, not tied into legacy locations with long leases.

Capable: a single team serving audiences in UK & around the world, in English & other languages, through video, audio & text, for commercial & public services.

From April 2013, World Newsgathering will save £7m from its licence fee budget of around £35m – a target of 19%, in line with other parts of the BBC. However, recognising the importance of the operation to the whole of the BBC’s journalism, it’s also a priority for reinvestment. Over the same five year period, £3.5m will be invested to help us build the World Newsgathering of the future I’ve outlined above. It will mean by 2017, we will look and sound very different to the way we do now. We’ll have fewer UK national “foreign correspondents” and a more diverse reporting pool.

Around the world, that will mean different things in different places:

In some, with the help of the language services, we'll create a team of bilingual reporters serving English & local output.

In others, we'll invest in places like China & Brazil to reflect the world as it will be, rather than the world as it was.

And we'll need to change the mix between “overseas” & “local” reporters to ensure we can maintain our footprint around the World.

We plan to close 44 current posts in World Newsgathering – 25% of the total 170 posts in the department. At the same time, we will create 22 new roles: 13 of them overseas on full UK contracts, a further 9 on local staff terms.

Overseas bureaux:

The primary “English” Newsgathering presence will remain in our hub bureaux. We will appoint a China Editor to lead our reporting of the world’s biggest nation, and appoint a correspondent team in Brazil to cover its growing place in the world ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. We’ll create a total of 9 new OCS correspondent posts, including upgrading our operations in Cairo, Shanghai & Tokyo. We intend to remain in all of our key hub locations, but in order to meet our aspirations to better report the emerging stories, we’ll need to reduce the size of our current operations elsewhere, saving a total of 10 existing “on-air” OCS posts.

Across the rest of the world, we propose moving to a different model. We will close all our existing sponsored & unsponsored reporter posts.

Earlier this year, I announced our intention to appoint a new bilingual reporter in Baghdad, working to both BBC Arabic & Newsgathering, alongside our existing “pilot” role in Mexico. From April 2014, with the support of the relevant language services, they’ll be joined by bilingual reporters in Islamabad, Lagos, Jakarta, Nairobi, Beirut, Gaza/Ramallah & Havana, replacing the existing sponsored & unsponsored posts in these locations.

In addition, we plan to change the remaining roles in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Istanbul, the United Nations, Los Angeles, Bangkok, Seoul & Sydney. We propose using reinvestment funds to replace the sponsored & unsponsored posts with locally recruited staff reporters, sharing locations where practical with other news organisations. For several years, we have employed local reporters in the United States, while across Europe UK nationals have the right to work. We believe we can deliver significant savings by moving to a more flexible model, without damaging our presence around the world. Reluctantly, it does mean that we have decided to close our operation in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Alongside our business bureaux in Singapore, New York, Dubai & Mumbai, and the current language service bureaux, this will give the BBC a presence in more than 30 countries around the World – still comprehensively the biggest of any British news organisation and in the global media “Premier League”

London operations:

The move of the World Affairs Unit to TVC last April has allowed us to make more coherent deployment decisions across domestic & global services. The move to W1 during 2012/13, should allow us to become more coherent still – joining up the planning and newsdesk operations at Bush House and TVC. From April 2013, we plan to close a further four reporting roles in London. Once the operations have settled down in W1, we propose closing a further four posts from the combined planning teams as well as closing the Newsgathering Features Unit, with the loss of a further two SBJ posts. We also want to explore running a more integrated “shared” UK/World overnight newsdesk once the teams are co-sited in Broadcasting House.

Additional non-staff savings will come as a result of reducing the number of agencies we subscribe to, as well as a small reduction in the coverage budget, reflecting the proposed reduction in staff. However, these are not envisaged before April 2014.

World Service:

It’s worth remembering that part of the reason we need to make the savings is because, from 2014, the licence fee is going to begin funding the World Service – including the £10m received by World Newsgathering. But for the next two years it continues to be funded through Grant-in-Aid. Last year, the Government announced it was reducing the amount the World Service received – and while protecting Newsgathering, the World Service has asked for savings over the remaining two years of the current GIA settlement. From April 2012, most of these will be achieved by the changes in our Baghdad operation I announced in the summer. Additionally, we have decided not to replace the Moscow SBJ role, which is currently vacant following Daniel Fisher’s return to London earlier this year.

I don’t underestimate the impact these proposals will have – on individuals, on the way we work in the UK, or on our operations overseas. However, this is a five year programme – some of the changes may not be introduced until 2017. None of the planned overseas changes will happen before 2014. It’s unlikely this will impact on anyone currently posted abroad during their existing tour.

The challenge facing us is immense – and I appreciate that some of the decisions I’ve outlined are difficult. But the prize is real: a World Newsgathering that is more diverse, agile & capable, better able to meet the challenges of the commercial & public service world, one that is multi-lingual, multi-location and multi-platform.

It is a prize worth having – one I hope you will support. J

Jon Williams

World News Editor

Ted Lipien’s attack on the Broadcasting Board of Governors' efforts to realign U.S. international broadcasting (Washington Times, April 1) comes down to this: The BBG is wrong to curtail shortwave broadcasts to China by the Voice of America in favor of a strategy that emphasizes the Internet because the Internet can be blocked. Research used by the BBG is inaccurate, except when he cites it. Chinese voices are proclaiming this a victory for China’s regime. The BBG is responsible for similar mistakes affecting Tibet and Russia several years ago.

Let’s begin where this argument is demonstrably false. Lipien writes that “the same group of BBG bureaucrats proposed reducing radio to Tibet” and “they cut VOA programs to Russia in 2008.” By "bureaucrats", he presumably is referring to the BBG professional staff. A casual scan of Lipien's past writings demonstrates his obsession that this small group of civil servants conspires successfully to manipulate the presidentially appointed board, even on issues that require the board's authority, like realigning broadcasts. Apparently, in his view, the last appointed BBG had nothing to do with changes to broadcasting to Russia and proposals to change broadcasting to Tibet. It was all "the staff." This narrative doesn't pass the reality check. Here's the real story: the current BBG, not the staff, agreed unanimously--Democrats and Republicans--to the realignment of U.S. broadcasting to China.

Lipien dismisses research that demonstrates a dramatic drop-off in shortwave listening in China, not just to U.S. international broadcasters but to all international broadcasters. He and others who contest this research, which comes not just from the BBG but from other international broadcasters BBC, DW and Radio France International, argue that its conclusions cannot be correct. Yet no one to date, including Lipien, has produced research that contradicts these findings. We would love to see it, if it exists.

His argument that “unlike radio, the Internet in China is being censored,” is misleading. The Chinese government has jammed shortwave radio broadcasts for many years. Shortwave listening not only is in dramatic decline but it is regularly jammed: a double whammy. Meanwhile the Internet is censored but not completely blocked. VOA Mandarin language streams had 432,000 views in January 2011. Its English and Special English websites and media content are not blocked by the Chinese government.

The correct approach to China, this BBG believes, is not an either-or strategy, but rather one that concentrates VOA’s resources to reach a larger audience on the Internet and mobile devices, while hedging our bets with continued and strengthened shortwave broadcasts by America’s other broadcaster to China, Radio Free Asia.

Lipien’s beef against Radio Free Asia, and all of the other Radio Frees that the BBG supervises, is longstanding. He sees them competing detrimentally for resources with his alma mater, the Voice of America. This is a debate worth having, especially in the constrained financial conditions we face as a country. But Lipien wants it both ways when he insists that RFA shortwave broadcasts “are far less known, less popular than VOA programs and more successfully jammed by the regime.” Really? Presumably Lipien knows all this on the basis of the audience research he hastily dismisses when it doesn’t fit his argument.

The BBG believes that Radio Free Asia is one of America’s most effective and dynamic networks. To bolster it, as part of this realignment the BBG will assign RFA the best available frequencies and times for broadcasting in Mandarin. RFA is a hard-hitting, no-nonsense broadcaster of news and analysis about China and the world, which may be why the Chinese find it particularly bothersome. If Lipien believes that, despite regular citations of RFA’s breaking news by the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, and others, RFA is not up to the task, he should explain why.

Finally there is the canard that the realignment described above is a victory for the Chinese regime. China’s press and blogosphere are full of a different view. For example, a professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Journalism and Communications, quoted in the China Youth Daily, cites the influence of Internet activities on events in Tunis and Egypt, and cautions that one should “not misunderstand America’s purpose in shutting down VOA radio, because with the development of new internet tools, shortwave radio is no longer necessary.” Or in the pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily news, “The West changes its propaganda strategy toward China,” which concludes that, “It is clear that in the near future public spaces like the Internet will be an area where China and the West will strive for influence, launching an attack-defense tussle.” Or the Huanqui Shibao’s summary of the discussion there about ending of VOA’s shortwave broadcasts to China: “Chinese scholars said that obviously the U.S. has found a new battlefield where they occupy advantages. In the future, the fight for dominating public opinions will be even more dangerous…Closing the Voice of America has been the result of exactly such a strategy.”

The BBG realigned its broadcasts to China not because it wants to go easy on China’s regime but the opposite: the new strategy increases America’s competitive advantages while not diminishing its legacy capabilities. This presents the Chinese with a tougher, not an easier challenge. In contrast, Chinese authorities no doubt find comfort in Lipien’s “strategy”, which is to keep pouring scarce resources into broadcasts with virtually no audience.

S. Enders Wimbush

Broadcasting Board of Governors


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Eighteen specialists in public service media and international broadcasting gathered at a Washington think tank recently (December 8) to offer sometimes contrasting views on how high quality international reporting could be maintained for the American public when overseas bureaus of major dailies in the United States are downsizing or disappearing altogether.

The symposium, sponsored by the New America Foundation, also touched on the challenges facing U.S. public-funded international broadcasting at a time of rapid technological change and the prospect of budget cuts. Some panelists raised the prospect of closer collaboration among public and non-profit broadcasting networks and their U.S. overseas counterparts such as the global Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and other regional outlets like the Middle East Broadcast Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa) as well as Radio-TV Marti).

Several panelists questioned the credibility overseas of the U.S. government-funded broadcast entities. Columbia University President Lee Bollinger noted, however, that in an era where there is a proliferation of voices and information, greater sharing of resources is essential. In an interconnected world, he said, significant new investment and collaboration is particularly needed in foreign reporting. He noted that there is a precedent: the U.S has had state funding of many of its universities with guarantees of autonomy that have worked well over many years.

Susan Glasser, editor in chief of Foreign Policy Magazine, added that the paradox of diminishing coverage of international events in the United States is that we have more information than ever before, but less “world class expertise.” She noted that aside from the wire services, there are less than 100 American foreign correspondents abroad --- serving their home country of more than 300 million people.

Joseph Bruns of PBS, former director of the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, asked if VOA and NPR might consider a potential partnership. Loren Jenkins, managing editor of foreign coverage at NPR, rejected the idea out of hand, saying that VOA’s product is often seen as “propagandistic,” in contrast to NPR’s educational mission. Fellow panelist Steve Redisch, VOA’s executive editor, disagreed. He said there are firewall guarantees of VOA’s “trust, accuracy and believability” and there is good, solid journalism at the Voice. The differences between NPR and VOA, in his view, are in the audiences. He doubted that a merger of VOA and NPR “would do either of us much good.” Redisch noted that the Voice has around 250 correspondents and stringers around the world --- many displaying great courage and taking personal risks to cover events in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The third panel of the afternoon symposium was in the form of a conversation between Dana Perino, a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) that oversees VOA and the other networks cited above, and Jeffrey Trimble, former acting president of RFE/RL and currently the Board’s executive director. Perino, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, said her newly-appointed board has just launched a comprehensive, year-long strategic review. The BBG, she said, is inviting public comments on all aspects of U.S. international broadcasting: the structure, funding, and available new technologies. In her view, “everything’s on the table.” The review has been described as the most comprehensive in the nearly 70-history of America’s overseas broadcasts.

The moderator of the Perino-Trimble discussion, Jon Sawyer of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, questioned the cost effectiveness of U.S. international broadcasting, which, he noted has a budget of approximately $750 million a year. Trimble noted that the reach of the broadcasts in 59 languages is 165 to 170 million weekly listeners, viewers and website users, which he termed “a good return on investment.” He said “we have new and smarter ways of reaching audiences. This new Board has come along at a very propitious moment.”

Perino noted that globally, cellphone usage is expanding more quickly than any other new medium, and investments in new technologies are needed, such as countering the blocking of the Internet by authoritarian governments. The BBG and BBC might well pool resources to explore ways of countering such interference. Although 500 million people are on Facebook, Perino added, shortwave radio continues to be important. “A billion people,” Perino added, “still don’t have electricity.”

Perino said individual BBG members are very active in raising the public visibility of U.S. international broadcasting, especially on Capitol Hill. One effort, she said, is to seek reversal of the domestic dissemination prohibitions of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which banned distribution of U.S. government-produced print and broadcast programs within the United States. Although that prohibition is anachronistic today when BBG content is readily available on line, it has --- over the years--- prevented many Americans from recognizing the professionalism of the journalistic product of VOA and the other broadcast networks supervised by the BBG.

“I totally reject the idea that VOA is propagandistic,” Perino added. She said that as White House press secretary she “had an opportunity to note firsthand the professionalism of the VOA correspondent assigned there and she (former VOA correspondent Paula Wolfson) was highly regarded by others in the press corps there.” Perino also noted that Radio Free Asia recently received one of the most prestigious awards by its journalistic peers for “breaking news of an environmental crime in China… the kind of award that would have been received by ‘60 Minutes’ in past years.”

At a final panel on new roles for international broadcasting and public media, PBS vice president Jason Seiken noted that “a lot of walls are breaking down” between newsrooms which used to be fierce competitors.” Contrary to a popular misconception, Seiken said, journalism in one sense has never been healthier because collaboration among documentary producers is growing impressively. . A thirst for solid educational television is key, he said.

Beth Curley, president and CEO of Nashville Public Television, recalled a production of her station a couple of years ago focusing on the Kurdish community of Nashville. The outlet put this on its website and YouTube, and much to the surprise of local producers, it was downlinked and rebroadcast in Iraq. A subsequent documentary on the Somali community in Nashville, the largest group of Somali immigrants in the nation, also was relayed without permission in the troubled Horn of Africa country. Referring to the earlier discussion of an eventual repeal of Smith-Mundt Act restrictions, BBG executive director Trimble said: “It would be terrific if we could make available some of our content to you --- to help inform the local Somali community.”

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BBC Radio 4, The Media Show, host Steve Hewlett interviewing Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust:

H: "Let's take the World Service. The World Service, no one questions the World Service's journalism, it's part of the BBC family, it operates to the same standards as every other part of the BBC, but as a constellation of services, the World Service, as you know, paid for the foreign office, is, is an expression of of british government foreign policy priorities. That's why it does the middle east and pulls out of eastern europe or whatever it does. Now, in the future, when the BBC, when the license fee is paying for these services, who is going to decide about the constellation of services?"

L: "Well, as at the moment, it will be exactly the same basis as at the moment, which is, which is—"

H: "Which means that the government will have direct control of the license fee."

L: "No, it does not. The settlement, the agreement on the World Service, agreed in 2006 and basically rolled forward in this agreement, is the BBC has complete editorial freedom in this. It's, it needs to consult the foreign secretary on the overall direction of the World Service and has to reach agreement on the creation of any new or the closure of any existing service."

H: "So that's, so the government will retain those rights?"

L: "It will retain those rights."

H: "So that means that the government has rights over the expenditure, directly, of license fee money, that's not supposed to happen."

L: "It has—"

H: "That's not independence."

L: "Well, uhh, no, it doesn't, I think, I think"

H: "Well either that or the BBC is undermining itself by looking as if it's the agent of UK government policy."

L: "Steve, you know, I, look, in part this decision overcomes the anxiety that the World Service has had for a long time that in some parts of the world the fact that, actually, it receives its income from the government was seen by some to question its independence. I don't think by many, and the truth is the editorial and journalism standards of the World Service are unimpeachable. Umm, so, but this actually makes the independant voice of the BBC clearer than ever. And, let's not, let's not conflate matters here, what the foreign secretary has a voice in is the opening of new services and the closing of existing services—"

H: "The way the license fee can be spent."

L: "He's not taken, he's, well those are important, well it's not, that, that doesn't sum up, I think—"

H: "OK."

L: "...the whole of the decision making around the use of license fee moneys."

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"Air of Truth," New York Times, 4 June 2007.

"Is There an Audience for Public Diplomacy?," New York Times, 16 November 2002.

Paul Foldi and his colleagues on (fellow Hoosier) Senator Richard Lugar's staff have prepared the report "U.S. International Broadcasting -- Is Anybody Listening? -- Keeping the U.S. Connected." This is an uncommonly thorough and thoughtful report about the challenges to U.S. international broadcasting.

There were three especially good things in the report...

1) It calls for the much-delayed confirmation of the eight new members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, held up by some of Senator Lugar's fellow Republicans, especially Senator Tom Coburn. "The Board has not had a formal Chairman since June 2008 when the incumbent left to become the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy for the remainder of the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration did not formally submit candidates for a new Board until November 2009, but [Senate] action on them is still pending as this report was going to print. This is especially unfortunate because the changing circumstances that have confronted the BBG since the current Board members were emplaced in 2002, both technical and geopolitical in nature, require immediate attention; attention the current Board is understandably reluctant to address given the nominations waiting in the wings."

2) The report defends the need for balance in the reporting of US international broadcasting. "[I]n order for the BBG to be credible to its audience and draw in not just those who already agree with U.S. policy, its networks must be permitted to present both sides of an argument." This is in contrast to Senator Coburn, who has said: "The U.S. taxpayers should not subsidize content presenting a balance between the truth and the regime's malicious propaganda. U.S. broadcasts should be the balance to the propaganda being broadcast by the regime and others."

3) The report acknowledges, though briefly, the 800-pound gorilla of US international broadcasting, which is the amount of duplication between entities: "VOA is intended to provide its listeners with news and information about the United States, the world and the particular region to which it is broadcasting. The surrogates are intended to focus their reporting on the news from inside the countries they are broadcasting to. In reality, each does a little of both to the point that some are questioning whether one or the other is necessary."

Now to the specific recommendations in the report...

  • "The Broadcasting Board of Governors sets the policies and provides necessary oversight of U.S. broadcasting operations. The average vacancy rate for a seat on the Board is more than 470 days (one seat has been vacant for more than four years). The Senate needs to confirm the current slate of nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors to provide needed leadership and guidance. Going forward, Presidents should move with dispatch to fill vacancies and should prioritize nominees with substantial international broadcasting experience. In the medium term, Congress must decide whether it is time to consider another management structure if Board staffing difficulties persist."

    "Staffing difficulties" persist at present because of members of the Senate stalling confirmation of the new BBG members. If Senator Tom Coburn still thinks BBG is "the most worthless organization in the federal government," he can continue his hold on the BBG nominations until the concept of the Board itself is destroyed.

    In international broadcasting, credibility is the most important commodity. That is why people seek news from abroad. Credibility requires independence. In the Western democracies, public broadcasting entities funded by license fees or by government grants maintain their independence by being governed by a bi- or multi-partisan board with fixed and staggered terms. There is no other way. Return to politically-appointed management of US international broadcasting will change the tone of US international broadcasting, which will be detected by the audience, which will tune elsewhere.

  • "Alhurra – the U.S. 24-hour Arabic television news channel – is expensive, and with the exception of Iraq, little watched elsewhere in this vital region. Alhurra’s budget of some $90 million surpasses the combined budgets of Radio Free Asia ($37 million), Radio/TV Marti ($30 million) and VOA’s Persian News Network Television ($17 million). Given the crowded media environment of the Middle East, either greater resources must be devoted to marketing and promotion or additional programming changes must be enacted in pursuit of increasing the channel’s market share. Should these efforts fail to improve the overall viewership levels, policy makers will have to decide if continuing Alhurra’s operations is worth the costs."

    This assessment undervalues Alhurra's reach in Arab countries. I have written before that Alhurra can't be expected to match the audience size of Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya, but it should try to gain a respectable fraction of those stations' viewers. Very much needed now is audience data showing how Alhurra is faring versus the other Arabic-language channels from non-Arab nations: BBC Arabic, France 24, DW-TV, Russia Today, EuroNews, CCTV, Al Alam, etc.

  • "The Chinese Government has issued only 2 work visas for Voice of America Beijing- based correspondents since 2009 and, for over a year, has blocked VOA from opening a bureau in Shanghai. By contrast, China’s state-run media organization - Xinhua News - has some 75 correspondents based in the United Sates. Since 2007, the U.S. government has issued some 2,900 press visas to Chinese journalists and media personnel. Journalists in Russia are routinely abducted, tortured and murdered with virtual impunity."

    Reciprocity agreements might be a way to improve access to journalists and broadcasts in countries such as China and Russia. Such agreements, however, might be construed as limiting US press freedom, even if overseas press is involved. I would have sympathies both sides of such an argument, so may the lawyers for each side give it their best shot.

  • "The number of Russian radio stations carrying Radio Free Europe’s Russian service broadcasting has declined precipitously from over 30 stations in 2001 to currently 5; VOA’s dropped from 85 in 2003 to just 1 by 2009 as the Russian government successfully silenced most BBG broadcasts by simply refusing to renew Russian radio station licenses unless US programming was dropped. The State Department should raise this issue at the highest levels in its meetings and should monitor closely rising attempts to block BBG Internet sites."

    Reciprocity again, like the old Cold War agreement to sell so many copies of Amerika magazine in the USSR, in exchange for the same number of (mostly unsold) Soviet Life in the United States. If BBG websites are blocked in Russia, this would leave only shortwave and satellite, neither especially popular in Russia, as a way to get USIB news into Russia. Russia is one of several difficult challenges for USIB.

  • "In Asia, according to the human rights NGO Freedom House, the six countries served by Radio Free Asia are experiencing steadily dwindling levels of press freedom, with none currently ranked higher than 132 out of 195 countries. RFA, set up in 1994 with the hope that the post-Cold War tide of democracy and liberalization would soon sweep Asia, was authorized only on a temporary basis. Congress should permanently authorize Radio Free Asia to recognize the unfortunate reality of press freedom in Asia, and put RFA on a legislative par with Radio Free Europe, Cuba Broadcasting, and Middle East Broadcasting."

    East Asia is one of the most difficult areas to get news out of, and to transmit news back into. This requires all of the resources that US international broadcasting can muster. Unfortunately, the resources of USIB for Asia are divided between Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America, which overlap and compete in eight of the same languages. Permanent authority for Radio Free Asia would perpetuate this unsatisfactory situation, which forces USIB to be more expensive and less effective than it should be. I'm not saying that RFA should go away so that VOA employees can enjoy better job security. I am saying there should be a merger of all the entities.

  • "The BBG’s Arabic-language Radio Sawa has an hourly format of 45 minutes of music with 15 minutes of news. As a result, Sawa was deemed heretical by many 'news-only' advocates in the BBG when it appeared in 2002, yet Sawa quickly became popular with the 'under 30' youth-bulge deemed critical in that region, virtually none of whom had listened to VOA’s Arabic radio programming. Over time though, as its format has been copied by local stations, Sawa’s listenership has declined by 25%. Greater funding for marketing or a change in formats may be needed."

    It is a tribute to the designers of the Radio Sawa format that is has held is own against local music radio stations in the Arab World. Through focus groups and other research, Radio Sawa should hang onto its success as long as possible. Eventually, it may have to explore co-productions with domestic broadcasters in Arab nations. A news format for radio might not worth the investment, because the news audience in that part of the world has moved to television, and is increasingly moving to the internet.

  • "While Radio Free Asia is tasked with reaching a population of over 1 billion people, its marketing budget for fiscal year 2009 was less than $2,000. The Middle East Broadcasting Network, which oversees Al Hurra TV and Radio Sawa, has seen its marketing budget fluctuate wildly from a few thousand dollars in 2005 and 2006 to $100,000 in 2007, back to $5,000 in 2008 to over $1 million in 2009. Such inconsistencies wreak havoc with any long-term attempts to capture market share and must be addressed."

    Keep in mind that there are not many opportunities to do marketing in the RFA target countries. Marketing is more feasible in Alhurra target countries. Because the coverage area and potential audiences for USIB are so vast, marketing may be an unfathomable task. Because success in international broadcasting increasingly is dependent on getting content onto radio and television stations that are already successful in the target country, USIB marketing is, and probably should remain, focused on the managements of these stations.

  • "The government of Iran continues to attempt to jam both VOA’s Persian News Network TV (which uses multiple satellite systems to prevent a total shutdown) and Radio Free Europe’s Persian-language "Radio Farda." In February 2010, the Iranian government arrested seven journalists who had merely held job interviews with Farda. Efforts to ensure that our programming gets through should remain a high priority."

    Not just in Iran, but also China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Burma, and other countries that jam, block, and confiscate to keep out US international broadcasts. Getting information through to countries whose governments try to keep that information out is the number one challenge for US international broadcasting. Remedies must be assessed objectively, by people who do not have commercial or bureaucratic ties to any one anti-censorship technology.

  • "Critics note that some BBG entities have allowed individuals opposed to U.S. policy to air their views without any rebuttal or balanced context. While allowing such vitriol to go uncontested is clearly poor journalism, such occurrences have been the rare exception, not the norm. Nonetheless, in order for the BBG to be credible to its audience and draw in not just those who already agree with U.S. policy, its networks must be permitted to present both sides of an argument."

    Discussed above. It is gratifying to see this defense of credibility from Congress.

  • "Congress should revisit the Smith-Mundt legislation, which was passed originally in 1948 and later amended, which bans U.S. government broadcasting within the U.S. for fear the government would unduly influence its own citizens. Today, however, Russia and China and other entities currently broadcast in English in the United States. Additionally, recent Arabic-speaking immigrants to the United States are able to watch Al Jazeera but prevented by Smith-Mundt from viewing Al Hurra. These realities, coupled with the rise of the Internet, which enables computer users in the U.S. to receive video and audio streams of BBG broadcasts and readily access BBG websites, demonstrate that aspects of the legislation are both anachronistic and potentially harmful."

    The existence of Russian and Chinese broadcasts in the United States is not a reason to allow US government broadcasts in the United States. There are better reasons to eliminate the domestic dissemination prohibition on US international broadcasting: 1) Americans have a right to know what their government is transmitting to the rest of the world. 2) USIB can provide a public service to immigrant communities, at no additional cost to the taxpayers, by providing news about their homes countries in their native languages. 3) The domestic dissemination prohibition is difficult to enforce, as any American can visit the websites of the USIB entities. (It could be enforced if the decision is made to block those sites to persons with US IP addresses). 4) Without the domestic dissemination ban, USIB could barter its international coverage for the domestic coverage of US news entities. 5) The domestic dissemination prohibition is based on the incorrect premise that US international broadcasts are propaganda.

    Congress occasionally allows exceptions to the domestic dissemination ban. One of the most recent allowed the VOA Afghan Service documentary "A Fateful Harvest," about the opium drug trade in Afghanistan, to be distributed within the United States. To serve US immigrant communities, perhaps Congress should make a similar exemption for all USIB content that is not in English. Ethnic radio stations would then have no qualms about providing VOA content to their local listeners.

    If the domestic dissemination ban is dropped, there should be legislative language ensuring that fund allocated to international broadcasting are not used for domestic distribution, with a few small exceptions, such as to facilitate the barter deals mentioned above.

  • "As part of its FY20011 budget submission, the BBG has proposed closing its last U.S.- based short wave broadcasting facility, located in Greenville, North Carolina. The Board estimates a $3.2 million dollar savings as a result of this closure. While there is no question that audience for short-wave is decreasing in some countries, policy makers need to decide if shuttering the only remaining SW facility on American soil makes strategic sense. Additionally, while the U.S. has been jettisoning its shortwave frequencies, cutting some 60 in the last 10, China has been doing the exact opposite, almost doubling its number to 284 in the same period."

    If China is investing unwisely in shortwave, the United States should not feel compelled to match that unwise investment. There should be a conference, perhaps in North Carolina, about the future of shortwave broadcasting, including the future of the Greenville facility. There are interesting arguments on both sides. Shortwave may no longer be popular, but it is useful in emergencies. And there will be emergencies.

  • Back to post.

Radio remains a prime medium for U.S. international broadcasting to reach audiences around the world. In fact, of the 171 million people reached weekly by Broadcasting Board of Governors broadcasts, 102 million are reached via radio.

The Ofcom research cited by Helle Dale gives insight on the domestic market in the United Kingdom. In the case of international broadcasting, we are reaching diverse and dynamic marketplaces outside the U.K.

The strategy of the BBG is to reach audiences on the media they prefer, when it is possible to do so. To determine media preferences, the BBG conducts a robust global research program. Changes in audience media use grow increasingly complex and demand that a one-size-fits-all shortwave solution must be replaced with individually tailored approaches to match the market.

Media usage worldwide has grown increasingly complex, and Dale’s wishes for a shortwave solution are not supported by the facts.

Looking across three continents to key audiences we see that the Voice of America’s tailored approach results in the following audience reach:

- Nigeria remains almost exclusively a radio market for VOA, and our Hausa service presently reaches 36% of Hausa speakers weekly via a combination of shortwave and medium wave (AM) broadcasts.

- In Albania, VOA reaches more adults than any other international broadcaster in its target markets. TV is the dominant means of program delivery: VOA TV reaches 36% of Albanians weekly, while radio reaches 13% (almost entirely on FM), for a combined reach of 46% of Albanian adults.

- In Indonesia, VOA developed a multiple media (radio, TV, Internet and mobile) approach with an affiliate-based strategy, and now reaches 10% weekly on TV and 2% on radio (again mostly on FM), for a combined reach of 11%.

The BBG and VOA are not abandoning shortwave; it is our audiences that are migrating to other media. For example, in the last five years Albanian use of shortwave dropped from 11% to 3%, and Indonesian use of shortwave declined from 7% to 1%. Even in Africa, long thought to be the last big market for shortwave, use has declined precipitously in most places. In Kenya, only 14% listened to shortwave in the previous week, while 90% listened to FM. Just this week, the BBC acknowledged similar shifts in audience behavior, citing a shortwave audience loss of 20 million people for their international broadcasts. [See previous post for the BBC press release.]

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(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- May 28, 2010) In the midst of the controversy regarding the decision to ban YouTube and Facebook, RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin visited Pakistan for five days to discuss media freedom.

Gedmin's trip focused on Radio Mashaal ("torch" in Pashto) --- RFE/RL's new Pashto-language station in the tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Gedmin visited the station's Islamabad bureau and discussed Mashaal's mission with religious leaders, members of parliament, military officials, and civil society activists.

"Since the launch of Radio Mashaal in January, the station has gotten off to a superb start," said Gedmin. "We've received a lot of positive feedback from listeners and have already increased our live programming from two to four hours per day."

In Islamabad, Gedmin also met with U.S. government officials. U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has called Radio Mashaal's commitment to professional journalism in the local language, "an important contribution toward peace, reconciliation, and democracy in the region."

Radio Mashaal's correspondents cover domestic and international news with in-depth reports on terrorism, politics, women's issues, and health care, with an emphasis on preventive medicine. The station features regular call-in programs, roundtable discussions and interviews with experts and leaders.

More About Radio Mashaal

Radio Mashaal was launched in January 2010 to counter a growing number of Islamic extremist radio stations in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. The station currently broadcasts via AM, FM and shortwave for four hours each day and shares a frequency with Voice of America's (VOA) Radio Deewa. Online, Radio Mashaal's website provides a live stream of its broadcasts.

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- (April 12, 2010) After nearly two years off the national airwaves, RFE/RL's popular radio and television programs in Kyrgyzstan are once again widely available to listeners and viewers across the country.

The move reverses a 2008 decision by UTRK, the national broadcaster, to remove RFE/RL programming due to what it described as "negative and critical" coverage of the government. At the time, the head of UTRK said RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk (as it is known locally) could remain on the air only if it agreed to submit programs for prior approval. RFE/RL rejected the offer and, without UTRK's nationwide reach, lost nearly two-thirds of its Kyrgyz audience.

"Despite this ban, our reporters have continued to routinely break stories and influence the debate in Kyrgyzstan," said Radio Azattyk Director Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev. "We've been airing on a few private stations in Bishkek and we have a website with live broadcasts, around-the-clock news updates, videos, photos, and interactive features."

According to the independent media research firm Intermedia, nearly 50 percent of adults in Kyrgyzstan tuned in to Radio Azattyk at least once a week prior to being dropped by UTRK on October 8, 2008.

In the wake of last week's uprising that led to the ouster of Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev, Radio Azattyk is back on UTRK. It is broadcasting three hours of daily radio programming and two weekly primetime television news shows - "Inconvenient Questions" and the youth-oriented "Azattyk Plus."

"This is welcome news for the Kyrgyz people," said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "Now, more than ever, Kyrgyzstan needs a free and independent media in order to allow its citizens to make informed decisions based on truthful information."

Since the crisis erupted last week, RFE/RL's reporters have been covering the unrest from Bishkek and throughout the country. The Kyrgyzstan Main Page on RFE/RL's English-language Web site has news, analysis, videos, and photos from the region. RFE/RL also has experts available in Kyrgyzstan for media interviews.

About RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

Online and on the air, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, has been a consistent and dependable provider of independent information in Kyrgyzstan for more than 50 years. Today, Radio Azattyk is a trusted source within Kyrgyzstan, with its stories - both broadcast and online - regularly cited and reprinted by local and regional media.

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DW sees a need for a budget increase from 304m Euro to 325m Euro in 2013, otherwise cuts in the offerings would be unavoidable. They seek much more cooperation with domestic German broadcasters in future.

Target audience are "information seekers", including but not limited to multiplicators.

Germans abroad are no longer targeted, with an exception of providing an information service in areas where the infrastructure to access domestic German media is lacking. Here DW refers to a statement from Hans Bredow institute that explicitly supports the withdrawal from this field.

As is well-known, Arabic has been taken off shortwave in favor of rebroadcasts by RMC Doualiya. Abandoning shortwave is also being planned for the Asian countries in which it is hardly being used anymore. An exception are China and Iran where "only a low use of the radio programs on shortwave can be expected".

DW-TV is now available online in the USA, too. Previously some unspecified contract required DW to block the stream there.

Some statements to a draft copy are quoted, like one from Hamburg university: It is remarkable that DRM is no longer mentioned at all, ignoring what went wrong where it would be convenient to clear the reasons. Radio/online and TV should merge, preferably at Berlin.

The annual budget for program distribution on shortwave and "shortwave-like mediumwave" is 15.1m Euro, in detail 1.0m licence fees for the Sines, Kigali and Trincomalee facilities, 7.1m for the operation of these facilities, 7.0m for leasing airtime on third party facilities.

Other distribution platforms: Satellite 4.9m, FM 0.9m, streaming 0.4m, additional feed circuits 1.0m, other costs 0,7m.

DW radio market shares, referring to listeners per week in percent: Australia 1.9 English and 0.8 German, Canada 1.4 English and 0.7 German, USA 1.1, some cities in Chile up to 3.2 for German, Libanon 0.8, other Arab countries 0.1...0.2, Iran for Persian also 0.1...0.2, Afghanistan 7 (a quarter of this on shortwave), Bulgaria 2.4, Sweden 0.5, UK 0.2, Spain 0.04, Moldova 1.2, Ukraine 0.9, Russia 0.5.

Market shares of international broadcasting competition: Arabic "more" than DW, Iran also more but all below 5 with a considerable decline during the last years. Generally Middle East, Asia and Europe all below 1, Russia 1 at best.

Daily use of shortwave in percent: Arabic world below 2, India 2.3, Pakistan 2.4, Bangladesh 2.5 (noteworthy: FM 3.8, MW 8.8), Afghanistan 14, China 0.5 (generally low radio use of just 10, less than a quarter of all households own a radio at all), Indonesia 0.6, Moldova 3.2, Ukraine 1.8, Russia 1.0.

Daily use of mediumwave in percent: Moldova 5.1, Ukraine 3.1, Russia 1.6.

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"To counter Russian information warfare and to consolidate democracy and freedom in Eastern and Central Europe, the U.S. needs to reinvigorate its public diplomacy efforts, using both traditional TV and radio broadcasting and new media to reach the peoples of the former Soviet satellites and post-Soviet states."

By grouping international broadcasting within public diplomacy, the implication is that the United States can send message (A) to audience (B) to achieve desired effects (C). However, audience (B) has a different reason for using international broadcasting, that is, to get news that is more reliable than what is available from the state-controlled domestic media. This involves a communication process that is a bit more nuanced. I discussed it in New York Times op-eds on 16 November 2002 and 4 June 2007.

"The Russian leadership's public diplomacy campaigns against the West are highly sophisticated and proactive. Russia Today (RT), a television channel in English, Spanish, and Arabic, has become a highly effective public diplomacy tool."

Well, if you consider coverage of UFO sightings, a staple of Russia Today, to be "highly sophisticated." As for "highly effective," I have not seen any survey data showing sizeable audiences for RT. In the United States, they are on virtually no cable systems.

"Another significant instrument of the state is Russia Beyond the Headlines, which produces a number of advertising supplements in American, European, and British newspapers and is affiliated with state-controlled media organizations RIA-Novosti and Rossiiskaya Gazeta. Notably, its product appears in The Washington Post every other week as an advertising supplement."

As a student of international communication, I make the effort to read it when it comes with my Washington Post. I doubt most people make a similar effort, and Russia Beyond the Headlines probably ends up where most of the advertising supplements go.

"During the Reagan Administration, the USIA reached its maximum influence behind the Iron Curtain, particularly through Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Voice of America (VOA), BBC World Service, and other Western broadcasters."

RFE/RL was never part of USIA, and I hardly need mention that BBC and the other Western broadcasters never were.

"Radio broadcasts played a critical role during the attempted Soviet coup in August 1991, during which Radio Liberty's Russian service was widely regarded as the only reliable public source of information. President Yeltsin later told Radio Liberty, 'It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of your contribution to the Russian people.'"

During the 1991 coup, VOA and BBC were also reliable sources. In the years before the coup, at least, RFE/RL surveys showed VOA to have the largest audience among international radios to the Soviet Union. After the coup, Gorbachev said "We got BBC best of all. They were the clearest signal, Radio Liberty, then Voice of America." BBC's well distributed network of transmitters helped its reception and was a factor in its success. VOA and RFE/RL transmitters were bunched together and over-extended because of the redundancy of the two efforts.

"RFE/RL broadcasts into Russia have survived, but just barely. RFE/RL remains the leading international broadcaster into Russia, broadcasting 24 hours a day."

Broadcasting "24 hours a day" is not "just barely" surviving. One of many contradictions in the essay, which seems as if it were written by two authors who might not have been on the same page.

"U.S. public diplomacy efforts and international broadcasting need to address those segments of the Russian population that remain faithful to the ideals of liberal democracy and individual freedom."

U.S. international broadcasting, which must focus on objective, reliable news if it is to have an audience, should address the "segment" that seeks objective, reliable news. Public diplomacy is a separate activity: some of its products can address those who favor liberal democracy and freedom, and some can be targeted at those who don't.

"While President Obama's budget would increase the international broadcasting budget for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) from $715 million in 2009 to $745 million in 2010, this is still a woefully small amount compared to the 1989 budget, and the declining dollar has forced deep budget and personnel cuts in entities housed overseas, including RFE/RL in Prague. At VOA, budgetary constraints and an increased focus on broadcasting to the Middle East have forced the BBG to cut critically important language services and to reduce the hours of VOA English broadcasting."

There goes Heritage again, always calling for a budget increase. If there were a fiscally conservative think tank in Washington, it would note that BBC World Service has a larger audience than U.S. international broadcasting, even though Britain spends less on international broadcasting than the United States. Improve efficiency before raising the budget.

"The high rates of Internet penetration growth in Russia and the high literacy level of the Russian population suggest that public diplomacy 2.0 is an important strategy to pursue vis-à-vis Russia."

This is why the BBG shifted VOA Russian from shortwave to the internet. It's interesting that this essay does not mention shortwave. In another recent piece, about broadcasting to North Korea, Helle Dale wrote: "The most effective medium into North Korea today remains short-wave radio, a medium that unfortunately has become undervalued by the Broadcasting Board of Governors overseeing U.S. international broadcasting." Shortwave is no longer popular in Russia, but using it for broadcasts to Russia makes more sense than to North Korea. If the Russian authorities decide to block "2.0," which they are capable of doing, shortwave will suddenly become the best way to get uncensored news into the country.

"U.S. public diplomacy should focus on reaching both ordinary Russians and the elites."

The introduction, evidently written by the other co-author, states: "U.S. public diplomacy should focus on reaching ordinary Russians."

"The U.S. should ... develop Russian-language satellite television channels aimed at the Russian-speaking world of the former Soviet Union."

That's channels with an "s"! One Russian-language channel -- which implies a 24-hour operation -- would be expensive and difficult enough. But Russia is sufficiently important that the idea should be explored. Satellite dishes are not widespread in Russia, so access to cable systems would be necessary, and that could be problematic. IPTV is another option, though this usually requires a cooperating internet service provider. A live video stream through a website could become costly if the channel becomes popular, and the picture would not be as good as actual television.

"Launch a comprehensive audit of Russian information operations in the United States. The U.S. needs to evaluate the extent and effectiveness of the Russian campaign in the U.S. media. Ideally, Congress should fund a new research and development organization, a Corporation for Foreign Public Opinion Analysis, that would conduct this research in cooperation with the CIA, FBI, and other relevant federal agencies."

Bullet points like these make Heritage the most entertaining of Washington's think tanks. Russia has a television channel that nobody watches, and an advertising supplement that nobody reads. Call the CIA! Call the FBI! No, call both the CIA and the FBI, and create a new bureaucracy! Of course, the Corporation for Foreign Public Opinion Analysis (shouldn't it be the Corporation for the Analysis of Foreign Influence on Domestic Public Opinion?) would need a president, several vice presidents, directors, associate directors, and senior advisors, all at hefty pay grades, and, by the way, Heritage has fellows who would be available to serve in those capacities...

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Q:How do you respond to the accusation that PNN has been “soft” on the Iranian regime, and has shied away from reporting stories that would “rattle” the ruling clerics and Ahmadinejad?

A: PNN does not shy away from any stories. It provides accurate, reliable and comprehensive news and information to the Iranian people in order for them to make educated and informed decisions about their lives.

Q: The death of Neda Agha-soltan, a 26-year old bystander whose murder during a post election demonstration on June 20 woman was captured on cellphone cameras and went viral in just minutes over the Internet. My sources say that Ali Sajadi vetoed numerous urgent requests from reporters to air this footage, only acquiescing several days later after it had appeared on BBC, CNN and elsewhere.

A: Not true. We aired it first. There was discussion on how much to show out of deference to the girl. And her family (like when her eyes rolled up into her head and she visibly expired) and initially, we only played a portion but later we played it all.

Q: More generally, several VOA reporters say their requests to interview protesters in Tehran by telephone after the June 12 elections were repeatedly turned down by Ali Sajadi and Alex Belida. Why? Wasn’t this newsworthy, especially when Iranian state-run media was trying to portray the protesters as common criminals?

A: Not true. One of the main reasons we pulled the History Channel and Today’s Woman show and ran a two-hour special for days following the election was to (A) show the latest citizen journalist video from inside Iran, and (B) to interview Iranians about what they saw and witnessed in the protests and to allow Iranians to express themselves on TV through call-ins and emails.

Q: Britain’s Channel 4 aired an extensive interview with a defector from the Bassiji force, who made an emotional on-camera “confession” that he regretted following orders to murder peaceful demonstrators. PNN reporters proposed interviewing the Bassiji, but were turned down by PNN editors. Why?

A: PNN editors had legitimate questions about the authenticity of an alleged defector who refused to identify himself or be shown on camera. Our suspicions grew after we asked him a simple question that someone in his purported position should have known the answer to and he said he didn’t know. (At the same time we were following a lead on getting an interview with a Basifi defector who was willing to be named and shown on camera.)

Q. A former top aid to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Mohammad Reza Madhi-Takezand, gave several interviews to reporters in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had sought refuge. PNN reporters proposed interviewing Madhi – either by satellite, or live – but had their request turned down. Why?

A: We’re aware of one interview only. No responsible news organization touched this guy. Once again PNN editors had legitimate concerns about the authenticity of this individual. See Laura Rozen’s article at:

Q: During the run-up to the June 12 presidential elections last year, Sajadi and Belida ordered VOA reporters and producers not to invite any guests who were calling for a boycott of the elections, as Newsmax reported at the time. Why was this?

A: Not accurate. As I told the staff in my Newnotes on April 9^th , 2009: “While there are those who consider the elections undemocratic, we also know there are Iranians who take their participation in the vote quite seriously. We must respect their beliefs. We cannot simply dismiss the balloting or focus only on explaining flaws in Iran’s electoral system. If a guest or contributor, for example, should encourage a boycott of the polls, a host must never signal his or her personal approval of such a suggestion and must in fact challenge the guest or contributor.”

Q: Even after post-election protests erupted, PNN was notably “soft” in its reporting. Do you dispute this? Can you cite examples where PNN broke news during this period? (I’ve looked through your press releases and haven’t found any).

A: Not true. Our coverage was exemplary. The notion that PNN was “soft” is laughable in light of the complaints voiced by Iranian authorities over PNN broadcasts.

Q: Specifically, one reporter sought to interview the mother of a girl who had just been released from three months solitary confinement, but was turned down by Sajadi. Why?

A: We never turn down interview opportunities of this nature. Never.

Q: When Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri died in Qom in December, VOA reporters were told not to submit story ideas relating to Montazeri’s death, but instead to produce a magazine piece on tattoos. Why did VOA run a piece on tattoos at such a critical moment? What coverage did you offer on the Montazeri funeral and the protests than ensued?

A: Nonsense. PNN devoted extensive coverage to Montazeri’s death and its impact. The fact that there may have been a feature on tattoos is irrelevant. On any given day, PNN may produce and broadcast features in addition to top news stories from Iran and the U.S. or elsewhere – just as most news organizations do.

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The 're-established' signal is another Media Broadcast mux, on 10.853 GHz (, which also mentions that the multiplex on 11.604 GHz could indeed not be decoded while an RF level was present on Feb 10 at 2200 UT, thus confirming the apparent jamming. Here it must be mentioned that the jamming is not limited to DW programming in Arabic and Persian, it disrupts the Hotbird distribution of all radio and TV services of DW.

Update later on 12 February:

The whole DW program package, including the RNW feeds, has been
put on another satellite, Astra 1H on 23.5 deg. East, cf. What they use here is a Media Broadcast multiplex that so far saw only minor use for some Spanish TV programming and CT 1 (Czech public television) in HD. Obviously an emergency measure, arranged ad hoc to ensure the signal distribution within Europe. So the situation must indeed be pretty bad.

See also

The screenshot shows the typical appearance of satellite jamming on a
receiver: Badly reduced signal quality despite a high RF level. Here the
discussion first refers to Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen (aka. "Das Erste"
or simply being referred to as "ARD"), which uses this multiplex, too.
The discussion indicates that the mux was jammed throughout yesterday.
Today it was first in the clear, but by 1430 UT the jamming had

One posting also asks how many multiplexes the Iranians in fact jam at
present. I have not seen a full picture, but considering that they even
go after Deutsche Welle, which in Persian broadcasts just a rather minor
radio service, other signals must "attract" them, too.

Meanwhile I really wonder how long Eutelsat will still accept IRIB as a
customer. Just forget all the sweet statements about media freedom, here
you have the dire reality.

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We have found pertinent excerpts from the 119 page document concerning Greenville, EMPHASIS ADDED WITH CAPS; et al.:

* The BBG proposes the following reductions in the support area: reduction of contracting costs by 4 percent throughout the Agency through efficiencies; sale of a former transmitting site in Erching, Germany [which one is that by a name we recognize?];


restructuring operations at overseas transmitting stations; reduction of IBB Engineering support positions and IBB general operating expenses; and reduction of BCI maintenance and repair budget.
(page 24)

FY 2011 Program Decreases


The BBG proposes restructuring operations at some of its overseas transmitting stations. The BBG will retain ownership of these facilities; however, it would turn over operations of these sites to a third party on a fee-for-service basis ($1.5 million).


In addition, the proposed FY 2011 reductions to and eliminations of language services will reduce transmission costs by ($.91 million).

Operating Expenses and Contractual Services

The FY 2011 request for Engineering and Technical Services includes a reduction in positions and operating expenses ($2.3 million) as well as a reduction in contractual services through improved practices ($.8 million).
(page 75)

Engineering and Technical Services
Summary of Increases and Decreases
FY 2010- FY 2011
($ in thousands):

FY 2011 Net Program Changes + (3,135)
Program Decreases - (8,710)

Reflects the following reductions to base operations:
b) Reduce support positions and operating expenses ( 2,330)
c) Consolidate services at BBG transmitting stations with other
Western international broadcasters ( 1,500)
d) Eliminate VOA Croatian, VOA Greek; reduce VOA Persian News Network;
end MBN Alhurra Europe (910)
e) Reduce Agency contract costs by 4% through improved efficiencies
(page 77)

Engineering and Technical Services
Summary of Funds FY 2009 - FY 2011 ($ in thousands)

2009 2010 2011 Increase or
Actual Estimate Request Decrease (-)

Domestic Transmitting Stations
Greenville 4,496 4,874 1,812 (3,062)
Tinian 7,974 8,875 9,008 133
Total, Domestic Stations 12,470 13,749 10,820 (2,929)

Overseas Transmitting Stations
Afghanistan 1,809 3,885 3,031 (854)
Botswana 1,660 1,945 2,066 121
Germany 9,144 11,237 11,417 180
Kuwait 4,485 4,940 5,121 181
Philippines 5,721 5,747 6,026 279
Sao Tome 3,189 3,392 3,706 314
Sri Lanka 2,991 3,043 2,419 (624)
Thailand 3,931 3,882 3,310 (572)
Total, Overseas Stations 32,930 38,071 37,096 (975)
Monitors 1,098 1,249 1,291 42

SERVICES 169,630 189,839 190,724 885
(page 78)
(extracted by Glenn Hauser for DX LISTENING DIGEST)

It is interesting to note the last item above, that BBG spends over a megadollar per year on Monitors, i.e. paying some names you would know as DXers to be official monitors; how many of them are there, for an average salary? They also get perqs such as monitoring equipment, occasional visits to the USA.

You will note that there are still some funds for Greenville; of course the site will need to be maintained in some form for a while once it is off the air, until it can be disposed of (Glenn Hauser, OK, DX LISTENING DIGEST)

Back to post.

** U S A. VOA and Radio Martí have started a ``co-production``, one-hour Spanish broadcast at 0100-0200 UT weeknights.

The two former rivals are now coöperating! There were reports recently that VOA would start to have access to RM`s produxion facilities in Miami. This could also be the beginning of the end for Radio Martí, starting by merging it back into VOA, as there is considerable congressional pressure just to kill RM.

Without any advance publicity that I know of, I first found this in progress at 0114 UT February 2 on 11625: a station in Spanish talking about Chávez, in the hour after VOA Spanish normally closes on different frequencies, 5890 and 9885. At 0100, I was tuned to 9885; it was still on and announcement seemed to be starting another hour, but cut off before 0101. This made me wonder if programming was continuing on some other frequency, so started bandscanning from 5745 upwards.

At 0118 an ID on 11625 gave the full frequency list for this, 11625, 9415 and 7340. I quickly found the lower two were much stronger here and continued to listen on 7340. They were all in synch, and no doubt Greenville B, which is doomed to extinction at the end of FY 2010, 30 September as just came out today. Gee, what will BBG/IBB/VOA do if they need to start another ``surge`` broadcast after then?

There was too much jamming on regular R. Martí frequencies to tell if they were //, i.e. 6030, 7365, 9825, but suspect not since only the new frequencies were announced --- and with no jamming at all on the new ones --- yet! Usual DCJC noise jamming was audible also on 9810 at 0111 against República, and at 0113 on 9715 --- another stray, against nothing?

Since this is a brand-new, previously unknown service, I monitored it attentively during the remainder of the hour. At 0118 they were quoting El Nuevo Herald, Miami and some European papers about Cuban/Venezuelan relations.

0123 ID as ``A Punto (?) en La Voz de América y Radio Martí; 0126 with schedule as 8-9 pm [EST] M-F, i.e. 01-02 UT Tue-Sat, again with the three frequencies, ``una co-producción de La Voz de América y Radio Martí``. And ``El Mundo del Espectáculo`` segment about the Grammy Awards last night. 0130 co-hosts in Washington and Miami briefly discussed their respective weathers, rather divergent.

Rest of hour called in correspondents from several Latin American countries for a few minutes each, starting with Bolivia, concern with contentious Morales.

0137 news from Venezuela about protests in various cities against the banning of RCTV even from cable. 0139 about the political campaign in Costa Rica. 0141 about the IMF from Buenos Aires. 0143 corresponsal Federico in Bogotá, Colombia. 0148 interviewing a UCR professor about the situation in Honduras. 0153 Nicaragua, on the sale of Canal 8 TV to Ortega/Chávez, leaving only one independent TV station, Canal 2.

The program seems to concentrate on what`s going on in hostile Latin American countries, and will likely be labeled ``propaganda`` by them, but it seemed to me the analysis was balanced. A bigger question arises: will Radio Martí gain credibility or will VOA lose credibility with this joint venture??

Name of the program was mentioned every few minutes. To me, sometimes it sounded like ``A Fondo``, meaning in depth or background; sometimes ``Apunte`` which means abstract or notes.

Looking around the VOA Spanish and Martinoticias websites, I see nothing yet about this service. I suppose they wanted to slip in under the radar, or the usual bureaucratic delays. Nor is there any press release about it yet at the VOA site, the latest one being from Jan 27 about Creole.

I recorded some excerpts, and was all set to get the sign-off before 0200, but 7340 just cut off at 0159:30 while show was still in progress. Then tuned to 9415 and heard it for a few seconds longer, I think a sign-off. Then tuned to 11625 and heard only a very weak signal, but that proved to be in English after 0200, sounded like VOA. Nothing scheduled then either, and may have been something else, and not necessarily Greenville.

I was also bandscanning on another receiver during this hour, to check out among other things, Lavwadlamerik`s Kreyòl service, which had also been at 01-02 – and discovered two very interesting things. Besides 5960, it was also // on new 5835 first noted at 0105. Another frequency VOA refuses to publish on its A-Z language schedule. Are there too many frequencies now during this hour for all of them to come from Greenville? We remember that 5835 was once a World Harvest Radio frequency, but that`s no proof it`s the site now.

The other //, 7465, is now clashing with WWCR, which has just extended its broadcast on that frequency until 0200, ex-3240! At the beginning of the hour, WWCR was atop, but before long by 0110 it was losing out to LVA, and by the end of the hour I could not be certain WWCR was still there underneath, but probably as it was still missing from 3240.

LVA`s additional Creole hour at 01-02 had been on 7465 since shortly after the quake, as we have been reporting, but apparently WWCR did not notice. Since it fades out anyway, WWCR should not have extended 7465 another three hours past previous close at 2300, tho one or possibly two hours would have worked. This collision has to be resolved ASAP. Altho we lose WWCR here, the situation may be quite different in Haiti and elsewhere.

At 0200 LVA had left 5835 as well as 5960 which it must due to NHK/Sackville, but continued on 7465; still no 7590 had come on by 0205, so apparently that has been dropped during the final hour, at least.

During this hour I also checked MW 1180, but as usual could not pull anything out of Marathon. And MW 1030 where Commando Solo is making it into Florida from Haiti. Dominating the frequency at 0124 was some not // talk in Spanish, looping roughly east/west, so most likely WGSF Memphis, per NRC AM Log listings (Glenn Hauser, OK, DX LISTENING DIGEST)

Back to post.

[All times are UTC:] Discovered another unpublicized frequency for VOA`s Creole service, filling in the gap between scheduled 2200-2300 and 0100-0200 transmissions: 7590. It may have been on for days, but I have not been bandscanning much in this bihour. First heard Jan 22 at 2321 with Creole talk on phone, 2334 phone number and ID as Lavwadlamerik (as they spell it in Kreyòl, which forces French to be more fonetik). 2359 recheck, VOA ID and off at 2359:30 so I quickly scanned 7 and 6 MHz bands for another channel. By 0006 I came back to 7590 and found it on again, so they faked me out. Must have had a transmitter and/or antenna change to make at 0000, then resuming. 7590 still going at 0052, but vacant after 0100 when the non-secret service is underway on 7465 and much weaker 5960.

I`ll give VOA one more chance to display its full Creole schedule at
Checking at 0145 UT Jan 23:

NO, still no 7590 shown, and nothing in the 1930-2200 UT period either when we have been hearing them on 15390, then 13725. Kai Ludwig suggests the unpublicized transmissions could really be feeders to the Commando Solo relays on AM and FM over Haiti, tho you`d think C.S. could get satellite feeds. Maybe SW input is more convenient, not having to keep satellite dish aimed from circling aircraft.

This means we need to search for further secret SW transmissions possibly filling the rest of the 24 hours, 0200-1230 and 1330-1730.

A VOA press release of Jan 22 says VOA Creole "has expanded its broadcasting to 10.5 hours on weekdays and 9.5 hours on weekends" without any details. The known SW transmissions of 1230-1330, 1730-0200 add up to 9.5! But now there is even more past 0200:

At 0215, 7590 is back on, but 7465 is still on too, rather than closing at 0200. 5960 no longer available, with NHK via Sackville. So how long will those two stay on? Until 0300 would add up to 10.5 hours. I certainly have not heard them previously when I scan after 0600.

[later:] VOA Creole: Recheck at 0312 Jan 23, 7465 and 7590 are indeed off, and did not search for further frequencies.

So summarizing, the full known schedule of Lavwadlamerik, combining overt transmissions on schedule and covert ones as monitored:

1230-1330 6135-Bonaire, 9505
[above M-F only? Would account for one hour less on weekends]
1730-1930 15390, 17565
1930-2100 15390
2102-2200 13725
2200-2300 15390, 13725, 11905
[overt schedule no longer shows 15390 at 2200; not checked Jan 22]
2300-0100 7590
0100-0200 5960, 7465
0200-0300 7465, 7590

The overt schedule at all times day and night also shows 1180 ex-Radio Martí, Marathon, but is it also in use for any of the covert times? Cannot monitor it from here. (Glenn Hauser, Oklahoma, DX LISTENING DIGEST)

Back to post.

** U S A. One of VOA`s known Kriyol SW frequencies, heard on the air earlier than scheduled *2200, Jan 18 at 2134 tune-in but nothing on the other SW channels 15390 or 11905. Announcement at 2138 mentioned only this SW frequency after three FM frequencies, 92.?, 93.3 and 105.1 --- which had been unknown before and not specified in press releases. Presumably some or all of them are airborne from the psyop SOW which flew in from Harrisburg PA. Then at 2140 started putting callers on the air trying to find out about relatives or contact them. Surprised to hear the first one in English, from a woman in Martinique seeking her father, gave her own phone number, but all the others were in Creole almost until hourtop.

Then I started looking for the other SW frequencies. As usual, they were late coming up as news on the hour had started on 13725! At 2201, open carrier on 15390, modulation from 2202. At 2201 no carrier on 11905, but on and modulating at next check 2204. I suspect 13725 my have been on for hours before I ran across it (Glenn Hauser, OK, DX LISTENING DIGEST)

I see I did not make clear at the outset of my earlier report that the VOA frequency unexpectedly on before 2200 was 13725. Expanded hours for it still do not show on the C-page of the A-Z frequency schedule:

and if you click on Creole for that service`s page, you may find lots of interesting info in fraxured french at , but if you click on Frekans, you go right back to the A-Z schedule presented in English. Nor do I see anything on either page about the three new airborne(?) FM frequencies I heard announced today.

At 0145 UT Jan 19, I tried the new nighttime Kriyol transmission at 01-02 on 1180, 5960 and 7465. 5960 was fair but fading, and 7465 JBA. 5960 was prevously the Tue-Sat Spe-cial Eng-lish channel at 0130-0200, along with 7405, where nothing is heard now, so suspect the latter Greenville transmitter has also been pre-empted, or co-opted, but on 7465 instead.

It so happened that at 0147 they were playing back the same caller in English from Martinique that I had heard at 2140.

I thought I might be able to detect 1180 audio from Marathon // 5960, but no, just too much QRM from multiple US/Mexican transmitters if not Cuban audible here, but I have no reason to believe the Cubans are turning off their jamming during the VOA/Creole hours on 1180. (Terry Krueger in FL says there are at least three unsynchronized Rebelde outlets on 1180.)

I was also wondering if Marathon might have loosened up or modified their direxional pattern during the Haiti hours to maximize the signal there, and possibly change its backward radiation too, normally extremely suppressed.

A reminder that TWR Bonaire 800 kHz says it is relaying 4VEH from Cap-Haitien starting at 0315 UT until 0700. Let`s have some monitoring reports of that; not likely around here with OKC on 800.

And has anyone noticed anything unusual from RHC in Creole? They allegedly have only one half-hour program daily which doesn`t leave much time for anything but propaganda. The `official` sked e-mailed out after B-09 began claims Creole is only at 0100-0130 on 13790 to Rio de Janeiro! And that matches the transmission schedule currently presented on the website in Spanish. I think they are known to substitute French for Creole, anyway.

There seems to be no Creole page at all on the RHC website, but looking at French, the transmission schedule there is years out of date, claiming Creole is: 2130-2200 9505, 2230-2300 9505, 0100-0130 9550 --- both frequencies abandoned long ago.

If Cuba really wanted to help, they would have greatly expanded their Creole service by now, like VOA, BBC, maybe RFI. Not to mention actually delivering aid, doctors from that paragon of medical excellence. But having to submit to US air traffic control?! Instead they and Chavez bitch about US aid generously given to Haiti as some kind of opportunism to take over the country.

Speaking of RFI, there was an indefinite report somewhere that RFI would have special broadcasts for Haiti, around 1310? Seems to me an expansion of the 13640 1130-1300 via Guiana French would be a good possibility if not elsewhen. Presumably only in Parisian, as they abolished a token service in Creole years ago. No sign of anything about that on their website either (Glenn Hauser, OK, DX LISTENING DIGEST)

Back to post.

Richard Sambrook, the Director of Global News, is announcing today that he will be leaving the BBC in early 2010 after almost thirty years service with the Corporation.

He joined as a radio sub-editor in 1980 and he has worked across a wide range of news programmes as well as being Head of Newsgathering, Acting Director BBC Sport, Director BBC News and for the past five years, Director BBC Global News, leading the BBC’s international news services.

Peter Horrocks will succeed Richard in February as Director Global News. We are combining the post of Director Global News and Peter’s present position Director World Service. Peter will be responsible for all the BBC’s international news services - the World Service operations across thirty-two language services, World News television in English, and the international news interactive offering on Peter will remain the Accounting Officer for the Grant-in-Aid which supports the World Service operations. As the new Director Global News, he will be a member of both the BDG and the BBC’s Journalism Board.

Richard will be joining the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford as a Visiting Fellow for the first part of next year before taking up a full-time role elsewhere later in 2010.

Richard has been an absolutely brilliant colleague. His integrity, huge passion for great journalism and deep interest in new media and its impact, together with his warmth, wisdom and loyalty, have been truly inspiring to us all and he will leave us with much love, much respect and much thanks.

Richard, himself, says on this day of announcing his departure:

"It has been a privilege to lead three different divisions of the BBC and to have played a part in the huge changes in news broadcasting over recent years. But 30 years is enough.The BBC is never an easy organisation to leave, but this feels like the right time for me to take a new direction. I will continue to take a close professional interest in global affairs and digital communications – first at the Reuters Institute and then in a new role elsewhere to be announced next year."

Our best wishes to Richard and his partner Sue for a happy and fulfilling future. And well done Richard for an outstanding thirty years of service.

Mark Byford

Deputy Director-General and Head of BBC Journalism

Back to post.

US Embassy Jakarta Press Release, 23 October 2009

Jakarta – For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Embassy is sponsoring Pesta Blogger 2009, Indonesia’s only national-level bloggers’ gathering. The event will take place on Saturday October 24, 2009 in the exhibition hall of the SMESCO building. Four U.S. bloggers, including Arsalan Iftikhar, a prominent American Muslim blogger and Mark Frauenfelder, founder of a leading technology blog, will participate.

U.S. Ambassador Cameron R. Hume said: “The Embassy is proud to support and sponsor Pesta Blogger for the second year running. Freedom of expression is an integral part of any sustainable democratic system. Indonesia has a strong, vibrant democracy, and the robust growth of its blogging community indicates this.” Ambassador Hume blogged for the first time himself shortly after Secretary Hillary Clinton’s visit to Indonesia in February of this year on the State Department’s official blog.

The U.S. Embassy also sponsored a series of blogging workshops in 10 cities across Indonesia over the past three months, in order to encourage more Indonesians to blog and to impart the principles of citizen journalism. Over one thousand people participated in the programs, which were held in Malang, Semarang, Balikpapan, Samarinda, Makassar, Medan, Bandung, Surabaya, Palembang and Yogyakarta.

The U.S. Embassy has recently embraced technology and social media to conduct public diplomacy in Indonesia. The U.S. Embassy now has its own YouTube channel, featuring over nearly 200 short videos covering a wide range of topics about the United States, including American culture, society, education, religious practice, politics, tourism and English-language education. Located at, videos featured on the video-sharing website are in Indonesian or have Indonesian subtitles.

In January, the Embassy was the first diplomatic Mission in Indonesia to create a Facebook fan page, It now has nearly 15,000 fans. The page features unique content, including photos, videos and contests. All U.S. visa appointments are now made using an online application system, and recently, American citizens living in Indonesia wishing to renew their passports are now required to make online appointments. For further information on Embassy activities visit or follow on Twitter at

American Blogger Bios for Pesta Blogger 2009

Brian Giesen

Brian GiesenBrian Giesen is a Digital Influence Specialist with over five years of experience with Ogilvy PR and is an Interactive Marketing Manager in Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. He specializes in developing online marketing programs, including search engine optimization, email marketing, online PSA campaigns, content syndication, media outreach, and more. Previously, Brian was a legislative assistant for Congressman Jay Johnson (WI-8), where he Brian tracked healthcare-related legislation, and organized special events in the Congressman’s district.

Mark Frauenfelder

Mark FrauenfelderMark Frauenfelder is a writer and illustrator living in Los Angeles. He co-founded the technology blog and was an editor at Wired Magazine from 1993-1998. He is currently the design columnist for Mobile PC magazine, and has authored several books, includeing a science experiment book called The Mad Professor. BoingBoing started as a underground magazine in 1988 and it covers technology, futurism, science fiction, gadgets, intellectual property, and politics. It became a website in 1995 and was relaunched as a blog in 2000, and has been described as a “directory of wonderful things.”

Arsalan Ikhtifar Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of blog, and a contributing editor for Islamica magazine in Washington DC. Arsalan is a weekly contributing commentator for National Public Radio (NPR) and a regularly featured contributor for CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. His interviews, commentaries and analyses regularly appear on CNN, BBC World News, NPR, FOX News, MSNBC, Al-Jazeera, USA TODAY, NBC, The Washington Post, ABC World News Tonight, Los Angeles Times, CBS News, and The New York Times, among others. is a blog that attempts to shed light about Islam to an American audience, and was launched on the seventh anniversary of 9/11.

Corvida Raven

aboutCorvida Raven is the author of, co-author of EverythingTwitter and TheSocialGeeks Podcast and provides consultation on strategies for social media and community management services to technology companies and consumers. She previously produced content and managed the communities of the Blog of Mr. Tweet, ReadWriteWeb, The Industry Standard, and Guidewire Group. Her work has been published and referenced on several major websites such as TechCrunch, Mashable, AllThingsDigital, LifeHacker, and Fast Company Magazine. is a social media blog covering a host of topics including, social media tools, web services and applications, mobile applications and community management.

For further information on Embassy activities, visit

Back to post.

DRM from Greenville

Experimental transmissions of Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) shortwave began from the IBB Greenville station in August. They are in cooperation with the HCJB Technology Center, which provided the DRM exciter for these tests.

This does not signal any new commitment to shortwave on the part of VOA or the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The DRM tests took place because they did not cost anything. HCJB provided the exciter, which is wanted to try out, and IBB had an old sideband transmitter (remember the double sideband relays to transmitter sites?) that could be used for the effort. Power is about 6 kilowatts. The transmissions are temporary but might still be happening as you read this. The schedule is 2000-2200 on 15475 and 0000-0400 on 9405

I have heard impressive audio samples from Germany and have seen nice screenshots from British Columbia. My own attempts to receive the transmissions have resulted in zero, zilch, nada. The Washington area is often in the Greenville skip zone. But, also, my RFSpace SDRIQ setup does not seem to be especially sensitive. And I must get more serious about my antenna. At present, it’s a few feet of wire casually draped over back fences, without even a proper balun between it and the coax feed.

I read in DX Listening Digest that Radio Exterior de España will be transmitting DRM via its Costa Rica relay. And just now, at 2145 UTC, I saw a waveform for Radio Netherlands Bonaire in Spanish, with burps of audio from time to time. So maybe things are looking up, just a bit, for DRM reception in North America.

George Woodard on the future of shortwave

George Woodard, former director of engineering for RFE/RL and IBB, and formerly on Continental Electronics, was interviewed August 20 in Radio World. The entire interview, which gets into the details of shortwave transmitter design, amplifier tubes, and the like, might be reprinted elsewhere in this Journal. If not, here is what George had to say about the future of shortwave broadcasting:

"Washington, driven by incompetent technocrats and bureaucrats at the IBB and the U.S. Department of State, who are experts at saying what they perceive people want to hear rather than the truth, has taken a wrong turn on shortwave broadcasting since about 1989. The result has been a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. As we close down most shortwave broadcasting to parts of the world, it is no surprise that 20 years later we find fewer people are listening!

"My advice is to pursue vigorously all new technological means to communicate accurate world news to the parts of the world that do not have that blessing of their own. Expand Internet, TV, local AM and FM, Wi-Fi and cell phone broadcasting, but do not significantly reduce shortwave. In many instances, as has been recently seen in Iran, Belarus, Georgia, Pakistan and other places, and chronically seen in parts of Russia, China and North Korea, increased shortwave capability is critical."

I wish I were seeing more evidence that people in those countries are listening to shortwave, even when other media become unavailable. Executives of international broadcasting entities will say that they have to drop expensive shortwave transmission to pay for all those new media.

The next great workaround: Feed over Email

One of the main reasons shortwave broadcasting is in decline is that international broadcasters can now distribute their content via websites and other media of the internet. replacing Swiss Radio International is the classic example. The internet is more popular among, and convenient to, audiences that shortwave, and usually less expensive to transmit.

Great. Except for target countries that block internet content. China and Iran are notable among the increasing number of nations that do.

A recent flurry of articles reported on trials by engineers of the Broadcasting Board of Governors on a new way to avoid net censorship. Feed over Email (FOE) would work this way: “Internet users in China or Iran would need to open an email account with a company based outside of their own country, such as Yahoo! and Google's Gmail, to overcome one of the first initial censorship hurdles. That would then allow them to use their email as … a 'proxy-less RSS reader'. In other words users could be sent a specially formatted email containing feeds from external news outlets.”

This reminds me of the joke: I know how you can get rich. First, you get a million dollars. With FOE, I know how you can deliver web content unblocked. First you find an unblocked website. To get the necessary e-mail subscription, first you must go to the website of the e-mail provider. Which can be blocked. Now, it may be that the target countries won’t want to block the Gmail and Yahoo! Mail sites because of the large number of their people already using these services for commerce. And there are many other free e-mail services, perhaps too many to interdict them all.

When a superpower twitters

The role of Twitter was widely mentioned in news articles about Iran's post-election unrest. However, I think some lackadaisical journalists were using the word "twitter" to refer to any internet or mobile applications. The Layalina Review recently summarized articles on how the Obama administration is using social media, notably Twitter and Facebook.

So a superpower would be just one of millions of Facebook pages or millions of Twitter users. US public diplomacy could aspire to reach Twitter-leader Ashton Kutcher's 3.2 million followers, but that would only be 0.06% of the world's adults.

The BarackObama Twitter account, number 8 with 1.8 million followers, is not a US government site. It is an extension of the continuation of the Obama campaign website, now called Organizing for America. (So who needs a public diplomacy budget?) The official whitehouse Twitter account is number 106, with 932,000 followers. The State Department's dipnote Twitter account has 7,609 followers. (I won’t be answering the Twitter question, “What are you doing?,” but you can follow posts to my website at

Actually, nothing beats an official country website, where basic information, policy information, tourist information (or links thereto), etc. would be available in as many languages as possible. It should be the website at or near the top of the results when doing a Google search on the name of the country. One example is thisisFINLAND, with the easy-to-remember URL, available in English, French, and Russian. Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is available in 31 language, most accessible via Japanese embassy websites. The official US public diplomacy website is, available in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Persian.

Views expressed are my own.

SA 1712. Mr. McCAIN (for himself, Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Graham, Mr. Kaufman, and Mr. Casey) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 1390, to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2010 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

On page 483, between lines 8 and 9, insert the following:

Subtitle D--VOICE Act


This subtitle may be cited as the ''Victims of Iranian Censorship Act''or the ''VOICE Act''.


Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The Government of Iran is engaged in a range of activities that interfere with, or infringe upon, the right of the Iranian people to--

(A) access accurate, independent news and information; and

(B) exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press, in particular through electronic media.

(2) Since the June 12, 2009, presidential election in Iran, the Government of Iran has--

(A) arrested, detained, imprisoned, and assaulted numerous Iranian journalists;

(B) prohibited non-Iranian government news services, including the Associated Press, from distributing reports in Farsi;

(C) interrupted short message service (SMS), preventing text message communications and blocking Internet sites that utilize such services;

(D) partially jammed shortwave and medium wave transmissions of Radio Farda, the Persian language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty;

(E) intermittently jammed satellite broadcasts by Radio Farda, the Voice of America's Persian News Network (PNN), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and other non-Iranian government news services; and

(F) blocked Web sites and Web blogs, including social networking and information-sharing sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

(3) These and other actions undertaken by the Government of Iran are in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was entered into force March 23, 1976, ratified by Iran, and states: ``Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.''.


It is the sense of Congress that the United States--

(1) respects the sovereignty, proud history, and rich culture of the Iranian people;

(2) respects the universal values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Iran and throughout the world;

(3) supports the Iranian people as they take steps to peacefully express their voices, opinions, and aspirations;

(4) supports the Iranian people seeking access to news and other forms of information;

(5) condemns the detainment, imprisonment, and intimidation of all journalists, in Iran and elsewhere throughout the world;

(6) supports journalists who take great risk to report on political events in Iran, including those surrounding the presidential election;

(7) supports the efforts the Voice of America's (VOA) 24-hour television station Persian News Network, and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Radio Farda 24-hour radio station; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Farsi language programming; Radio Zamaneh; and other independent news outlets to provide information to Iran;

(8) condemns acts of censorship, intimidation, and other restrictions on freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression in Iran and throughout the world;

(9) commends companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, which have facilitated the ability of the Iranian people to access and share information, and exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly through alternative technologies; and

(10) condemns companies which have knowingly impeded the ability of the Iranian people to access and share information and exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly through electronic media, including through the sale of technology that allows for deep packet inspection or provides the capability to monitor or block Internet access, and gather information about individuals.


It shall be the policy of the United States--

(1) to support freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly in Iran;

(2) to support the Iranian people as they seek, receive, and impart information and promote ideas in writing, in print, or through any media without interference;

(3) to discourage businesses from aiding efforts to interfere with the ability of the people of Iran to freely access or share information or otherwise infringe upon freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press through the Internet or other electronic media, including through the sale of deep packet inspection or other technology that provides the capability to monitor or block Internet access, and gather information about individuals; and

(4) to encourage the development of technologies, including Internet Web sites that facilitate the efforts of the Iranian people--

(A) to gain access to and share accurate information and exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press, through the Internet or other electronic media; and

(B) engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges between United States citizens and Iranians.


(a) International Broadcasting Operations Fund.--In addition to amounts otherwise authorized for the Broadcasting Board of Governors' International Broadcasting Operations Fund, there is authorized to be appropriated $15,000,000 to expand Farsi language programming and to provide for the dissemination of accurate and independent information to the Iranian people through radio, television, Internet, cellular telephone, short message service, and other communications.

(b) Broadcasting Capital Improvements Fund.--In addition to amounts otherwise authorized for the Broadcasting Board of Governors' Broadcasting Capital Improvements Fund, there is authorized to be appropriated $15,000,000 to expand transmissions of Farsi language programs to Iran.

(c) Use of Amounts.--In pursuit of the objectives described in subsections (a) and (b), amounts in the International Broadcasting Operations Fund and the Capital Improvements Fund may be used to--

(1) develop additional transmission capability for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network to counter ongoing efforts to jam transmissions, including through additional shortwave and medium wave transmissions, satellite, and Internet mechanisms;

(2) develop additional proxy server capability and anti-censorship software to counter efforts to block Radio Farda and Persian News Network Web sites;

(3) develop technologies to counter efforts to block SMS text message exchange over cellular phone networks;

(4) expand program coverage and analysis by Radio Farda and the Persian News Network, including the development of broadcast platforms and programs, on the television, radio and Internet, for enhanced interactivity with and among the people of Iran;

(5) hire, on a permanent or short-term basis, additional staff for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network; and

(6) develop additional Internet-based, Farsi-language television programming, including a Farsi-language, Internet-based news channel.


(a) Establishment.--There is established in the Treasury of the United States the Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund (referred to in this section as the ``Fund''), consisting of amounts appropriated to the Fund pursuant to subsection (e).

(b) Administration.--The Fund shall be administered by the Secretary of State.

(c) Objective.--The objective of the Fund shall be to support the development of technologies, including Internet Web sites, that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to--

(1) gain access to and share information;

(2) exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly through the Internet and other electronic media;

(3) engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges between Americans and Iranians; and

(4) counter efforts--

(A) to block, censor, and monitor the Internet; and

(B) to disrupt or monitor cellular phone networks or SMS text exchanges.

(d) Use of Amounts.--In pursuit of the objective described in subsection (c), amounts in the Fund may be used for grants to United States or foreign universities, nonprofit organizations, or companies for targeted projects that advance the purpose of the Fund, including projects that--

(1) develop Farsi-language versions of existing social-networking Web sites;

(2) develop technologies, including Internet-based applications, to counter efforts--

(A) to block, censor, and monitor the Internet; and

(B) to disrupt or monitor cellular phone networks or SMS text message exchanges;

(3) develop Internet-based, distance learning programs for Iranian students at United States universities; and

(4) promote Internet-based, people-to-people educational, professional, religious, or cultural exchanges and dialogues between United States citizens and Iranians.

(e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be appropriated $20,000,000 to the Fund.


(a) In General.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 180 days thereafter, the President shall submit a report to Congress that provides a detailed description of--

(1) United States-funded international broadcasting efforts in Iran;

(2) efforts by the Government of Iran to block broadcasts sponsored by the United States or other non-Iranian entities;

(3) efforts by the Government of Iran to monitor or block Internet access, and gather information about individuals;

(4) plans by the Broadcasting Board of Governors for the use of the amounts appropriated pursuant to section 1245, including--

(A) the identification of specific programs and platforms to be expanded or created; and

(B) satellite, radio, or Internet-based transmission capacity to be expanded or created;

(5) plans for the use of the Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund;

(6) a detailed breakdown of amounts obligated and disbursed from the Iranian Electronic Media Fund and an assessment of the impact of such amounts;

(7) the percentage of the Iranian population and of Iranian territory reached by shortwave and medium-wave radio broadcasts by Radio Farda and Voice of America;

(8) the Internet traffic from Iran to Radio Farda and Voice of America Web sites; and

(9) the Internet traffic to proxy servers sponsored by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the provisioning of surge capacity.

(b) Classified Annex.--The report submitted under subsection (a) may include a classified annex.


(a) Study.--The President shall direct the appropriate officials to examine claims that non-Iranian companies, including corporations with United States subsidiaries, have provided hardware, software, or other forms of assistance to the Government of Iran that has furthered its efforts to--

(1) filter online political content;

(2) disrupt cell phone and Internet communications; and

(3) monitor the online activities of Iranian citizens.

(b) Report.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit a report to Congress that contains the results of the study conducted under subsection (a). The report submitted under this subsection shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex.


(a) Designation.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall designate countries that meet the criteria set forth in paragraph (2) as Internet-restricting countries.

(2) CRITERIA.--A foreign country shall be designated as an Internet -restricting country under this section if the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, determines, based on the review of the evidence and any ongoing multilateral discussions on freedom of speech and the right to privacy, that the government of the country was directly or indirectly responsible for a systematic pattern of substantial restrictions on the unimpeded use of the Internet or other telecommunications technology, such as short message service (SMS), at any time during the preceding 1-year period.

(b) Report.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees that includes--

(A) the name of each foreign country that is designated as an Internet-restricting country under subsection (a);

(B) a detailed description of the nature of the restrictions imposed by each Internet-restricting country, including specific technologies and methods used;

(C) the name of each government agency and quasi-government organization responsible for the substantial restrictions on Internet freedom in each Internet-restricting country;

(D) the name of any United States and foreign companies that have provided technology, training, or other assistance to the Internet or telecommunications-restricting effort of any Internet-restricting country, and a detailed description of such assistance and its approximate worth;

(E) a description of efforts by the United States to counter the substantial restrictions on Internet freedom referred to in subparagraph (B); and

(F) a description of the evidence used by the Secretary of State to make the determinations under subsection (a)(2), and any ongoing multilateral discussions on freedom of speech and the right to privacy referred to in such subsection.

(2) CLASSIFIED FORM.--The information required under paragraph (1)(C) may be provided in a classified form if necessary.

(3) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.--All unclassified portions of the report shall be made publicly available on the Internet Web site of the Department of State.


There are authorized to be appropriated $5,000,000 to the Secretary of State to document, collect, and disseminate information about human rights in Iran, including abuses of human rights that have taken place since the Iranian presidential election conducted on June 12, 2009.

Apparently Iran meanwhile started to jam also the main IBB mux on Hotbird 8. Thus earlier this week VOA Persian TV had been taken out of this mux and is now transmit as a separate signal on 12.242 GHz, 15 MHz above the primary IBB mux, as shown at

It seems that at times the IBB mux could be hardly received anymore. I wonder how much collateral damage this caused, like disrupting FM rebroadcasts, also disrupting Wertachtal and Nauen shortwave relays (they use Hotbird as signal source) etc. etc. It certainly speaks volumes how IBB engineering now separated VOA Persian TV to protect anything else.

This must be an intensely discussed topic under satellite DXers. But I'm not familiar with this field, simply because I have no possibility to
use a satellite dish. Here are some postings from this week:

Btw, the Telstar 12 trick is that it is designed for transatlantic
feeds. The uplink is handled over an antenna that covers the Americas only, and this makes it considerably more difficult to jam from the Middle East. But three years ago Libya somehow managed to jam Telstar 12, whatever their approach was. Their target was an opposition station called Sawt Al-Alam that later used also shortwave, via the Grigoriopol transmitters. Meanwhile this station appears to be gone altogether, I can not recall any further reports of it after 2007.


21.06.2009, 19:03: "Yesterday evening there were already disruptions."

23.06.2009, 00:22:"Since Sunday I can no longer receive the whole transponder."

So apparently the IBB mux got as of June 21 jammed so heavily that IBB engineering decided to give in and save all their other unrelated feeds from being killed by the Iranians as well.

Pretty hefty. I really wonder what (if anything?) is going on behind the scenes.

Back to post.

Questions after Iran’s dust settles

At unpredictable intervals, the parade of current events hands us a new test case for the international media. The latest, of course, is Iran: the lead-up to the election on June 12, and especially the unrest after the election.

The scenario has been typical. The domestic media have been biased and mostly worthless in reporting the events. Iranians have been seeking international media to fill that international void. Iran has been jamming, blocking, and confiscating to try to keep the information out.

BBC versus USIB

Reports and anecdotal evidence since the beginning of the crisis suggest that the BBC Persian television channel was the preferred choice of Iranians seeking news. When BBC Persian TV went on the air in January 2009, Iranian bloggers and other commentators immediately preferred it to VOA Persian News Network television. This preference for BBC continues during the unrest, at least based on anecdotal evidence.

So the first question is whether BBC Persian TV is considered more credible and does have a larger audience than VOA PNN TV, or at least did before the demonstrations and the jamming. Audience surveys – which can be conducted by telephone – when the dust settles are the only to know for sure.

Satellites can be jammed, too

And then there is the jamming of BBC and VOA satellite television transmissions. This may be the first instance of sustained jamming of satellite television. Such jamming has happened before, but it usually brief. There is great international pressure against jamming satellites – more than we ever saw against shortwave jamming – probably because signals from other than the “offending” station are affected, and in a footprints well beyond the country doing the jamming. (But, then, that was true for shortwave jamming, too.)

The satellite jamming is definitely being accomplished by transmitting on the uplink frequency, this obliterating the unwanted channel through its footprint. But terrestrial satellite jamming, e.g. “microwave trucks,” has been mentioned in this and previous Iranian crises. Here, transmissions on the ground on the C and especially Ku-band can block satellite broadcasts over a modest area. But they can also be detrimental to the health of anyone near those terrestrial jamming transmitters.

VOA announced back on May 28 that it had added satellite broadcasting capability for its Persian television. Interference had already been noticed. VOA, therefore, may have had a technical advantage over BBC Persian television, which did not add satellite circuits until June 19.

And what about the transmissions of VOA Persian TV, Radio Farda, and the California-based Iranian exile station via Telstar 12 at 15 degrees west? For years, that has been the satellite of choice for broadcasting into Iran because Iran can’t uplink a jamming signal to a satellite that close to the horizon, at least from its own territory. This is why there was, in 2003, a brief episode of jamming of Telstar 12 via Cuba, from where uplinks were possible. Cuba, despite its own enthusiasm to jamming US broadcasts on shortwave, medium wave, VHF, and UHF, quickly put a stop to the Iranian jamming adventure from its soil.

So is Telstar 12 still able to get television into Iran? Iranians who want to watch VOA and other channels via this satellite must point their dishes conspicuously to the western horizon. All the neighbors – and authorities -- will know what they’re up to.

Which leads us to the next question: has the confiscation of satellite dishes and of the (typically more expensive) satellite receivers been stepped up. Of course, Iranian authorities mount periodic campaigns against dish ownership, but because so many people have them, they have had little impact on the media scene. Perhaps now the confiscations will be more serious.

Historically, the most prominent way to get rid of unwanted content on
satellites is for the offended government to apply politico-economic pressure on the satellite company. So far, in the present crisis, Eutelsat and even Arabsat and Nilesat have not shown an unwillingness to carry BBC and VOA broadcasts.

Shortwave to the rescue?

In my daily scan of news stories about the crisis, I am not seeing many references to Iranians listening to foreign broadcasts on shortwave, or using radio at all. An Iranian who allowed The Telegraph access to her diary noted that BBC and VOA television were blocked and that internet access was difficult. Then, she added: “Last night Voice of America radio introduced a number of sites which you could connect through and some proxy programmes.” So VOA radio, presumably via medium wave or shortwave, was getting through, though she didn’t remark on that remarkable fact.

In theory, shortwave should be an effective way to get information into Iran. Yes, Iran is jamming shortwave and medium wave broadcasts. But with Iran’s jammers relatively close to the listeners, the more distant broadcast transmitters should be able to get through on at least one frequency.

The question here, then, is how many people in Iran are using shortwave during this emergency. We know from previous surveys that shortwave radio ownership and use has waned in Iran, in favor of television (including satellite television) and the internet, in which Iranians are particularly proficient. Are people who have shortwave radios dusting them off to use during the present situation? Do shops have shortwave radios for sale? Have (as we have seen recently in Burma) sales of shortwave radios suddenly increased?

Or is the internet, despite all of the attempts by Iranian authorities to block sites and slow connection speeds, the non-interdictable medium of choice? Are there more Iranians able to use proxy sites and other workarounds than there are Iranians who have shortwave radios and are willing to try all the frequencies to find the one that get above the jamming?

USIB versus USIB

When the post-hoc analysis is performed, it will probably be determined that the BBC had the larger audience, more impact, and more respect than US international broadcasting, though the latter will have put in a respectable and competitive performance.

It would be a good time to examine another competition, that between 1) VOA Persian News Network television and radio and 2) Radio Farda, a Prague-based service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Radio Farda certainly had the early lead in publicity, with members of Congress and conservative commentators singing its praises, and not even acknowledging the existence of VOA Persian. VOA came back with some television coverage, some of it not mentioning Radio Farda.

With the difficulties of getting news out of Iran, and back to audiences in Iran, can the United States afford two stations that compete with rather than cooperate with each other? Is this maybe an important reason why USIB is number two to the BBC among Iranian audiences?

Views expressed are my own. More at

Adventist World Radio press release

May 6, 2009

"Wavescan" DX Program to Continue from New Location

The final edition of AWR's DX program "Wavescan" produced in Singapore is scheduled for broadcast on May 31, 2009, with the usual scheduled repeats during the first few days into June. Beginning in the first week of June, "Wavescan" will be written and produced in the United States for broadcast worldwide.

In the new arrangement, the scripts for "Wavescan" will be researched and written in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the program will be assembled and produced in the Miami, Florida, studios of shortwave station WRMI/Radio Miami International. QSL cards acknowledging the reception of "Wavescan" will be available from both WRMI and Adventist World Radio.

At the end of May, AWR's Singapore office and studio will be transferred to nearby Batam Island, Indonesia. This move will achieve considerable cost savings for AWR.

Many long-time listeners will remember that the original AWR DX program, "Radio Monitors International," was produced in the Poona (Pune), India, studios of Adventist World Radio and broadcast on the domestic and international shortwave services of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. Beginning in 1984, North American coverage was achieved through the services of Jeff White and his original Radio Earth/Radio Discovery service. "Radio Monitors International" became "Wavescan," and Radio Earth/Radio Discovery became Radio Miami International/WRMI.

The new presentations of "Wavescan" will be very similar to the earlier editions as produced in Singapore. Each edition will include a station profile on an important or a little-known shortwave station from a historical perspective. There will also be other features from the fascinating world of international radio broadcasting, as well as regular bulletins of DX news. It is intended that the regular DX bulletins from Japan, Bangladesh, Philippines and Australia will be included as usual in these new broadcasts of "Wavescan."

Other radio entities are welcome to re-broadcast "Wavescan," archive the programs on Internet websites, and reprint items and articles from the scripts and archive the scripts, with the usual attribution to AWR "Wavescan" and to Radio Miami International/WRMI.

As was announced in "Wavescan" earlier, the annual worldwide listener contest during the month of June will continue as planned. Listeners are invited to prepare a list and give details and photocopies of 5 QSLs from silent shortwave stations; to submit 3 reception reports on AWR transmissions; and, where possible, to submit 3 suitable radio cards to the "Wavescan" address in Indianapolis.

Adventist World Radio would like to express appreciation to AWR assistant program director Rhoen Catolico for his splendid work on the production of "Wavescan" during the past three years and to wish him every success with his endeavors as he returns to his homeland in the Philippines. We would also like to express our appreciation to Jeff White at WRMI for mutual co-operation in the areas of international radio broadcasting over the past quarter century, and we are grateful for this new relationship in the production and distribution of the program in his station in Miami.

Jeff White is currently the president of NASB, the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters USA, in addition to his management responsibilities at WRMI.

Adrian Peterson is DX editor for Adventist World Radio and a Board Member for NASB, the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters USA. The address is:

Adventist World Radio
Box 29235
Indianapolis, Indiana 46229 USA
adrian (at)


WRMI press release:

Miami (May 4, 2009) - WRMI is pleased to announce that the Adventist World Radio DX program, "Wavescan," will be produced and distributed from our studios in Miami as of June, 2009.

WRMI has broadcast "Wavescan" since its inception. For the past three years, the program has been produced at the AWR studio in Singapore. However, that studio is being closed in June. As of the June 7 program, "Wavescan" will be written each week by Dr. Adrian Peterson, AWR International Relations Coordinator in Indianapolis, Indiana, and produced at WRMI in MIami. WRMI will also distribute the program to the various stations in the AWR network around the globe.

"We are very happy to be working with Adrian and AWR on the production of Wavecan," said WRMI General Manager Jeff White. "Our association actually goes back about 25 years now, when Adrian was producing the predecessor of Wavescan -- Radio Monitors International -- at the AWR studios in Puna, India, and we were rebroadcasting the program to the Americas on Radio Earth, where I was the program producer."

Adrian Peterson will be entirely in charge of the content of the program, but segments of regional DX news will continue to come from "Wavescan" correspondents in several Asian countries.

"We are glad to play a small part in the new version of Wavescan," said White, "and we hope the program will be around for many years to come."

As of June 7, 2009, WRMI will be broadcasting Wavescan at the following days and times -- all on the frequency of 9,955 kHz.

0830 UTC Sunday
2130 UTC Sunday
1530 UTC Monday *
0015 UTC Tuesday
0500 UTC Tuesday
1130 UTC Tuesday
1130 UTC Wednesday
1430 UTC Friday *
0130 UTC Saturday
0730 UTC Saturday

* These transmissions are specifically beamed to North America. The others are beamed to the Caribbean and Latin America, but may be audible in North America also.

In addition, "Wavecan" will continue to be broadcast over the other stations in the AWR network.

Back to post.

First, as employees of VOA and its various parent agencies, our main job is to improve the performance of US international broadcasting and to increase audience share. Achieve that, and job satisfaction should follow along.

The working environment is, nevertheless, not always pleasant. While most workers in most agencies have regular office hours, many VOA broadcasters and studio personnel must work evenings, overnights, or from 3 to 11 a.m. (in which case they must move their cars from the parking lot at 8 a.m. to make room for the senior executives’ cars, then look for metered spaces on the streets, and keep those meters fed until quitting time).

Employees of most agencies have offices, with doors, and window blinds that can be opened or shut. VOA broadcasters work in cubicles, often in windowless interior rooms. They must run one direction down the corridor to the booth to record interviews, then run the other direction to make it the studio by deadline. (Actually, when I was a broadcaster, I liked that part of my job.)

I think part of the problem is the identity of whom we work for. When I came to the Voice of America in 1985, it was VOA the radio station, with VOA transmitting sites, operated by the VOA Office of Engineering. There was a VOA Office of Personnel, VOA Office of Administration, VOA Office of Audience Relations, etc. Oh, sure, we were under the U.S. Information Agency, which occasionally required that USIA be placed on signs above, and in bigger letters, than VOA. But things were simpler then.

Now, there is still VOA, but the transmitters and Office of Engineering are International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), as are the various administrative offices. And beyond the VOA front office, beyond the IBB front front office, is the Broadcasting Board of Governors front front front office. Besides that are the various other broadcasting entities: RFE, RL, Radio Farda, RFA, MBN, Radio Sawa, Alhurra, Radio Martí, TV Martí, OCB. And it’s not one big happy family. These entities fight among themselves like a sackful of civets for budget, audience, talent, transmitters, and frequencies.

Another dilemma is that there is too much ambiguity about whether US international broadcasting is in the news business, or in the public diplomacy/advocacy business. It can’t be in both businesses. This lack of mission clarity occurs from the ranks (I am part of the ranks) right up to the exalted BBG executive suite.

I suspect the biggest concern of VOA employees is that the BBG will shut down even more language services, or make them part of “excepted” corporations like RFE/RL Inc, RFA Inc, or MBN Inc, where staff can be dismissed much more easily than VOA’s civil servants.

But international broadcasting is as fluid as all media endeavors. When people hire on to USIB, they should realize, or be informed, that target countries will come and go as the inevitable changes take place in international affairs. New media will displace old media in popularity. Most of these changes are not sudden. Management could give affected services three years’ rather than a few months’ notice.

Some of my colleagues in the ranks are salivating at rumors that, because President Obama has not nominated new members to the BBG, there are plans that the BBG will go away. (H.R. 363, the United States Broadcasting Reorganization Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL] would also abolish the BBG). Instead, there would be one CEO of US international broadcasting.

I think a single CEO of USIB is a good idea. But that CEO must be appointed by a bipartisan board with fixed and staggered terms. This will keep the politics out of –well, at least reduce the amount of politics in – US international broadcasting.

If the BBG is eliminated, presumably the CEO of USIB would be appointed by the president, with Senate confirmation. Thus, if the president, whatever president, doesn’t like what USIB is reporting, he/she can appoint a new CEO. When a new president is elected, there will be a new CEO of USIB, and a new tone for its content.

Under this new configuration, USIB will lose its independence. Without independence, it will lack credibility. Without credibility, it will have no audience. Without an audience, it will be a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money.

But we will have better job security and give the agency better scores in the Federal Human Capital Survey.

Back to post.

Can you find the VOA broadcast schedule?

The Voice of America website,, has been redesigned again. It’s really now an English-language news site, more than the website of a (primarily radio) broadcasting organization. As such, it is in competition with hundreds of other English-language news sites, all also available worldwide.

The non-English languages of VOA, which account for most of VOA’s audience, all have links on the VOA home page. But they are “below the fold.” The non-English user must guess that he/she must cursor down to find those links. At least this is better than the BBC World Service home page, where only a few privileged languages have links.

But what if you want to listen to (rather than read) VOA in English? On the old home page, down at the bottom, in small type, was a link to the frequency schedule.

That linked has been banished from the home page. Where is it now? It took me an hour or so to find it. A friend of mine found it more quickly, but, as he writes, “I found it because I have the web sleuthing skills of a truffle pig.” I’ll let you find it yourself. Hint: There are two routes to the VOA frequency schedule.

And what if you want to know what programs are on VOA English tonight? Or on Thursday night? (Assuming you can hear VOA where you are.) In this case, I won’t make you find it yourself, because you probably never would.

For the schedule of VOA English programs to Asia and the Middle East, you go to the Select Language pull-down menu at Select English to Africa. Yes, that’s right, English to Africa, not English Worldwide. On the English to Africa page, click Radio Programs. On the resulting page, click VOA Africa Radio Broadcast Schedule. Yes, that’s right, “Africa” again. Trust me. You will find a schedule table with five tabs. The left four are for African time zones. The right tab is Worldwide English. Click that tab, and there’s your schedule. I don’t know if it’s kept up to date.

Working for The Worst Agency in Washington

Once again, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (VOA’s parent agency, or actually parent of VOA’s parent agency IBB, which I guess would make it VOA’s grandparent agency) has been voted the worst federal agency to work for. The Federal Human Capital Survey, which polls workers at 37 agencies, found the BBG to be last in three categories (leadership and knowledge management, results-oriented performance, and talent management). It’s 36th in job satisfaction.

First, as employees of VOA and its various parent agencies, our main job is to improve the performance of US international broadcasting and to increase audience share. Achieve that, and job satisfaction should follow along.

The working environment is, nevertheless, not always pleasant. While most workers in most agencies have regular office hours, many VOA broadcasters and studio personnel must work evenings, overnights, or from 3 to 11 a.m. (in which case they must move their cars from the parking lot at 8 a.m. to make room for the senior executives’ cars, then look for metered spaces on the streets, and keep those meters fed until quitting time).

Employees of most agencies have offices, with doors, and window blinds that can be opened or shut. VOA broadcasters work in cubicles, often in windowless interior rooms. They must run one direction down the corridor to the booth to record interviews, then run the other direction to make it the studio by deadline. (Actually, when I was a broadcaster, I liked that part of my job.)

I think part of the problem is the identity of whom we work for. When I came to the Voice of America in 1985, it was VOA the radio station, with VOA transmitting sites, operated by the VOA Office of Engineering. There was a VOA Office of Personnel, VOA Office of Administration, VOA Office of Audience Relations, etc. Oh, sure, we were under the U.S. Information Agency, which occasionally required that USIA be placed on signs above, and in bigger letters, than VOA. But things were simpler then.

Now, there is still VOA, but the transmitters and Office of Engineering are International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), as are the various administrative offices. And beyond the VOA front office, beyond the IBB front front office, is the Broadcasting Board of Governors front front front office. Besides that are the various other broadcasting entities: RFE, RL, Radio Farda, RFA, MBN, Radio Sawa, Alhurra, Radio Martí, TV Martí, OCB. And it’s not one big happy family. These entities fight among themselves like a sackful of civets for budget, audience, talent, transmitters, and frequencies.

Another dilemma is that there is too much ambiguity about whether US international broadcasting is in the news business, or in the public diplomacy/advocacy business. It can’t be in both businesses. This lack of mission clarity occurs from the ranks (I am part of the ranks) right up to the exalted BBG executive suite.

I suspect the biggest concern of VOA employees is that the BBG will shut down even more language services, or make them part of “excepted” corporations like RFE/RL Inc, RFA Inc, or MBN Inc, where staff can be dismissed much more easily than VOA’s civil servants.

But international broadcasting is as fluid as all media endeavors. When people hire on to USIB, they should realize, or be informed, that target countries will come and go as the inevitable changes take place in international affairs. New media will displace old media in popularity. Most of these changes are not sudden. Management could give affected services three years’ rather than a few months’ notice.

Some of my colleagues in the ranks are salivating at rumors that, because President Obama has not nominated new members to the BBG, there are plans that the BBG will go away. (H.R. 363, the United States Broadcasting Reorganization Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) would also abolish the BBG). Instead, there would be one CEO of US international broadcasting.

I think a single CEO of USIB is a good idea. But that CEO must be appointed by a bipartisan board with fixed and staggered terms. This will keep the politics out of –well, at least reduce the amount of politics in – US international broadcasting.

If the BBG is eliminated, presumably the CEO of USIB would be appointed by the president, with Senate confirmation. Thus, if the president, whatever president, doesn’t like what USIB is reporting, he/she can appoint a new CEO. When a new president is elected, there will be a new CEO of USIB, and a new tone for its content.

Under this new configuration, USIB will lose its independence. Without independence, it will lack credibility. Without credibility, it will have no audience. Without an audience, it will be a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money.

But we will have better job security and give the agency better scores in the Federal Human Capital Survey.

Views expressed are my own. More at

Claude B. (Cliff) Groce, former deputy program manager of the Voice of America and a pillar of the nation’s largest publicly funded international network, died Tuesday at his home in Washington, DC, after a long struggle against Parkinson’s disease and other ailments. He was 84 years old.

Mr. Groce was born in Hempstead, Texas. He served in the U.S infantry from 1943 to 1946, including 16 months in Germany. Immediately after the war, he attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated Phi Beta Kappa before joining the Department of State in 1950. He served briefly in the Bureau of European Affairs and then as a special events trainee in the Washington bureau of VOA, which at the time had its headquarters in New York City. One of Mr. Groce’s early interviews was with Jean Monnet, known as the father of European unity and head of the European Steel and Coal Community. In 1953, he took leave to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a master’s degree in international relations.

In 1955 Mr. Groce returned to VOA, which had by then moved to Washington. As an editor, writer and broadcaster, he was a pioneer producer of Music USA, the jazz program hosted by the legendary Willis Conover for more than three decades. Mr. Groce also created Panorama USA, a high-energy cultural program about life in the United States, and collaborated with the late Ted Wertime to produce Forum: A Meeting of the Minds. This series of lectures on American science, medicine, economics and the arts was transcribed. The talks were published in books that were immensely popular among university faculties overseas throughout the rest of the century.

As a senior editor, Mr. Groce was assigned to a two-year tour at VOA’s newly-reorganized program center in Munich, West Germany, in the spring of 1959. There, he supervised reporters for the Voice’s English and European language services who covered international conferences throughout the continent and U.N. agencies in Geneva and Vienna.

On returning to Washington in 1961, Mr. Groce became deputy chief of VOA’s Worldwide English Division. Drawing on his experience in Munich, he wrote and produced documentaries on specialized U.N. agencies, as well as the death of Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold in a Congo plane crash, and the desegregation of public schools in Dallas.

In 1968, Mr. Groce was promoted to deputy program manager of VOA, and in that role, directly supervised more than 30 language services and the Worldwide English Division. For the next 13 years, he served under five VOA directors and led a group advocating separation of the Voice from its parent United States Information Agency (USIA), in the final months of the Ford administration in 1976.

“At a time when freedom of information and the right to know are under increasing threat in the world,” Mr. Groce wrote in a petition signed by more than 500 VOA staff members, “we of VOA believe strongly in the importance of our work.” Citing the VOA Charter signed into law by President Ford earlier the same year, Mr. Groce added: “To succeed over the long term, this institution must have the continuing trust of listeners throughout the world. We believe that maintaining such a trust depends on VOA’s ability to escape the many-layered bureaucracy of the present and be allowed to assume full authority for carrying out its unique responsibilities in support of the U.S. national interest.” VOA, however, remained a part of USIA until that agency was consolidated within the State Department in 1999.

With the advent of the Reagan administration, Mr. Groce was among a dozen VOA senior managers who were reassigned or retired in late 1981 and early 1982. He became deputy director and was acting director of USIA’s Worldnet Television service as it aired Let Poland Be Poland, a major documentary produced in 1982. In February 1983, Mr. Groce became assistant director of USIA’s Press and Publications Service, a post he held until his retirement in June 1986.

Mr. Groce remained active as a VOA historian and conducted numerous oral history interviews with USIA and VOA retirees. He also was a member of the USIA Alumni Association.

Mr. Groce is survived by his wife of 58 years, Carolyn, of Washington, DC, a daughter, Lisa Clausen (Peter) of Seattle, Washington, and a son, Matthew (JoAnne) of Winter Springs, Florida, and four granddaughters, Heather, Bethany and Jenny Groce and Carolyn Clausen. A memorial service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on June 1, at 9:00 a.m.

Back to post.

DRM at the Fest

For the sixth year in a row, I demonstrated the somewhat-FM-like Digital Radio Mondiale shortwave reception at the Winter SWL Fest, March 13 and 14 at Kulpsville, Pennsylvania. My two e-mails to the DRM Consortium at the BBC in in London were, this year, unanswered. (The previous Consortium headquarters in Geneva was always helpful.) However, through separate channels, we were able to arrange special DRM transmissions with the kind assistance of Vatican Radio and TDF France.

At the Fest, we were mostly unable to receive the Vatican Radio DRM transmission all the way from Italy at 1300-1400 UTC on 15500 kHz. However, listeners elsewhere in the United States were able to hear it. Furthermore, Vatican Radio has a regularly scheduled transmission to North America from its transmitter near Rome, 2300-2345 UTC on 7370 kHz. This I can almost always receive successfully at my home in northern Virginia.

The TDF transmission from French Guiana, 1300-2000 UTC on 17545 kHz, was received at the SWL Fest with about 90% success. Reception would probably have been even more reliable in a location with less electrical noise than our hotel.
In addition, we listened to the DRM transmissions from Radio Canada International, via Sackville NB, throughout the day on 9800 Khz. We also had some success with a Radio Kuwait DRM transmission on 11675 kHz.

Alas, there is still no standalone DRM receiver available in North America. DRM reception, therefore, is a grueling process of compiling 1) a shortwave receiver with some sort of IF output, 2) a device to convert the IF to the 12 kHz required for DRM decoding, 3) an antenna up on the roof of the hotel, 4) a good PC, 5) in our case, an extra sound card, 6) speakers, 7) DRM decoding software, and 8) all the necessary cables, connectors, and power supplies. I am really getting too old for the rigors of DRM reception.

It was, however, a bit easier this year thanks to our US-made receiver, the RFSpace SDRIQ, a software-defined small black box than connects to a PC. It also takes power from the PC via USB, so one less wall wart to worry about. Furthermore, with the proper setting, but without the need for an extra downconverter (are you with me so far?), the SDRIQ can produce the 12 kHz IF output to input input into the DRM decoding software. It is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to receive DRM. (See screenshot.) (The SDIRQ also receives analog broadcasts, with a spectrum display that is great fun to use.)

How far will DRM go?

At the Fest, we like to test the limits of DRM shortwave by decoding trans-oceanic signals. In reality, DRM shortwave is more reliable over modest distances, such as the new BBC and Deutsche Welle intra-European DRM transmissions. The use of DRM shortwave for reception within India also seems feasible, provided, as mentioned above, DRM receivers become available. DRM might also bring new life to medium wave and longwave in countries where those bands are no longer popular with listeners.

On the same table as our Rube Goldberg DRM receiving setups, we also displayed and listened to five wifi internet radios. They are all standalone devices, needing a broadband connection but no external antenna. They were able to receive thousands of stations, domestic and international, as compared to, usually, one on the DRM receivers.

But DRM might, finally, have its standalone receiver. The Uniwave Di-Wave DRM receiver was supposed to have been introduced at the DRM General Assembly in Germany on March 25. As I hunt-and-peck this column, no news, no press releases, no nothing, not even from the DRM Consortium website.

Indeed, I can’t even find a website for Uniwave. Well, there is a website for a company in Germany that makes the Uniwave Projectile 419, a device that lubricates knitting machine components. The Universal Projectile 419 is a very cool looking machine. I’ll bet we could modify it somehow to receive DRM.

Obama speaks to Iran

Some people inside U.S. international broadcasting were dismayed that President Obama did not make this an exclusive for VOA's Persian News Network and/or RFE/RL's Radio Farda -- just as his administration earlier opted to reach Arabs via an interview on Al Arabiya rather than Alhurra.

Instead, the video was distributed to a wide array of media, including VOA, BBC, Al Jazeera, YouTube, and the White House website.

The pluralistic distribution of this video is actually a good thing for both U.S. public diplomacy and for U.S. international broadcasting. From a public diplomacy standpoint, the Obama administration wanted this message to have the widest possible distribution. There is no better way to do this than to make the video available to a large number of news outlets. These redundancies of distribution are especially important given the vigor with which Iran blocks and jams information from outside its borders.

It also worked out well for US international broadcasting, because it showed that VOA Persian News Network and Radio Farda are not President Obama's personal intercoms for reaching Iran. These stations will establish their all-important credibility not through presidential exclusives, but through the objectivity and reliability of their news, week after week, year after year.

World Service website has a new wide look

BBC World Service has redesigned its website, again. "The new wide format makes the whole site even easier to use, creating more room for the content to be easily seen and scanned," says a BBCWS press release.

It is a wide format. I wonder how well it can be seen on netbooks that are popular these days. These small PCs have correspondingly small displays, but they are in the "wide" aspect ratio for which the BBCWS is obviously designed.

The new look BBCWS website fails the most important requirement for an international broadcasting site. Most international broadcasting operations are multilingual. Audiences in each of a station's languages must find a welcome on the station's home page, and a way to navigate to content in that language.

On the BBCWS home page, non-English speakers must cursor down "below the fold," to the lower left hand corner. Even then, only speakers of Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Chinese, Hindi, Somali, Russian, Portuguese to Brazil, Spanish, and Vietnamese are in luck. The others must know, somehow, that "More languages" is the link to the links their languages. VOA manages to fit links to all of its language services on its home page.

What if you speak English and you want the news? You will find the BBCWS website a nice enough source of schedule information and audio files. But where is the news? It's rather hidden. You can get there by way of the "Explore the BBC" link in the upper right corner, or the not exactly correctly worded, small-pitch "From BBC News" in the right column. Then you are transferred to (International Version), with its amazing wealth of news. It's a website that could one day replace BBC World Service. No wonder it's hidden.

Views expressed are my own. More at

On March 21st, together with the radio-art group of Deutschlandradio, I will organize a big STILLE POST ("telephone", telefono senza fili etc...) game. We will be using the middle/long waves and internet streams of the radio station. For four hours, between 8pm and midnight, european time (2pm and 6pm USA east coast time ), a speaker will broadcast several transcriptions from my personal collection of "incomprehensible radio broadcastings". These are recordings of broadcasted speech where neither the language spoken nor the meaning are decipherable. The only certain thing is that they will contain HUMAN SPEECH.

The listeners ( that's YOU !!) will be asked to transcribe what they hear and ( believe to ) understand. Then send it back to us, via email or telephone. In the best case scenario, this will happen in real time. We will be including all the new transcriptions we receive from you into the broadcasting. We will give them to the speaker right away and then feed the "arcoparlante" circle one more time. You are also welcome to send us your transcriptions LATER, by post, passenger pigeon, by hand, etc....

We encourage all listeners (yes, YOU, again !) to record the moments while you listen and try to figure out what the texts are. Feel free to use any recording device (from very good to very bad quality). We'll take anything from cassettes, mini cassettes, cd's, minidisks, audiofiles etc....

So, invite some friends for dinner (if you are in Europe or Africa), for a late lunch or coffee ( if in the Americas) or for breakfast (if you are in Asia ), turn on your radio and play with us !!

Eventually, I will re-compose all the scattered recorded bits and pieces. All these materials will become the building blocks of a final composition.

This is how you can tune in and receive the "arcoparlante" broadcasting on your radio or computer :

Medium Wave : 855 and 990 KHz
Long Wave : 153 and 177 KHz
Satellite : ASTRA 1, Transponder 77,
Internet stream :

This is how you can reach us :

Snail mail :
Deutschlandradio Kultur
Hörspiel / Klangkunst
D-10825 Berlin

e-mail :

Phone : 00 800 800 22 11 (only during the broadcast )

Fax : +49 (0)30 8503 940 5585

We hope to hear from you and to play with you !! And don't forget to spread the word about ARCOPARLANTE !

Cheers from Berlin,

Alessandro Bosetti

Basically it is a plea for more money, specifically a budget increase against 2009 of 20.6 millions Euro for 2010, 41.4 for 2011, 59.1 for 2012 and 78.2 for 2013.

Some points from this report, beyond what is already known from other papers:

Program contents about Germany itself are considered as convenient only if they are relevant for the target audience. A "limited amount" of other stuff about Germany could be added as "additional service" for those in the target audience who happen to be interested in Germany.

Radio programs in English, Arabic and Russian will be broadcast in different regional versions. The English language service will have to be ready to provide immediate coverage in breaking news situations.

Weekly reach of DW radio in 2007: 39 millions for foreign language services, 9 millions for English, 7 millions for German which is a "considerable" decline (= another reason to cut it back).

Audience numbers for all media (radio plus TV plus online): 43 millions in Africa, 14 in Latin America, 12 in Europe, 10 in Asia, 4 in North America.

For years now DW tries to get an own FM frequency in Moscow, so far without success.

The special radio broadcasts for Belarus continue also after the contract with the European Union run out at yearend 2007. Funds for this have now been taken away elsewhere, DW gave up some other project instead.

Amount of radio listeners using shortwave day by day: In Serbia and Montenegro 14 percent in 1999, 2.5 percent in 2006. For the whole of the Balkans between 1.2 and 4 percent in 2006. (Really? I would say that's not bad, by no means! Contrary in Central Europe the figure must be zero-point-whatever.)

Ukrainian: The weekly reach was 0.5 percent in 2006 and 2.5 percent in 2008, 1.4 of them via Radio Promin -> it was the right decision to eliminate shortwave for it. (However, at this point Promin had not lost most of its frequencies yet.)

China: The mentions of "a licence we have applied for already in 2004 and did not get it until today" referred to cable nets in residual areas of foreigners and big hotels. It is planned to provide different websites, a "constantly available core service with basic information about Germany and Europe" (= will not offend the censorship command) alongside with "a service offering information about current affairs" (that must be expected to be blocked).

Back to post.

Dumping on shortwave

Some international broadcasters, as they move into newer technologies, are casting the old mainstay shortwave in a negative light.

For example, “Germany's Deutsche Welle will soon switch to FM in its pursuit of a bigger Bangladesh market share as short wave broadcast increasingly becomes a thing of the past. 'The number of short wave listener is falling,’ Grahame Lucas, who leads the South Asia team at Deutsche Welle Radio, told”

And this form a Radio Australia press release: "The first pan-Pacific quant[it]ative research commissioned by the ABC has revealed strong figures for the ABC’s international radio and online broadcasting arm – Radio Australia. 'The survey results indicate that Radio Australia is gaining support in the Pacific, and positioned as the market leader for international broadcasters. These figures show how we have re-invented ourselves by broadcasting in target centres through our 24 hour FM transmission, as opposed to 5 years ago, where we only broadcast into the Pacific via shortwave transmission,' remarked Radio Australia’s CEO Hanh Tran."

The RA press release mentions weekly audiences in cities served by FM relays: PNG 27.3%; Fiji 22.8%; Vanuatu 58.2%; Solomon Islands 56.9%; Samoa 22.7%. But outside those cities, Radio Australia is still heard only via shortwave, unless people have satellite or broadband internet access. And then we also have to keep in mind that the Pacific region is mostly water. The ships, fishing boats, and yachts on those waters also rely on shortwave.

Shortwave is even blamed for making parts of northern Minnesota feel colder. This from Minnesota Public Radio: “The higher late February sun melts away road surfaces much faster now. And if you stand on the sunny side of a pine tree, even when it's 15 degrees it feels pretty nice if there's no wind. That's because you're standing in a microclimate. The sun's rays bounce off the tree, converting the radiation from short wave to longer wavelengths. These longer wavelengths are more effective at heating the surrounding air and you feel warmer.” Well, okay, that’s not our shortwave.

Where they still listen to shortwave

The two main surviving shortwave listening countries are Burma and Zimbabwe. The governments there have made their domestic media so bad that people tune to shortwave for essential news and even for a bit of entertainment.

In Burma, satellite dishes are seen all over the place. I’m talking C-band dishes, like West Virginia twenty years ago. Mostly they’re used for entertainment. Some people in Burma watch dramas from China’s CCTV, that’s how bad Burmese domestic television is.

But more news-oriented Burmese watch Democratic Voice of Burma TV via the Telstar 10 satellite. This is a supplement or substitute for the older, but still transmitting, DVB radio service using leased transmitters from somewhere.

Audience research I’m involved in indicates that Al Jazeera English has established some audience in Burma. Yes, to be sure, AJE is not in Burmese. But AJE has developed a reputation for gathering news from developing countries not covered sufficiently by Western news organizations. One such developing country is Burma. During the 2007 unrest, and the 2008 Cyclone Nargis recovery, AJE reporters were in Burma, sending video to Doha, from where it was transmitted back to satellite receivers in Burma. (Many are in tea shops, thus group viewing.) Even if the Burmese viewers did not speak English, the fresh video conveyed much information of interest to this audience.

The VOA Burmese Service, to its credit, discerned a trend. With limited television production resources, they have cobbled together a weekly television program. It’s seen on VOA’s Asiasat 3 transponder. Expect the BBC Burmese Service to notice this, and to get into television of its own. It would be helpful if all the Burmese-language international broadcasters could agree on a single satellite and transponder, especially given that steerable dishes are relatively uncommon in the target country.

And, then, there is shortwave as music

It’s amazing how often I read about “shortwave” in reviews of musical performances or recordings. There are some references to musicians using shortwave radios on stage to produce certain sounds. But what sorts of sounds are they getting on the typical stage. Any signals from actual broadcast signals would be unlikely unless they extend an antenna outdoors. Unlikely. So the noises are probably the various types of local interference that emanate from large buildings.

These recent items from my website: Karlheinz Stockhausen's “Kurzwellen described ways for musicians to react while manning the controls of short-wave radios" Scottish underground group Yahweh "drape their frail tunes in layers of vinyl ‘surface noise’, distant, analogue farts and hums, distressed, itchy Can-esque guitarlines, down-a-well banjo and broken shortwave radio chatter." The Handsome Family: "Curious studio trickery abounds: the weirdly shuffling 'Love is Like' has a hint of Animal Collective's out of box thinking about it, the wonky organs and glockenspiel sound as if they are crackling out of a short-wave radio set." John Duncan's "new composition, titled 'The Hidden,' ... features 'digital audio debris, generated audio noise, field recordings, and shortwave radio static.'" As you can see, it’s not always real shortwave, but shortwave as metaphor.

Gaza: maybe not the first post-shortwave war

In my February column, I called the Gaza conflict of late 2008 and early 2009 the “first post-shortwave war.” This is because we didn’t not hear much about the usual shortwave broadcasts, including new clandestine stations, beaming into the zone. Instead, Al Jazeera was most frequently mentioned. And because Gaza is so small, terrestrial television could cover the entire territory.

Glenn Hauser points out, however, that shortwave did have a role in the Gaza conflict. As reported to his DX Listening Digest (and probably also to NASWA), the sound portions of the Hamas-affiliated television stations Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds have been heard on 5815, 5835, and 6220 kHz. According to reports, the terrestrial transmitters of those stations were knocked out during the fighting. And, hence, a typical and traditional application of shortwave: sending information into an area where that information is not (or is no longer) available from within.

Another place where shortwave was suddenly in need is Azerbaijan, where authorities, on January 1, carried out their plans to ban foreign stations on the domestic FM dial. BBC reacted by stepping up its output on shortwave, generally three frequencies at a time. A look at the RFE/RL Azeri schedule shows only one transmission, at 1600-1700 UTC, on only two frequencies, 7480 and 9485 kHz. This suggests that the Broadcasting Board of Governors penchant for shutting down shortwave relay facilities has left U.S. international broadcasting shorthanded in a time of need. There will be other such needs to come.

Views expressed are my own. More at

The audience rate of two percent is comparable, or even higher, than audiences for other language services of US international broadcasting. (Of course, those other services do not have an annual budget of $34 million.) It is often useful to look at the quality as well as the quantity of the audience, e.g. what percentage of the college educated population is tuning in the broadcast.

Keeping in mind the difficulties of research concerning the audience size in Cuba, the data have indicated a reduction of the Radio Martí audience size over the several years. Improvement and increased diversity of the domestic media in the target country are the most typical reasons for an international broadcasting effort losing audience. This, however, does not seem to be the case in Cuba.

Another possible cause of an audience reduction is deteriorating reception quality. Cuba has acquired shortwave transmitters from China which are used for stepped-up jamming of Radio Martí's shortwave transmissions.

Jamming of shortwave can be overcome. Shortwave propagation favors distant over nearby signals, affording a natural resistance to jamming. Shortwave anti-jamming technique involves transmitting on as many frequencies as possible, from as many locations as possible. With the elimination of IBB shortwave sites, Radio Martí is now transmitting on three or fewer frequencies at a time -- hardly a saturation level. Furthermore, in the 1990s, Radio Martí was transmitting via Bethany, Ohio; Delano, California; and Greenville, North Carolina, i.e. three azimuths into Cuba. Now only Greenville is available.

The only surviving IBB shortwave site that might usefully be added for Radio Martí is São Tomé. Beyond that, the BBG may have to lease time on some of the dwindling number of shortwave transmitters available for lease in the Western Hemisphere.

A shortwave strategy also depends on the availability receivers. Are the Soviet-manufactured shortwave radios once prevalent in Cuba still in circulation? If not, are low-cost multi-band radios (generally manufactured in China) available in the shops?

Of course, levels of use of (illegal) satellite dishes and of the internet must be monitored in Cuba. These media will have tremendous appeal, if people can get access to them.

In addition to transmission capability, content and especially the credibility of the content are essential to the success of the Martís. If Radio and TV Martí must devote the great majority of their schedules to Cuban affairs, they may have to include material of dubious merit just to fill the time.

A shortwave strategy can succeed by broadcasting only during prime evening and morning hours. This would reduce costs and allow Radio Martí to concentrate more on quality than quantity of content. Cooperation with VOA Spanish would bring additional efficiency and help to "smooth out" Radio Martí's content.

When television overtakes radio as the preferred medium in Cuba for foreign broadcasts (as it has in Iran), the required expense for success will be multiplied.

Back to post.

Cuban dissidents dissent

You would think the core audience of Radio Martí would be Cuba’s dissidents. It was, therefore, a bit of a shocker when a group of Cuban dissidents, or at least they describe themselves as such, complained to the State Department. According to BBC Mundo, they wrote that Radio Martí is “más en función de la política de Miami que de las necesidades informativas de Cuba” – functioning more for Miami politics than for the informational needs of Cuba.

The coalition of dissident groups, calling itself Agenda para la Transición, said it would “boicot” – presumably not listen to – and not provide interviews to Radio Martí.

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reports: "The head of Miami-based Radio and TV Martí will stay on in his post -- at least temporarily -- despite an administration change in Washington that was expected to result in a resignation for the political appointee. Pedro Roig, director of the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting, was asked to stay on by the federal agency that controls Radio and TV Martí, and is traveling to Washington, D.C., on Monday to meet with the officials who oversee his operation. 'Roig was asked to stay on by the board in consultation with the [President Barack] Obama team,' said Tish King, a spokeswoman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors."

Now this is most peculiar. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) was created by the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 to provide a “firewall” between the U.S. government and U.S. international broadcasting. The most important way the BBG does this is for it, rather than the administration, to select the senior managers of the U.S. international broadcasting entities. This means there should be no “transition” but rather continuity when a new president takes office. The statement by the BBG spokeswoman makes one wonder why the BBG exists.

Expect some changes for Radio and TV Martí during the Obama administration. Some have suggested that responsibility for broadcasting to Cuba revert to the VOA Spanish Service. It had a daily “Cita con Cuba” program before Radio Martí was created.

For now, shortwave is the most effective way to get information around the Cuban government’s attempts to block information, although the internet and satellite television are becoming more viable for this purpose.

Head of DW calls for media alliance on human rights

Deutsche Welle reports: "Deutsche Welle's Director General Erik Bettermann has called for an international media alliance for human rights. Independent international broadcasters in particular were 'a significant factor in efforts to secure greater importance and implementation of human rights in countries around the world,' he said. Bettermann called on leading Western international broadcasters, such as Deutsche Welle, BBC and Radio France International, to increase their focus on these issues. Independent media were 'powerful instruments to provide human rights with a voice,' Bettermann said."

"Independent" international broadcasters are primarily news organizations. Should news organizations advocate for causes, even commendable causes such as human rights? International broadcasters serve human rights by reporting how current events affect human rights, and how people and organizations rise up to protect human rights. They can best do this if their reporting is perceived as credible. That can be achieved if their reporting on human rights is neither more nor less than what would be generated by a legitimate, respected news organization with no agenda other than to report the news. There are other organizations, such as Amnesty International, that can do the advocating.

BBC World Service Trust is a better way to do this

BBC World Service is also involved in commendable causes, but through its subsidiary BBC World Service Trust, which “aims to reduce poverty and promote human rights in developing countries through the innovative and creative use of the media.” The activities of the Trust are not intermingled with the journalistic output of BBCWS, which is much preferable to Bettermann’s call for international broadcasters to “increase their focus” on human rights.

By the way, BBCWS Trust has a new director, ex-Oxfam executive Caroline Nursey. And it has some interesting ways to raise money. According to The Telegraph, the painting A Capriccio of the Prisons of San Marco, by the Venetian artist Canaletto, “was once in the collection of King George III. Why it ever left the collection is still a mystery, but here it is, being sold by American book publisher Cornelia Bessie to raise funds for the BBC World Service Trust.” It will fetch between 2.5 and 3.5 million dollars at Sotheby’s, New York, if you care to submit a bid.

The BBC’s efforts to avoid bias, or at least the appearance of bias, are such that it is withstanding (as of this writing) a torrent of criticism for refusing to broadcast an appeal (sort of a telethon, I guess0 for humanitarian aid to Gaza organized by the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee. BBC director general Mark Thompson wrote: "Inevitably an appeal would use pictures which are the same or similar to those we would be using in our news programmes but would do so with the objective of encouraging public donations. The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story."

I agree with Thompson and with Michael Hedges of “Supporting a humanitarian appeal – local to the UK – would well be within the BBC’s public service remit. Appeals for aid to flood victims in southeast England comes to mind. Once beyond the United Kingdom the BBC’s context changes and questions to objectivity should not be given opportunity regardless of delighted partisans.” I am comforted by the BBC erring on the side of flinty objectivity.

Gaza: the first major post-shortwave war.

Throughout the recent fighting in Gaza, I saw no mention of shortwave broadcasts going in or out. This is in contrast to the first and, to some extent, the second Gulf wars, where shortwave had to be used to penetrate Iraq. Also, durng the first Gulf war, we heard exciting broadcasts from Kol Israel on shortwave.

Now Kol Israel is no longer on shortwave (except for Persian). The people of Gaza, because of its small size, could be reached by terrestrial television and FM radio. Some Gazans also used satellite dishes, and a few even had internet access. If all else failed they could hear BBC, Radio Monte Carlo-Middle East, or Radio Sawa on medium wave via Cyprus, even during the daylight hours.

I also saw no mention of U.S. international broadcasting – not Alhurra, not Radio Sawa, not VOA – as a source of news in the affected area. Al Jazeera owned the story, given its video reportage from within Gaza. Al Arabiya was also mentioned, and, less so, BBC and CNN International. Media observers note that just as CNN established itself during the first Gulf war, the Gaza episode has made Al Jazeera the pre-eminent global news service. Expect imitators, but they will succeed by dint of video journalism on the scene, not by talking heads.

Views expressed are my own. More at

Three days ago the office of RFI's German service sent out the e-mai belowl. Translation:

"Unfortunately the management of RFI hold to its decision to close the German service. Presumably the broadcasts will cease at the end of April or in May. All protests, initiatives and petitions were futile. Still we would like to thank you for your active support. At least we got the impression that we were not alone and enjoy an appreciation of our work."

Statement from RFI director Alain de Pouzilhac:

Translation (disclaimer: this is the second step, from the translation into German on the referenced page):

"I think it is in the first place a geopolitical change. When the Berlin wall still existed, but this was already 20 years ago, it was indispensable for our station to talk in German to the Germans of the East. Today there is a development of democracy in Europe, in Poland, in Germany, in such languages. To me it appears to be entirely normal that this results in a decline of listener numbers because there is less demand for a free world because the world has become more free and democratic. And from this moment on the audience becomes infinitely small and one has to further develop. This is a simple development."

The referenced RFI page also contains a comment from the editors: They repeatedly told the management that the target audience was neither limited to East Germans nor to those with a democracy deficit, instead the programs are meant to all German-speaking people interested in France. They consider themselfes as a future-orientaded platform for the German-French dialogue but certainly not as a relic of the Cold War.

Deutschlandradio Kultur interview with Jürgen Ritte from the Sorbonne university in Paris:

He said that the service was not that expensive, "most freelancers were already paid very poorly". Thus such cost saving measures are "hysteric instead of well-considered". The closure is a "political signal that causes great damage". The remainder of the interview puts the closure in a context with cuts done elsewhere on institutions that deal with the French-German relationships.

Concerning the payments: A website with anonymous postings about the royalties German radio stations pay for one standard report specified for the now defunct BBC-RFI (small office in Leipzig, infrastructure like playout from RFI headquarters in Paris) as 70 Euro. This figure is of course gross, before everything, and covers everything (time to go to the scene etc.).


FROM: Cecile BALAY SENT: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 4:41 PM

Leider hat die Direktion von RFI an ihrer Entscheidung, die deutsche Redaktion zu schließen, festgehalten.

Die Sendungen werden voraussichtlich Ende April oder Mai eingestellt.

Alle Proteste, Initiativen und Petitionen waren umsonst.

Wir möchten Ihnen aber herzlich für Ihre aktive Unterstützung danken.

Zumindest hatten wir das Gefühl, dass wir nicht allein waren und unsere Arbeit geschätzt wird.

Die deutsche Redaktion von RFI

Malheureusement, la Direction de RFI a maintenu sa décision de fermer la rédaction allemande.

Les émissions seront probablement arrêtées fin avril/mai.

Toutes les protestations, pétitions et soutiens n?ont servi à rien.

Nous tenons à vous remercier vivement de votre soutien actif.

Au moins nous avions le sentiment que nous n?étions pas tout seuls et que notre travail est apprécié.

La rédaction allemande de RFI

Cécile Balaÿ
Rédaction allemande
Site internet:

The current news about RFI are somewhat unclear to me, and it appears that this is not entirely a matter of translation. I gather the following:

● German, Polish, Serbocroatian, Albanian, Turkish and Lao will cease on Jan 31. This deadline according to "Le Point" magazine. The cancellation of these programs in general is reported unanimously by various news organizations, including RFI German itself.

● 206 of 1042 job positions will be cut, including 106 journalists.

● In 2008 RFI showed a deficit of 9 million Euro. Due to this situation the French government will provide 17.2 million Euro additionally. This according to AFP in German, reports about the 17.2 million figure reflecting RFI's complete deficit appear to be a result of translation problems, provided that AFP's own translation into German is correct.

● As previously for Russian and Chinese RFI now also denied reports about a closure of its Persian service (with petitions to Sarkozy etc., just the usual procedure).

● Useful details from the "Le Figaro" newspaper: The French government is willing to provide additional funds for RFI but requires a "modernization" of the station. Additional online services in Russian, Chinese and Persian could be developed. Perhaps contracts for the transmissions on shortwave, expiring in 2010/2011, will not be prolonged.

My conclusions: For German, Polish, Serbocroatian, Albanian, Turkish (no longer on shortwave, with the exception of German I'm not even sure if anything else than online still remained so far) and Laotian (Mon-Fri only via Taiwan on 15680) the end will in all likelihood come on Jan 31, in this regard the "Le Point" report is consistent with earlier rumours. Russian, Chinese and Persian radio programs will not be cancelled now but just a little bit later, in 2011.

Especially noteworthy is the hint about expiring contracts. This apparently refers to RFI's transmission contracts with TDF. Not prolonging them would mean that in 2011 all shortwave transmissions of RFI will end, including those for Africa. Perhaps hard to imagine, but on the other hand it is my impression that nothing is impossible anymore, including the unthinkable.

News item about closure from RFI German service:

The above referenced German-language AFP item:

AFP item about RFI Persian:

For Le Point and Le Figaro reports, back to post.

James K. Glassman

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

Speaking at The George Washington University

14 January 2009

Thank you, Marc, for inviting me here to GW today. I have been an avid reader of Abu Aardvark, and I’ve followed its migration to the Foreign website, which by the way is a superb site. I have read your recent posts on Gaza and Alhurra, and I’ll be happy to discuss those issues and any others in the question-and-answer period. This is my valedictory, and I am pleased to see so many good friends in the audience.


The other day I was asked how I would like to be remembered. “On my tombstone?” I asked. “I’m not that old.” No, I was told. We want to know how you’d like to be remembered for your work at the State Department.

I would make four points –and certainly tombstone could not accommodate all this verbiage.

First, understanding the importance of the traditional public diplomacy programs that work.

Second, shifting emphasis toward the war of ideas, or as we like to call it global strategic engagement.

Third, leading the interagency – that is, the State Department and the other parts of government in the business of strategic communications and public diplomacy.

Fourth, formulating an approach called Public Diplomacy 2.0, which takes advantage of new social networking technology.

Let me take them in order.

First, traditional public diplomacy….

My predecessor Karen Hughes gave me two pieces of advice – and I will pass those same pieces on to my successor: First, the best thing we can do is put Americans face to face with foreigners, and, second, we can’t do enough English teaching.

We put people face to face mainly through exchanges. Karen’s great accomplishment was expanding these programs that had been languishing for years. We now bring about 50,000 people from other countries to the U.S. on programs like Fulbright and YES and our International Visitor Programs, whose graduates have included such figures as Hamid Karzai and Margaret Thatcher, when they were rising stars.

Education is America’s greatest brand, and we have bounced back dramatically from 9/11. Today, despite tougher visa requirements, more than 600,000 foreign students are matriculating in the US – an all-time record. This year, we’ll have more than 7,500 Fulbrights – also a record.

We teach English because the world wants to learn it – because governments and people in practically every country in the world see English as a way to move up economically. Everywhere. In tough neighborhoods like Yemen and Syria. In the West Bank and Gaza. In teaching English, we impart important values like tolerance and critical thinking, and we tell America’s story. Our Access Microscholarship Program targets teenage students in deprived neighborhoods after school, mainly in Muslim countries – kids at risk of following a path to violent extremism.

Recently, I went to the neighborhood in Casablanca where this program began five years ago. I met alumni of the program who were going to medical school or had become engineers. Never have I heard from people who were more grateful to America.

I also travelled to Ramallah an Access classroom on the West Bank. We teach English in nine locations on the West Bank and four in Gaza –- a total of 900 Palestinian students. In Ramallah on the wall was a calendar that indicated that in February, the students were learning about Black History Month, in November about Thanksgiving. This is not mere language teaching; it is telling America’s story.

We teach more than 20,000 a year at a cost of about $20 million. We could be teaching 200,000.

I came to this job wanting to change some things but ALSO realizing that the best of what we do in public diplomacy we have been doing for a long time. The cutbacks that occurred starting in the mid-1980s, as the Cold War was winding down, and that continued through the early 2000s have hurt us badly today. These traditional PD programs take a long time to bear fruit. We still haven’t recovered from the cutbacks in American libraries, centers, and corners.

A few weeks ago, I visited our Lincoln Center, an American center at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan. It is filled with books, periodicals, computers for Internet access. It’s a place to gather for conversation, to listen to travelling speakers. And right next door to our Lincoln Center is a similar center run by Iranians. That’s the competition that is going on globally.


The second item on my tombstone is the shift in emphasis toward global strategic engagement, or the war of ideas.

Let’s take a step back.

Public diplomacy has the same goals as other national security policy – to achieve the American interest. The top goals articulated by the current administration are promoting freedom and reducing threats – goals that are linked. Not only does political and civil freedom reduce threats, it also advances the cause of social justice. When people have freedom, they tend to direct their governments toward choices that are responsible and just.

Public diplomacy achieves those goals with means that are different from official diplomacy (the secretary of state engaging with a foreign minister, for example) and from military action (killing people or scaring people into thinking you will). Public diplomacy is engagement with the foreign publics.

In recent years, there has been a lot of concern about America’s image in the world. And for good reason. Having people abroad like us makes it easier to achieve our foreign policy goals because foreign governments are more likely to join us or do what we ask them to do if their citizens have warm feelings about us.

When you read a report about the state of public diplomacy, it usually begins with a recitation of miserable favorability statistics about America from the Pew Global Survey. The report then asks how we can get people to like us better. Many of my predecessors accepted this analysis as well and built their own strategies accordingly.

No doubt, as I said, that we want people to like us and, indeed, our exchange programs have understanding and favorability as goals – and exchange programs are where most of our money goes.

But improving America’s image is a difficult, long-term business for government. The reasons that people abroad bear us animosity are complex, but many of these reasons relate to policies on which we are not going to take a global vote. The Bush Administration and the Obama Administration and every other administration in every other country will certainly take global opinion into account, but, in the end, every nation will pursue its own interest. Just as the U.S. decided in the early 1980s, along with European governments, to place nuclear missiles defensively in Europe. The European public was outraged, but the decision was the right one.

Some people wonder whether public diplomacy has a seat at the table when key foreign policy decisions are made. It does.

Thanks to Karen Hughes, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy attends the Secretary of State’s daily 8 a.m. meeting with the very top State Dept officials. I sit in on key meetings chaired by the National Security Council. Edward R. Murrow famously said that public diplomacy needs to be “in on the takeoffs, not just the crash landings.” We are in on the takeoffs, telling policymakers what the likely public foreign response will be to our actions. Most of the time, those policymakers already know. But we in public diplomacy do not alone make policy, nor should we.

Also, let’s face it. The few million dollars – or even hundreds of millions – that we might spend to improve our global image through public relations techniques is a drop of water in an ocean of other influencers of opinion, including the actions of our allies and the content of the US films and TV shows that appear abroad.

Again, we are, indeed, trying to improve our image -- through exchanges, speaker programs, and wonderful sports and cultural programs.

By the way, the news about America’s likeability isn’t all bad. The U.S. is very well liked in Africa, as well as in much of Latin America and Asia. We have good favorability ratings in large and important countries like Japan, India, and South Korea. The most recent Pew survey, last June, showed that in 16 of the 20 countries that were surveyed in both 2007 and 2008, our ratings rose. Still, in some of these cases, the numbers were dismal – mainly in Europe, the Mideast, and non-Arab Muslim nations.

But it has been my view that achieving specific foreign policy and national security ends is possible even if the United States is not popular. Our shift in emphasis was toward activities that were meant to help reach these goals, not through image burnishing, but through a contest of ideas, or global strategic engagement, or GSE.

The focus of today’s GSE for the U.S. government is counter-terrorism. As the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism of 2006 puts it: “In the long run, winning the War on Terror means winning the battle of ideas.”

Our mission today in the war of ideas is highly focused. It is to use the tools of ideological engagement – words, deeds, and images – to create an environment hostile to violent extremism.

Is this a change in Washington? Yes. It is a significant shift in emphasis and focus. Much of the public diplomacy effort in the past has focused on our own image, on how we are seen by others. But today, in the war of ideas, our core task is not how to fix foreigners’ perceptions of the United States but how to isolate and reduce the threat of violent extremism.

Indeed, the United States itself is not at the center of the war of ideas. And, for that reason, we have common cause with people who may disagree with us on such policy matters as Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On the threat of violent extremism to their own societies, we are absolutely on the same page – as I have seen throughout the world, in places like Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

We need to recognize that there is a complex, multi-sided battle going on in Muslim societies for power. This is a battle in which we cannot be a bystander if we wanted to. We cannot step aside and simply watch Muslims slug it out among themselves. Instead, the battle within these societies for power affects the United States directly and was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people seven years ago.

It is the fact that the battle is going on within Muslim societies that makes our role so complicated and that requires that we ourselves not do much of the fighting.

We achieve our GSE goals in two ways: first, by pushing back and undermining the ideology behind the violent extremism while at the same time explaining and advocating free alternatives (and not just the American alternative) and, second, by diverting young people from following a path that leads to violent extremism. What all terrorist groups have in common, in fact, is the exploitation of young people.

In both of these endeavors – undermining and diverting – Americans themselves are rarely the most credible actors and voices. Much of what we do is to encourage others. For example, we have supported a global organization of female family members of victims of violent extremism and supported another network, based in Europe, of Muslim entrepreneurs.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said recently, “Over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Non-military efforts – …tools of persuasion and inspiration – were indispensable to the outcome of the defining struggle of the 20th century. They are just as indispensable in the 21st century – and perhaps even more so.”


The third change we’ve brought about in public diplomacy is improving cooperation and synchronization within the interagency – that is, government-wide. In April 2006, President Bush designated the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy as the interagency lead in strategic communications. I have taken that charge seriously, working closely with DoD, the intelligence community, Treasury, USAID, and other agencies.

For the first time ever, these agencies got together, under the auspices of our interagency group based at State called the Global Strategic Engagement Center to draw up a strategic communications plan for Pakistan – with specific tasks allocated to different agencies. Believe it or not, this was a big breakthrough. Just two days ago, 80 officials from a wide variety of agencies met for what we called a “Deep Dive” – a thorough examination of data and analysis, again about Pakistan (we had done one earlier on Afghanistan). This kind of sharing was highly unusual in the past – and highly effective.

I am proud of the relationship State now has with CENTCOM, SOCOM, the National Counter-Terrorism Center, and other groups engaged in the GSE effort.

I am not going to dwell on this, unless someone in the question and answer session me to go into detail on our reorganization, which I announced two weeks after I was sworn in, back in June. This is bureaucratic stuff.

Do we wish that State had as much money as the Department of Defense? Of course.

Let me tell you what I said to the transition team on this subject. From Secretary Gates and so many other officials, we hear about the importance of public diplomacy and strategic communications. But PD is not approached with the same perspective on scale as military action. Much of what we do in PD is the size of a pilot program. Even if it is a great program, can it really make a difference? When I got to the State Department, I asked a friend who had been at the Pentagon and was not at DoS what he thought of the Digital Outreach Team. That is our group that blogs in Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi, going on websites to explain U.S. policy and push back against distortions, with the bloggers identifying themselves as USG employees. My friend told me, “Sure, it’s a good program, but you have eight people doing it. At DoD, we would have 800.”


Finally, Public Diplomacy 2.0. Understand first that it is an approach, not a technology. The approach begins with the result of research on America’s image. We found three reasons for low favorability – differences with our policies (as I mentioned earlier), a lack of understanding of those policies and values, and a perception that the United States does not respect their views, does not listen to them, or take them seriously.

These last two subjects – lack of understanding of policies and beliefs (best reflected in the widespread belief among Muslims that the U.S. is out to destroy Islam and replace it with Christianity) and the lack of respect – cannot be addressed by preaching or by telling the world how wonderful we are.

A better way to communicate, we believe, is through the generation of a wide and deep conversation. Our role in that conversation is as facilitator and convener. We generate this conversation in the belief that our views will be heard – even if we in the State Department are not always the authors of those views. We also believe that in facilitating such a conversation we do, in fact, improve our image – and make it reflect who we Americans really are: open-minded people who know that the best way to reach the right conclusion is to hash things out, openly and democratically.

This new approach takes advantage of new social networking technologies like Facebook and YouTube and Second Life. In fact, a few days ago, I became the first U.S. high official to participate in a Second Life event when I participated in a discussion with bloggers from Egypt and others from around the world.

Our Education and Cultural Affairs Bureau just launched the first U.S. government social networking site: ExchangesConnect, on the Ning platform. We take a risk in doing this. We cannot control everything that goes in within a social networking site. Currently, for instance, there’s a debate going on about Gaza, and views that do not conform with those of the USG are being represented.

The two best examples of what we are doing in PD 2.0 are these:

A few months ago, we formed a partnership – with such private-sector organizations as NBC Universal, the Directors Guild of America, and the Tisch School at NYU -- to launch what’s called the Democracy Video Challenge. Entrants make their own three-minute videos, posted to a site on YouTube, with the topic, “Democracy Is…” Winners will be determined by a vote of the public over the Internet. While we did set a few rules – no pro-terrorist or pornographic videos – it is certainly possible that the winner of the contest will espouse views not completely shared by the U.S. Government.

And last month, our Education and Cultural Affairs Bureau launches a similar video contest, in partnership with the Adobe Foundation, with the theme, “My Culture Plus Your Culture Equals…”

These contests promote two big ideas that are at the heart of public diplomacy – democracy and cultural exchange – and they do so in a manner that is more effective than simply issuing white papers. We are encouraging others to tell us what’s valuable about democracy and exchanges, to think about these subjects, and to share their conclusions. Millions can benefit from the interaction.

Second example: A few months ago, I visited Colombia, which has probably had more success than any nation in the world in fighting terrorism of both the the left and right. A powerful counter-movement emerged there that has demoralized the remaining terrorist group, the FARC. The origins of the new force were not in government or civil society. Instead, a young unemployed computer technician named Oscar Morales spontaneously started a Facebook group that grew quickly to more than 400,000 members. The group, called One Million Voices Against the FARC, put 12 million people in the streets in a single day in 190 cities around the world -- just two months after it was set up.

We decided to form a public-private partnershp – with Facebook, Google, AT&T, MTV, Columbia University, Howcast, and others – that would bring two dozen youth-empowerment groups, most with an online presence, together with technology experts in a conference in December in New York. The group put together a handbook and an electronic hub – all to help groups around the world use new social-networking digital tools to build anti-violence and pro-social-change networks. We call it the Alliance of Youth Networks, and, very frankly, we do not control these groups, nor could we. But we think they will be a force for good in helping to defeat violent extremism and to lead young people down a path leading away from terrorism and toward constructive pursuits.

Other manifestations of PD 2.0 include press conferences with bloggers, whose work radiates out to the conventional press corps, twittering by our Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Sean McCormack and others, our Digital Outreach Team, which is expanding into the Russian language, and great work by our posts around the world.

Yes, Al Qaeda and other violent extremist organizations have exploited the Internet to their advantage, but that advantage has rapidly diminished – and not just because the jihadist message has worn thin with Al Qaeda’s penchant for slaughtering fellow Muslims.

The Internet remains a venue for Al Qaeda to exhort and instruct and even plan attacks. But, as Marc Lynch has pointed out, new technology has at the same time diminished Al Qaeda’s “ability to spread its ideology, frame public discourse in the Islamic world, [and] assert claims to leadership of Islamic movements.”

Why? One reason, says analyst Daniel Kimmage in the New York Times, is that “the Qaeda media old hat. If Web 1.0 was about creating the snazziest official Web resources and Web 2.0 is about letting users run wild with self-created content and interactivity, Al Qaeda and its affiliates are stuck in 1.0.”

The Internet world of Al Qaeda is one of direction: believe this, do that.

The Internet world of today is one of interactivity and conversation. In fact, the Internet itself is becoming the locus of Civil Society 2.0.

This new virtual world is democratic. It is an agora. It is not a place for a death cult that counts on keeping its ideology sealed off from criticism. The new world is a marketplace of ideas, and it is no coincidence that Al Qaeda blows up marketplaces.


A little over five years ago, the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World, mandated by Congress and chaired by Ambassador Edward Djerejian, produced a powerful report that concluded, “At a critical time in our nation’s history, the apparatus of public diplomacy has proven inadequate.”

The report pointed to our “unilateral disarmament in the weapons of advocacy” and urged that the United States get serious and strategic about public diplomacy, rebuild the institutions, provide interagency leadership, increase resources, and get the President and the Congress fully behind the effort.

I served on the Djerejian Commission, and, probably because I was the only journalist in the group, it was one of my assignments to put the words to the ideas of my colleagues.

Criticisms expressed in that report continue to be heard today. But many of those criticisms are, quite simply, out of date.

Times have changed. Profoundly. Today, there is a broad, bipartisan consensus that soft power, smart power, public diplomacy are absolutely critical to achieving America’s interests – including the defeat of violent extremists who threaten this nation and the world.

I hope that the three changes I have discussed – the focus on global strategic engagement, the new interagency cooperation, and a vigorous Public Diplomacy 2.0 – will be embraced and enhanced during the next administration. And that the Obama administration is as excited about preserving and boosting our great traditional PD programs as I have been.


Let me also offer a personal note with only a few days to go in my tenure.

This has been a wonderful experience.

I was trained as a journalist by the best 40 years ago – my undergraduate peers -- and I have been a journalist ever since. One big reason I wanted to take a government job is that I am a curious guy and wanted to see what things were like on the inside – from a different perspective.

My curiosity was certainly sated, but, in the end, what was better about being a government official was the feeling of serving my country. Which was, if I may be self-indulgent, a damn good feeling.

A few months ago, I went to the ifthar dinner at the White House – one of the many accomplishments of George W. Bush (eight ifthars) that have gone unnoticed. After the dinner, I shook hands with the president and said, “Thank you for allowing me to serve you.” He said, “You don’t serve me. You serve the American people.”

In seven months, I have met dozens of impressive, dedicated people people. I took seriously the President’s designation of the Under Secretary as the interagency lead in strategic communications, so I reached out to my colleagues at DoD and the intelligence community especially. I’ve worked closely with the NSC.

As for the State Department: You will not be surprised when I tell you that before I took the job, some of my colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute warned me that Foreign Service Officers would be out to sabotage any changes I advanced, that they would be uncooperative, that the State Department culture – a culture, they said, of inertia and caution – would win in the end. Instead, I found people willing to change, people with imagination and drive, people who taught me more than I could possibly teach them.

I am also aware of the limits of what government officials – and government itself – can do.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

What we can do in government is find these unreasonable men and women in the private sector and encourage them – sometimes with a bit of money, sometimes simply by helping them make the right connections and giving them a little nudge. I have had the privilege of hitching our government wagon to the stars of such unreasonable men as Doug Johnston, whose faith-based NGO is helping to improve madrassas in Pakistan; Jeff Kline, one of the most imaginative media minds of our time; Jason Liebman of Howcast; Ziad Azaly of the American Task Force on Palestine and Jean Case of the Case Foundation, both of whom are working wonders in improving the lives and prospects of young people on the West Bank. They do things we cannot.


Finally, remember that public diplomacy performs its mission of achieving the national interest in a particular way: by understanding, informing, engaging, and influence foreign publics. The “understanding” part comes first. You can’t persuade if you don’t truly understand the people you are trying to persuade. Senator J. William Fulbright, who created the Fulbright exchanges in 1946, put it well: The "essence of intercultural education,” he said, referring to what would become one of our most effective public diplomacy programs, is “empathy, the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see…."


Public diplomacy had a glorious past, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. It helped win the Cold War. Then it severely deteriorated with the fall of the Berlin Wall. My predecessors and I have been rebuilding it.

The present of PD is a critical juncture. Are we serious about scaling it up? Will we adopt a mature approach? Will we see the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy as a national security job, as I believe it is, or a public relations job, as many policiticans and much of the press believe? That’s the present.

As for the future? I think it is bright because I believe a consensus has developed around the need for robust PD. But we can’t be sure.

I am fond of quoting the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who once said,
“Predicting is very difficult. Especially about the future.”

Thank you.

     "The BBC's Christian Fraser is the first British journalist to enter Gaza independently since the Israeli offensive began." BBC News, 16 January 2009.

     "The differences among Arab states were ... reflected ... in pan-Arab TV coverage during the week. Saudi-funded al-Arabiya on Thursday quoted the Saudi foreign minister as saying that the summit proposed by Doha had not achieved the necessary quorum to convene. ... In contrast, Doha-based al-Jazeera TV gave the gathering prominence as a 'summit with the participation of a number of Arab presidents and leaders'." BBC News, 16 January 2009.

     "French authorities will increase their checks on television, radio and the internet to prevent any hate messages prompted by the conflict in Gaza from spreading, prime minister Francois Fillon said yesterday.' Reuters, 17 January 2009.

     "The Eurovision Song Contest may not seem an obvious prism through which to view Israeli-Palestinian relations, but this year it's illuminating. Israel, which has won the contest three times since it began competing in 1973, takes it very seriously, enjoying the cachet of being in a pan-European club that offers it the chance to promote itself to an estimated TV audience of 500 million. In that vein, this year it has decided to enter a duo for the event, which takes place in Moscow in May: Mira Awad, a Christian Arab Israeli, will perform alongside Achinoam Nini, a Jewish Israeli singer better known as Noa. ... It wasn't long before some Jewish and many Arab Israeli artists and intellectuals began voicing disapproval." Reuters, 16 January 2009.

     "An explosion Thursday rocked a media tower housing various journalists in Gaza. The missile hit the offices of the production company FOX News uses in the Gaza Strip." Fox News, 15 January 2009.

     "The Foreign Press Association, representing journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories, demanded a halt to attacks on press buildings, saying the Israeli military was 'severely violating basic principles of respect for press freedom.'" AP, 15 January 2009.

     "The Israeli army said on Friday an artillery shell laden with chemicals for creating a smokescreen caused an explosion that forced journalists from Reuters and other media to evacuate offices in Gaza this week." Reuters, 16 January 2009.

     "No doubt the Israeli government is worried about sympathies generated by stories of Palestinian suffering. But it cannot be enjoying media coverage from Gaza dominated by a context-free stream of images of the wounded, disseminated by people with unknown agendas. Claims from Palestinian officials of more than 900 people killed and a humanitarian crisis underway have been left to stand unverified, as have Israeli reports that Hamas militants are deliberately drawing fire to hospitals and schools." Jonathan Finer, Los Angeles Times, 14 January 2009.

     "Israel's usually unforgiving media has had to fend off accusations that it has practised self-censorship and muzzled dissent with its overtly patriotic coverage of the army's offensive in Gaza." AFP, 14 January 2009.

     The Committee to Protect Journalists urges Israel to lift the ban on journalists' access to Gaza. CPJ, 17 January 2009.

     At the National Press Club in Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni responded "to a question from Al-Jazeera English TV, asking whether she had made the trip to Washington to score a diplomatic achievement to help her chances in the upcoming elections. 'Nonsense,' she replied, adding, 'There are four-letter words that I don't want to use.'" Jerusalem Post, 16 January 2009.

     "A propaganda war is being waged on the internet between supporters of the Israeli and Palestinian sides in the current conflict in the Gaza Strip. Activists have turned to defacing websites, taking over computers, and shutting down Facebook groups. US Military sites, Nato, and an Israeli Bank have all been targeted." BBC News, 15 January 2009.

     "Both sides in the Gaza conflict are using technology to further their cause, particularly cell phones. Hamas has been sending threatening missives by text message to Israelis, while Israel uses mobile and landline phone calls to warn residents if a building is about to be struck." USA Today, 14 January 2009.

     More Gaza-related items can be found at John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review. See Gaza media and cyber update for 16 January 2009.

     "Israel's public diplomacy strategists ... are emphasizing anything but threats of more violence. What needs to be stressed, they say, is Hamas's indifference to Palestinian loss of life, as exemplified by its operating from mosques, schools and homes, and Israel's efforts to defang Hamas while minimizing that loss of civilian life. Israel's public diplomacy, incidentally, is not being helped by the IDF's vagueness about the Palestinian death toll." David Horovitz, Jerusalem Post, 14 January 2009.

     "Israel feels that so far, 18 days into a conflict in which 10 of its soldiers and three civilians hit by rockets have been killed, it largely has been successful in its media blitz. But while the message was clear in the early days of the war -- with some governments reciting almost word-for-word Israel's carefully crafted talking points -- the battle for public opinion has steadily become more of a struggle." Reuters, 13 January 2009.

     "To the extent that Israel's communications offensive is aimed at winning friends and influencing people in foreign places, then this country faces a major challenge – a powerful current of international opposition to the Gaza offensive. 'It's very hard to win the PR war,' said [Tamar Liebes, chair of the communications department at Jerusalem's Hebrew University]. 'Public relations cannot compete with television.' And the TV pictures from Gaza – images of bombs, death, and destruction, day after day – do not exactly paint Israel in a rainbow of pleasing hues." Oakland Ross, Toronto Star, 13 January 2009.

     "Gazans have received phone calls and leaflets saying Hamas was the cause of their problems. The leaflets include a phone number and e-mail address to call in tips about the whereabouts of militant leaders and weapons caches. Hamas has carried propaganda broadcasts on its Al Aqsa TV channel, including messages in Hebrew asking Israelis to 'choose between a peace that gives us back our rights or a war that will smash you down'. There have also been reports of text messages being sent to the inhabitants of Israel's southern towns telling them to hide because Hamas was coming for them." Cape Times, 13 January 2009.

     "The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, deplored attacks on media installations in Gaza and condemned the killing of Palestinian journalist Basel Faraj who died on the line of duty on 6 January. ... Basel Faraj worked as a cameraman for the Algerian TV network ENTV and for the Palestine Broadcast Production Company." UNESCO, 12 January 2009.

     "The French broadcasting authority Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA) has issued a broadcast ban on Hamas’ television channel Al-Aqsa TV. The order was carried out only 24 hours after Hamas announced on Monday that it would start airing programs to Europe from Wednesday via a Eurobird European telecoms satellite operated by Eutelsat, a Paris-based company governed by French law. According to the gag order, France argued that Al-Aqsa TV incites hatred and violence, saying its broadcasts 'violate article 15 of the French media law of 30 September 1986 which prohibits all forms of incitement to hatred or violence on the ground of race, religion or nationality.'" Menassat, 13 January 2009.

     Palestinian-owned Al Quds al Arabi daily: "Apart from the television stations and newspapers which are committed to national causes, the media outlets of the Arab moderation axis adopted a position favouring Israel and incriminating the victim." Lebanon’s independent leftist newspaper As Safir: "The Western media could have easily entered Gaza through the Egyptian borders to erase the mark of shame that they earned when the western reporters shared the bed of the forces invading Iraq." via The National, 14 January 2009.

     "While international media have focused on Israel's assault on Gaza, including the deaths of more than 900 Palestinians, Israeli media are reporting the war through a different prism. With almost no access to Gaza, and an overwhelming sense the offensive is just, they have emphasized the Israeli side, which has suffered 13 deaths." AP, 14 January 2009.

     "Faced with an Israeli ban on international journalists from entering Gaza, many Arab journalists responded by calling for Israelis to be forbidden to appear on Arab media outlets. A petition in Jordan called “No to Zionists appearing on Arab media outlets” garnered the signature of tens of journalists. Speaking on BBC World Service on Jan. 7, I rejected this idea, insisting that one can be a professional journalist and be patriotic at the same time. For a society that feels that the media are part of the conflict rather than observers, hearing the Israeli point of view is tantamount to capitulation." Daoud Kuttab, Al Arabiya, 15 January 2009.

     "Whenever Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas' foreign minister, issues announcements, or when the BBC broadcasts a detailed report about what is happening in Gaza; when Al-Jazeera shows footage of bleeding bodies in the streets of Gaza, or CNN broadcasts an exposé, the logo of the Palestinian news agency, Ramattan, appears in the upper corner of the TV screen. This week, the newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat called this agency the 'local star in the skies of Arab satellite communications.' This local star aspires to far more than coverage of the war in Gaza. Ramattan is apparently striving to be the new Al-Jazeera." Zvi Bar'el, Ha'aretz, 15 January 2009.

Gaza cyber update.

     "StandWithUs, a Los Angeles-based pro-Israel group, has established a round-the-clock Internet task force -- in cooperation with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel -- to monitor Web sites and provide instant responses to attacks on the Jewish state." JTA, 13 January 2009.

     "Hundreds of thousands of viewers have been drawn to channels on YouTube launched by the Israeli government and military. The uploaded videos explain the military operation — in English and Arabic — and demonstrate with aerial footage the air force's 'precision' and 'pinpoint' strikes against Hamas targets." Variety, 12 January 2009.

     "YouTube has become a potent PR weapon in the campaign to destroy Israel. Sure, you can type in Sderot, and get plenty of raw footage of the trials people there face. The problem, is most uninformed viewers wouldn’t know enough to type in the name of such a strange-sounding community. On the other hand, everyone knows the name 'Israel.' ... Israel and Jews worldwide must master techniques to direct Web traffic to the YouTube videos that tell the truth behind what is happening in the Middle East." Lee Chottiner, The Jewish Chronicle, 13 january 2009.

     "Israel and Hamas have taken their war into cyberspace, with the Israeli army showing strikes on 'terrorists' on YouTube and the Islamists rolling out Paltube to expose 'massacres' in Gaza." AFP, 13 January 2009.

     "A Facebook and Twitter application called QassamCount can automatically update users’ status every time a rocket lands in Israel, through sources like, Ha’aretz and the IDF. In its first three days of operation, QassamCount membership grew virally to 10,000 subscribers." The Jewish Week, 14 January 2009.

     More Gaza-related items can be found at John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review. See previous post about same subject.

     More Gaza-related items can be found at John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review. See Gaza media and cyber updates for 12 January 2009.

All times UTC. All frequencies in kilohertz (kHz). All frequencies are shortwave except for 1575 kHz MW.

1600-1630     5780, 5910, 7355, 7430, 7590, 9310, 9580
1630-1800     5780, 5910, 7355, 7430, 7590, 9310, 9580, 11765

1600-1730     1575, 7435, 11500

1630-1800     9885, 15390, 17565

1930-2000     6135, 7465

1800-1830     11750, 12010, 17785

1600-1800     9565, 13870, 15730

These are in addition to regularly scheduled transmissions listed at

Back to post.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Dec 12:

DW Chinese editor Zhang Danhong attacked Chinese dissident Qinglian He for statements she had made in an interview. Zhang Danhong published their attack, which also revealed details from DW's negotiations with Chinese officials, as an "interview", conducted by an intern who got the questions from her.

Qinglian He wrote a response and asked DW to publish it. DW refused to do so, forcing Qinglian He to give it to other media, triggering a
discussion how a state-funde station can allow that it's being used for
private purposes.

At DW the news struck like a bombshell, program director Christian
Gramsch said in an internal conference that this is more serious than
all previous accusations, it flagrantly violates the station's values,
those who do not respect these values should leave.

The "interview" has been authorized by the German head of the service, a number of staff members tried to prevent its publication. Gramsch: The Chinese service staff failed as a team, points out that DW put itself behind the Chinese service in spite of "numerous inconsistencies" that had been found on the extensive retranslations.

Kölner Stadtanzeiger, Dec 19:

DW director Erik Bettermann in a Bundestag hearing: Matthias von Hein, head of the Chinese service, was removed from this position [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in print only: he will move to the central editorial office, leaving the Chinese service altogether; maybe this has in fact been gathered from Xinhua, see below]. Some other members of the Chinese service will be disciplined.

Christian democrats representative in this hearing: Has translations of
reports he considers "especially biased and favouring the regime", why
were such reports excluded from DW's own retranslation campaign?
Bettermann: Not able to give an answer, will make a statement later.

Epoch Times, Dec 22:

A Xinhua report about the dismissal of Matthias von Hein was online
already in the wee hours of Dec 18, ten hours before the parliament
meeting. Here Erik Bettermann confirmed this fact and agreed that the
Xinhua publication is really striking.

Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng: This Xinhua report clearly verifies
that the editors of DW's Chinese service have a direct relationship with China's Communist party, closer than the relationship with their German employer. This is a big problem. DW always emphasises that its Chinese service is not infiltrated, but here we have clear evidence that it is.

(This report appears to be entirely correct. Here is what must be the
Xinhua item in question, identificable by way of the two involved
German names (Matthias von Hein and Ines Geipel):

The timestamp 2008-12-18 10:47:22 should refer to local time in China, Google News read out this item still under Dec 17. So it was indeed out ten hours before the matter had first been revealed to the German public.

See also Süddeutsche Zeitung, discussing the point of view of an Iraqi
journalist who worked for DW Arabic in 2003-2004 and describes it as
"distinctively islamistic":

Back to post.

Did you DX the Queen on Christmas?

I wanted to listen to the Queen’s Christmas message to the Commonwealth the proper, old-fashioned way: via shortwave. But, with no BBC frequencies beamed our way, and with pesky noise from some local source, I would have had to DX Her Majesty.

Insufficiently ambitious to do so, I opted for the BBC Radio 2 audio stream. (Radio 2 is actually quite a good station to listen to on Christmas day, with lots of specials and request programs.) The Queen’s message came right at 1500 UTC, but suffered a few short dropouts throughout.

At the end, I was surprised not to hear the “God Save the Queen.” That, for me, is part of the experience. So, quickly as I could, I made my way to the BBC World Service stream, where the Queen’s message started at 1505 UTC. This time, the UK national anthem was duly played at the end of her talk.

Listening to the Queen’s Christmas message on BBC World Service is a slice of international broadcasting history. In 1932, Sir John Reith, founder of the BBC, suggested the idea to then King George V, as a way to inaugurate the BBC Empire Service, the shortwave predecessor to BBC World Service.

The Queen’s message, and the Festival of Nine Carols and Lessons the previous day, sound better to me on shortwave. The ethereal quality of the occasional fading, of the less than perfect signal, give a sense of the actual distances covered by the old Empire, more recently the Commonwealth.

I wonder how many people in the Commonwealth make a point of sitting by their shortwave radios on Christmas day to hear that message? In how many countries, where the Queen is head of state, is the message relayed by the local broadcaster? I noticed that CBC, for example, did not relay it. Canadians, presumably, would have to access the BBC via internet to hear it.

New media of international broadcasting, blocked

As more and more international broadcasters rely on FM relays of their programs inside their target countries, more and more countries are disinviting those FM relays. Azerbaijan, for example, plans to take BBC and RFE/RL off its FM dial at the end of 2008, telling those stations to use cable, satellite, or the internet instead. Kyrgyzstan stopped FM relays of BBC, at least for a time, and as of this writing they won’t let RFE/RL back on until the U.S.-funded station agrees to submit its content in advance. RFE/RL says they won’t that. An RFE/RL press release proclaimed: “RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin said the move may force Radio Azattyk [RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service] to put its broadcasts exclusively on shortwave frequencies for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.” How awful.

VOA, BBC, RFI, and other stations broadcasting in Russian have found themselves squeezed from the FM dial in Russia due to various regulations and political pressure. In response, they have not stepped up shortwave transmissions, on the premise that Russians don’t listen to shortwave like they used to, and probably also because they no longer have the shortwave transmitters for such a saturation effort.

And, so, these stations have stepped up their internet offerings in Russian. This makes sense, as Russian are enthusiastic and savvy internet users. But Russian officials also have the savvy to censor internet content. This is not happening – yet -- against international broadcast sites, but it is to certain opposition sites. Will Russia eventually join China, Iran, and other internet-blocking nations?

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, BBC has a contract for its Sinhala and Tamil programs to be relayed by the SLBC. Lately, SLBC has been “jamming,” or inserting noise, just as the BBC content deals with certain sensitive Sri Lankan domestic issues.

So, in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Sri Lanka, among other nations, the local rebroadcasting model of international broadcasting is no longer working. Is shortwave the fallback? The big questions here are whether people in these countries still have shortwave radios to listen to, and, if they do, are they willing to listen to them to get uncensored news?

It’s ironic that, in Russia, more people may have had access to shortwave back in the Soviet days, when Latvian made VEF receivers were in the shops. Now Russian have to buy Asian imported shortwave radios, which might be more expensive.

BBC backpedals in hiring a new World Service director

In November, the BBC’s decision to cut back on its Russian radio broadcasts, in favor of more internet, caused a flurry on controversy, and letters backs and forth in The Times of London. BBC World Service director Niger Chapman was recipient of much of that wrath. By the end of November, it was announced that Chapman would leave World Service to become chief executive of the children’s charity Plan International.

During December, The Telegraph newspaper revealed another controversy: the vacancy announcement for Chapman’s replacement as World Service director had a very short deadline. This made it difficult for outside applicants to get the necessary materials in on time. A Conservative MP said, “This does sound like a jobs for the boy stitch-up.” In other words, BBC probably had already decided who it wanted as new BBCWS director.

Former BBCWS director John Tusa was among the signers of a letter to The Telegraph: “It is clear from even the most cursory comparison of broadcasting schedules that the claims by the minister and Nigel Chapman, the outgoing director, about 'increased cultural output' are empty; all longer features about literature, history and British culture are to be axed. ... To maintain the BBC World Service’s reputation, the new managing director must be chosen through a fully open selection process. In addition, a new managing director must be authoritative in news and current affairs, capable of resisting pressure from all governments and should not believe that the World Service can be founded on the perceived importance of marketing."

This would ring true to those of us who miss the variety we used to hear on World Service.

Views expressed are my own. More at

Дорогие друзья, слушатели RFI на русском!

Сердечно благодарю каждого из Вас за оказанную нашей редакции поддержку, аргументы и анализ ситуации, которые позволили нам аргументировать в пользу сохранения вещания в эфире. Однако, судя по всему, руководство Франции намерено закрыть вещание. В поддержку вещания на страны постсоветского пространства была запущена Петиция в Интернете. Её уже подписал ряд французских журналистов, общественных деятелей, представителей русской эмиграции. Но непосредственно слушателей из России, Белоруссии, Армении, Украины - пока не много поскольку мало кто в курсе. Поэтому посылаю Вам адрес страницы с петицией

Доступ к подписи через кнопку "sign the petition". Вы, при желании, можете подключиться к этой акции, если считаете, что переход на платные средства (Интернет и мобильники) будет губительным для культурного диалога с Францией.

Ещё раз спасибо за Вашу поддержку, Ваши письма.

До встречи в эфире!

Нина КАРЕЛЬ (Дезескель) журналист русской редакции RFI, ведущая программ

Back to post.

From DW press release, "Valentin Schmidt: 'Vorwürfe gegen chinesische Angebote der Deutschen Welle haltlos,'" 1 December 2008.

Valentin Schmidt, head of the DW council:

The accusations are unfounded and can not be accepted. The checks brought no any evidence for a one-sided coverage in favour of the Chinese government, either in radio broadcasts or online. Thus the DW council concluded unanimously that the editorial staff of the Chinese service violated neither the DW act nor DW's program guidelines.

One has to be surprised about the dynamics and the personal component the public discussion has reached. It appears that the journalistic principle to get the facts first before coming to any conclusions is not being applied here. This is not helpful and dangerous, especially in the internet age where also unconfirmed conjectures spread fast. It is the highest value of Germany's foreign broadcasting that its coverage is trustworth. Sweeping suspicions against DW's head as well as all staff members are absolutely inappropriate, even taboo in light of DW's importance for Germany and the high regard it enjoys all over the world. The council did not go into unconfirmed suspicions but instead checked the accusations in depht, with care and the necessary responsibility.

Hans-Uwe Erichsen, committee for programming of DW's council:

An external company has been contracted for translating pieces about the Chinese parliament, the Olympic Games, the earthquake and Tibet. Furthermore the quotations that got criticized by Deutschlandfunk have been compared with the original and the external translation in detail. The committee concluded that Deutschlandfunk's programme caused misunderstandings by selecting quotations and letting out words or complementary passages.

Erik Bettermann, DW director:

The heads of department speak German as their mother tongue and in addition also at least one language of the target areas they are responsible for. The heads of the 30 language services for their part are either native speakers of German and know their service language very good, or they are native speakers of their service language and speak German very good. The four eyes principle and continuous program reviews are standards of the editorial work, including occassional translations back to German. I rely on the self-control and responsibility of the editorial staff very much. Dispute belongs to DW's culture, but the muzzle does not.

From DW press release, "Bettermann: "Deutsche Welle sichert Medienpräsenz Deutschlands," 1 December 2008 (about DW's plans for the 2010-2013 period, approved by its council):

Some points: DW will focus on audiences that are open for various points of view, use the media intensively and have great influence on the public opinion in their country. These audiences prefer services in either their mother tongue or English as "lingua franca", thus it's of great importance to broadcast in many languages. The German-language offerings serve in the first place the purpose to present Germany and promote the German language. Germans travelling abroad are instead being referred to the increasing possibilities to use domestic German media worldwide. Radio will rely on "modern modules" suitable for FM rebroadcasts and podcasting. Shortwave will be kept only where it is "still relevant for the target audiences". DW TV to be expanded, details omitted here.

From report on Deutschlandradio Kultur, 1 December 2008.

Some statements (other than already given in DW press release):

Reporter: It must be doubted if all the 59 signers of a protest letter against DW's Chinese service really knew what they were complaining about.

Head of DW council: Due to this cause we intend to take a look at other language services, too. A candidate for a critical look at could be Russian.

Reporter: Still a stale smack remains, since Zhang Danhong was remarkable for the very positive statements about the human rights situation in China she repeatedly made in talkshows. Despite this the DW director does not want to do without her and keeps her in the Chinese service, although no longer as its semi-head.

DW director: Western international stations always attract dictatorships, one party systems, military broadcasting services, because they of course want to send their points of view back into their countries with the reputation of the western station. This applies not only to us but also to the BBC or Radio France Internationale. The problem how to deal with this situation concerns not only Chinese but also all of our other 29 language services.

Reporter: Bettermann relies on the six eyes principle, i.e. all reports will be checked by at least two other editors. [Contradicts the DW press release.] For the time being the criticized pieces will stay in the web archive. DW requests an additional 78 millions Euro until 2013, but it remains to be seen if the Bundestag will approve this.

DW director: Most important is a discussion with states and the federal authorities about what they want as presentation of Germany. And then we can start to calculate. We calculated this number (78 m.), but perhaps this will not be the result. I'm not a dreamer and aware of the state the public budgets are in at present.

Update from Kai on 4 December 2008:

Another interview with DW director Erik Bettermann, published in Frankfurter Allgemeine, 19 November 2008. Nov 19:

Herein he says that DW Chinese gets jammed "since 14 days", i.e. since early November. As reported no jamming could be found on RMS recordings around Dec 1. But certainly it would not hurt to keep an eye on it.

Another noteworthy (not made elsewhere, too) remark from this interview: "In all language services I use people with a western-Christian background."

About 100 DW staff members have set up a "Pro Deutsche Welle" action group, as earlier reported. The Journalist magazine published their position paper (pdf).

Condensed translation:

DW TV has just been relaunched in 2007, now the management announces a complete reorientation for 2009 that on the radio side has already started. The changes are drastic: Abandoning German as primary language in favour of English; radically changing the target audience, away from German-speaking people abroad to English-speaking audiences; concentrating on the internet at the expense of mass distribution platforms like shortwave (radio) or cable (TV).

More than 100 stafff members from all departments came together in the "Pro Deutsche Welle" initiative because they are deeply worried about the future of DW as far-reaching German voice for freedom, democracy and human rights, ready to fight for DW, its service obligations, its quality and its audiences, hoping that they can count on council members and politicians as allies.

About the language: Law defines the primary language of DW as German, anything else would require to change the law. Our culture, the resulting points of view, values and actions can be fully imparted only with the German language as part of this culture. Everywhere else in Europe the foreign TV services stick with the cultivation of their own language, but DW management has apparently decided to consider our station as part of the English-speaking domain. While politicians are fighting to establish German in the institutions of the European Union the station that gives the picture of the Germans abroad sends out the signal that the own language has no priority.

BBC World and CNN are considered as competitors. These are stations with a budget and a network of correspondents completely out of reach for DW. Competing with them would be possible only by dramatically increasing the DW budget. It's quite easy: Who speaks English and wants to get informed about the world tends to rely on the BBC or CNN. And this will be the case in future, too.

Director Bettermann mentioned as a model for DW amongst others France 24. A bit surprising because France 24 for its part mentions DW TV as model. Another model he mentioned is Russia Today, a station that has not succeeded in becoming a primary source of information for English-speaking "information elites" and lacks journalistic distance to its own government.

Management says that empirical evidence is the foundation for the intended reorientation of DW. But so far no such data has been presented. Allegedly it says that there is hardly a need for German-language programming abroad. So far we have not seen even the weakest proove for this claim. Instead we got over the years an abundance of feedback from politicians, embassies and consulates, universities and institutes, companies, businessmen, artists, journalists, students and other people all over the world. They all say that it is good and important to have German-language programming.

About the target audience: So far it is officially defined as multiplicators abroad, people outside free media markets and in regions of crisis (i.e. beyond the multiplicators also a broad audience), people learning German, Germans abroad, either on travel or permanently. Apparently this definition is now considered obsolete: Changing the preference from German to English neglects German-learning people and Germans abroad. This way DW not only looses faithful viewers but also important messengers and its identity.

The management only wants to get more viewers. It is planned to achieve this by expanding English-language programming because on a global scale more people speak English. But that's a wrong strategy. DW TV already broadcasts 12 hours a day in English. It is higly doubtful if even more English can attract more English-speaking viewers, but in any case German-speaking audiences will get lost.

The globalized world requires something else: Focusing on a neglected group, the Germans acting worldwide. The number of travelers continues to rise. German architects work in Shanghai and Dubai, German companies invest in Russia, Brazil and India, German managers live for years abroad, German students are immatriculated worldwide. They all form a growing, intensively networked and interested target audience. During the last years DW failed to position itself in this group. It is startling how many people do not know that DW exists at all. DW should finally work harder on attracting these people instead of writing off millions interested as well as interesting viewers. Beyond that it should be hard to explain to the citizens of Germany that the station they pay for with their taxes explicitely does not want them as audience.

About the distribution: Reducing the German-language TV programming is part of a strategy that has already progressed far on the radio side. Here both the programming and the distribution on shortwave have been much reduced during the last years. In part of the worlds DW radio is already no longer audible. Even in Europe the German program of China Radio International can be received much better than DW's one. It is planned to drastically cut back the coverage of current events in autumn. Beyond that it is planned to greatly reduce the shortwave distribution of the German program in next year. Most of the money saved this way will be used for the online offerings. However, it is well-known that all German websites can be accessed worldwide. But those without access to the internet have to rely on DW for informations about Germany in German language, and these people will be let down.

The strategy to distribute audio and in the next step also video content online instead as radio and TV transmissions does not consider the circumstance that independent journalistic web platforms have hardly a chance worldwide. Established media like CNN, BBC or Der Spiegel share the market between themselves. Without recognizable TV and radio offerings DW will disappear in the cyperspace.

The concentration on the online offerings is also problematic in regard to the again increasing number of censored media markets. The head of Radio Vatican's German service has said that "they can switch off the internet but not radio waves". Many staff members from former East Block countries know that it was even with intense jamming not possible to block western stations completely.

About the orientation on the audiences: Typical for DW TV are newscasts at least every two hours. Now it is planned, apparently as a cost-saving measure, to abandon this concept and weaken the market position of DW TV. BBC World, Russia Today or France 24 are explicit news channels, but the planned English program of DW TV at times provides for news only every four hours. This way the clear and successful program structure, achieved by hard work, will be abandoned for clearly not journalistic motivations. So far it is simple and easy to remember: One hour German, the other hour English, news at the hour, documentary and magazines at the half hour, fixed slots for program windows in other languages. CNN or France 24 have different channels for different languages, but DW TV has only one channel at its disposal. Under this situation the hourly language change is the easiest method. Breaking up this established structure irritates the viewers and drives them away.

About the internal situation: The approach of the management has already dramatic consequences for the internal state of DW. The expensive relaunch from 2007 had been plagued by a considerable lack of internal communication from the start. It was possible to implement it timely and successful only due to the great engagement of the staff.

Now all the mistakes will not only be repeated but even worsened. A just established structure will immediately be scrapped again. Facts are being made without involving the stafff, something that is for such far-reaching steps definitely standard even in commercial media ventures. This lets it become a demotivation program for the whole station.

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It is commendable that the Public Diplomacy Council

does not request additional funding for U.S. international broadcasting. Indeed, we believe that if our recommendations are carried out, some savings may be realized.
That's a refreshing change from other Washington-institutional white papers, almost all of which call for more spending on their favored government activities.

The fact is U.S. international broadcasting costs more than British international broadcasting. But the BBC world services have more audiences than all the components of U.S. international broadcasting combined. U.S. international broadcasting does not need a budget increase. It needs to be better organized. For this reason my favorite recommendation of the PDC document is:
The CEO of international broadcasting should immediately formulate a new strategic plan, 2010-2014, that would include a series of target dates for the consolidation of all five broadcast entities into a single international network.
The CEO comes from the recommendation in the previous paragraph, with the subtitle "A fundamental restructuring."
The Broadcasting Board of Governors should be replaced by a new nonpartisan oversight commission that would assume more of an advisory role, leaving daily management in the hands of a commission-appointed professional CEO, the VOA director, and the presidents of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcast Networks (Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV), and Radio-TV Marti to Cuba,
So the "fundamental restructuring" is the abolition of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, reviled by many at VOA and in the old USIA establishment. But the CEO would have to do what the Board has been doing: refereeing among the feudal elements of U.S. international broadcasting, and making tough decisions about what services must be eliminated to free up funds for new administration-mandated services or for popular new technologies. It is likely that the "commission" would have to approve those decisions. After a couple of years, the CEO and commission would be disliked as much as the BBG is now. There would be calls to replace them with something else.

The PDC recommendations seem to favor VOA among the competing elements of U.S. international broadcasting. This might have something to do with the PDC being, largely, a USIA alumnae club. VOA was part of USIA.

It is therefore ironic that the PDC document wrongly describes VOA's output:
The full service official Voice of America is chartered by Public Law 103-415 to present world and U.S. news that is accurate, objective and comprehensive, to reflect America in all its diversity, as well as to present U.S. policies and policy debates. Surrogate broadcast networks, on the other hand, focus on countries or regions they are mandated to reach, serving as alternate free media to areas where information is denied or is deficient.
This implies that VOA does not provide news about the countries to which it broadcasts. But, as anyone who has listened to VOA can attest, it does. VOA must do so, or it wouldn't have an audience. Getting news about one's own country, in countries where that news is deficient, is the primary reason for tuning to international broadcasts. This is why VOA is also, de facto, a "surrogate" broadcaster.

U.S. international broadcasting is organized on the ludicrous premise that people should tune to one station to get news about their own country, and to another station, at another time, on another frequency, to get news about the world and the United States. The audience for international broadcasting will not put up with such nonsense. They will tune to the BBC to get all the news from the convenience of one station.

This is a main reason why BBC has a larger audience even with a smaller budget than U.S. international broadcasting. The PDC recommendations would either perpetuate the myth of the surrogate-official dichotomy of U.S. international broadcasting. Or it would force the myth to become reality, subjecting the audience to an inconvenience it will not tolerate.

The PDC document contains contradictions that suggest that it was written by a committee. The "broad consensus" was indeed broad. Nevertheless, the PDC has developed thoughtful proposals for U.S. international broadcasting. They should be read, discussed, and debated.

Back to post.

By Jacqueline Loomis

Henry Loomis of Jacksonville, Florida, who as a young naval officer in Hawaii in World War II taught scores of officers and men of the Pacific Fleet about radar, then went on to a long career in government and communications in which he served five presidents, died on November 2, 2008. He was 89 and died of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Pick’s disease after a lengthy illness.

Mr. Loomis, a research scientist, grew up in an ideal environment. He was the youngest of three sons of Ellen Farnsworth and Alfred Loomis, a businessman who made a fortune in New York City before the crash of 1929, then moved to Tuxedo Park, a distant suburb, where he converted an old mansion into a private research laboratory. For Alfred Loomis, the career change was a lifetime goal. Funded by him, some of the world’s best scientists worked on projects there. As a teenager, Henry worked with his father on brain wave experiments. With this background, Mr. Loomis went to Harvard, where he majored in physics. Convinced in his own mind that the United States would be involved in the war, Mr. Loomis left Harvard in 1940 in his senior year to join the Navy. He graduated first in his naval training class and because of his background, was assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Mr. Loomis established and ran the RADAR maintenance school, the RADAR operations school, and was senior instructor in the RADAR tactical school for senior officers. At the same time, he served as RADAR officer with carriers, air squadrons, and battleships. By war’s end, he had been awarded a Bronze Star, the Air Medal, and the Pacific Ribbon with 13 battle stars. Mr. Loomis left the Navy in 1946 as a lieutenant commander and went to the University of California at Berkeley, where he did graduate work in physics, and was an assistant to Dr. Ernest Lawrence, director of the radiation laboratory. There he drafted a report for the university trustees describing the laboratory’s nuclear work during the war.

After four years as assistant to the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Loomis was called to Washington, where he started on a long career in government service. In three successive years, he was a special assistant to the Director of the Research and Development Board of the Secretary of Defense and served on the staffs of President Truman’s Psychological Strategy Board and President Eisenhower’s Commission on International Information. Mr. Loomis established and directed the Office of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Information Agency, and was later named Director of the Voice of America, a position he held for seven years.

In 1959, the Voice of America broadcast a weekly news program to the rest of the world in English. Mr. Loomis, in survey trips abroad, realized that English was becoming an international language. He wanted to make English easier to understand by VOA’s foreign audiences, and asked Barry Zorthian, program manager, to devise a way of reaching an audience with a limited knowledge of English. The result was called Special English and it embraced two changes from VOA’s standard procedures: the news was delivered at the slow pace of nine lines a minute and the vocabulary was limited to 1,500 words. University critics said it would never work; American embassies abroad demanded the program be taken off the air. With the support of Mr. Loomis, the program stayed on the air, and soon, hundreds of letters of praise came in to VOA every month from pleased foreign listeners. After a sharp confrontation with President Johnson during the Vietnam War, Mr. Loomis quit as director of the Voice of America. The President has ordered American intervention in Laos and wanted it kept out of the news. Mr. Loomis thought otherwise. Later, under the Nixon administration, Mr. Loomis served as Deputy Director of the U.S. Information Agency from 1969-1972.

In 1972, Mr. Loomis was appointed president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Critics jumped on the choice because Mr. Loomis had no experience in public television. However, he had built up a reputation as an excellent administrator on earlier assignments, so he weathered the storm and led the CPB for six years.

While Mr. Loomis was deeply involved in Washington assignments from 1950 to 1978, he managed to stay active in his favorite outdoor activities, including sailing and riding with the hounds in with the Middleburg Hunt in Middleburg, Virginia. In his teens, Mr. Loomis and his brother, Lee, built a 25-foot ketch named Lands End, which they sailed on the Atlantic Ocean. Mr. Loomis was a regular participant in the annual wooden boat race off the Down East Shores of Maine at the helm of Lands End. As a hunter, Mr. Loomis traveled around the world to countries in South America, Europe and Africa on bird hunting safaris. He shot big game in Kenya.

Mr. Loomis served 13 years with the Mitre Corporation Board, where he was vice chairman for five years, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens. He was a member of the Metropolitan Club of Washington. D.C., the Riverside Rotary of Jacksonville, the Florida Yacht Club, the Timuquana Country Club. Mr. Loomis attended the Riverside Presbyterian Church.

Survivors include his wife of 34 years, Jacqueline Chalmers Loomis of Jacksonville, Florida; four children, Henry Stimson Loomis, Mary Paul “Pixie” Loomis, Lucy Farnsworth Loomis, Gordon MacLeod Loomis; four step-sons, Charles Judson Williams IV, John Chalmers Williams, David Finney Williams, Robert Wood Williams; seventeen grandchildren; two great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 15, 2008, at Riverside Presbyterian Church, located at 849 Park Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32204. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens or the Riverside Rotary of Jacksonville. The funeral arrangements are under the care of Hardage-Giddens Blanding Funeral Home, 5753 Blanding Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32244.


Additional comments by Alan Heil, former VOA program director and author of Voice of America: A History:

Loomis was the first director I served under, and he was magnificent! He used to listen to tapes of programs during his long commute to and from Middleburg, and fire off notes to individual editors (even ones of very low station like Heil) commenting on programs he heard. As a physicist, he greatly expanded shortwave over several continents. He originated the idea of the Charter, and shepherded it through the White House at the end of the Eisenhower administration as an executive order. (Essentially the same document was enacted into law, largely at the behest of legendary VOA news chief Bernie Kamenske, seventeen years later.)

Bact to post.

These are in addition to the regularly scheduled VOA transmissions listed at

Times are UTC. Frequencies are kilohertz (kHz). Frequencies below 1600 kHz are medium wave (MW), above 1600 kHz are shortwave (SW). All are UTC 5 November (the evening of 4 November in the USA).

English to East and South Asia and the Middle East

0000-0100 on 1593 6000 6105 7315 7405 9490 9715 12015 12090 15095 15230 17685

0100-0200 on 6105 7315 12015 12090 15095 15230 17685

0200-0300 on 6105 7315 11705 12005 13680 15095 15185 15230 15700 17685

0300-0400 on 9550 9700 11785 12005 13680 15095 15230 15530 15700 17685 17780

0400-0500 on 9550 9700 11785 12005 13680 15095 15230 15530 15700 17685 17780

English to Africa

0000-0300 on 909 1530 4930 6080 9885 15580

0300-0400     9485 11675

0200-0230     11500 15205

1800-1830     15390 17565
(presumably 5 November)

0430-0500     7340 11915

0600-0700     5940 9695

0430-0500     1530 9540

0330-0400     13580 15620

0300-0400     5940 9890 7385

0330-0400     9435

0200-0400     7135 9325

Kai Ludwig in Germany writes:

On its last day on FM in Saxonia the German service of RFI gave some explanations about this circumstance and its current situation. Summary:

The withdrawal had been initiated by the BBC. Earlier this year, when the renewal of the licence for another eight years came on the agenda, the BBC told that they are no longer interested, not only because of poor ratings but also due to their general strategy that includes a withdrawal from Europe and from Germany in particular, the latter being obvious from the circumstance that the BBC no longer broadcasts in German already since nine years ago.

RFI does not continue in Saxonia alone for cost reasons. The BBC paid more than 70 percent of the costs, and RFI is neither willing nor able to take these expenses.

First RFI indeed found a solution to keep its German service on FM in Saxonia in spite of this situation: A commercial German station [of course they referred to Radioropa] was interested in purchasing the licence and still rebroadcast RFI German as well as one hour of RFI French and two hours of BBC World Service. The negotiations took a couple of weeks, they were just about to sign the contract when the German station [Radioropa] closed down altogether. After this development the BBC and RFI decided to finally return the licence.

Our announcement mentions that listeners in Saxonia can still tune in via Astra satellite and online, but: RFI's new management, introduced in July, has announced that they "definitely" plan to close six language services, including German, as we learned last Friday to our great dismay. The argument are again poor ratings, although the FM outlet in Berlin gains much more listeners than in Saxonia. Beyond that it's a cost saving measure, RFI has a deficit, that's true. In future RFI will concentrate on Africa much more and expand it's capacities there, and for that Europe will be simply sacrificed. It's a heavy blow for us, but we have not let go all hopes yet and started, amongst other action, a letter-writing campaign.

Audio of this studio talk is here, sounding almost exactly like BBC-RFI on FM in Saxonia did:

I have not received word yet about what happened at midnight, so the chronicle will have to be completed later. And meanwhile the matter became a political issue because the Saxonian media authority will not reallocate the frequencies, stating that they are obligued to digitize broadcasting. The Liberal Democrats in Saxonia already criticized this position, pointing out that the radio market certainly deserves more variety since private radio in Saxonia is meanwhile concentrated in two big groups [Regiocast and RTL]. The plan of the media authority is to exterminate the frequencies (Frequenzvernichtung is indeed an almost established term for discussing media politics) by using them for digital pilot projects like DRM+. In Dresden this would be especially scandalous because the non-commercial Coloradio has to make do with two poor 100 and 50 watts frequencies while BBC-RFI was from Coloradio's 50 watts site (Dresden-Gompitz) on air with a solid 1 kW. (TFK: Freital 99.3, Dresden-Gompitz 98.4 and 91.1, respectively.)

David Murphy in Dresden writes:

Hi Kim, As expected, shortly after midnight local time on 31 October, the BBC-RFI FM signal was cut here in Dresden. It was as if someone just pulled the plug: it went from the middle of a piece from RFI French to static with no official goodbye.

RFI in German did carry on 31 October an interview with their head of German. She stated that the initiative to close the stations came from the BBC at the start of 2008, citing low listenership and a change in strategy. I've attached a translated transcript of the interview. RFI German is also worried that

Its whole existence is threatened now, given the plans to close the service. You could hear the emotion in her voice. The podcast is linked to at the start page of -> deutsch (marked "Zur Einstellung der UKW-Frequenzen in Sachsen")

I also contacted BBC World Service listener feedback programme Over to You. They got a statement from BBC WS to say the stations were being cut due to low listenership, mentioning a weekly reach in Dresden of 0.5% in 2007. I've also attached a transcript of that short segment. The original is avaiable online at for the next week. Interestingly, in my original phonecall to Over to You, I asked if the proposed joint BBC/DW DRM station would be an alternative eventually, and that was left out of the broadcast. They offered internet and satellite as alternatives.

Best regards from Dresden, where I'm scratching my head to find an alternative way of hearing English-language radio: the BBC has given up on shortwave, FM and I can't pick them up on Worldspace any more... -David.

RFI transcript and translation (by David Murphy):

Carmen Lünsmann, Announcer: You've been hearing the announcement [regarding the end of broadcasting in Saxony] over the last few weeks and this weekend it will unfortunately finally happen. We'd like to speak with our Chief Editor Ulike Sachweh about the reasons for the pull out. How did this decision come about, Ulrike?

U.S.: As you can tell from the name, BBC-RFI Saxony was four joint frequencies run by the British BBC World Service and Radio France International. The initiative for the pull out came from the BBC. At the start of the year when the time came to renew the licenses for the frequencies for a further eight years, the BBC informed RFI that London was no longer interested [in continuing to broadcast in Saxony]. They named two main reasons; firstly the low listenership and secondly the general BBC strategy which involves a withdrawal from Europe and and from Germany in particular. The BBC did after all stop broadcasting in German nine years ago.

Announcer: But why didn't RFI just take over the frequencies itself?

U.S.: It was a question of costs. 70% of the costs for these four frequencies were covered by the BBC, which was consistent with the number of broadcast hours they had. RFI did not want to and was not able to cover these extra costs.

Announcer: But there was another solution which would at least have kept at least the German-language programmes on air on these frequencies, wasn't there?

U.S.: Yes, we had found a German privately-owned radio station which wanted to buy these four frequencies, or more correctly that wanted to buy the broadcast licenses and which would have continued to broadcast our programmes, plus an hour in French and two hours of the BBC. The negotiations went on for a few weeks and just before they were to be finalized, this privately-owned radio station stopped all its broadcast activities. Thereupon BBC and RFI decided to return the licenses irrevocably [to the licensing authority].

Announcer: In our announcement it says that listeners can continue to hear us via the Astra satellite and via the internet. But even that's no longer so sure, since it is reported that the new RFI management which has been in office since July plans to close six language services, the German service being one of them.

U.S.: Yes, we first heard about this last Friday, with great dismay. The arguments for closure are, again, low listenership, though the FM frequency in Berlin has disproportionately more listeners compared to the frequencies in Saxony. Cost-saving measures also come into play, RFI is in the red, that is true. And, as is the case with the BBC: a new strategy. RFI wants to in the future concentrate much more on Africa and to increase its capacity there. And to do that, sacrifices are to be made in Europe. It's a hard blow for us, but we haven't given up completely, Carmen, that our broadcast can be saved. Among other measures, we've started a signature campaign. Listeners who would like to support us can do by e-mail or letter. To finish up, I'd like to thank the listeners in Saxony who've been listening for the last seven years. I'd also like to thank the Institut Francais in Leipzig, with whom we've worked very well all this time, amongst other things with a joint stand at the Leipzig Book Fair. And I'd especially like to thank our colleagues responsible for the weekly "Sachsenmagazin", Elisabeth Schröter and Annegret Farber and the many journalists in Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz and in many European countries from the Baltic to Romania and on to Spain who worked on that programme. Merci beaucoup.

Announcer: And I'd like to thank you, Ulike Sachweh for this interview, you're the Chief Editor of RFI's German programmes. And we hope of course that the last word on this subject has not yet been said, or to put it better, not yet been broadcast.

BBC "Over to You" transcript (by David Murphy):

Well David we got in touch with the World Service and I'm afraid that I can confirm that the World Service English-language programming will no longer be available on FM in Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz or Pirna. In their statement, the World Service says...

Reader: The BBC knows it has a loyal audience on these stations, but it increasingly a small audience and the BBC World Service will remain available online and via satellite. Research in 2007 showed BBC World Service's weekly reach was just 0.5% in Dresden and 2% in Leipzig.

So, if you can still hear me, the alternatives for you are listening online or via the Hotbird satellite service and many local cable operators, or so I'm assured.

Shortwave with that laptop?

I’m writing this as I listen to the last Radio Netherlands English shortwave transmission to North America. At least at 0100 UTC. I probably won’t be able to stay awake for the final final transmission at 0400 UTC. Shortwave is an old medium, and some of us shortwave radio listeners are getting old, and when it’s time to sleep, it’s time to sleep.

Reception is problematic, suffering from the digital-hashy noise that permeates the entire shortwave spectrum at my house. It’s a wonder I can hear any shortwave stations at all.

And so I was surprised to read that shortwave still has appeal among at least some users of personal computers, given that PCs (and peripherals) are among the most notorious of noisemakers on HF. Writers at InfoWorld have been putting together what they think would be the ideal laptop computer, dubbed Worldbook. They asked readers for enhancements to their design: “Wish lists included TV, GPS, a music synthesizer, shortwave radio, a tablet form factor, a keyboard that doubles as a touchscreen, even a fold-out screen or add-on panels to extend the display.”

How about that? Shortwave radio! Thinking about it a bit, it makes some sense. Imagine you and your Worldbook somewhere in the world where there is no local internet access: no broadband, no dial-up, no nothing. Shortwave capability would come in handy.

The ability to receive shortwave radio broadcasts would be nice, but let’s face it, there are fewer and fewer shortwave radio broadcasts to be heard on the shortwave radio broadcast bands. Or at least fewer of the types of broadcasts that most people would want to listen to.

But shortwave is also a serviceable medium for the transmission of text, and data. As such, shortwave could be used to tap into the greater internet. Not for graphics-rich websites, or streamed video, but certainly for e-mail and maybe some text-only website material. There still is an HF e-mail industry, though it is a bit murky.

It might make more sense for a shortwave text and data transceiver or receiver to exist as a dongle rather than something built in to a laptop. This is because most laptop owners would have no use for the shortwave capability. And because the shortwave receive circuitry would be out in the less noisy open rather than inside the RF hell of a personal computer.

My design for such a dongle would include an antenna that you can Velcro to the window of your hotel room. Typically, this would be a hotel room in a country that blocks the bejesus out the internet. In such a country, you may not be able to get the news from the BBC or New York Time websites.

The dongle would be a smart receiver, trying all the frequencies of your desired shortwave news source, then glomming on the one that provides satisfactory reception. The shortwave text source would send, in addition to news, continuous updates of its frequency schedule, which the dongle would automatically note and use in future searches.

The shortwave text receiver could be left unattended in your hotel room, receiving the news when it’s transmitter and when it’s receivable. Such news would be stored in memory. When you return to your hotel room after a day of business, you can read the news at your leisure.

A fly in the ointment of my dongle design is that you might need your laptop for your day of business. Thus, the dongle should be able to work standing alone. The laptop would come in handy later as a way to read, comfortably, the stored news, and as a device in whose memory that news text can be placed, if desired.

In this design, I am inspired by amateur radio’s PSK-31 mode. In contrast to DRM shortwave digital audio, which requires a great huge swath of spectrum, and which drops out at the slightest provocation of interference or attenuation, PSK-31 is robust. Using a sliver of spectrum, a PSK-31 signal that is down in the soup and barely audible on a receiver produces 100% copy on a computer screen.

A moderate number of disparate transmitter sites, using middling power output, should be able to produce signals that can be received by these devices anywhere in the world, any time of the day, except when solar conditions are really bad.
There are enough people in remote or denied areas of the world to justify this new technology. The only competing technology would be Iridium and Globalstar, the LEO satellite telephone services, probably more expensive, and more conspicuous when being brought into countries that do not welcome the free international flow of information.

Internet radios

The availability of radio via the internet is one of the reasons why Radio Netherlands and other stations are dropping shortwave to North America and other parts of the world. The new batch of internet radios allows internet radio to be heard on a device that looks, feels, and behaves much like a radio.

I’m in the habit of listening to my Tangent Quattro internet radio in the middle of the night, when I can’t sleep. (For some of us aging shortwave listeners, when it’s time to sleep, it’s time to sleep, and when it’s time to wake up, it’s time to wake up.) I’ll be listening to something from, say, BBC Radio 4, and just as it is getting interesting, the signal drops out, and the infamous “buffering” takes up aggravating seconds, sometimes minutes, before the audio is restored. So internet radio is not necessarily more reliable than shortwave radio.

I can’t figure out if the loss of signal is happening at the broadcaster’s server, or somewhere in the Great Vast Internetwork, or in my home network. It could be that my wireless router needs more power. Or that my WPA encryption, prone to disconnections, is disconnecting. I’d love to have one of the Sangean internet radios that would allow me to connect via the RJ-45 jack in my bedroom, so that I can determine if wirelessness is the culprit.

Speaking of internet standalone radios, Michael Horowitz in CNET recently wrote an overview of a class of laptop computers called “Netbooks.” (Not sure why Netbook has to be capitalized.) “A Netbook is a new type of laptop computer, defined by size, price, horsepower, and operating system. They are small, cheap, under-powered, and run either an old or unfamiliar operating system.”

He goes on to write: “Why carry a small box that does one thing, when you can carry a small box that does many things? Why buy a dedicated Internet radio, when a Netbook can do that? Why buy a small DVD player if you can get a movie on a flash memory card? Why buy a high-end smart phone, when a Netbook can do all that on a larger screen? It's an exciting future for Netbooks.”

So maybe these little laptops will be the shortwave-like radio-like audio receiving machines of the future. On the other hand, the Tangent, Sangean, and other internet radios have knobs. And there is much to be said for knobs.

Views expressed are my own. More at

S 3546 IS


2d Session

S. 3546

To establish the National Center for Strategic Communication to advise the President regarding public diplomacy and international broadcasting to promote democracy and human rights, and for other purposes.


September 23 (legislative day, September 17), 2008

Mr. BROWNBACK introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations


To establish the National Center for Strategic
Communication to advise the President regarding public diplomacy and
international broadcasting to promote democracy and human rights, and
for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Strategic Communications Act of 2008'.


    In this Act:

      (1) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES- The term appropriate congressional committees means--

        (A) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate;

        (B) the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives;

        (C) the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and

        (D) the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.

      (2) CENTER- The term `Center' means the National Center for Strategic Communication established under section 5(a).

      (3) DIRECTOR- The term `Director' means the Director of Strategic Communication of the Center appointed under section 5(b).

      term `national strategic communications strategy' means the
      comprehensive strategy for strategic communication developed under
      section 6.

      (5) STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS- The term `strategic
      communications' means engaging foreign audiences through coordinated
      and truthful communications programs that create, preserve, or
      strengthen conditions favorable to the advancement of the national
      interests of the United States.


    It is the Sense of Congress that--

      (1) radical Islamists deny these moral principles and use terrorism to achieve their ideological ends;

      (2) radical Islamists seek to--

        (A) morally delegitimize democracy; and

        (B) forcefully impose a universal political order that denies and suppresses the unalienable rights of human beings;

      (3) although military force may sometimes be necessary,
      military force alone cannot defeat the threat posed by Islamist

      (4) the founding principles of the United States,
      including freedom, human rights, and the rule of law, must be advanced
      and defended against those who--

        (A) deny the truth of such principles; and

        (B) seek to overthrow such principles;

      (5) the United States, out of a decent respect to the
      opinions of mankind, owes an explanation of its founding principles and
      the purposes of democratic, constitutional, and political order; and

      (6) the United States Government needs an organization
      whose mission is to engage foreign audiences in ways that advance the
      national interests of the United States, including--

        (A) advancing understanding and appreciation for the founding principles of the United States; and

        (B) defeating the ideas that are inimical to the founding principles of the United States.


    (a) Abolishment of Broadcasting Board of Governors- The
    United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et
    seq.) is repealed on the date that is 6 months after the date of the
    enactment of this Act.

    (b) Special Immigrant Status- Section 101(a)(27) of the
    Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)) is amended by
    striking `for the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting
    Board of Governors, or for a grantee of the Broadcasting Board of
    Governors,' and inserting `for the National Center for Strategic

    (c) Dissemination Abroad of Information About the United
    States- Title V of the United States Information and Educational
    Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1461) is amended--

      (1) in the title heading, by striking `ABROAD';

      (2) by striking subsection (a); and

      (3) in subsection (b), by redesignating paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) as subsections (a), (b), and (c).

    (d) Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy- Section 1(b)(3)
    of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 U.S.C.
    2651a(b)(3)) is repealed on the date that is 6 months after the date of
    the enactment of this Act.

    (e) Conforming Amendments-

      ACT OF 1948- The United States Information and Educational Exchange Act
      of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) is amended--

        (A) in title V (22 U.S.C. 1461 et seq.)--

          (i) by striking section 505; and

          (ii) in section 506, by striking subsection (c); and

        (B) in title VIII (22 U.S.C. 1471 et seq.), by striking section 802(b)(4).

      Title I of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22
      U.S.C. 2651a et seq.) is amended--

        (A) in section 23(a), by striking `, the Broadcasting Board of Governors,';

        (B) in section 25(f), by striking `the Broadcasting
        Board of Governors and the Administrator of the Agency for
        International Development with respect to the Board and the Agency' and
        inserting `the Administrator of the Agency for International
        Development with respect to the Agency';

        (C) in section 26(b), by striking `the Broadcasting
        Board of Governors, and the Administrator of the Agency for
        International Development with respect to the Board and the Agency' and
        inserting `the Administrator of the Agency for International
        Development with respect to the Agency';

        (D) in section 32, by striking `the Broadcasting
        Board of Governors and the Administrator of the Agency for
        International Development with respect to their respective agencies'
        and inserting `the Administrator of the Agency for International
        Development with respect to the Agency'; and

        (E) by amending section 60(b)(2) to read as follows:

      `(2) develop--

        `(A) a comprehensive and coherent strategy for the use of public diplomacy resources; and

        `(B) long-term measurable objectives for United States public diplomacy.'.


    (a) Establishment- There is established the National Center for Strategic Communication.

    (b) Director-

      (1) APPOINTMENT- The Center shall be headed by the
      Director of Strategic Communication, appointed by the President, by and
      with the advice and consent of the Senate.

      (2) SIMULTANEOUS SERVICE PROHIBITED- The Director may not simultaneously serve in any other capacity in the Executive Branch.

      (3) REPORTING REQUIREMENT- The Director shall regularly
      report to the President of the United States with respect to matters
      described in subsection (d).

    (c) Deputy Director-

      (1) APPOINTMENT- The Director shall be assisted by a
      Deputy Director, who shall be appointed by the President, by and with
      the advice and consent of the Senate.

      (2) DUTIES- The Deputy Director shall--

        (A) perform such duties and exercise such powers as the Director may prescribe; and

        (B) act for, and exercise the powers of, the Director when the Director is disabled or the position of Director is vacant.

    (d) Matters To Be Reported to the President- The matters described in this subsection are--

      (1) the budget and programs of the Center;

      (2) the conduct of strategic communications implemented
      by the Center and by other elements of the United States Government; and

      (3) the planning and progress of joint strategic communications.

    (e) Primary Missions- The primary missions of the Center are--

      (1) to serve as the primary organization in the United
      States Government for conducting strategic communications, including
      information, educational, and cultural activities that are designed--

        (A) to influence the opinions of foreign audiences in support of American ideals and in opposition to violent extremism;

        (B) to dissuade foreign audiences from supporting violence;

        (C) to provide other peoples with a better
        understanding of the policies, values, institutions and culture of the
        United States;

        (D) to support other peoples who share the values
        of the United States, including those who seek to advance freedom and
        oppose violent extremism; and

        (E) to promote the founding principles of the
        United States abroad, especially inalienable individual rights,
        freedom, democracy, and the rule of law;

      (2) to develop and oversee the execution of the national strategic communications strategy;

      (3) to encourage private institutions in the United
      States to develop their own exchange activities, and provide assistance
      for those exchange activities which are in the broadest national

      (4) to ensure that international informational,
      educational, and cultural activities conducted or planned by other
      departments and agencies of the United States Government are consistent
      with the national strategic communications strategy;

      (5) to promote United States participation in international events relevant to the mission of the Agency;

      (6) to direct and coordinate foreign broadcasting by the United States Government; and

      (7) to research and analyze--

        (A) global public opinion;

        (B) media trends and influences on audiences;

        (C) existing and emerging information technologies; and

        (D) the implications of all source intelligence assessments.

    (f) General Authorization- Subject to the direction of the
    President, the Director may design and implement programs and
    activities intended to achieve the missions described in subsection (e)

      (1) the dissemination of truthful information across all forms of information media;

      (2) information centers and instructors located outside of the United States;

      (3) cooperative efforts with private, nonprofit, and nongovernmental organizations;

      (4) joint initiatives with other agencies of the United States Government, as appropriate; and

      (5) exchange programs.

    (g) Duties and Responsibilities of the Director-

      (1) IN GENERAL- The Director shall--

        (A) serve as the principal advisor to the President on strategic communications;

        (B) provide guidance for strategic communications
        conducted across the United States Government, and for the effective
        integration of strategic communications across agency boundaries within
        and outside the United States;

        (C) advise the President on the extent to which the
        strategic communications recommendations and budget proposals of the
        departments, agencies, and elements of the United States Government--

          (i) conform to the priorities established by the President; and

          (ii) are consistent with the national strategic communications strategy;

        (D) coordinate the strategic communications efforts of all Federal agencies, as appropriate;

        (E) oversee United States' foreign broadcasts, including Voice of America and surrogate broadcast programs;

        (F) ensure the design and implementation of appropriate program evaluation methodologies;

        (G) ensure that United States Agency for
        International Development programs are accompanied by appropriate
        strategic communications efforts;

        (H) have primary responsibility to assist and
        advise the President in the formation and implementation of United
        States strategic communication policies and activities, including
        international educational and cultural exchange programs, information,
        and international broadcasting; and

        (I) ensure the use of all relevant forms of
        Internet-based communication in support of the missions described in
        subsection (e) and the strategy described in section 6.

      (2) PROHIBITION- The Director may not initiate,
      terminate, or manage any program or activity of any other component of
      the United States Government without the consent of the head of the
      relevant department or agency.

    (h) Assistant Director for the Strategic Communications Corps-

      (1) APPOINTMENT- The President shall appoint an
      Assistant Director for the Strategic Communications Corps, by and with
      the advise and consent of the Senate.

      (2) POWERS; DUTIES- The Assistant Director for the Strategic Communications Corps shall--

        (A) assist the Director in overseeing and coordinating--

          (i) the implementation of the national strategic communication strategy on a regional and country-by-country basis; and

          (ii) the activities of all of the employees of the Center who are stationed overseas;

        (B) recommend ways to improve the national
        strategic communications strategy based on information received from
        the strategic communication officers; and

        (C) exercise such powers and perform such other duties prescribed by the Director.

      Director for the Strategic Communications Corps, in consultation with
      the Director, shall appoint strategic communications officers, who

        (A) execute the missions of the Center, as directed by the Assistant Director for the Strategic Communications Corps;

        (B) be stationed at United States embassies and
        consulates selected by the Assistant Director, in consultation with the
        Secretary of State, based on their importance in implementing the
        national strategic communications strategy and serve as members of the
        country team;

        (C) work under the direction of the Assistant Director;

        (D) ensure the effective implementation of the
        national strategic communications strategy in the country or area in
        which they serve, by--

          (i) ensuring communication occurs in a manner relevant to, and consistent with, local social and cultural conditions; and

          (ii) working with local individuals and groups, as appropriate, to achieve the goals and mission of the Center; and

        (E) recommend ways to improve the national strategic communications strategy.

    (i) Assistant Director for Information Operations-

      (1) APPOINTMENT- The President shall appoint an
      Assistant Director for Information Operations, by and with the advise
      and consent of the Senate.

      (2) POWERS; DUTIES- Subject to the authority,
      direction, and control of the Director, the Assistant Director for
      Information Operations shall--

        (A) supervise all broadcasting activities conducted
        pursuant to this Act, the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C.
        1465 et seq.), the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C.
        1465aa et seq.), and Worldnet Television;

        (B) review and evaluate the mission and operation
        of, and assess the quality, effectiveness, and professional integrity
        of, all the activities described in subparagraph (A) within the context
        of the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States;

        (C) ensure that United States international
        broadcasting is conducted in accordance with the standards and
        principles contained in sections 8 and 9;

        (D) review, evaluate, and determine, at least
        annually, after consultation with the Director, the addition or
        deletion of language services;

        (E) make and supervise grants for broadcasting and related activities;

        (F) allocate funds appropriated for international
        broadcasting activities among the various elements of the International
        Broadcasting Bureau and grantees, subject to applicable reprogramming
        notification requirements for the reallocation of funds;

        (G) review engineering activities to ensure that
        all broadcasting elements receive the highest quality and
        cost-effective delivery services;

        (H) undertake such studies as may be necessary to
        identify areas in which broadcasting activities under the authority of
        the Center could be made more efficient and economical;

        (I) submit to an annual report to Congress and the President that--

          (i) summarizes and evaluates activities under
          this Act, the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465 et seq.),
          and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465aa et seq.);

          (ii) places special emphasis on the evaluation conducted under subparagraph (B); and

          (iii) includes information on funds expended on
          administrative and managerial services by the International
          Broadcasting Bureau and by grantees and the steps the Center has taken
          to reduce unnecessary overhead costs for each of the broadcasting

        (J) provide for the use of United States Government
        transmitter capacity for relay of Radio Free Asia, to the extent the
        Assistant Director determines appropriate;

        (K) procure such goods and services from other
        departments or agencies for the Center and the International
        Broadcasting Bureau as the Assistant Director determines are

        (L) administer the international information programs transferred from the Department of State under section 7;

        (M) ensure the transparency of the content of United States foreign broadcasts; and

        (N) exercise such powers and perform such other duties prescribed by the Director.

    (j) Assistant Director for Global Networks-

      (1) APPOINTMENT- The President shall appoint an
      Assistant Director for Global Networks, by and with the advise and
      consent of the Senate.

      (2) POWERS; DUTIES- Subject to the authority,
      direction, and control of the Director, the Assistant Director for
      Global Networks shall--

        (A) award grants to private and nonprofit
        organizations to perform information operations consistent with the
        missions of the Center and the national strategic communications

        (B) Administer the educational and cultural exchange programs transferred from the Department of State under section 7; and

        (C) perform such duties and exercise such powers as the Director may prescribe.

    (k) Strategic Communications Board-

      (1) ESTABLISHMENT- There is established within the
      Center a Strategic Communications Board, which shall be led by the
      Deputy Director, who shall--

        (A) report regularly to the Director on progress in implementing the national strategic communication strategy;

        (B) make recommendations on necessary adjustments to the strategy; and

        (C) inform the Director of the start or progress of
        information operations conducted by the department, office, or agency
        the liaison represents.

      (2) DESIGNATION- Department heads shall designate
      officials of appropriate rank to serve as members of the Strategic
      Communications Board from--

        (A) the Department of State;

        (B) the Office of the Secretary of Defense;

        (C) the Joint Chiefs of Staff

        (D) the Department of Commerce;

        (E) the Department of the Treasury;

        (F) the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and

        (G) the United States Agency for International Development.

      (3) MODIFICATION- The President, after notifying the
      appropriate congressional committees, may modify the composition of the
      Strategic Communications Board.

    (l) International Broadcasting Bureau-

      (1) CONTINUATION- Notwithstanding section 4(a), the
      International Broadcasting Bureau, established by section 6206 of the
      United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (Public Law
      103-326), shall continue to carry out all nonmilitary international
      broadcasting activities supported by the United States Government.

      (2) DIRECTOR- The Director of the Bureau shall--

        (A) be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate;

        (B) report to the Assistant Director for Information Operations appointed under subsection (i);

        (C) be entitled to receive compensation at the rate prescribed by law for level IV of the Executive Schedule; and

        (D) organize and chair a coordinating committee to
        examine and make recommendations to the Center on long-term strategies
        for the future of international broadcasting, including--

          (i) the use of new technologies;

          (ii) further consolidation of broadcast services; and

          (iii) consolidation of existing public affairs
          and legislative relations functions in the various international
          broadcasting entities.

      (3) COORDINATING COMMITTEE- The coordinating committee
      shall include representatives of Radio Free Asia, RFE/RL, Incorporated,
      and, as appropriate, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, the Voice of
      America, and Worldnet.

    (m) Detailees- The Secretary of State, the Secretary of
    Defense, and the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation
    with the Director, shall ensure that at least 1 individual from each
    department or office is always detailed to the offices of the assistant
    directors appointed pursuant to subsections (h), (i) and (j).


    (a) Strategy- The Director, in consultation with the
    Strategic Communications Board established under section 5(k), shall
    develop a comprehensive interagency strategy for strategic

    (b) Contents- The national strategic communications strategy shall contain--

      (1) overall goals and objectives;

      (2) actions to be performed; and

      (3) benchmarks and timetables for the achievement of such goals and objectives.

    (c) Components- The national strategic communications strategy shall include the following components:

      (1) Prioritizing the mission of supporting specific
      foreign policy and national security objectives, such as
      counterterrorism and efforts to combat extremist ideology, in parallel
      and in complement with, as appropriate, the missions of the Center
      described in section 5(e).

      (2) Improving coordination across departments and agencies of the Federal Government on--

        (A) strategic planning;

        (B) research activities, including research into
        the attitudes and behaviors of foreign audiences and assessments of
        past strategic communications efforts; and

        (C) the acquisition or development of editorial content, including content for Internet Web sites and print publications.

      (3) Developing a more rigorous, research-based,
      targeted approach to strategic communications efforts differentiated
      for specific target audiences in various countries and regions.

      (4) Developing rigorous monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

      (5) Making greater use of participation from private
      sector entities, academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations,
      and other nongovernmental organizations in supporting strategic
      communications efforts.

      (6) Using all available forms of information technology.

    (d) Reports-

      (1) INITIAL REPORT- Not later than 180 days after being
      confirmed by the Senate, the Director shall submit a report to the
      appropriate congressional committees that describes the strategy
      developed under this section.

      (2) SUBSEQUENT REPORTS- Not less than once every 2
      years after the submission of the initial report under paragraph (1),
      the Director, after consultation with the liaison officials described
      in section 5(k), shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional
      committees that describes--

        (A) the status of the implementation of the national strategic communications strategy;

        (B) progress made by the Center toward achievement of the benchmarks; and

        (C) any changes to the strategy since the submission of the previous report.


    (a) Functions Transferred- All the functions of the Under
    Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, in effect on the day
    before the date of the enactment of this Act, are transferred to the
    Director, except for the functions of the Bureau of Public Affairs and
    any office or component of such agency, under any statute,
    reorganization plan, Executive Order, or other provision of law.

    (b) Personnel Transferred- Notwithstanding any other
    provision of law, all personnel and positions reporting to the Under
    Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (except the personnel
    and positions in the Bureau of Public Affairs) shall be transferred to
    the Center, not later than the date on which such Under Secretary
    position is repealed--

      (1) at the same grade or class;

      (2) at the same rate of basic pay or basic salary rate; and

      (3) with the same tenure held immediately preceding such transfer.

    (c) Foreign Service Officers-

      (1) IN GENERAL- Any Foreign Service Officer transferred
      under subsection (b) shall retain status within the Foreign Service
      upon any return to employment at the Department of State.

      (2) SAVINGS PROVISION- Nothing in this section may be
      construed to require that any position at the Center be filled by a
      Foreign Service Officer.

    (d) Assignment Authority-

      (1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided under paragraphs (2)
      through (4), and notwithstanding any other provision of law, the
      Director, during the 6-month period beginning on the date of the
      transfer of personnel under subsection (b), is authorized to assign
      such personnel to any position or set of duties in the Center
      regardless of the position held or duties performed by such personnel
      before such transfer.

      (2) PAY GRADE- An assignment under paragraph (1) shall
      not reduce the grade, class, or rate of basic pay or basic salary or
      change the tenure of any personnel subject to such assignment.

      (3) CONSULTATION REQUIREMENT- The Director shall
      consult with the relevant exclusive representatives (as defined in
      section 1002 of the Foreign Service Act and in section 7103 of title 5,
      United States Code) with regard to the exercise of the authority under
      this subsection.

      (4) LIMITATION- Nothing in this subsection may be
      construed to authorize the Director to assign any individual to any
      position that by law requires appointment by the President, by and with
      the advice and consent of the Senate.


    (a) Broadcasting Standards- United States international broadcasting shall--

      (1) be consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States;

      (2) not duplicate the activities of private United States broadcasters;

      (3) be conducted in accordance with the highest professional standards of broadcast journalism;

      (4) be based on reliable information about its audience; and

      (5) promote respect for the founding principles of the United States, including freedom, human rights, and the rule of law.

    (b) Broadcasting Principles- United States international broadcasting shall include--

      (1) news which is consistently reliable, authoritative, accurate, and comprehensive;

      (2) clear and effective presentation of the policies of
      the United States Government and responsible discussion and opinion on
      those policies, including editorials, broadcast by the Voice of
      America, which present the views of the United States Government;

      (3) the capability to provide a surge capacity to support United States foreign policy objectives during crises abroad;

      (4) programming to meet needs which remain unserved by
      the totality of media voices available to the people of certain nations;

      (5) information about developments in each significant region of the world;

      (6) a variety of opinions and voices from within
      particular nations and regions prevented by censorship or repression
      from speaking to their fellow countrymen;

      (7) reliable research capacity to meet the criteria under this section;

      (8) adequate transmitter and relay capacity to support the activities described in this section; and

      (9) training and technical support for independent
      indigenous media through government agencies or private United States


    (a) In General- The long-range interests of the United
    States are served by communicating directly with the people of the
    world by radio. Voice of America can only be effective by winning the
    attention and respect of its listeners.

    (b) Governing Principles- To accomplish the objectives
    described in subsection (a), Voice of America shall present the
    policies of the United States clearly and effectively, including
    presentations of responsible discussions and opinion regarding these


    (a) Submission of Plan and Report- Not later than 60 days
    after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit
    a reorganization plan and report to the appropriate congressional
    committees regarding--

      (1) the termination of the authorities of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy;

      (2) the termination of the Broadcasting Board of Governors;

      (3) the transfer of public diplomacy functions and personnel from the Department of State to the Center; and

      (4) any recommendations to transfer other strategic
      communications functions to the Center from any part of the United
      States Government.

    (b) Plan Elements- The plan submitted to the appropriate congressional committees under this section shall--

      (1) identify the functions of each agency that will be transferred to the Center under the plan;

      (2) specify the steps to be taken by the Director that
      will be required under the plan in order to permit the Center to carry
      out the functions transferred to it under the plan;

      (3) specify the funds that will be transferred to the Center as a result of the transfer of functions to the Center;

      (4) specify the proposed allocations within the Center
      of unexpended funds transferred in connection with the transfer of
      functions under the plan; and

      (5) specify the proposed disposition of the property,
      facilities, contracts, records, and other assets and liabilities in
      connection with the transfer of the functions to the Center.

    (c) Modification of Plan- The President may, on the basis
    of consultations with the appropriate congressional committees, modify
    or revise any part of the reorganization plan submitted under this

    (d) Report- The report accompanying the reorganization plan
    submitted under this section shall contain a description of the
    implementation of the plan, including--

      (1) a detailed description of--

        (A) the actions necessary or planned to complete the reorganization;

        (B) the anticipated nature and substance of any
        orders, directives, and other administrative and operational actions
        which are expected to be required for completing or implementing the
        reorganization; and

        (C) any preliminary actions which have been taken in the implementation process;

      (2) the number of personnel and positions of each
      covered agency (including civil service personnel, Foreign Service
      personnel, and detailees) that are expected to be--

        (A) transferred to the Center;

        (B) separated from service with such agency; or

        (C) eliminated under the plan;

      (3) a projected schedule for the transfers, separations, and terminations referred to in paragraph (2);

      (4) the number of personnel and positions of the
      Department of State (including civil service personnel, Foreign Service
      personnel, and detailees) that are expected to be transferred within
      the Department, separated from service with the Department, or
      eliminated under the plan, and a projected schedule for such transfers,
      separations, and terminations;

      (5) a projected schedule for completion of the implementation process; and

      (6) recommendations, if any, for legislation that may
      be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act relating to
      personnel and incidental transfers.


Rapidly fading shortwave

Of particular importance to us in the the North American Shortwave Association is Radio Netherlands’ decision to quit English-language shortwave broadcasts to North America.

This is a big one, following the BBC and Deutsche Welle abandonments of shortwave English to North America, as well as similar moves by Kol Israel, HCJB, Radio Vlaanderen International, RAI, Swiss Radio International, etc. German shortwave expert Kai Ludwig wrote: “This marks the end of shortwave as a relevant broadcast medium in the USA and Canada. The programming still transmitted on shortwave in and into North America should be of interest to very small niche audiences only. In some cases it may even damage the reputation of the medium further.”

The RN announcement on September 15 conveniently buried the lead, mentioning first the availability of the station’s programs via public radio stations, Sirius satellite radio, and the internet, then, finally, down in the middle, mentioning that “we have decided to end our shortwave broadcasts to the region” as of October 26.

As for those newer media, RN via public radio stations is very overrated. RN may have several “affiliates,” but chances are the program you want to hear is not on a station in your community, at least at an hour you would like to listen. The Sirius option is only for Sirius subscribers. The best bet is internet access. And even though internet radio is now receivable on internet radios, these nifty new devices are still not as portable as battery-powered shortwave radios.

As an exercise, I have been listening to Radio Netherlands on my Tangent Quatrro wifi internet radio. It is based on the Reciva list of internet stations. Via shortwave, Radio Netherlands was the only station from the Netherlands (with the exception of the occasional pirate). Via Reciva-based internet radio, there are 439 radio stations available from the Netherlands.

The Reciva database is a mess, with stations added on request even though they might already be available. For Radio Netherlands, the following are available on the menu: 1) radio Nederland en espanol, 2) Radio Nederland Wereldomroep, 3) Radio Netherlands, 4) Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 5) RNW 1 NL, 6) RNW 2 English, 7) RNW 24, 8) RNW 3, 9) RNW 3 Espanol, 10) RNW and Radio Netherlands. Some are separate streams, some are redundant. But it is a reasonably reliable way of hearing Radio Netherlands in English.

The only improvement I would ask for is on-demand RN programs on Reciva- based internet radios, as is the case with BBC World Service and BBC domestic radio networks. Of course, RN programs are available on-demand for online listening or downloading from

So far, there are about 75 responses to the RN announcement about dropping English shortwave to North America. Not surprisingly, most oppose the decision, and many of these mention the portability of shortwave radios compared to other media. Some of the responses are resigned to the decline of shortwave, and a few even support the decision.

But there will be no major Save Radio Netherlands Shortwave campaign. After the vigorous effort to convince BBC World Service to keep its shortwave to North America, spearheaded by Ralph Brandi’s (still available and worth reading), ultimately did not succeed, U.S. shortwave listeners, I think, concluded that further resistance would be futile. Indeed, other stations have been leaving shortwave with distressing regularity.

Flanders Calling in the post-shortwave era

Radio Vlaanderen International, international service of the Ditch speaking community of Begium, gave up on shortwave in 2005. At the time, they promised to maintain content in English, French, and German via I can’t find any English there now. (And whatever happened to the great international broadcaster Frans Vossen?)

But I knew, but previous explorations, that English content is available from Belgium. First I visited the website of RVI’s domestic parent VRT: After further exploring, and dumb luck (I would never be able to find it again), I did happen upon There, as well as the original Dutch, English, French, and German can also be clicked. The English site, which also has the easy-to-remember URL, has several news stories about Belgium available as text. Some are also presented as video reports, and some just have background video. It’s an impressive service and a good example of post-shortwave international broadcasting.

Another example of post-shortwave international broadcasting: you can still hear the news in English from RAI Italy. Go to, then click on Radio, then click on RAI International Radio, then click on Notturno Italiano. This is an all-night RAI program heard in Europe on medium wave. It’s available from 2220 to 0400 UTC (2320-0500 UTC after October 26), or, hour by hour, on demand.

News in Italian is transmitted at the top of the hour, followed by news in English at about 5 minutes past, followed, sometimes, by news in French. The rest of Nottorno Italiano is in Italian, but most of it is an eclectic mix of music, nice to listen to while you’re doing something around the house.

Four VOA services end radio broadcasts

September 30 was the last day of radio broadcasts for the VOA Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Hindi services. They continue as internet services, and VOA Hindi has a weekly feed on India’s Aaj Tak television. VOA Hindi and Serbian were on shortwave to the end, while Bosnian and Macedonian were only via affiliates in their target countries.

VOA Russian ended July 26, inconveniently just before Russia’s incursion into Georgia. VOA Georgian was supposed to be shut down altogether, in all media, on September 30, but the South Ossetian events have put that off for the time being. VOA Ukrainian radio also has a stay until later in the year.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors reversed its earlier decision to drop VOA Croatian, Turkish, and Greek radio broadcasts. The Greek service is supported by a strong Greek-American lobby and Congressional caucus, and will probably stay on the air forever.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty retains its radio broadcasts in Russian, Georgian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Macedonian.

Views expressed are my own. More at

The case for shortwave

George Woodard, former director of engineering at the International Broadcasting Bureau, published another of his occasional essays in support of shortwave international broadcasting. This was in the August 13 Radio World.

George points out the weaknesses of the newer, preferred methods of international broadcasting. Rebroadcasting via FM stations in the target country is subject to the host government “pulling the plug” whenever it finds those broadcasts inconvenient.

As for the internet: “One million real-time listeners, small by shortwave standards, entail very high cost bandwidth requirements on the Internet. The competition, by start-up bloggers for example, could not possibly afford being on shortwave radio. The business example should be: 'Go where your competition can not follow.'”

Well, actually, when internet users visit the websites of international broadcasting organizations, they tend not to listen to audio, but to read the content from web pages. That’s much less of a bandwidth drain. Nevertheless, if VOA’s audience of 134 million suddenly became internet only, web costs could become expensive. And success -- a larger internet audience -- increases those expenses.

George’s timing was uncanny. He submitted his article just before the Russian-Georgian conflict. That war was accompanied by the most intensive cyber warfare to date. Georgian websites were incapacitated, at least temporarily, either by the Russian government or by individual hackers. This shows that international broadcasting via website is vulnerable, especially during wars, which is when international broadcasting is most needed. This becomes a good argument for shortwave.

Meanwhile, there is no official word on what happened to the extensive network of RFE/RL and VOA FM affiliates in Georgia. It’s a good bet that the RFE/RL affiliate in Russian-occupied Gori might have been disrupted. Another argument for shortwave.

Keeping shortwave transmitters ready for future crises

I have long advocated that U.S. international broadcasting maintain a global shortwave capacity. This would ensure that news and uncensored information get through when local FM rebroadcasters are taken of the air, or websites are blocked, or satellite dishes are confiscated.

Fat lot of good my advocacy did. The Broadcasting Board of Governors shut down the IBB relay stations in Greece, Morocco, and California. Arguably, U.S. international broadcasting no longer has global shortwave capacity unless it can secure transmitter leases during crises, when everyone else will be trying to acquire the same leases.

During normal times, I would put English on as many frequencies as possible, for as many hours as possible, from as many transmitters as possible, so that anyone, anywhere in the world, could hear VOA, at just about any time of the day. This would be a service for Americans abroad and English speaking persons in all those nooks and crannies of the world where satellite and internet communications are not available. Then, in a future crisis, when shortwave is needed for, say, Georgian or Russian, some of those English frequencies can switch to the vernacular.

But does shortwave still have critical mass?

One problem with my plan is that increased fuel prices made it more expensive to operate shortwave transmitters. Keeping transmitters on the air 24 hours a day to reach fringe Anglophone audiences, and to keep the capacitors wet for future crises, would be difficult to defend from a fiscal standpoint.

Furthermore, in decades past, a radio with a shortwave band might be the only consumer electronics in homes in many parts of the world. Since then, FM radio, televisions, satellite receivers, personal computers, and the internet have become available. Limited household budgets are likely to spent on those newer media, less likely on radios with shortwave bands. In fact, shortwave radios are becoming more difficult to find in shops.

International broadcasters, noting fewer people owning and listening to shortwave radios, have reduced their shortwave output. The remaining shortwave listeners, noting fewer stations and more noise from local sources, have been discouraged from replacing their old shortwave radios. It is, as you can see, a downward spiral.

So, in future crises, whether it involves one country, a region, or the entire world, will shortwave be a viable medium? Will there be enough people with shortwave radios, enough shortwave broadcast transmitters, enough transmitting sites, to allow shortwave to provide a useful information service? Or will shortwave have lost its critical mass?

Closing VOA Russian at a really bad time.

George Woodard’s advocacy for shortwave just before the Georgian-Russian war was very good timing. The Broadcasting Board of Governor’s shutdown of VOA Russian radio broadcasts just days before the conflict was very bad timing. VOA Georgian, still on the air, was expanded in response to the conflict. Ironically, VOA Georgian was (and still is) the only VOA service slated for complete elimination in the latest round of reductions. Other VOA services on the list would become internet-only, or internet with some television.

Retired VOA Eurasia Division director Ted Lipien, in his blog, reports: "According to a source within the bipartisan but Bush-appointed Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which manages VOA and other government sponsored U.S. broadcasting, Senator Biden’s staff successfully worked behind the scenes with the BBG to kill VOA Russian radio broadcasts and almost succeeded in closing down VOA radio service to Georgia.”

Apparently Biden likes VOA, but he loves RFE/RL. Some observers think Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a hand in VOA’s reductions, while the expected elimination of RFE/RL Balkan services has not been announced. As Biden is now Barack Obama’s running mate, don’t be surprised if John McCain campaign makes the closure of VOA Russian a campaign issue.

Commentators are already calling for the restoration of VOA Russian and for other VOA reductions not to be implemented. My union brothers and sisters at VOA, of course, agree. I am, however, not so keen on restoring the status quo. U.S. international broadcasting is a boondoggle of overlapping, competing efforts: VOA, RFE/RL, RFA, MBN, OCB. This structure creates a plethora of senior level plum jobs, but serves no other useful purpose. Until the United States consolidates this mélange and gets serious about international broadcasting, there will be no competing with BBC or Al Jazeera. And don't tell me that that one station is to provide U.S. news and policies, and then other is to provide news about the audience's own country. Why should the audience be burdened with the ludicrous task of tuning to two U.S. stations to get all the news?

Views expressed are my own. More at

Of the various VOA services scheduled for cuts by the end of fiscal year 2008 (see previous post), only VOA Georgian would be eliminated altogether. The others would keep some internet and/or television presence.

If VOA Georgian had already been eliminated, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Georgian Service would still be on the air.

Audiences in the affected areas would want to hear, in rapidly descending order of interest: 1) accurate, timely, credible news about what is happening in their region, 2) world reaction to what is happening in their region, and 3) other news about the rest of the world.

For news about the region, RFE/RL definitely has the advantage over VOA. In theory, VOA does not even provide news about the regions to which it transmits. In fact, it does: otherwise VOA would not have an audience. I have no doubt that the doomed VOA Georgian Service is heroically gathering and reporting as much news about the region as it can.

For reaction about the conflict from Washington, this, in theory, would be VOA's job, and VOA Georgian is no doubt focusing on this. But, when VOA Georgian is gone, RFE/RL will be able to gather Washington reaction through its Washington studios. In fact, Matt Bryza, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, was interviewed by RFE/RL, as cited by, 8 August 2008.

VOA's coverage of Washington reaction would be through reportage, which enhances credibility, but also through the required editorial, exercises in propaganda that strain credibility. RFE/RL would report on Washington reaction only through reportage. So, arguably, RFE/RL may have the advantage in this aspect of content.

For world news, VOA, with its global network of bureaus, correspondents, and stringers, has the upper hand. When and if VOA Georgian is eliminated, RFE/RL Georgian might use the world newsgathering resources of VOA. However, as competing stations, U.S. government funded VOA probably would not provide such content to RFE/RL, and U.S. government funded RFE/RL might not be inclined to accept it. In any case, for world news, RFE/RL can rip and read AP and Reuters, and thus provide adequate coverage.

As for VOA Russian, its radio broadcasts have already been taken off the air. After its television content is eliminated in a few weeks, VOA Russian will be an internet-only service. (See previous post.) Internet coverage in the affected area, such as it was, might be spottier than usual. Jukka Kinkamo in Finland writes that "Russian targeted air campaign has damaged some C4I infrastructure of Georgia, including fiber optics ... Luckily VOA has the extended one hour Georgian language broadcast on shortwaves. Unfortunately the VOA Russian is not present on radio and I assume in South Ossetia where the Russian is widely spoken they do not have good enough web access or web access at all."

RFE/RL Russian, however, is still on shortwave, and in fact has added many of the VOA Russian shortwave times and frequencies to its own schedule.

Finally, it should be noted, the absence of a BBC Georgian Service increases the importance of U.S. international broadcasting in the South Ossetian conflict.

Back to post.

Faustian bargains in post-shortwave international broadcasting?

Jeremy Harding, in the London Review of Books, has an essay about the transition of BBC World Service delivery from shortwave to FM relays. Sure, mot people would rather listen to BBC on FM rather than shortwave. But...

"When the Nigerian government stopped local stations rebroadcasting foreign news programmes in 2004, the World Service lost 1.5 million listeners. When the same rule was imposed in India, the losses were far higher – around 12 million between 1995 and 2002 – and signalled a ‘dramatic drop in overall radio listening’, according to the BBC.

"FM listeners are the denizens of large cities. If they have access to a good shortwave radio, they can always fall back on the traditions of the rural areas (this is what happened in Nigeria), where shortwave is still the way to pick up the service. It would be a high-risk strategy to move production away from Bush House to local stations, even if it meant saving millions of pounds in overheads and salaries by paying programme makers at local rates. What if national broadcasting regulators in Country X decided some of the content was undesirable? The answer, possibly, is that it could be fed to Bush House and repackaged for shortwave broadcast while being kept off the local FM outlet. But it wouldn’t be long before a local station producing controversial shows for transmission from outside the country (and back into it) came under pressure."

Harding is making a point about the BBC's plans to "offshore" many of its broadcasting jobs. BBC South Asian broadcasters now working at Bush House would have to move back to Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh, and carry on from there -- at salaries prevailing in those countries rather than in the UK.

When BBC broadcasts are via FM transmitters in the target country, rather than via a shortwave relay over which BBC has control, that's also offshoring. A recent early day motion in Parliament claims that World Service has turned over some editor control of its Urdu broadcasts to the Pakistani regulator PEMRA, in order to have access to FM in that country.

It was, ironically, not the BBC but UK Foreign Office Minister Jim Murphy, who responded: "BBC World Service has total editorial control over its programming whether that programming is broadcast directly by it on short wave or medium wave or via third party distribution arrangements." Maybe this is because Murphy is an MP, and the early day motion was signed by MPs.

By the way, Jim Murphy is also editor of Engagement: public diplomacy in a globalised world, a new collection of readings, all of it available online at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

Can a satellite be designated a terrorist?

Pakistan is not the only country to regulate international broadcasting. The United States does it, too, by declaring certain insalubrious television stations such as the Hezbollah’s Al-Manar to be a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, or SDGT. New legislation, H. Res. 1308, introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), asks the president to extend SDGT status to the Hamas' al-Aqsa TV. But it also calls for satellite companies that relay SDGT television stations also to be declared SDGT.

Bilirakis is taking aim, particularly, at Arabsat and Nilesat. A problem he perhaps is overlooking is that Arabsat and Nilesat are also the main conveyances of Alhurra, the U.S. Arabic-language television service. If Alhurra is forced to quit Arabsat and Nilesat because they are SDGTs, it will lose most of its audience.

Shortwave might outlive a shortwave replacement

When satellite radio broadcaster WorldSpace launched the first of its two satellites in 2000, it positioned itself as a replacement for shortwave -- with the usual derisive descriptions of shortwave reception. Now it seems that shortwave may outlive WorldSpace. The satellite company, with less than 200,000 subscribers, is having cash flow problems. It apparently has not paid repaid its bridging loan debt-holders more than $20 million by the July deadline.

So what to do? Rebrand! WorldSpace is now 1worldspace. Go to the website, and your browser bounces over to And there is also a new tagline: "I am many; my world is 1." They actually paid a Washington marketing agency for that. I think the semicolon is a particularly nice touch.

I have a soft spot for companies that attempt audacious new technologies. So I'm not salivating at the prospect of Worldspace, or WorldSpace, or 1worldspace liquidating. But, if it does, here's a new tagline (free of charge): "I am history; my world is 0."

U.S. international broadcasting on your cable TV?

A strange item in Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) "is set to introduce a bill seeking to reorganize the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a congressional aide told Inside the Pentagon on condition of anonymity. ... Under the proposed legislation, the BBG may begin to negotiate licenses with American cable television systems to broadcast its programs in the United States, he explained. The legislation also 'consolidates overlapping bureaucracies' and appoints a director of international broadcasting instead of leaving the task to the board itself, the congressional aide said."

Consolidating overlapping bureaucracies makes sense, but little else in this story. She wants to set aside the famous domestic dissemination prohibition of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. But what content would she put on U.S. cable systems? VOA has a 24-hour English television channel, but, with its bargain-basement acquired programming, not one that anyone would want to watch. Maybe the Cuban-born Ros-Lehtinen is trying to get an exemption to allow TV Mart? to be seen by the Cuban-American community in Florida.

This is the Ileana Ros-Lehtinenn who thinks that U.S. international broadcasting should be for the purpose of advocating administration policies, and she scoffs at the notion of providing the straight news that is the reason most people tune to international broadcasts. So whatever content she has in mind, it should be a doozy.

If there is to be a rewrite of Smith-Mundt Act, which designed the U.S. international propaganda (now "public diplomacy") apparatus, it should once and for all disentangle U.S. public diplomacy and U.S. international broadcasting. The former explains and advocates U.S. policies, officially, on behalf of the U.S. Government, the only entity qualified to engage in U.S. public diplomacy. The latter provides the comprehensive, reliable, credible news that is lacking in its audience's home countries. To achieve the necessary credibility, U.S. international broadcasting must be independent.

As for domestic dissemination, a Smith-Mundt rewrite should acknowledge the ability and the right of Americans to see what the U.S. public diplomacy and U.S. international broadcasting are transmitting to the world. But here, a distinction should be made between voluntary and involuntary means of doing this.

If an American wants to go to a website, or write to the State Department to get a transcript, or purchase a video through the Government Printing Office, no problem. But if the U.S. government starts to promote its policies using channels on your cable system, or commercials inserted within your favorite television program, or on billboards visible during your morning commute, questions should be asked.

It does happen: armed forces recruiting, Smokey Bear, your deposit insured by FDIC, etc. But administrations advocating their policy goals on your television, or on signs along the freeway? For a taste of that, visit Cuba. Oops, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen wouldn't like that very much.

Views expressed are my own. More at

Dumping on Alhurra.

Did you watch 60 Minutes on June 22. CBS News and a new investigative journalism group called ProPacifica tag-teamed to find more dirt about Alhurra, the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Arabic-language television effort, and its audio counterpart Radio Sawa. "American taxpayers are paying for a Middle Eastern television network that broadcast an anti-Israeli diatribe as recently as last month,” according to the ProPacifica content analysis.

But only one? We’re talking about a station that transmits verbiage, much of it Arab talking heads, 24/7. That one offending passage might be considered the exception that proves the rule that Alhurra has been playing it reasonably straight.

Nevertheless, many other news items and commentaries followed on, all taking a dim view of the BBG’s Arabic-language broadcasting. And, of course, there were the indignant reactions and calls for investigations. Rep. Iliana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was first out of the gate, asking for a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In recently commenting about Radio and TV Martí, Ros-Lehtinen expressed opposition to U.S. international broadcasts containing "all this diversity of thought."

On 60 Minutes, it was interesting to see the interview snippets with Larry Register, who, in June 2007, resigned in haste as Alhurra news director during a content controversy back then. He said: “You can’t make independent decisions if you have a government over you telling you what you can and can’t do. It’s a no-win situation, as I painfully found out.”

Perhaps. But public funded international broadcasting exists because external transmissions in languages such as Burmese and Creole and no revenue potential. Governments can fund these broadcasts without controlling their content, as BBC World Service, Radio Australia, Radio Netherlands, and others demonstrate.

Revive VOA Arabic?

The fallout from the latest flurry of news and comment about Alhurra has not yet completely fallen out. Alhurra’s tumultuous days may be numbered. Congress might order it to be replaced by a resurrected Voice of American Arabic Service. This would please many VOA employees who still resent losing VOA Arabic. VOA’s broadcasters’ union, AFGE 1812, especially considered ominous the precedent of civil service jobs being replaced by employees and, worse, contractors of the new “excepted” Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), Inc. The latter are much more easily fired.

Nibras Kazimi, in his Talisman Gate blog, is not keen on the possible revival of VOA Arabic: "Al-Hurra is not perfect, but it is pretty good, and in some areas, such as the Iraq-market, I tend to see it as the market leader. When Iraqi politicians want to be heard and seen, they rush to get airtime on Al-Hurra. ... In order to understand the array of anti-Al-Hurra agendas, here’s a breakdown of Al-Hurra’s American and Arab enemies and my take on their probable motivations [including]: Voice of America apparatchiks (federal employees, many of them leftie journalists too) who covet Al-Hurra’s budget, and resent being frozen out of its control."

The real test for Alhurra, or a VOA Arabic TV replacement, is whether it can compete with the new BBC Arabic Television. It is probably unrealistic to expect Alhurra to have audiences larger than those of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. It is more reasonable to give Alhurra the goal of competing well with BBC Arabic Television, but even that may be difficult.

Providing news about the Arab world to the Arab world is a heady business. It must include coverage of Arab newsmakers who are virulently anti-Israel, or worse. Because MPs tend to understand the concept of international broadcasting, BBC Arabic Television will be allowed to succeed. Members of Congress are less prone to understand the concept of international broadcasting and might not allow U.S. international broadcasting in Arabic to succeed.

USIB Arabic might counterprogram BBC Arabic by concentrating more on the United States and the U.S. democratic process. It will have a smaller audience by concentrating on the United States than if it could provide competitive coverage of the Arab world. But it would be a niche that would provide USIB sufficient quantity and quality of audience to make its budget worthwhile.

Replicate Cold War broadcasting?

Can the old Cold War model of international broadcasting work in the modern Middle East? Matthew Yglesias of The Atlantic thinks not: "The upshot of it all is that though the Arab world has many problems, it's just not a situation like Eastern Europe. Most Eastern Europeans regarded their governments as not only repressive, but as puppets of a Moscow-based Russian empire and many were willing to embrace the idea of US-assisted liberation. A lot of Americans would like Arabs to see the geopolitics of the Greater Middle East in that way, but relatively few actually do. ... The essential first step is to not let our picture of the situation be clouded by wishful thinking or a weird kind of nostalgia and al-Hurra reflects both."

Meanwhile, the indomitable ProPacifica keeps digging up dirt about Alhurra:

June 24: "Alhurra, the U.S. government-funded Arabic news channel, paid former Bush and Clinton administration officials, lobbyists and high-profile Washington journalists tens of thousands of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money to appear on the network as commentators, according to interviews and a review of company records."

June 23: "A former Alhurra employee was arrested earlier this month when he tried to break into the White House. The incident came just days after Homam Ali, 22, was allegedly fired for poor performance from his production assistant job at Alhurra, headquartered in Springfield, Va., where he had worked three years, according to two people at Alhurra familiar with his employment status."

Looks like MBN Inc. spokesperson Deirdre Kline will have her work cut out. Actually, the BBG itself has responded to all this in its own press release: "’60 Minutes unfairly portrayed Alhurra, which is watched by 26 million Arabic speakers in the Middle East each week,’ said James Glassman, until recently the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all U.S. international broadcasting, including Alhurra. Glassman now is Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. ‘Independent research tells us that Alhurra is relevant to people who value its balanced news and information about the region and about the United States.’”

That press release includes a link to a PowerPoint file, which you can download for your home viewing pleasure, providing remarkable detail about BBG commissioned audience research in the Arab countries.

Views expressed are my own. More at

We can expect this press attention to result in indignant reaction by members of Congress, think tank, and the like. In fact, we have already heard from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who previously expressed opposition to U.S. international broadcasts containing "all this diversity of thought."

The result could be the end of Alhurra. It's budget might be zeroed out. Or Congress may order that it be replaced by a resurrected VOA Arabic Service. As much as this would please many at VOA, such legislation could also come with instructions for U.S. international broadcasting to support U.S. policies. If so, U.S. international broadcasting would be a resurrected Radio Moscow, along with Radio Moscow's most notable characteristic: its dearth of audience.

One now can understand why BBC Arabic Television had many months of preparation, and is still only on the air 12 hours per day. Filling a 24/7 television schedule requires parsimony, and that often comes in the form of talking-heads programs. Arab talking heads are not always supportive of U.S. policies or fulsome in their praise of Israel. All 60 Minutes, ProPublica, or the Washington Post had to do is wait for inevitable utterance that offends U.S. sensibilities.

Larry Register said, "I don't think any government should be involved in news gathering." Ideally, international broadcasting should be a private endeavor. But there are audiences that need to be served in markets that have no commercial potential for international broadcasting. Public funding is necessary, but this can be done with government control. BBC World Service, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is the prime example. It does require decades of demonstrating that the publicly funded broadcaster is independent, to establish the credibility necessary for success in international broadcasting.

For U.S. international broadcasting, ensuring that independence is the job of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The BBG can succeed if administrations, Congress, and the BBG members themselves accept the spirit as well as the letter of the International Broadcasting Act of 1994, which established the BBG as a firewall.

Is the concept understood, even by American journalists who ought to know better? The ProPublica piece begins by stating that Alhurra and Radio Sawa were "founded by the Bush administration to promote a positive image of the United States." The Washington Post article provides this background: "Propaganda has become a primary front in the war against terrorism, with the United States and al-Qaeda each investing heavily to win over hearts and minds. This article examines one aspect of the U.S. effort to influence people through the airwaves."

Promote a positive image? Win over hearts and minds? Influence people over the airwaves? People tune in international broadcasting to get news that is more comprehensive, more reliable, and more credible than the news they get from their state-controlled domestic media. As a general rule, the most credible station wins. Until U.S. decision makers, experts, and journalists understand this concept, there will be limited prospects for successful U.S. international broadcasting.

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Abandoning shortwave is unavoidable, not only because it's so expensive, also because even people in classical radio continents like Africa make only little use of it anymore, mostly limited to rural areas. In the towns one has to be on FM to reach listeners, and DW does not want to become a Landfunk [that's a sneering reference to programmes for farmers which were decades ago scheduled on some German stations].

Presumably we will be on shortwave a bit longer in certain areas like China, we are very flexible in this regard. There are problems in China for years. In 2004 we applied for a licence to distribute our TV service in China via satellite, but the Chinese authorities made no decision about this until today. The DW website is also disturbed, again and again it gets switched white. In this case simply nothing is on, even in such harmless matters like the football site At least DW-TV is amongst the 20 stations that can be received in the Olympic Village.

How will DW reach its audiences in future: TV will be the buzzer [or "what opens the door", the German word "Türöffner" is ambiguous here], and for deepening the coverage there will be either a radio service or our website in the respective languages, including audio and video podcasts. We want to further strengthen the convergence between our three media, TV, radio and online.

The now launched reform projects of course result in fears amongst employees. Take the shortwave exit: This concerns a complete engineering department. But media companies must be ready for reforms. I guarantee that no lay-offs will take place while I'm in office. But it is a matter of course that people have to be prepared for changes, as an example to be willing to retrain.

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The best part of the amendment is that it calls for a "definition of the roles of the offices within the department of State and the Department of Defense that are engaged in message outreach to audiences abroad." Right now, there is overlap, and potential for more overlap if the Defense Department fulfills its ambitions for international communications activities. This wastes money, and can result in mixed messages being sent to the world.

Back on 3 March, I worked out on a napkin that 1) the public diplomacy agency (I think it should stay under State de jure, because it will always be de facto) will advocate and officially explain U.S. policies everywhere outside of the United States, 2) military information operations will persuade and inform enemy forces and affected civilians within areas of combat, and 3) international broadcasting will provide reliable news where that news is not available domestically.

Rep. Smith's amendment has all sorts of exciting language like "strategic planning," "research based, targeted approach," "new media platforms and social research technologies." Sort of like a social-scientific, logical-positivist V2 rocket, but I don't think it will get people to change their minds about U.S. policies and actions that they are opposed to.

The amendment calls for a study to look into establishing "an independent, not-for-profit organization responsible for providing independent assessment and strategic guidance to the Federal Government on strategic communication and public diplomacy." I don't know: in Washington, you can't swing a cat without hitting the front door of an institution, foundation, society, or research center, most of whom sooner or later hand out advice about public diplomacy at no cost to the taxpayers. Do we need a new government funded instrumentality to crank out more such reports, which would be placed on closet shelves in government offices, and duly forgotten? The United States has never been especially good at international communication, but we excel in creating new bureaucracies for international communication.

It is comforting to note that international broadcasting is nowhere mentioned in this amendment. If this was intentional, good. If this was because the drafters mistakenly believe that international broadcasting is part of the State Department's public diplomacy effort, bad.

The amendment is based on a report by the Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy Coordinating Committee, and that does mention international broadcasting. That report has all sorts of tasks for U.S. international broadcasting, such as "U.S. government broadcasting should ... be encouraged to cover America’s development assistance, education and exchange programs with feature programs and interviews with recipients." Unfortunately, none of those tasks correspond with the task set out by its audience: just give us the reliable news that is lacking in our own countries, so we can make up our own minds.

U.S. international broadcasting can provide the content desired by it audience, in which case it will have an audience. Or it can create the content devised by strategic planners in Washington, in which case it will be a tree falling in the forest.

I read as many memoirs of World War II as I can, looking for references to international communication. During the war, there were all sorts of black and gray radio stations, such as Gustav Siegfried Eins and Soldatensender Calais, as well as talking tanks, pamphlets shot by artillery, etc. By and large, people were not fooled or influenced by these (unless they were ready to surrender and needed to know where and how). In the memoirs, the one international communicator that is mentioned over and over is the BBC. The BBC was not saintly during World War II, but the main product of its European broadcasts remained reliable news. That straightforward news confounded the Axis propaganda more than any "strategic communication" efforts of the Allies.

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Promoting democracy without that pesky “diversity of opinion.”

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., uses “M.D.” as a title more than “Senator.” So it’s not surprising that he subscribes to the hypodermic theory of communication. Also known as the bullet theory, this view of the communication basically holds that by sending message A to audience B, the desired effects will accrue. If this were true, those of us who listened to Radio Moscow during the Cold Wars would be communists now.

Senator Coburn has been critical of U.S. broadcasts to Iran. In April, he wrote to national security advisor Stephen Hadley: "The U.S. taxpayers should not subsidize content presenting a balance between the truth and the regime's malicious propaganda. U.S. broadcasts should be the balance to the propaganda being broadcast by the regime and others." In other words, U.S. international broadcasting should be all pro-U.S., all anti-Tehran regime, sort of like Radio Moscow in reverse.

The senator also wrote that members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (the topmost authority over U.S. international broadcasting) lack accountability because they "report to no one, not even to each other." He recommends three people "qualified in strategic communication" for appointment to the Board. They are Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy; Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Enders Wimbush, senior vice president of the Hudson Institute.

The International Broadcasting Act of 1994 created the bipartisan BBG, giving its members fixed and staggered terms, precisely to prevent to the type of interference in the content of U.S. international broadcasting now being attempted by Senator Coburn.

The senator is so unhappy with U.S. international broadcasting that he has placed a hold on the confirmation of James K. Glassman, now chairman of the BBG, to succeed Karen Hughes as under secretary of State for public diplomacy.

“We have nothing if we have no credibility.”

Glassman had been keeping quiet during his conformation process, but he finally spoke out at the Heritage Foundation on May 15. He did not specifically name Senator Coburn, but we obviously addressed the senator’s criticisms. "We tell the truth, even if the truth might appear harmful to U.S. interests in the short run. Often we hear from critics, 'Why are U.S. taxpayers paying for reports of bad news about America?' First, Congress and the president have required us to work as an objective, balanced news organization. Second, our audiences are sophisticated, and we have nothing if we have no credibility."

So while Glassman was a bit fuzzy on the concept of international broadcasting when he came on board as BBG chairman in June 2007, now he seems to know his most important function: that of Junkyard Dog to protect the journalistic integrity of the elements of U.S. international broadcasting against those who would prefer a propagandistic approach.

Tag team member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen takes over.

Glassman’s words had barely ceased to reverberate in the Lehrman Auditorium when AP reported: "Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican and Marti supporter, says [Radio/TV Martí] broadcasts should back the president's positions. 'It is not a “Let's have all this diversity of thought,” said Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American. 'If we were to have a change in Cuba policy come November, you will see that reflected in the transmissions. The mission is clear: It's to advance our U.S.-Cuba policy.'”

I’ve been involved in international broadcasting audience research since 1975. The finding from that research that transcends all other findings is that people tune to foreign broadcasts to get news that is more comprehensive, reliable, and objective than the news they get from their (usually state controlled) domestic media. They are not looking for propaganda from abroad to counter the propaganda they get at home.

Russia also skeptical about balanced international broadcasting.

On May 18, a New York Times looked at the new Russian international television channel Russia Today. The article quoted Carson Scott, a former Russia Today business news presenter: "You are understandably walking a very fine line of being full and frank and biting the hand that feeds. I had countless heated editorial debates with my editor, frankly speaking. I was very vocal. ‘We have to give the other side of the argument. We have to be balanced.’ And oftentimes eyes just glazed over.”

So Russia Today is not quite the objective, detached news service. I watch it often via MHz Networks in Washington. It’s not perfect, but often interesting, and much, much better than the old Radio Moscow of the Brezhnev years.

BBC Arabic TV: not subcontracted public diplomacy.

Now that the BBC’s Arabic television channel has been on the air for a couple of months, it’s time for some substantial reviews of its performance. BBC Arabic television is certainly poised to be competitive with the likes of Aljazeera and Alarabiya, given the BBC’s reputation and newsgathering capabilities in the Arab world.

A very substantial review appears in the May 200s issue of Arab Media & Society. Najm Jarrah, a London-based Arab journalist, writes: "Given the UK’s close identification with U.S. policy in the Middle East and the acknowledged failure of Washington’s attempt to penetrate the world of Arab satellite TV, it inevitably looked to many in the Arab world that BBC Arabic TV was conceived as a substitute for Al Hurra: a subcontracting of the public diplomacy side of the War on Terror to the more sophisticated Brits. ... Suspicious viewers listening out for a consistent political slant on the news or expecting a British government agenda to filter through the coverage will have been hard-pressed to detect either."

So, a mostly positive review, but not uncritical. Mr. Jarrah thoughtfully looks into the factors that really count in international broadcasting. As such, I recommend you read this, and other papers in the same issue of Arab Media & Society.

International television heaven.

We of the North American Shortwave Association must come to terms with the downward trajectory of shortwave as a medium of international broadcasting.
If we want to continue to receive news and entertainment from faraway places, we will have to consider the newer media, such as websites and internet radio. Another new medium of international broadcasting is television, hence the mention, above, of Russia Today and BBC Arabic TV.

Most likely, however, your local cable television service does not offer BBC America, Aljazeera English, France 24, Russia Today, DW-TV, etc. So you have to search for live streams of these on the internet. This can be a clunky proposition.

A new website,, provides mostly reports and webcams from U.S. domestic television stations. However, its World section is a one-stop shop for many international television channels: CCTV9, France 24 (in English, French, and Arabic), BBC World, Pakistan's Dawn TV, the Pentagon Channel, Iran's Press TV, RAInews 24 (in Italian), Ireland's RTÉ.ie, Sky Italy, Sky UK, Aljazeera (Arabic), NHK-TV, Russia Today, and Sky Australia. On my PC, it works better with Internet Explorer than with Firefox. Aljazeera English, EuroNews, and CNN International would be useful additions to this site.

Views expressed are my own. More at

Dear Newsline Subscriber:

The weakening U.S. dollar is placing our company, which broadcasts in 28 languages to 21 countries, under enormous budgetary pressure. Recently, I was faced with the difficult choice of scaling back RFE/RL's broadcasting efforts or making cuts to our research and analysis capabilities. Because our core mandate is to broadcast uncensored information to parts of the world where free and independent media are fragile or nonexistent, I chose the latter.

As a result, I deeply regret that we are no longer able to produce "RFE/RL Newsline." However, in the next few months, we will be launching a newly designed English-language website ( dedicated to translating and highlighting the best RFE/RL content from our broadcast services.

The new site will feature more video, blogs, and interactive content along with continued in-depth reporting from our broadcast regions. Budget permitting we also hope to launch a headline service in the near future and will keep you apprised of progress on this new project.

I want to thank the many analysts and researchers whose excellent work over the years made "RFE/RL Newsline" one of the most influential and well-regarded reports from our broadcast regions.


Jeffrey Gedmin
President, RFE/RL, Inc.
Prague, Czech Republic

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     Ms. Applebaum's op-ed is typical of the misinformation, disinformation, and worst of all, selective information about U.S. international broadcasting lately disseminated by Washington's experts, senior fellows, pundits, and commentators.

     Let's examine Ms. Applebaum's article, gaffe by gaffe:

1) She calls the station "Radio Free Europe" and never its real name "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc." But the real name, a multisyllabic monstrosity of a moniker, does not, as they say, "sing."

2) "Radio Free Europe -- the Cold War news service that was, for decades, the only source of independent information in Eastern Europe -- does exist. In fact, it's as important as it ever was, at least in the 21 countries and 28 languages in which it is still often the only source of independent information: Farsi for Iran, Arabic for Iraq, Dari and Pashto for Afghanistan, plus Turkmen, Azeri, Belarusan, Georgian, Chechen, Tajik, Albanian, Serbian and Russian, among others."

     Voice of America, Alhurra, Radio Sawa, and BBC are nowhere mentioned in this op-ed. During the Cold War, VOA had a larger audience than RFE in Czechslovakia and the Soviet Union, and came close to RFE in Poland. VOA now has a larger audience that Radio Farda in Iran. Granted, RFE(/RL) has Turkmen, Belarusian, Chechen, and Tajik to itself.

3) RFE(/RL) "is better described as 'surrogate radio': a broadcasting service that supplies local, national and international news, in radio, Internet and sometimes video form, in countries where other local news is weak or unavailable."

     "Surrogate broadcasting" is traditionally described as providing target countries with news about their own country. Ms. Applebaum has expanded this to "local, national, and international news." What global newsgathering capability does RFE(/RL) have? Does this mean that VOA is (in theory) relegated to broadcasting only "about us," i.e. only about the United States? If so, the difference between the "surrogate" stations and VOA is that the surrogate stations will have an audience and VOA will not.

4) "Most of [RFE's] programming is written by local journalists, who follow local politics in the local languages. Many of them live in the countries they cover, sometimes at great risk."

     Ditto for BBC, VOA, RFI, etc.

5) "When the Newseum was opened in Washington last week, the names of four RFE journalists -- a Turkmen, two Iraqis and an Uzbek -- all killed in the past two years, were already inscribed on a plaque there."

     The Uzbek, Alisher Saipov, worked more for VOA than for RFE(/RL).

6) "RFE, which at its peak received $230 million annually in congressional funding, now gets $75 million in rapidly devaluing currency."

     Years ago, I wrote that RFE/RL should move to Chicago rather than to Prague. This is because I foresaw security issues, which ultimately required RFE/RL to move from central Prague to an expensive new building in the outskirts, and currency fluctuations, such as the one now discomfiting RFE/RL employees. I also recommended that VOA and RFA join RFE in Chicago, so that their resources could be combined rather than fragmented.

7) "If RFE vanishes, we may need a lot more helicopters to replace it."

     Ms. Applebaum is referring to RFE(/RL) president Jeffrey Gedmin's frequent reminder that an Apache helicopter costs $75 million, same as the annual budgert of RFE(/RL). She also mention three times the possibility of RFE disappearing. But US international broadcasting is in no danger of going away. The only "danger" is that USIB might be reformed and rationalized, resulting perhaps in the RFE name (as well as maybe the VOA name and RFA name) being eliminated. A few layers of senior level management would also be made redundant. What cause is actually being supported in the recent flurry of op-eds and think tank speeches on behalf of RFE(/RL)?

8) "When I was at the RFE office in Prague several weeks ago, the Afghans there showed me the enormous, old-fashioned canvas mailbags that arrive every week from Afghanistan, full of letters thanking the presenters, offering arguments, making comments -- and asking why there isn't more service, more coverage, more than 12 hours of daily service from Radio Free Afghanistan."

     This is intriguing, because VOA's Afghan services occupy the other twelve hours. This op-ed may be actually be a salvo in a bureaucratic spitting match between RFE(/RL) and VOA, with RFE(/RL) coveting VOA's transmitter time.

9) "RFE does have a good number of admirers in Washington, as well as a few constructive critics, usually people who wish it did more things better."

     Cryptic, but this might be a call for RFE(/RL) to get more into television, now mostly VOA's purview. It could also be an echo of Gedmin's ambition for RFE(/RL) to duplicate VOA in even more regions, e.g. Africa.

11) "What [RFE(/RL)] does not have, however, is an advocate: someone, in Congress, the White House or on the campaign trail who remembers that Americans have done soft power rather well in the past, that the collapse of the dollar is more than a minor irritant for rich tourists, that with better transmitters we could reach more Iranians, and that we could easily swap a few helicopters for better-informed Afghans."

     Oh, don't worry about that. Support for stations whose names begin with "Radio Free" makes for great sound bites on the campaign trail. The notion that we can solve our problems with Country X by creating a Radio Free X has simplistic appeal. Courageous and truthful presidential candidates and members of Congress, however, would ask why the United States spends more on international broadcasting than Britain, while the BBC has more audience than all the elements of U.S. international broadcasting combined.

     Ms. Applebaum offers the universal Washingtonian solution to bureaucratic woes: a budget increase. Her article, however, is a symptom of the problem rather than a solution to it. USIB consists of VOA, RFE(/RL), RFA, Alhurra, Radio Sawa, and Radio/TV Martí, all overlapping to some extent, and competing among themselves for budget, talent, resources, frequencies, news scoops, and audience. This competition involves the flummoxing of commentators, who write myopic pieces extolling one of the elements while ignoring the structural deficiencies of the whole.

See comments about the op-ed, especially by Morand. And Patricia H. Kushlis, WhirledView blog, 23 April 2008.

See previous posts about RFE(/RL) on 17 April 2008 and 1 March 2008.

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Senator Coburn has a long history of criticizing U.S. international broadcasting,. Search this website on Coburn, and see also his subcommittee minority web page about U.S. international broadcasting.

It is appropriate that Tom Coburn., M.D., adheres to the hypodermic theory of communication, also known as the bullet theory of communication. By insisting that international broadcasting should be "promoting values," he believes that it is a matter of sending message (A) to audience (B) to achieve desired effect (C).

The bullet theory was discarded by communication theorists by the 1940s. This is because audiences are not chained to their radio or television sets, and because those sets, except maybe in North Korea, tune more than one station. The audiences use that tuning facility to get the content they are looking for. They are looking for news that is more reliable and comprehensive than the news they get from their state controlled domestic media. The most credible station wins.

Because of pressure from Senator Coburn and other decision makers, U.S. international broadcasting is like Nickelodian's CatDog, part news, part advocacy, and running in both directions.

Meanwhile, the BBC is a less ambiguous breed of international broadcaster. Soon, it's new Farsi language television service will compete with U.S. broadcasts to Iran. BBC's new Arabic television channel is already competing with Alhurra. We will soon find out which approach to international broadcasting is more successful in attracting audiences.

It is ironic that Senator Coburn, who positions himself as a federal budget watchdog, advocates not only an approach that is out of touch with why audiences tune to foreign broadcasts, but also a massive back-translation bureaucracy that could cost almost as much as the broadcasting effort itself. Who is going to read all that stuff? In most cases, nobody.

If U.S. international broadcasting to Iran says something that raises objections, the audio log file will be available. It can be put online, going back a month or more. The offending passage can be translated into English. Then we can have a lively debate about whether that content was biased, or not biased enough.

Speaking of out of touch, does Senator Coburn know that in his capacity as under secretary of State for public diplomacy, James Glassman would not have authority for international broadcasting, other than having one vote on the BBG? On the other hand, in his present capacity as BBG chairman, Mr Glassman is CEO of U.S. international broadcasting. If Senator Coburn is unsatisfied with U.S. international broadcasting as it is now, he would want to expedite Mr. Glassman's move from Independence Avenue SW to Foggy Bottom.

Back to post.

Re: Thales denies selling radio jamming kit to China

Of course they're telling the truth: They sold standard ALLISS units, even praised the young station personnel at Kashi in an own publication. And it appears that the whole Firedrake thing is fully integrated into China's shortwave broadcast transmitter operations, since it is technical-wise just another program audio circuit, as explained at I assume that Firedrake is in fact played out at a regular studio facility in Beijing, either at CRI or a domestic service building.

It should be also noted that there does not appear to be an organizational separation between program production (China Radio International and all the domestic services) and transmitter operation, as it was mostly if not always the case in Warsaw Pact countries. In China both are in the responsibility of the administration for radio, film and television. This means also that RCI, RFI, REE and VOR cooperate with an organization that is involved in large-scale, systematic radio jamming.

It is quite remarkable that Thal?s feels compelled to issue a statement on this matter now, more than two years after they sold the broadcast transmitter business back to where it came from, i.e. Thomson (btw, it's not just like arms merchants justifying their business, Thal?s is in fact an armaments trust). Apparently the recent developments in Tibet now created an interest in the Firedrake matter also outside the shortwave monitoring scene. That's very good of course.


--- In, Glenn Hauser wrote:

> Kit, what kit? Thal?s is probably telling the truth, as it`s
> easy to turn a legit SWBC transmitter into a jammer, especially
> if you`re just playing music over it rather than grinding noises
> or bubbles! Therefore, you should not sell any legit SWBC
> transmitters or antennas to any country known to or likely to
> jam and to enjoy egregious human rights violations. Sounds a lot
> like arms merchants justifying their business, no?

The great shortwave shutdown of March 2008

I’m getting tired of writing about it, and you are no doubt getting tired of reading about it. But we are the North American Shortwave Association, and we are obliged to discuss all aspects of shortwave broadcasting, including the decline of shortwave broadcasting. Three big reductions took place at the end of March, as well as a smaller one.

BBC to the Caribbean and East Asia

The BBC’s elimination of the last of its transmissions to the Caribbean deprive us of our best shortwave reception of World Service. BBC shortwave to Africa remains audible, most days, but World Service is increasingly becoming DX.

BBC’s decision to cut its mid-day transmissions to East and South-East Asia might make some sense, given lower listening rates at those times. But this brings up an annoying new World Service habit: vaguely referring to transmission times by the listeners’ local time. From the BBCWS website: “Shortwave transmission will therefore cease between 10am and 5pm local time and midnight and 2 am local time.”

As Glenn Hauser asks, what does that mean? “East and South-East Asia” spans times zones from UTC + 6.5 to UTC + 9. Also, as is increasingly forgotten by decision makers should know, shortwave broadcasts are often heard outside the target area. Certainly transmissions to East Asia can be heard in South-East Asia, and vice versa. A transmission to South-East Asia, dropped because it is afternoon there, could deprive East Asia, where it is prime time evening, of an audible frequency.

IBB Morocco

As announced a few months ago, the International Broadcasting Bureau gave its shortwave relay in Briech, Morocco, back to the government of Morocco. The scuttlebutt is that the lease arrangements became more expensive, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors never passes up an excuse to close a shortwave site.

I don’t know what will become of Briech, but I would bet that its ten transmitters will soon be available for lease. However, many of the potential customers for shortwave time are Christian evangelical broadcasters, and Morocco probably would decline to take their money.

Among the sites used to replace Briech is Bonaire, used for VOA transmissions to Africa. That introduces the propagational challenge of getting a signal across the Atlantic, compared to the simpler, more reliable intra-African path. Futhermore, VOA has just seen expansions to its Amharic and Swahili services, both of which could have made use of the Morocco relay.

Kol Israel

This is a case, like that of RAI Italy last year, of an international broadcaster giving up shortwave altogether. The shutting down of Kol Israel’s various shortwave broadcasts had been threatened for years, but this year it happened (save for a last-minute reprieve). At least Kol Israel’s Farsi broadcasts were given the funding to remain on the air. And that means that Kol Israel must keep at least one transmitter in good working order, along with at least one engineer who knows how to operate it and maintain it.

I remember listening to Israel’s home service shortwave relays during the first Gulf War. This was during Iraq’s Scud missile attacks on Israel. Often shortwave is advertised as a way to “hear news while it’s happening.” Usually that’s not the case, but during that listening to Israel in 1991, I heard the warning signals, the directions to listeners to put on their gas masks, or to take them off, and other urgent information.

If a similar crisis occurs in Israel, I guess we’ll all have to log into an internet audio stream. But if we all do it, the infamous “net congestion” could cut off access to the audio. With shortwave we had poor signal strength, fading, interference, but never net congestion.


The decision of the Trinity Broadcasting Network to shut down its shortwave KTBN is basically a footnote to the three bigger stories above. KTBN is, after all, a single 100 kilowatt transmitter, near Salt Lake City, whose content is the audio portion of Trinity’s television network.

But there is a bit of history here. In 1990, Trinity purchased KUSW. KUSW was, as might recall, one of the few shortwave stations that attempted to do business with a popular music and DJ format, along with spot ad sales, rather than selling blocks of time to (mostly) religious broadcasters.
Four U.S. shortwave stations tried this during times. First was WRUL, later WNYW, in the 1960s. Then, in the 1980s, WRNO in New Orleans, and KYOI on Saipan (targeting Japan). “Superpower” KUSW came later in the 1980s. All were relatively short lived experiments.

But DRM reception was good at the Fest

After all this bad news about shortwave, now some good news. At the Winter SWL Festival in Kulpsville, our reception of Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) shortwave was pretty good.

Most impressive was our reception of Vatican Radio. During the 2007 Fest, our trans-Atlantic DRM reception was a first, and we considered it quite an accomplishment. This year, trans-Atlantic DRM reception was routine, with Santa Maria di Galeria coming through both at 1300-1400 and 2300-2400 UTC, with few breaks in audio.

Listening at 1300-1400 UTC on 15515 kHz, switching to analog, the analog signal was down in the marginal conditions of the 19 meter band. It probably would rate an SIO 353. But, in DRM, it was SIO 555.

TDF from Montsinery, French Guiana, was also reliable most of the day on 17840. At one point, in analog mode, I could hear some slight co-channel interference, but it did not interfere with the DRM reception.

We also had good DRM reception from Bonaire and surprise reception from Kuwait on 9770. Sackville suffered a few interruptions on 9800. HCJB Pifo popped in and out on 15485, but they were using only 4 kW.

My estimation of DRM has increased since my Fest reception, but it’s still probably not robust enough for most long-haul shortwave service. Shorter-range regional service might be a different story. For a possible application of that, see TCI’s hypothetical regional DRM station located in Syracuse, New York. And for local DRM on the little-used 26 MHz shortwave broadcast band, see Benn Kobb’s

Less encouraging at the Fest was the lack of a standalone DRM receiver. In 2004, when we first exhibited DRM reception at the Fest, we had a prototype standalone DRM receiver that worked well, even with just a whip antenna in the exhibit room. Since then, we’ve had to schlep with receivers connected to PCs.

At the Fest, our main receiver was to have been the Palstar R30CC, which has a convenient 455 kHz IF output jack, which would have been connected to an Elad 455-to-12 kHz IF downconverter, then into a PC. But the Palstar was not available due to production problems at the Ohio factory. An Icom black box receiver provided by Eric Cottrell, and a Winradio brought by Mike Rohde, saved the day.

Re: [dxld] Re: VOA increases Tibetan b'cast timings

Corrected, yes 1600 UT outlet is rather VoA Tibetan.

Additional txions of IBB:

Voice of America in Swahili Mon-Fri effective March 16
0930-1000 15740 BOT 100 kW / 010 deg
17565 SAO 100 kW / 100 deg
17885 BOT 100 kW / 010 deg
21765 SAO 100 kW / 092 deg

Voice of America in Tibetan effective March 17
0300-0400 15545 UDO 500 kW / 316 deg
17665 UDO 500 kW / 316 deg
21570 IRA 500 kW / 020 deg

1600-1700 7395 UDO 500 kW / 316 deg
9395 PHL 250 kW / 315 deg
11865 BIB 100 kW / 075 deg

Radio Free Asia in Tibetan effective March 17
1000-1100 11540 TIN 250 kW / 295 deg
15375 TIN 250 kW / 297 deg
15675 LAM 100 kW / 080 deg

2200-2300 5865 TIN 125 kW / 309 deg
7550 TIN 125 kW / 297 deg
9860 LAM 100 kW / 075 deg
(R BULGARIA DX MIX News, Ivo Ivanov, via wwdxc BC-DX Mar 18)

AIR Delhi in Tibetan is also jammed by China mainland jammers.

1215-1330 1134 Calcutta, 9575 Delhi, 11775 Goa. (WRTH)

Back to post.

The Public Diplomacy Council


The School of Media and Public Affairs


The Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange



present a new forum



Rebuilding America's Public Diplomacy:

Proposals for a New Administration



Thursday, March 27, 2008

8:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.


Jack Morton Auditorium

The School of Media and Public Affairs

The George Washington University

805 21st Street, NW

Washington, DC  20052



Forum:  The aim of this forum is to present, from a variety of viewpoints, worthy ideas and new thinking about how to strengthen U.S. public diplomacy efforts worldwide for the consideration of the new Administration.


Registration:  To register for this forum, please respond by e-mail to pdi410 (at)

with the following information:









Book Launch:  The Public Diplomacy Council will have advance copies for sale at the forum of its latest publication,

Local Voices/Global Perspectives:  Challenges Ahead for U.S. International Media.

The anthology brings together exclusive contributions of 22 specialists in the field and examines issues facing publicly-funded overseas networks in a rapidly changing world of digital, web-based media and new distribution technologies.



Rebuilding America's Public Diplomacy:

 Proposals for a New Administration


8:45 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.                Welcome

Professor Steven Livingston

Professor of Media and Public Affairs & International Affairs

School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University

Chairman, Public Diplomacy Institute



                                                Robert Coonrod

President, Public Diplomacy Council


9:00 a.m. - 10: 30 a.m.             Panel I - New Directions for Exchanges


                                                Moderator: Robert J. Callahan, Public Diplomacy Fellow
                                                The George Washington University




                                                Ambassador Peter DeShazo, Director, Americas Program

                                                Center for Strategic and International Studies


                                                Ambassador Stuart Holliday

President, Meridian International Center

Foundation for International Understanding


                                                Ambassador Kenton Keith

                                                Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange


10:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.            Break


11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.            Panel II - New Visions of Public Diplomacy


                                                Moderator:  Ambassador Pamela H. Smith

                                                Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service




                                                Thomas Miller, Vice President

                                                Business for Diplomatic Action


                                                Mark Maybury, Executive Director

                                                Mitre Corporation's Information Technology Division 


                                                Michael Canning

                                                Public Diplomacy Council


12:30 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.            Concluding Remarks

Marhban bekum ila Olaa Nasharatina al-Ikhbariyah." ("This is London, the BBC. Welcome to our first news bulletin.")

With these words, the BBC launched its long-awaited Arabic TV channel at 1000 gmt on Tuesday 11 March.

The first hour's programming included two news bulletins, at 1000 and 1030 gmt.

The headlines in both bulletins were: latest bomb explosions in Pakistan; Israel refuses to hand over body of "the person who carried out the Jerusalem operation"; BBC opinion poll shows decline in support for military action against Iran over its nuclear activities.

While many commentators have welcomed the latest arrival on the pan-Arab TV scene, some have questioned whether the BBC Arabic radio service's 70-year old reputation in the Middle East and North Africa will translate into success for its new TV channel in a marketplace where over 500 channels, including several 24-hour Arabic-language news channels, are vying for viewers.

History and funding

The first BBC Arabic TV channel was a commercially funded subscription service which aired from July 1994 to April 1996. This venture between the corporation and the Saudi-owned company Orbit lasted less than two years, during which there were disputes between Orbit officials and BBC managers over the channel's editorial independence - the reason for its demise. Many of the staff went on to found Al-Jazeera TV, funded by the Emir of Qatar and now the most-watched pan-Arab station, reportedly with a daily audience of 40 million viewers.

BBC World Service, which is funded by the UK government, decided that its return to the now-crowded Arabic satellite TV sector a decade later had to be funded from public money.

The proposal for a BBC Arabic TV channel was officially confirmed in October 2005. The service was expected to cost 19m pounds a year in operating costs. The BBC raised funds for the channel through a restructure of its resources. In October 2007, the UK government announced that the channel would receive an extra 6m pounds a year to fund its expansion to 24-hour broadcasting.

The Arabic channel will initially broadcast for 12 hours a day, switching to a 24-hour service by summer 2008.

The 1000-2200 gmt slot will attract early- to late-evening audiences, with the 2200 sign-off being midnight local time in the Levant and Egypt, and 0200 in the Gulf.

In the 12 hours between closedown and sign-on, the TV channel will carry BBC Arabic radio and a selection of news pages.

BBC Arabic TV is distributed free-to-air on cable channels and three satellite systems in the Middle East and North Africa: Arabsat (Badr 4, 26 degrees east); Nilesat 102 (7 degrees west); and Eutelsat (Hotbird 8, 13 degrees east), which reaches Europe too.

As the TV channel launches, the BBC has announced a major relaunch of its website, to include embedded video and a new media player. The BBC Arabic radio schedule has also been refreshed, to reflect the new multimedia approach.


BBC Arabic TV's schedule includes news headlines every 15 minutes and a full news summary every 30 minutes. The channel also features news and current affairs programmes such as the twice-daily "Newshour", comprising news, analysis, interviews and debate on the day's top Middle East and global stories.

Three days a week, BBC Arabic TV will air a live multimedia interactive debating forum, "Nuqtat Hewar" (Point of Discussion), already popular on radio and online.

BBC will engage viewers

BBC World Service Director Nigel Chapman has set a target of 20 million viewers within five years for the new TV channel.

Chapman told the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat on 6 March that BBC Arabic TV would not be a "campaigning broadcaster". "It does not have a view about issues in the Middle East or anywhere else. The BBC's job is to report them fairly and accurately and to reflect the relevant points of view in relation to them," he explained.

BBC senior executives stress that the emphasis across BBC Arabic - TV, radio, online and interactive - will be as much on engaging viewers as on the quality of content.

Head of BBC Arabic Hosam El Sokkari said: "BBC Arabic is already renowned for reporting more than just conflict and politics. BBC Arabic aims to continue to broaden the news agenda for audiences in the region... We will offer comprehensive multimedia news reporting and analysis to audiences and, in turn, involve Arab audiences in an authentic dialogue on the issues that reflect their lives."

Salah Negm, BBC Arabic News Editor, added: "We'll be different in the style of presentation as well. We will be authoritative but, at the same time, not very formal. It will be dynamic and modern...We'll be providing a real service of truthful eye-witness reporting, high-quality information, sharp analysis and insightful expertise."

BBC's "good reputation" helps in battle for audiences

In the Transnational Broadcasting Studies (TBS) Journal (autumn 2005), TBS senior editor Hussein Y. Amin wrote: "There is a perception that, unlike other networks, the BBC did not participate in the broadcast of materials that provoked sectarian tensions in the Arab world. Nor did it present materials that portrayed Islam in a negative light or attack Islam as a religion. The BBC also enjoys a good reputation in the Middle East for showing respect to the region's people, languages and cultural and historical legacy. This perception gives the BBC a powerful advantage."

In an article on the Beirut-based Menassat website ( on 4 March 2008, Habib Battah, a former managing director of the Middle East Broadcasters Journal, wrote: "Many critics agree that the BBC, with its global resources and long-established credibility, will easily lead the state-sponsored competition. But it is the daunting presence of Al-Jazeera and its five-year-old competitor, Saudi Arabia-backed Al-Arabiya, where the real battle for audiences will be waged."

Adel Darwish, political editor of the IC Group of Middle Eastern magazines, told the Associated Press that "the BBC's extensive news-gathering operation, and its relative lack of bias, will make it a strong competitor, but its mammoth bureaucracy and a fall in journalistic standards in recent years will be handicaps."


Television is the dominant medium for news consumption in the Arabic-speaking world, but it is a crowded marketplace.

According to the Jordan-based consultancy Arab Advisors Group, the number of free-to-air (FTA) satellite TV channels in the Arab world grew by 270 per cent between January 2004 and August 2007. There are now over 370 FTA channels, while pay-TV channels have increased to 140.
But BBC officials point out that the number of heavyweight news channels in the region is relatively limited.

The BBC also notes that independent research has consistently shown an appetite for a BBC Arabic TV channel in a news-hungry market.

The BBC's Nigel Chapman said: "The main reason people give is quite simple - it is because they believe the BBC will provide an independent news service they could trust."


The BBC has dismissed concerns that the Arabic TV service may be regarded by some as a mouthpiece of the British government.

"Whenever we do independent audience research, what's really striking is how highly rated the BBC is for independence after 70 years of broadcasting in Arabic, and also how people can differentiate very precisely between what the BBC does and what the UK government does with its foreign policy or any other objectives," said BBC World Service Director Nigel Chapman on 3 March.

Analysis by Peter Feuilherade, BBC Monitoring, 11 March 2008.

Back to post.

In Washington, never underestimate the power of a bad idea to come to fruition.

The notion of creating something that might be called "Radio Free Africa" starts with disinformation about VOA. During his CSIS speech, Gedmin positioned the "surrogate" stations, i.e. his RFE/RL, as well as Radio Free Asia, like this: "What we do is broadcast to our countries in their languages the news, the information, I like to say the responsible discussion, commentary, that they would have if they had a free an independent media. ... It's a big difference between us and the Voice of America. Voice of America ... has always been about us, about America, about American foreign policies, American society, culture, music, art, and sport, and theater, and politics."

That's how U.S. international broadcasting is described, over and over, by its senior officials. The problem is, it isn't true. Yes, VOA does cover those American things, but it has an audience mainly because it provides audiences with news and information about their own countries. BBC World Service does this, too, in a much bigger way, and to a much larger audience, than RFE/RL. Radio France International provides this service for francophone Africa, and Radio Australia for the Pacific

The one part of the "theory" of U.S. international broadcasting that does correspond with reality is that RFE/RL and RFA, while superior in their coverage of their target countries, are dutifully deficient in their coverage of world news.

To eliminate overlap, VOA could be directed to be correspondingly deficient in its coverage of target country news. But then the audience would have to tune to two U.S. stations to get all of the news. I doubt the audience would put up with such nonsense.

One area where U.S. international broadcasting enjoys particular success is Africa. A big reason for this is that all the resources of U.S. international broadcasting to Africa are concentrated in the VOA’s African services. And because of this, African listeners can get African, world, and U.S. news all from the convenience of one radio station.

Under Gedmin's vision, the scarce talent, resources and budget for broadcasting in languages such as Hausa, Swahili, Amharic, and Kinyarwanda/Kirundi would be split into two stations that would compete with each other and duplicate each other's outputs.

In the late 1990’s, proposals for a “Radio Free Africa” were floated by some members of Congress. VOA’s then director Evelyn Lieberman responded by way of a preemptive self-amputation. President Clinton announced plans to create a Radio Democracy for Africa as part of VOA.

In a rare victory for good sense in U.S. international broadcasting, the Radio Democracy for Africa idea withered and was eventually forgotten. U.S. international broadcasting to Africa remained unitary and effective.

But if Gedmin remains mounted on his new African surrogate hobbyhorse, the success now enjoyed by USIB in Africa could turn into failure, just about overnight.

On the other hand, creation of a new Radio Free Africa would have excellent boondoggle value. It would create a new bureaucracy, with a new director, associate director, assistant directors, senior advisors, special assistants, and presidential management interns. The distinguished fellows of Washington's think tanks (even those of the conservative persuasion) positively salivate at the prospect of a new agency and its prospects of plum jobs.

VOA, RFE/RL. RFA, and the other elements of U.S. international broadcasting are very good stations. Together, they would be excellent. Combined, they could compete with the BBC and with the steadily improving media of its target countries. The safer bet is that USIB will further subdivide into more and more bureaucratic shards, dooming it to a future of irrelevance.

Back to post.

Notes on "Orchestrating Freedom," by Melanie Kirkpatrick, Wall Street Journal, 25 February 2008.

Ms. Kirkpatrick writes: "The U.S. does broadcast several hours a day in Korean on the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia; and funding doubled to about $8 million this year from $4 million in 2006. But the broadcasts are transmitted via short wave, which severely limits their reach."

VOA Korean has, for the past few years, used 648 kHz medium wave ("AM"), in addition to its shortwave frequencies. The medium wave is one hour per day leased on a transmitter in a neighboring country. RFA has also used this medium wave transmitter but, for whatever reason, is not doing so now.

"The transmitters are in countries that don't want to be named for fear of attracting the ire of China, Pyongyang's patron, and which aren't close enough to the North for medium-wave transmissions to AM radios."

The countries in which RFA leases shortwave transmitters are not identified. VOA Korean on shortwave overtly uses the relay stations of the International Broadcasting Bureau located in the Philippines and Thailand.

"The South Korean government, incredibly, has zero broadcasts to the North, which it prefers not to antagonize by giving North Koreans accurate news of the outside world."

This is incredibly untrue. South Korea's public broadcaster, the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), has had for many years two networks directed to the North. Formerly "Liberty Program," they are now called the Social Education Service. [And more recently, KBS Global Korean Network; see subsequent post.] They use medium wave transmitters with powers ranging from 500 to 1500 kilowatts -- plenty to cover North Korea.

The Social Education Service Program does not have an in-your-face approach to cross-border broadcasting, i.e. it's not called something like the Voice of the Liberation of the Enslaved Victims of Kim Jong-il. It's method is more subtle, and thus perhaps not appreciated by American experts and decision makers. Indeed, the fact that the KBS SES Program exists at all seems to have escaped the notice of America's experts and decision makers. I don't know how one manages to overlook a radio station transmitting with 1500 kilowatts.

The SES Program broadcasts KBS news, which does not ignore events in North Korea. In addition, North Koreans can hear other KBS radio networks intended for South, and some prefer the more entertainment-oriented programming of these other channels. Recent surveys of North Korean defectors indicate that KBS has a larger audience in North Korea than VOA or RFA.

At least some of South Korea's several private broadcasting companies are also audible in the North. One of these is the Far East Broadcasting Company, an evangelical organization with headquarters in the United States. In addition, the South Korea Armed Forces operate a clandestine station, Voice of the People, directed to the North.

"The short-wave radios sold in North Korea are relatively expensive, come fixed to state-run stations, and must be registered with the authorities."

The radios owned in the North Korea typically have a medium wave band only, though newer models might also receive FM.

"However, thanks to a growing cross-border trade with China, much of it unofficial, cheap AM radios are proliferating in North Korea -- along with used videotape players that Chinese seek to sell when they upgrade to DVD players."

As stated above, the medium wave (AM) radios already exist in North Korea. Radios brought across the border from China may also have shortwave coverage, in addition to medium wave, thus improving the chances of receiving foreign broadcasts.

Video players are being introduced into North Korea and may even be manufactured there. The favored technology may be VCD, a sort of poor-man's, low resolution DVD, rather than videotape. Any attempts to distribute videos in the North must take into account the video medium used there.

"Brave Northerners hungry for information long ago figured out how to jury-rig short-wave radios to receive foreign broadcasts."

Actually, they are detuning their North Korean single-band medium wave radios. This allows them mainly to hear South Korean broadcasts, and perhaps also VOA's more distant medium wave relay. But, yes, they are brave.

"An InterMedia survey, commissioned last year by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (which oversees Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America), found that more than 40% of defectors had listened to foreign short-wave broadcasts inside North Korea, despite the risk of punishment."

Foreign broadcasts, yes, but probably mostly on medium wave. And the most popular "foreign" stations are South Korean.

"If [President-elect Lee Myung-bak] is serious about his pledge to do more than his predecessor to help his fellow Koreans in the North, he will reverse the current policy and allow broadcasts from transmitters located in the South. There's an especially urgent need for medium-wave transmissions -- that is, to the AM radios that currently can't tune in foreign broadcasts."

As stated above, there are already plenty of South Korean medium wave transmissions directed to, or audible in, the North. President Lee might finally allow VOA and/or RFA to transmit on medium wave, and perhaps even on FM, from transmitters in the South. Or, if he follows precedent, he won't.

"While the North tries to jam foreign broadcasts, it has only limited success given the large amount of scarce electricity required. ... Pyongyang would not have the resources to block a surge in foreign broadcasts."

Pyongyang probably does not have enough electricity to block a surge in shortwave broadcasting, nor could it block all the medium wave transmitters used by South Korean stations.

However, VOA and RFA will probably be able to get access to only one or two medium wave frequencies each, and most likely from distant locations. It would not take a huge amount of electricity for the North to jam those medium wave transmissions.

Shortwave enjoys some immunity from jamming because signals on shortwave frequencies tend to travel over long distances better than over short distances. This immunity does not work nearly as well on medium wave, where nearby jamming transmitters have more of an advantage over distant transmitters.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that North Korean elites are allowed to own imported shortwave radios. This is an important audience despite its small size. Beyond that, some non-elites are obtaining shortwave radios via Chinese cross-border trade. Every opportunity to transmit on medium wave should be exploited, but shortwave should not be forsaken in international broadcasting to North Korea.

The president of RFE/RL speaks

Jeffrey Gedmin, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc., since March 2007, spoke February 14 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. This was my first chance to hear what this new top executive of U.S. international broadcasting has to say.

Quick review: Most people go to the trouble of tuning in foreign broadcasts to get news that is more comprehensive, reliable, and credible that the news they get from their domestic state controlled media. (We DXers listen for another reason, but we are in the minority.)

Because of the need for that credibility, the head of an international broadcasting entity ideally should be a journalist. A journalist who is dyed-in-the wool, gruff, grizzled, cigar-chomping, visor-wearing, with a three-day growth of beard. And that's if your director is a female. If the director is a male, he would look absolutely indescribable.

Jeffrey Gedmin does not have the heart of a journalist. He has the heart of an international policy wonk. He was obviously more interested in the political, ideological struggle between the United States and its adversaries, than in making sure that RFE/RL's journalism is fair, balanced, and independent.

"We're in the journalism business, the accuracy business, the objectivity business, the information business, the commentary business, but the value that's difficult to talk about, to quantitfy, of giving hope through these services to literally millions of people." Later in his talk, he put it more bluntly: "Our mission is to promote democratic values and institutions."

The decision makers of U.S. international broadcasting can’t just leave it at just plain, good journalism. There is always the "but." As in his boss, outgoing BBG chairman Jim Glassman’s "but": "Journalism is the foundation of what we do, but, we are paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, we have a mission, we have a purpose."

So, more review: Why international broadcasting that contents itself with no-buts journalism? 1) It brings an audience, because that’s why people tune in. 2) It bolsters the audience against the disinformation of dictators and terrorists, allowing the listeners and viewers to form their own opinions about current events. 3) It speaks well for the United States that its broadcaster provides a fair and accurate news service.

The traditional disinformation about VOA

It is ironic that the "surrogate" international broadcast stations (RFE/RL and Radio Free Asia), ostensibly in the business of countering disinformation in their target countries, are themselves created and sustained by a campaign of disinformation about the Voice of America.

At CSIS, Gedmin said, "what we do is broadcast to our countries in their languages the news, the information, I like to say the responsible discussion, commentary, that they would have if they had a free an independent media. ... It's a big difference between us and the Voice of America. Voice of America ... has always been about us, about America, about American foreign policies, American society, culture, music, art, and sport, and theater, and politics." He said much the same thing at the Heritage Foundation on April 10.

Well, that’s the mythological structure of U.S. international broadcasting. Yes, VOA does cover those American things, but it has an audience because it provides audiences with news and information about their own countries. BBC World Service does this, too, in a much bigger way, and to a much larger audience, than RFE/RL. Radio France International provides this service for francophone Africa, and Radio Australia for the Pacific.

All successful international broadcasting is surrogate broadcasting. RFE/RL and RFA are not so unique, except that they are dutifully deficient in their coverage of world news.

Nevertheless, Gedmin wants U.S. surrogate international broadcasting to expand. The last person to ask him a question at the CSIS event was from Nigeria. And he asked why RFE/RL does not broadcast to Africa.

Gedmin: “I personally believe that there’s a very compelling case for more surrogate broadcasting. And you said it best, including in your country you know better than I, it’s not just philanthropy, it’s the strategic interest of the United States. ... And so, you know, with me you’re pushing on an open door, and if you want to give me your card and we’ll visit our board and we’ll stop by Congress and we’re ready to do business."

Oh-oh. One area where U.S. international broadcasting enjoys particular success is Africa. A big reason for this is that all the resources of U.S. international broadcasting to Africa are concentrated in the VOA’s African services. And because of this, African listeners can get African, world, and U.S. news all from the convenience of one radio station.

Under Gedmin's vision, the scarce talent, resources and budget for broadcasting in languages such as Hausa, Swahili, Amharic, and Kinyarwanda/Kirundi would be split into two stations that would compete with each other and duplicate each other's outputs.

In the late 1990’s, proposals for a "Radio Free Africa" were floated by some members of Congress. VOA’s then director Evelyn Lieberman responded by way of a preemptory self-amputation. President Clinton announced plans to create a Radio Democracy for Africa as part of VOA.

In a rare victory for good sense in U.S. international broadcasting, the Radio Democracy for Africa idea withered and was eventually forgotten. U.S. international broadcasting to Africa remained unitary and effective.

But if Gedmin remains mounted on his new African surrogate hobby horse, the success now enjoyed by USIB in Africa could turn into failure, just about overnight.

On the other hand, creation of a new Radio Free Africa would have excellent boondoggle value. It would create a new bureaucracy, with a new director, associate director, assistant directors, senior advisors, special assistants, presidential management interns. Washington loves a boondoggle, and the distinguished fellows of the Washington think tanks (even those of the conservative persuasion) positively salivate at the prospect of a new agency and their promise of plum jobs.

Farewell to Briech

The International Broadcasting Bureau’s shortwave relay station at Briech, Morocco, ceased operation as an IBB facility on March 30.

The IBB Office of Engineering was planning some sort of send-off. Amazingly enough, I was asked for ideas. I proposed to do a live show on March 29 at 2000-2100 UTC, repeated March 30 at 0600-0700, on as many Morocco that could be spared. The program would interview relay station staff and experts in international broadcasting technologies, and take calls from listeners.

The idea was sent up the flagpole. A "no," or merely inaction, at any of the many, many layers of USIB management means that the live show won’t happen. I never heard back, so the live Briech farewell didn’t happen. If there was a farewell event, I heard nothing about it.

To determine whether American broadcasts could be heard despite the jamming, Washington would periodically send a technician to Moscow. Equipped with a radio receiver, the technician would travel in the Soviet Union and monitor the effectiveness of jamming. Results confirmed that in many rural areas foreign broadcasts were often beyond the effective range of Soviet jammers, but in and around major cities it was usually difficult, if not impossible, to understand the broadcasts over the interference. However, the technicians sent by Washington rarely, if ever, spoke Russian, and their evaluation of the radio reception was based on technical observations.

In September 1968, the Moscow embassy was requested by Washington to monitor Radio Liberty broadcasts in the Moscow area for one week. I volunteered to do the job because, as Counselor for Press and Culture, I had an interest in the effectiveness of the broadcasts, but also because I had a degree in electrical engineering, and knew something about radio broadcasts and antennas. Moreover, a few weeks earlier, while on vacation with my family in Finland, I had installed in my station wagon a radio receiver for exactly such a task.

For seven consecutive nights, I drove around various districts of Moscow listening to Radio Liberty broadcasts, wrote down the news headlines I heard in Russian, where I had heard them, the time of the broadcasts, and their radio frequencies. I was not tailed on those evenings and my work was not hindered in any way although once my monitoring was interrupted by a Soviet militsia man who asked what I was doing parked on a side street on the outskirts of Moscow. "Listening to American radio broadcasts," I replied, "because jamming prevents me from listening to them in our embassy in mid-town Moscow." That honest answer seemed to satisfy him, much to my relief.

Returning to the embassy I sent the results of each evening's work by telegram to the State Department and Radio Liberty in Munich, proving that Liberty's broadcasts could indeed be heard in most parts of Moscow, and understood above the jamming, if one had a decent receiver, knew something about antennas, and understood Russian.

When I returned to the United States at the end of my tour, I was invited to call on Howland H. Sargeant, President of the Radio Liberty Committee in New York, who thanked me for my efforts. Sargeant told me that Radio Liberty broadcasts had been threatened with closure by the Congress unless it could be shown that they could be heard above the jamming, and my monitoring had saved the day. Sargeant wrote a letter (on December 11, 1969) to Henry Loomis, USIA Deputy Director, to that effect, which was placed in my personnel file.

The China syndrome.

In my day-job capacity as audience research analyst for the International Broadcasting Bureau (for whom I do not speak in these pages), I just attended the annual program review meeting for the VOA Mandarin radio service. The results of our 2007 national survey in China (N=8229) were flat again. Only 0.2% of adults listen weekly to VOA. At least that’s better than RFA (0.1%) and BBC (0.0%). And that 0.2% for VOA comes out to about two million people. But still… .

It might be that the Chinese respondents did not want to admit to listening to Western broadcasts. But there is too much evidence that people in China are just doing other things than listening to foreign radio on their shortwave radios, if they own one. Only about three percent of the sample say they have access to a shortwave radio.

China, like much of East Asia, seems to have gone directly from no electronic media to television, skipping radio (unless they had one of those single-channel wired loudspeaker things). The 2007 China survey shows that 98% own television sets, but only 21% own radios. Weekly use of wavebands is about 14% for FM, four percent medium wave, and one percent shortwave.

The Chinese, like many other East Asians (and like Americans, for that matter), prefer television to radio, and they prefer entertainment to news. The Chinese are in to business these days, and it is good for business in China not to be too interested in political developments.

At the VOA Mandarin program review, after the main research presentation, I got up and gave a short presentation, which I don’t do very often, because the management types would prefer that I just remain seated in the corner and keep quiet.

A Glimmer of hope?

I mentioned that there is a glimmer of hope in China. Chinese manufacturers such a Tecsun, Kaito, and Degen are now marketing their good-quality shortwave radios inside China. I showed them some pages from the Tecsun website. I recalled the success that the Sony ICF-5900 had in Japan, albeit briefly, in the 1970s, and suggested that similar interest might bubble up among young people in China, internet notwithstanding.

Then, taking audio from Bill Whitacre’s IBB Monitoring RMS system, I showed the room what kind of luck Chinese owners of these new Chinese shortwave radios might have trying to hear VOA Mandarin.

Using the RMS receiver in Shanghai, from January 22 at 1411 UTC, we tried all the VOA Mandarin frequencies: VOA and the China National Radio co-channel were about even on 6040, with CNR dominating on 6160, 7295, 9680, 9825, and 11785. On 7295, the “Yankee” sounder introducing the Editorial could be heard in the background (thus, SIO 111 for VOA). On some frequencies, CNR had an echo, suggesting more than one transmitter site.

Then we listened from January 16 at 1110 UTC. Again, we tried all six shortwave frequencies. On some, the CNR jammer dominate. On some VOA prevailed, but with interference. But on 11785, VOA was good, with only slight interference from the CNR co-channel. SIO 444.

That was the point I was trying to make. With a good, dual conversion shortwave radio, and the patience to try different transmission times and all the frequencies, a person in China can hear VOA Mandarin, and news that is not the Party line.

Great news, huh? Actually, I saw mostly blank stares. I believe I heard a cricket chirp. These days, shortwave is not supposed to be interesting at VOA.

Then the content analyst at the VOA Mandarin program review talked about the need to keep the content lively, and to consult with affiliates in China.

Affilates? There are no VOA “affiliates” in China, at least none who would use anything containing substance and actually identified as coming from VOA. But that’s the template that is applied to all VOA services these days.

What about all those satellite dishes in China?

So how about using other media to penetrate the great electronic wall of China? Even though I am a shortwave listener since the 1960s, I am agnostic about the media technologies we may use to get content into China. May the best medium be employed.

The week previous, we had the VOA Mandarin television program review. During 2007, I commissioned a study to look into all those gray-market satellite dishes seen on balconies and apartment-block roofs all over China (in some cities more than others, depending on the zeal of local enforcement).
We found out that most Chinese use their satellite dishes not to get television from abroad, but to get television from other provinces of China. The motive? More channels of Chinese-language entertainment. The 2007 survey told us that Chinese satellite users tend to be less educated, and more likely to live in rural areas. Anyone who drove through West Virginia in the 1980s and saw the ol’ C-band dishes outside the house trailers knows what’s going on here.

In China, C-band dishes, although larger than Ku-band dishes, are preferred by those with lower incomes, because the C-band content tends to be free. The Ku-band is the domain of the pay-TV channels and subscription packages.

In the Mountain State, when DirecTV and DISH Network came along, the C-band dishes mainly fell into disuse. The same may happen in China. In December 2007, the China Direct Broadcast Satellite Company was created. Within a few years, it will provide an authorized multichannel service to small dishes in China. Viewers will have less incentive to purchase from, and Chinese authorities will have more incentive to crack down on, the satellite television gray market. That could be the end of the loosey-goosey system that allowed some Chinese to watch foreign television channels.

The internet must be the answer. Isn’t it? It isn’t?

Then there is the internet. At the VOA Mandarin radio program review meeting, the internet person spoke of the VOA Mandarin website getting something like ten million visits. I could just imagine management soaking up that big number, and comparing it to the paltry 2.1 million weekly radio listeners.

But ten million visits is not ten million unique visitors. Furthermore, many, perhaps most, of those “visits” may have come from users outside of China.

Server-side web analytics are no substitute for a sample survey. And in our 2007 survey, the percent of Chinese internet users who visit the VOA website rounds out to 0.0% (compared to 24% for

Nevertheless, the internet is already much more popular in China than shortwave radio. It’s more convenient to consume news from a web page than to listen to news on the radio. So, by all means, let’s press on with ways to get internet content into China.

There is a software industry, e.g. Triangle Boy and Anonymizer, devoted to getting content through the firewalls put up by China. But, unfortunately, there is a much larger software industry, e.g. Cisco, devoted to enabling entities such as the People’s Republic of China to block certain internet content.

Breaking that firewall will be tough, given that the internet involves landlines through China, and ISPs inside China. Homely old shortwave, instead, involves radio waves that hop over the Chinese borders, and over some of the jamming transmitters, and directly into the homes of Chinese motivated enough to own and use a shortwave radio. In my little presentation, the last Powerpoint slide showed how skywave propagation works.

Well, at least the cricket chirped.

Views expressed are my own. More at

NASWA - The North American Shortwave Association

E-mail from Voice of America director Dan Austin to VOA/IBB staff, 7 January 2008:

Steve Redisch, a veteran television news executive, joins Voice of America today, Monday, January 7, as VOA Executive Editor, functioning as VOA’s chief operating officer. He will report to me and, working from the director’s office, will supervise the daily operations and activities of VOA’s news, programs, language services, broadcast operations and Internet departments.

Steve, who began his broadcasting career with WTOP Radio in Washington in 1979 after attending American University, most recently was CNN’s deputy Washington bureau chief and executive producer in charge of the CNN White House unit. During a 20-year career at the cable television network, he worked variously as a producer of international and Washington programs, as senior producer for “Inside Politics,” and as executive producer of other news shows, including “The World Today” and “Wolf Blitzer Reports.” He received two Emmy awards and one National Headliner Award for his CNN work.

With a record of strong news judgment, keen competitive instincts, experience working in audio, video and Internet media and a reputation as a team builder and leader, Steve brings to VOA the skills we need to grow as a multi-media provider of exclusive, trustworthy news and information to audiences around the globe. Please join me in welcoming him to the Voice of America.

Jim, we hardly knew ye.

James Glassman, who was appointed chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors only in June, has been nominated by President Bush to succeed Karen Hughes as under secretary of state for public diplomacy.

Perhaps the new job, if he is confirmed by the Senate (likely), is a better fit for Mr. Glassman. During his town meeting with VOA and IBB employees on July 10, Mr. Glassman said: "I just want to emphasize something I said back in July. I've been a journalist all my life. The foundation of everything we do here is rock solid journalism. At the same time, we are not a conventional journalism organization. We are not CNN. We are broadcasters who work for the United States government, broadcasting under a very clear mandate to be accurate and objective and comprehensive."

So Mr. Glassman could not just let U.S. international broadcasting provide “conventional journalism,” and indeed left U.S. international broadcasters with a contradictory charge. I think he always fancied himself as a member of the administration’s foreign policy team, than as part of the BBG’s “firewall,” protecting the USIB newsrooms from administration dictates. He’ll be happier in Foggy Bottom.

Of course, some observers will say that Charlotte Beers failed to make the United States popular, then Margaret Tutwiler failed, then Karen Hughes failed. I hope Mr. Glassman won’t try any Hail Mary stunt in the waning months of the Bush Administration in a bid to turn around American’s dismal standing in global opinion polls.

Public diplomacy should not realistically be expected to make unpopular policies popular. The best public diplomacy can hope for is to keep the United States from becoming even more unpopular. Or, at best, nudging world opinion from “dislike extremely” to just “dislike.” That could make the difference between engaging in violent acts against Americans, and just yelling very loudly at Americans.

It would also be helpful for Mr. Glassman to sort out which U.S. agency does what in U.S. international communications. The Pentagon continues to demonstrate its ambitions in conducting public diplomacy-like campaigns over broad areas. To avoid redundancy or, worse, contradictory messages, Defense Department efforts should be restricted to PsyOp and other communications in military areas of operation. The State Department’s public diplomacy efforts would advocate and explain U.S. policies on a global scale. And U.S. international broadcasting would stick to the news (and, as appropriate, entertainment).

Making BBC look good by making VOA look bad.

On December 14, a story in the Times of London about the 75th anniversary of BBC World Service included this passage: "'Other international broadcasters are locked into their perspective,' says [World Service director Nigel] Chapman, pointing out that Voice of America employees, for example, are civil servants, with an explicit purpose 'to project a US political view'.”

I’ve made something of a career describing the institutional differences between VOA and BBC World Service. Yes, VOA employees are civil service, and they take the “defend and uphold the Constitution” oath when they hire on. And the employees in the IBB Office of Policy “project a US political view” in their editorials broadcast by VOA. But in saying that all VOA employees do this, Chapman was over the top. I hope that the BBC World Service journalists working for him have a better grasp of nuance than he does.

Neverthless, congratulations to BBCWS on its 75th.

Nigel Chapman’s howler aside, the 75th anniversary of BBC World Service, celebrated in December, was a momentous occasion. I’ve listened to World Service for about 42 of those 75 years. I started back before it was called “World Service.” A bit later, the BBC 24-hour global English-language was called “World Service.” Finally, the entire BBC external radio operation took on that name.

After I began listening, BBC World Service added more and more relay stations in key locations, such as Ascension Island and Antigua. It transmitted on out-of-band frequencies such as 15070 and 9410, which almost always seemed to be in the clear. By the 1970s, World Service reached its heyday as a shortwave service. You really could be anywhere in the world, listening at any time, with a good chance of hearing BBC World Service English on at least one frequency. I could hear World Service just about any time on the portable shortwave radios then residing in every room of my then apartments and condos.

(By the way, the U.S. correspondent of the New Statesman, writing about spending his Christmases in the United States, had something to say about this: "I found a warm, sunny Christmas and no Boxing Day wildly alien at first: I would desperately rig up an aerial to listen through the static to the BBC World Service relay of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Cambridge, but the BBC’s disgraceful decision to cease short-wave transmissions to North America soon put a stop to my Christmas Eve fix.")

I think World Service programming was also in its golden age in the 70s and 80s. World news on the hour was eight minutes long – just right. The longer news programs were usually not over a half hour, not wasting our time and optimum for radio attention spans. And there was a broad variety of drama, comedy, music, quiz, and special interest programs. The BBC even acknowledged its radio aficionado audience with “World Radio Club.”

Perhaps the quintessential BBC program was “Anything Goes,” hosted by Bob Holness. Music requests came from all over, giving a real sense of the “World” in “World Service.” Dedications were acknowledged. Many of the names of those writing in were Anglo, from countries that were not, at least any longer, Anglo. Perhaps because the program had the whiff of the Empire, perhaps because it was not Cool Britannia, “Anything Goes” was dropped.

This was symptomatic of a new corporate attitude on the part of World Service. Hour-long news programs have squeezed out much of the variety. Shortwave to North America, which provided that variety to stalwart World Service listeners, was dropped in favor of feeds of mostly news to U.S. FM public radio stations. More audience, impressive numbers, but less variety, less exposure of all that the U.K. accomplishes.

Branding the BBC world services.

Funny how the World Service newscasts on the hour now just say “BBC,” not “World Service.” And its redesigned website says at the top, “BBC Radio World Service,” and “Listen to the BBC’s international radio station.” Perhaps this is by way of separating the BBC World Service (radio) brand from the BBC World (television) brand.

And how will the new BBC Arabic and Persian television services be identified? BBC World Service, because they are subsidized like BBC World Service radio? Or BBC World, because they are television like the so-far-English-only BBC World?

Views expressed are my own.

More silent shortwave sites.

In the latter months, at least four large chunks of the shortwave iceberg have gone plop into the sea. With the end of A07, the Radio Netherlands site in Flevo, the Netherlands, and the IBB site in Delano, California, went off the air. That was followed by the announcement that the IBB would give its Morocco relay back to Morocco in March 2008. A bit earlier, on October 1, RAI shut down all of its shortwave broadcasting, and it appears that its sites at Prato Smeraldo and Caltanissetta will never transmit again.

The Morocco announcement was the most shocking. I heard one rumor to that effect, but didn’t believe it. The Morocco site is a Cold War stalwart, with ten 500-kilowatt transmitters. But that might also explain its demise. Most of its single hops would land in Eastern Europe, where the pesky outbreak of freedom has greatly reduced the incentive to listen to shortwave. Morocco is also useful for reaching the Arab World, but the Arabs tend to watch satellite television these days. The third prong of Morocco’s coverage, Africa, still has plenty of shortwave listeners. Perhaps the thinking is that Botswana and São Tome will suffice.

The announcement about the closure of Morocco said that the “all programs currently broadcast from the Morocco station will continue to be broadcast, either from other IBB facilities or through lease arrangements.” With the closure of the IBB relays in Greece in 2006, other IBB facilities will be busy. And even with other stations’ reductions of shortwave, I don’t know where sufficient transmitters-for-lease will be found. But keep in mind that the promise is to maintain broadcast hours, not specifically frequency hours. Broadcast hours could be fulfilled entirely via the internet.


Delano was not the ideal location for a shortwave site in 2007. Shortwave audiences in Latin America have dissipated. It’s too far from Asia or Africa to reach those continents with commanding signals.

Ironically, just days before Delano closed, President Bush spoke to the people of Cuba via Radio Martí, including a Delano transmitter. And Congress is willing to lavish funds to overcome the jamming of TV and Radio Martí. But the laws of physics tell us that shortwave is the least interdictable of the media available to international broadcasting. The best way to get intelligible content into Cuba is to transmit on as many shortwave frequencies as possible, from as many sites as possible. The closure of Delano eliminates one of those sites.

The U.S. State Department declared 2007 to be the “Year of the Pacific.” A big reason for this is that China is expanding its influence there. On the small island nations of the southern Pacific, with their limited domestic journalism and media, people still listen to shortwave, e.g. Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand International. The southern Pacific was also one of the places that Delano could reach reliably. Alas, in this Year of the Pacific, Delano was eliminated as a means to inform the Pacific.

I’m told that Delano will remain, for now, in “caretaker” status. Good. It will be needed in the future.


The shutdown of the Flevo transmitters means that we can no longer pick up Radio Netherlands via (ahem) the Netherlands. Andy Sennitt wrote in the RN Media Weblog that, by dropping the Flevo transmissions, “we are saving money, and as a bonus the ability to split our transmissions across more sites means that some listeners can expect stronger signals. Also, we have cut out a few hours of Dutch transmissions where the listening audience was quite small, and boosted other transmissions with additional frequencies.” I hope Flevo will be “mothballed” rather than dismantled, because RN may need it in the future.

It does make sense for northerly European countries to drop their transmissions from domestic sites, often swallowed up by auroral disturbances, in favor of relays from more southerly relays. The satellite links are easy enough. RN is doing that by continuing to use its Bonaire and Madagascar relays, as well as leased facilities.

Sackville, New Brunswick, is a sacred place to us of the shortwave persuasion, but I’ve often wondered if Radio Canada International would give us a better signal if its shortwave transmitters were in the Caribbean rather than in Canada. On a few occasions since 1917, Canada has floated the idea of annexing Turks and Caicos, the most recent a proposal by Nova Scotia in 2004. That would be a good location for a shortwave transmitting site -- if there would still be interest in transmitting on shortwave.

Here is the news from RAI. In English.

RAI, mentioned above, has given up on shortwave and on most of its 26 languages. (What are all those broadcasters doing now?) But you can still hear the news in English from RAI. It’s on RAI’s “Notturno Italiano.” This all-night radio program has existed since 1952, when its name was “Notturno dall'Italia.” It’s mostly music, but on the hour is news in Italian, English, and French. (German was dropped after October 1.) The program was transmitted to Europe on medium wave and on one shortwave frequency. The shortwave is now gone, but the medium wave and the internet audio stream carry on.

And, so, on my Tangent Quattro internet wi-fi radio, I’ve been a fairly regular listener to Notturno, including it’s news in English. The schedule is 2300-0500 UTC during the winter.

Frankly, this is the program RAI should have transmitted all along on shortwave to North America. Instead of the rip-and-read global news we used to get from RAI’s English shortwave broadcast to North America, the Notturno English news is all about Italy. The reader, a British-accented male, has a much more polished delivery than what we were used to on the old RAI shortwave service. (The weekend of October 6, I heard no English news, just Italian and French. The next weekend, the youngish-sounding female, prone to fluffs, we used to hear on the 0055 UTC shortwave transmission, was back, doing the English news on Notturno.)

And while the music that filled the second ten minutes of the RAI shortwave broadcasts was an admixture of Western pop tunes, the music on Notturno is a pleasingly eclectic mix of mostly Italian tunes, some modern, some vintage.

There is sprightly conversation in Italian between musical selections. If you know any Spanish, you’ll have some idea of what is being said in Italian. If not, Italian is a pleasant language to listen to uncomprehended.

As I have been listening, I’ve noticed the Notturno internet stream drop out (“buffering”) a few times. What, is bandwidth exceeded? Are more than forty people accessing the stream? Here is where putting Notturno back on shortwave to North America might make sense.

In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, sit down to your current novel, and enjoy Notturno Italiano in the background. We might even send e-mails to Notturno’s apparently live forum, surprising them with a sudden influx of North American listeners.

Views expressed are my own. More at Best wishes for the holidays and the new year.

North American Shortwave Association (NASWA).

Morocco, 2 November 2007.

The IBB transmitting station in Morocco will cease operations in March 2008, and the facility will be returned to the Government of Morocco by the end of next year.

The rising cost of operating the Morocco station prompted this decision. The closing will not reduce the number of hours of radio programming currently broadcast by shortwave: All programs currently broadcast from the Morocco station will continue to be broadcast, either from other IBB facilities or through lease arrangements.

Employees affected by the move will receive appropriate severance compensation within the scope of U.S. Embassy agreements. The outstanding work of these Moroccan station employees on behalf of U.S. international broadcasting is greatly appreciated.

Delano, 31 October 2007

On October 28th, the International Broadcasting Bureau’s Delano, California facility ceased regularly scheduled operations. The Delano facility had been a valued asset in the Agency’s mission to promote the values of democracy for 63 years and its voice will certainly be missed.

The Delano facility originated its first broadcast in November of 1944, as a HF shortwave facility, and the scores of dedicated employees, who served the furtherance of our vital mission throughout its span of service, should be proud of their contribution and dedication to this cause.

Shortwave broadcasting has given way to numerous other advanced technologies, and as the changing advancements in the communications media progress, so does our need, as a broadcast medium, to remain current in the latest media technology so that we can continue to service our intended audience.

However, it is important for us to recognize the service and dedication of the Delano staff, both past and present; for their contribution to the success of our mission over the last six decades and congratulate them for a job well done; their efforts are appreciated by all.

My attempts to receive RAI on 11800 kHz the past couple of evenings have been unsuccessful. However, Kai Ludwig heard RAI Polish on 6140 kHz at 1840 UTC. At 1415 UTC, Kai heard the German transmission end with "I hope you will keep us in good memory." Kai adds: "It was obvious that it was a moving moment for the announcer." Two days ago, a RAI German announcer said "So it will be over after working here for 17 years."

The RAI international live stream has been available all day today, although the occasional digital artifacts suggest others have been trying to listen in on this last day of international radio from RAI. Most language services presented their ten-minute newscast, with a brief announcement at the end about the termination effective 1 October. The English broadcast at 2025 UTC began with the usual introduction of the news, but instead of the news, we heard Michael Jackson's "Black or White."

Most of the songs today on RAI International seemed to have themes of goodbye, or going away. Heard several times was Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of my Life."

In contrast to the English no-show, the end of the RAI Portuguese broadcast 2100 was marked by effusive remarks from the female announcer. The closing announcement of the Spanish broadcast at about 2120 UTC was also poignant.

For the English broadcast at 2205, the familiar female announcer was there to read the news. It was, however, the same news I heard a male announcer read the day before -- except for an item about an earthquake in Guam. She did mention, at the middle of the newscast and at the end, that this would be the last day of RAI shortwave broadcasts. Listen to the first of these two announcements, and you can hear voices in the background. A party, perhaps?

Many of the last RAI newscasts are available on this page of the RAI International website. (NB: This is no longer available, but see below.)

The end of the RAI International will also mean the end of its unique interval signal. Most international radio stations play a short tune over and over to help listeners tune in their transmissions. As long as remember -- from the mid-1960s -- RAI's shortwave service used this bird chirping as its interval signal.

NB: RAI shortwave is audible this evening (30 September) on 11800 kHz, but fading out at 2330 UTC. They really need the frequency they used to have in the 9 MHz band. The question now is what will happen to the RAI International multilingual audio stream. Will it end at 2400 UTC or continue into UTC 1 October for final broadcasts to the Americas?

And so ends 77 years of international radio from Italy.

Update: On 1 October, the "onde corte" link has disappeared from the RAI International radio website. However, you can get to that pgae via this link. You might want to save the onde corte pages to your hard disk for posterity.

That last non-Italian programs I heard on the RAI International multilingual stream were Spanish at 0055 UTC, and Portuguese at 0115 UTC, the evening of 30 September EDT, or UTC 1 October.

This page of the RAI International website mentions the cessation of RAI shortwave. Translated: "It is communicated that beginning from monday 1 October RAI has stopped the transmissions in Short Wave. The wireless programs are available on Satelradio, Internet and on the Medium-wave with the Notturno Italiano." Notturno Italiano is an overnight program with content in Italian, English, French, and German, heard in much of Europe on medium wave. It was also on 6060 kHz shortwave, but that presumably has been eliminated.

Arrivederci Roma.

Another chunk of the great iceberg has just fallen into the sea. If the reports were correct, Italy’s RAI will have dropped its shortwave broadcasts on October 1, i.e. by the time you read this.

RAI’s spoken-word content consisted of ten minutes of news. Some of you will remember the tired-sounding older lady who used to do that. That would be followed by ten minutes of music, with no announcements. Over the years, that music segment was given nonsensical placeholder names such as "Free Parking."

And you might have been on the mailing list for the RAI shortwave schedule publication, lavishly illustrated in color and as elaborate as the actual broadcast was austere.

Most of the evening, RAI shortwave was in Italian, and much of that was music. This included many of the old Italian pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The signal was usually good, owing to the southerly azimuth from Italy to the United States. RAI shortwave was therefore a nice companion to reading the newspaper, or washing the dishes, on a cold winter's evening. I’ll miss it.

Italy’s shortwave broadcast history goes back to 1930. This is according to an interesting page from the RAI International website. You might want to save that page to your hard drive, because it may disappear soon after RAI’s shortwave transmission disappear.

As of this writing, it’s not certain if RAI international radio broadcasts will continue via the internet and satellite. [Only Italian remains, plus short newscasts in English, French, and maybe German on Nottorno Italiana.]

[Also see my most recent post on the demise of RAI shortwave.]

DRM: bad news, good news…

Even as prominent international broadcasters abandon shortwave, there is still hope in some circles that Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) will reinvigorate broadcasting below 30 MHz.

Bad news on that front came from the IFA electronics trade show on Berlin. Kai Ludwig heard a presentation by DRM Consortium director Peter Senger, who confirmed that Sangean will not bring its DRM-40 DRM receiver to market. That’s too bad. I’ve used a DRM-40 prototype on a couple of occasions, and it worked very well.

But then good news came during the European trade shows. In fact, it might be something Sangean could have used for the DRM-40 – or maybe Sangean couldn’t get access to it. Two companies, CDNSE and Mirics, have developed the WR608 receiver platform for DRM reception “from the low AM frequencies through to high L-band.” It also receives FM, DAB/DMB or HD-Radio. The WR608 also features a “very fast synthesizer subsystem” which “gives more opportunity for power saving.” That would be useful, given the voracious battery consumption of the earliest batch of DRM receivers.

Meanwhile, a new shortwave analog portable shortwave receiver might provide an interim low-cost solution for DRM reception. The Kaito KA2100, selling for $130 at Universal Radio, and also sold as the CCRadio-SW at C. Crane, has the usual shortwave, medium wave, and FM reception, with digital frequency readout. But it also, unusually, has a 455 kHz IF output on it back panel.

Perhaps that output can be connected to the Elad FDM45512 455-to-12 kHz IF downconverter, with that output going to the sound card of your PC. You would also need the DRM software, which can be found, with some effort, on the web.

The IF output on the Kaito is one of those weird KOK connectors, so you would also need the appropriate adapters and connector cables.

I would be grateful if an early-adopter NASWA member would try this setup to see if it works for DRM reception. The Kaito may or may not be stable enough for the task.

Cold War nostalgia.

Every few weeks, I read a commentary suggesting that U.S. public diplomacy efforts to the Middle East and the Muslim world would benefit from an effort like that of Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America transmitting behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Really? Recall that in the 1980s, VOA built a huge shortwave relay facility at Briech, Morocco. At about the same time, RFE/RL built a shortwave relay station at Maxoqueira, Portugal, just a few hundred kilometers away, to transmit to the same countries, in the same languages, at the same time, as VOA via Morocco. While this duplication was going on in the European “theater,” U.S. international broadcasting had no major relay facility between Greece and the Philippines. The BBC’s transmitters were more evenly distributed, so it had the largest global audience during those years, even though the United States spent more on international broadcasting than Britain.

Those who would return to the Cold War model of international broadcasting are probably thinking of budget increases, the creation of new bureaucracies, and senior level plum jobs, for which they just might be available.

But the United States is now spending more on international broadcasting than it did during the Cold War.

And there is a big difference between the Cold War and now. Back then, U.S. international broadcasting transmitted into countries where the only competition was the dismal, propagandistic state-owned Committee for Broadcasting. These days, the competition is dozens of television channels, many with better newsgathering resources than any one element of U.S. international broadcasting. (Put those elements together, and the United States government might have a competitive international news organization, but that would involve the elimination of several suites-full of senior management, so it probably won’t happen.)

The most recent Cold War international broadcasting nostalgia came from Carnes Lord and Helle Dale of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The funny thing about commentators who call themselves conservative is that, for all their anti-communist bluster, their remedies often involve Soviet-style central planning. Lord and Dale want to line up all the public diplomacy and international broadcasting apparatchiks under a policy dictated by a central committee, on high.

Nowhere in the Lord and Dale paper is there mention of what the audience wants to get from tuning to international broadcasts. Audience research shows that they want news that is more comprehensive and reliable than the news they get from their state-controlled domestic media. Such a market-based approach to international broadcasting requires credibility, which comes from independence, which cannot be achieved by the top-down homogenization advocated in this Heritage paper.

The Brits have understood this since before World War II. This is a major reason why the BBC has the largest audience of any international broadcaster, even though the U.K. spends less on international broadcasting than the United States.

American experts and decision-makers have not grasped the concept. Lord and Dale scoff at the VOA Charter, that requires VOA to "serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive."

It is, perhaps, most intuitive to think that by sending meassage (A) to audience (B), desired effects (C) will be obtained. However, to get audience (B), you have to provide them with the straight, unfettered, unspun news they are seeking. The rewards to the United States for funding such a service are substantial, as explained in my letter of 19 July 2007 to the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

For all its quirkiness, I will miss the RAI shortwave service.

The English transmission always consisted of ten minutes of news, in past decades read by a tired-sounding older lady. That would be followed by ten minutes of music, with no announcements. Over the years, that music segment was given nonsensical placeholder names such as "Free Parking."

I was on the mailing list for the RAI shortwave schedule publication, lavishly illustrated in color and as elaborate as the actual broadcast was austere.

Most of the evening, RAI shortwave was in Italian, and much of that was music. This included many of the old Italian love songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The signal was usually good, owing to the southerly azimuth from Italy to the United States. RAI shortwave was therefore a nice companion to reading the newspaper, or washing the dishes, on a cold winter's evening.

In North America, you can listen to what may be the last days of RAI shortwave on 11800 kHz...

UTC         EDT
2240-0055   6:40-8:55pm     Italian
0055-0115   8:55-9:15pm     English
0115-0130   9:15-9:30pm     French
0130-0315   9:30-11:15pm    Italian
0315-0335   11:15-11:35pm   Spanish

The rest of the RAI shortwave schedule is here.

One of the reasons it's fun to read conservative commentators is that for all their anti-communist protestations, their remedies often involve Soviet-style central planning.

Lord and Dale want to line up all the public diplomacy and international broadcasting apparatchiks under a policy dictated by a central committee, on high.

This reminds me of a diktat made by Leonid Brezhnev during the final months of his dismal career. He called on Soviet media to increase their support of Soviet Communist Party policies. As if Soviet media were not already tediously one-sided.

Nowhere in the Lord and Dale paper is there mention of what the audience wants to get from tuning to international broadcasts. Audience research shows that they want news that is more comprehensive and reliable than the news they get from their state-controlled domestic media. Such a market-based approach to international broadcasting requires credibility, which comes from independence, which cannot be achieved by the top-down homogenization advocated by Lord and Dale.

The Brits have understood this since before World War II. This is a major reason why the BBC has the largest audience of any international broadcaster, even though the U.K. spends less on international broadcasting than the United States.

American experts and decision-makers have not grasped the concept. Lord and Dale scoff at the VOA Charter, that requires VOA to "serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive."

It is, perhaps, most intuitive to think that by sending meassage (A) to audience (B), desired effects (C) will be obtained. However, to get audience (B), you have to provide them with the straight, unfettered, unspun news they are seeking. The rewards to the United States for funding such a service are substantial, as explained in my letter of 19 July 2007 to the BBG.

Conservatives -- you know, fiscal responsibility, small government -- are also fun to read because their solutions tend to involve a budget increase for their particular bailiwick. "Congressional funding for public diplomacy programs has increased only slightly," the authors lament.

Finally, conservatives almost always invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan. "More attuned to the importance of words and ideas in politics than any other American leader since Eisenhower and Kennedy, Reagan placed renewed emphasis on psychological operations and public diplomacy." Actually, Reagan appointed at least two VOA directors, Gene Pell and Richard Carlson, who were committed to the VOA Charter.

In February 2000, On VOA's Communication World, I said "listening to Internet streamed audio through a personal computer is not the same kind of cozy experience as listening to a portable radio, or a bedside. Because of this, I've long wondered why a device that receives Internet audio, that looks and feels like a radio, has not been developed."

That introduced my report about the Kerbango Internet Radio, which was about to come on the market. Except, it never did. It hasn't been until the past year or so that internet radio appliances have finally taken off.

This is largely due to Reciva, a UK based company that provides modules, software, and links to 6,141 internet radio stations for a new crop of devices that really do look and feel like radios. Three of them are available at C. Crane. Of those three, I recently acquired the Tangent Quattro, and have been giving it a workout.

The Tangent Quattro has a tabletop or, in my case, bedside design. My main criterion for satisfaction was that, when I wake up in the middle of the night, as is my wont, I can reach over and, despite being half asleep, push a couple of buttons, twist a dial, and hear the station I want. In this regard, the Quattro succeeds. Trying to do the same with a laptop PC would involve too much schlepping.

The speaker on the top of the unit produces fine, room-filling audio. I would prefer two speakers facing forward, for at least some stereo effect. Most of my listening is via earphones. The jack for that is inconveniently in the back of the receiver.

A few other quibbles: the clock is visible only when the radio is off. And the backlight, even at the dimmest setting, might be too bright at night for some bedside users (or their spouses).
The “tuning” system is a bit clunky, but there probably can never be a quick and easy way to select from six-thousand-and-counting stations in just about every country. The menu system allows you to select by location or by genre (60s, 70s, 80s, talk, news, etc). By location, you select first by country, then go to your station. For the USA, it’s 2,420 stations. It can take a while to twist the dial until you reach your desired station, though you can optionally turn counterclockwise through the Z’s downwards. I think it would help for the U.S. stations to be further subdivided by state. The Quattro has only five memories – not enough.

The display shows two lines. The upper line is the station ID, the lower line provides technical informational, such as whether the stream is Windows Media, Real, etc., and the bitrate. Each line has only 14 spaces, which often is not enough for a complete ID of the station. You have to wait an aggravating couple of seconds until the rest of the ID scrolls across. Future displays should have more room – but stations should also endeavor to keep their IDs compact.

As you know from listening to audio streams via your PC, internet radio, like shortwave, has “conditions.” For some stations, the audio can never be established: SINPO 05500. There is often “fading,” i.e. complete loss of signal until “buffering” brings it back. I find that, just like dreams, the audio tends to drop out just as the content gets interesting. Some streams are 10 kbps or less, and give you “near shortwave quality.”

The Quattro is a bit promiscuous. Occasionally, when my own wi-fi connection hiccups, it will glom on to one of my neighbor’s unprotected routers.

And what can you hear?

So, content wise, are these internet radios good substitutes for shortwave radios? For this, I’ll ignore the U.S. stations and concentrate on the other countries. Many, perhaps most, of the foreign stations play the same English-language rock, pop, hiphop, disco stuff we hear, more of less, on U.S. stations. I was listening to the Radio Jordan English channel. The female DJ, with an authentic Arabic accent, but also an urban attitude, promised “the best dance, trance and techno until the news at nine o’clock.” Dance, trance and techno? From Amman?

Other stations play rock, pop, and hiphop, but at least in their own languages. That’s a bit of an improvement. Some of it is the cheesy Eurovision Song Contest type fare that some of us secretly enjoy.

As for the folk and traditional music much favored by shortwave listeners: recall how many listeners would ask Radio Netherlands to play barrel organ music, or SRI to play Swiss country music, and the broadcasters’ grimaces could be perceived through the speaker, they and their countries being too hip for that stuff. Well, internet radio may satisfy as a conduit of schmaltz. Switzerland has Volksmusiknet. I still haven’t found the all-barrel-organ-all-the-time station in Holland, but it’s probably there.

Under Nigeria, there is “African Music Radio,” with a continuous stream of good tunes. But is it really from Nigeria, or some PC in a closet in New Jersey? The stations listed under Albania play a lot of what we used to hear on Radio Tirana (lek-for-lek, the Albanians may be the most musically talented people in the world). But, I am told, they are mostly from the diaspora community
Indeed, the Reciva list of locations is loosey-goosey. For example, Radio Sawa is listed under Jordan, not under the USA.

But, yes, there is traditional music. You just have to look for it. Algeria. Morocco, and Mauritius yielded great examples.

What about the set-piece English language broadcasts, the staple fare of shortwave, from the likes of Radio Sweden, Radio Japan, Deutsche Welle? For the most part, they can be heard via internet radio. Sometimes the most recent broadcast is available on demand. In other cases, you tap into a live stream and listen when the broadcast in your language is scheduled.

Even better is the access to the domestic spoken-word networks in English-speaking countries such as the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. On shortwave, we considered it a treat when we could hear these services. Via internet radio, access is more of a sure thing. On Reciva radios, for some networks like BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Scotland (especially recommended), you can listen either to the live stream, or on demand to specific programs.

NASWA and internet radio

With the thousands of offerings available via internet radio, NASWA could play a vital role pointing internationally-oriented listeners to the stations and programs that are worth listening to. To be sure, international radio is not shortwave, but it is international radio. And NASWA members are the experts on international radio broadcasts.

The advent of internet radio does not mean that you should abandon your shortwave radios. For one thing, shortwave may still have the edge for picking up stations that really do come from Africa. And, of course, there is the thrill of picking up a signal through the air from a place thousands of kilometers away. The tremolo of music tempered by trans-polar flutter is something to behold, and that will never happen on internet or any other form of digital radio.

And, in times of crises, when the internet is swamped by overuse, or sabotage, your shortwave will still work, provided international broadcasters still have shortwave transmitters.

In the meantime, is it worth the $300-plus price for the Tangent Quattro or one of its Reciva-based siblings? You could wait for prices to come down. But considering that the Quattro pulls in more stations from more countries than the $500 Etón E1 XM, you would be justified to pay the money and listen to the world.

Kim Andrew Elliott

I am very sad to share with you the news of the sudden passing this morning (Aug. 3, 2007) of George Moore, our beloved Deputy Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau. George died at his home in Annapolis. All of us join in expressing our most sincere condolences to George’s family.

George served as IBB’s Deputy Director since June 2006. He also served as Director of Engineering from 2000 to 2006. He joined VOA engineering in 1981 as a Transmitter Technician in Botswana, and rapidly progressed through the ranks of the Foreign Service to Station Manager. His other overseas assignments included Greece, Germany, and Morocco.

George was promoted to the rank of Senior Foreign Service in July 1995, and in February 2003 he was promoted to the rank of Minister Counselor. He was the first Foreign Service Officer within the IBB to achieve this rank.

Before he joined the BBG, George served in various engineering and management positions at radio and television stations in Columbus and Savannah, Georgia, and with General Electric Telecommunications Division in Lynchburg, Virginia.

James K. Glassman
Broadcasting Board of Governors

Willis Conover: Broadcasting Jazz to the World, by Terrence M. Ripmaster. (iUniverse, 2007)…

If you go to my website about international broadcasting and search on “jazz,” you’ll see several entries about musicians who were inspired by Willis Conover’s jazz broadcasts on the Voice of America. They listened from East Europe and the Soviet Union, as expected, but also from India, Cuba, Sweden – all over the world, actually.

My own first memories of Willis Conover were as a teenaged shortwave listener in Indiana. When I began working at VOA in 1985, I considered it a perk to encounter the famous international broadcaster in the corridors. Willis always had a smile and a hello for me. I don’t think he ever knew my name.

Given all the people who knew Willis, or at least listened to him on the radio, it’s surprising that the first biography about his was written by someone who had never heard of him until after Willis’s death in 1994. Nevertheless, Terrence M. Ripmaster, a retired history professor, is an expert on jazz and its history, so he writes with authority and recognizes the significance of Willis’s career.

Ripmaster goes back to the early days of Willis’s life. At age 16, he started a publication for devotees of science fiction. By World War II, his interests had shifted to music. During and after the war, he was able to get work as host of jazz programs at radios stations in an around Washington. This is in the days before radio was focused-grouped and formatted, and when jazz was almost mainstream.

That must have been quite a time, those hipster days of the 1940s and 1950, when Willis frequented the jazz clubs of Washington and New York. Cigarettes were more fashionable back then, and smoke filled clubs even more so. I regret that I am a bit too young to have experienced that scene, though my lungs are probably the better for it.

As Ripmaster writes, for unknown reasons, Willis largely quit the club scene when he was hired by the Voice of America, his first program in January 1955. Willis always worked for VOA as a contractor rather than in the civil service. This, he said, was to protect his “independence,” though it may also have provided him with more generous remuneration than received by the usual starting VOA broadcaster. Willis did not receive benefits, such as health insurance, which would have helped him as his health failed in the 1990s.

Ripmaster describes Willis’s many overseas trips, his efforts to break the color line in the jazz scene, and his personal life. We readers of biography always love gossipy, personal stuff … you do … don’t you? … and so we learn about Willis’s five marriages, which produced a grand total of zero children. But here, the author’s research trips up a bit. On page 11, he writes that Willis married his first wife, Mary Felker, in 1952. On page 19, we read that his marriage to Felker was in 1947, ending in divorce in 1950.

Well, biography is difficult, especially when it involves gathering information from the National Archives, from the Willis Conover collection at the University of North Texas (did Willis ever set foot in Texas?), from Willis’s friends and associates, and from VOA itself. Ripmaster’s book meanders, like a procession of 4 x 6 index cards, so you have my permission not to read it from front to back, but to choose chapters as your mood suits.

When I interviewed him for VOA’s “Talk to America,” Ripmaster told me there is enough material about Willis at the University of North Texas for at least two more books. In the meantime, there is plenty of good reading in his book for anyone interested in Willis’s life, VOA’s past, or the history of American jazz.

Letter to Wall Street Journal, 27 July 2007.

In regard to Bret Stephens's July 10 Global View column "Public Diplomacy for Dummies" about the need for outreach to Muslim countries: It is not true, as the C. Holland Taylor is quoted as saying, that there was "vast silence" from the State Department in response to Indonesian rock star Ahmad Dhani's efforts to promote a more moderate version of Islam.

To the contrary, after Under Secretary Karen Hughes originally reached out to Mr. Dhani because of his message of tolerance and peace, she had me as well as other senior State officials follow up. We had email exchanges, conversations and meetings over a period of months with Mr. Taylor about the possibility of U.S. government support for Mr. Dhani's efforts.

As a result of those conversations, Mr. Taylor, who is the CEO of the LibForAll non-profit organization with which Mr. Dhani is associated, submitted a grant request. Because U.S. taxpayers dollars were involved, the grant request was reviewed in a competitive process, but it was not approved. Mr. Taylor was encouraged to apply for other government grants with differing criteria in the hope that he would be successful.

The State Department is working aggressively to expand America's engagement with Muslim populations around the world. Participation in our education and exchange programs is up dramatically, we have created a new "Citizen Dialogue" program to send Muslim Americans overseas to engage with diverse Muslim communities, we support interfaith dialogue through our Faith and Communities projects and we are teaching English to young people in more than 40 majority Muslim countries. We believe that NGOs can play an important role in our outreach efforts, and we continually seek ways to engage and involve them.

Alina L. Romanowski
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Educational and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State

A bio about Willis Conover.

For the IBB employees’ journal Tune In, I wrote this review of Willis Conover: Broadcasting Jazz to the World, by Terrence M. Ripmaster. (iUniverse, 2007)…

If you go to my website about international broadcasting and search on “jazz,” you’ll see several entries about musicians who were inspired by Willis Conover’s jazz broadcasts on the Voice of America. They listened from East Europe and the Soviet Union, as expected, but also from India, Cuba, Sweden – all over the world, actually.

My own first memories of Willis Conover were as a teenaged shortwave listener in Indiana. When I began working at VOA in 1985, I considered it a perk to encounter the famous international broadcaster in the corridors. Willis always had a smile and a hello for me. I don’t think he ever knew my name.

Given all the people who knew Willis, or at least listened to him on the radio, it’s surprising that the first biography about his was written by someone who had never heard of him until after Willis’s death in 1994. Nevertheless, Terrence M. Ripmaster, a retired history professor, is an expert on jazz and its history, so he writes with authority and recognizes the significance of Willis’s career.

Ripmaster goes back to the early days of Willis’s life. At age 16, he started a publication for devotees of science fiction. By World War II, his interests had shifted to music. During and after the war, he was able to get work as host of jazz programs at radios stations in an around Washington. This is in the days before radio was focused-grouped and formatted, and when jazz was almost mainstream.

That must have been quite a time, those hipster days of the 1940s and 1950, when Willis frequented the jazz clubs of Washington and New York. Cigarettes were more fashionable back then, and smoke filled clubs even more so. I regret that I am a bit too young to have experienced that scene, though my lungs are probably the better for it.

As Ripmaster writes, for unknown reasons, Willis largely quit the club scene when he was hired by the Voice of America, his first program in January 1955. Willis always worked for VOA as a contractor rather than in the civil service. This, he said, was to protect his “independence,” though it may also have provided him with more generous remuneration than received by the usual starting VOA broadcaster. Willis did not receive benefits, such as health insurance, which would have helped him as his health failed in the 1990s.

Ripmaster describes Willis’s many overseas trips, his efforts to break the color line in the jazz scene, and his personal life. We readers of biography always love gossipy, personal stuff … you do … don’t you? … and so we learn about Willis’s five marriages, which produced a grand total of zero children. But here, the author’s research trips up a bit. On page 11, he writes that Willis married his first wife, Mary Felker, in 1952. On page 19, we read that his marriage to Felker was in 1947, ending in divorce in 1950.

Well, biography is difficult, especially when it involves gathering information from the National Archives, from the Willis Conover collection at the University of North Texas (did Willis ever set foot in Texas?), from Willis’s friends and associates, and from VOA itself. Ripmaster’s book meanders, like a procession of 4 x 6 index cards, so you have my permission not to read it from front to back, but to choose chapters as your mood suits.

When I interviewed him for VOA’s “Talk to America,” Ripmaster told me there is enough material about Willis at the University of North Texas for at least two more books. In the meantime, there is plenty of good reading in his book for anyone interested in Willis’s life, VOA’s past, or the history of American jazz.

[You can listen to that 28 June 2007 Talk to America interview via this link. That is probably was my last participation on VOA radio, as Talk to America has been replaced by the online text chat T2A.]

Glassman's "Journalism with Purpose."

At a 10 July town meeting of Voice of America and International Broadcasting Bureau employees, James K. Glassman, new chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, said that for U.S. international broadcasting, journalism is the "foundation." Beyond that, however, that there must be "journalism with purpose … journalism that contributes towards freedom." (Listen to mp3 excerpt.) I wrote to Mr. Glassman, with copy to all BBG members, offering reasons why, in U.S. international broadcasting, journalism is its own purpose. Some excerpts…

I have been involved in international broadcasting audience research since 1977. In the survey and focus groups results I’ve seen since then, the message has been consistent: people use international broadcasting to get the reliable news, especially about their own countries, that is not provided by their state controlled domestic media. They turn to international broadcasts as the antidote to propaganda. They can detect even subtle attempts to emphasize this or downplay that. If unsatisfied, they will tune elsewhere.

Preferably, U.S. international broadcasting would be conducted by the private sector. This would give USIB the independence necessary to achieve credibility. But because there is little prospect for commercial success in international broadcasting in languages such as Pashto, Burmese, or Creole, the government must provide the funds for international broadcasting.
Why would the U.S. government want to pay for an international broadcasting effort if it cannot dictate its content? There are at least four reasons….

1) It is necessary to attract an audience, for reasons mentioned above.

2) It provides the news and information that bolsters the audience against the misinformation and disinformation of dictators and terrorists. Audiences then have the information they need to form their own opinions about current events. This is necessary to build and to maintain democracy, and to understand international events and U.S. policies.

3) Independent journalism provides an example of democracy in action. It reports on the deliberations of government and opposition.

4) Even if audiences do not agree with U.S. policies, they will appreciate that the United States is providing them with an independent and useful news service. On the other hand, subjecting them to propaganda may give them another reason to dislike of the United States.

The mission of successful international broadcasting is defined not by us, but by the audience. If U.S. international broadcasting adheres to this market-based strategy, the outcome will be well-informed audiences and good will towards the United States.

Delano leaves the air.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors has decided to close the IBB shortwave transmitting station at Delano, California, at the end of October.

Delano has for years not been used for transmissions to Asia, its original prime target area. More recently it has been used for transmissions to Latin America, no longer a major shortwave listening area. However, the loss of the frequencies, and an azimuth, will make it easier for Ciba to jam Radio Martí.

I don’t know (yet) if Delano will be kept in “mothball” status. I think it would be a good idea, because during some future crisis, when newer technologies tank because of overuse or hostile action, Delano will be needed.

Views expressed are my own.

As a result of the Broadcasting Board of Governors' changing global mission to meet current U.S. government broadcast requirements, along with reduced budgets and changes in technology, the International Broadcasting Bureau will cease broadcasting from its Delano, California Transmitting Station at the end of October 2007. As operating budgets decrease, we have had little choice but to downsize and realign the IBB transmission network. All of us in the IBB and Broadcasting Board of Governors regret the loss of valued and skilled employees at Delano as a result of this action.

The history of U.S. international broadcasting is deeply rooted in the Delano Transmitting Station. Located about 140 miles north of Los Angeles, California, the station began shortwave broadcasts to the Pacific Theater of World War II in 1944. In early days, it beamed broadcasts directly to local audiences and to retransmitting facilities in Hawaii, Okinawa and the Philippines. Later the station provided critical shortwave broadcasts to Cuba, South America and Asia. These broadcasts clearly helped shape today's world.

There have been tremendous recent changes in communications, broadcast media and technology. The IBB Delano station relies entirely on shortwave wave radio transmissions, a format that is relatively expensive to operate. Although shortwave was the focus of international broadcasting for many decades, shortwave has declined in importance as traditional audiences have shifted to FM and MW radio, the Internet and television.

We wish to recognize the employees and staff of the IBB transmitting station in Delano for their outstanding service to international broadcasting and the BBG is forever indebted for their contributions.

July 24, 2007

Arlington, Virginia
July 19, 2007

Mr. James K. Glassman
Broadcasting Board of Governors
330 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20237

Dear Mr. Glassman:

Thank you for convening the Town Meeting of IBB and VOA employees on July 10. During the meeting you said that, in U.S. international broadcasting, journalism is the “foundation.” Beyond that, however, that there must be “journalism with purpose … journalism that contributes towards freedom.”

I would like to offer reasons why, in successful international broadcasting, journalism is its own purpose.

I have been involved in international broadcasting audience research since 1977. In the survey and focus groups results I’ve seen since then, the message has been consistent: people use international broadcasting to get the reliable news, especially about their own countries, that is not provided by their state controlled domestic media. They turn to international broadcasts as the antidote to propaganda. They can detect even subtle attempts to emphasize this or downplay that. If unsatisfied, they will tune elsewhere.

Preferably, U.S. international broadcasting would be conducted by the private sector. This would give USIB the independence necessary to achieve credibility. But because there is little prospect for commercial success in international broadcasting in languages such as Pashto, Burmese, or Creole, the government must provide the funds for international broadcasting.

Why would the U.S. government want to pay for an international broadcasting effort if it cannot dictate its content? There are at least four reasons….

1) It is necessary to attract an audience, for reasons mentioned above.

2) It provides the news and information that bolsters the audience against the misinformation and disinformation of dictators and terrorists. Audiences then have the information they need to form their own opinions about current events. This is necessary to build and to maintain democracy, and to understand international events and U.S. policies.

3) Independent journalism provides an example of democracy in action. It reports on the deliberations of government and opposition.

4) Even if audiences do not agree with U.S. policies, they will appreciate that the United States is providing them with an independent and useful news service. On the other hand, subjecting them to propaganda may give them another reason to dislike of the United States.

Certainly, the United States should advocate its policies abroad, but that is the job of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is an activity separate from, and complementary to, international broadcasting, for reasons stated on page 3 of the 2002 BBG annual report.

One manifestation of U.S. public diplomacy is the website, now available in seven languages. Instead of U.S. international broadcasting competing with itself in 22 languages, I think it would be preferable for U.S. international broadcasting and U.S. public diplomacy to complement each other in at least those 22 languages.

The mission of successful international broadcasting is defined not by us, but by the audience. If U.S. international broadcasting adheres to this market-based strategy, the outcome will be well-informed audiences and good will towards the United States.

Yours sincerely,

Kim Andrew Elliott is an audience research analyst in the International Broadcasting Bureau.

cc: BBG members

See also "Put the News Here and the Propaganda There," USC Center on Public Diplomacy, November 13, 2006.

International Broadcasting Bureau announcement , 2 July 2007.

The Ismaning Transmitting Station in Germany is one of the oldest overseas facilities operated by the International Broadcasting Bureau. Located in a suburb of Munich, the station began beaming Voice of America programs in December 1946. Over the years, the station broadcast medium wave, long wave and shortwave programs to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the stations in Germany were a particularly important part of our network operations. These critical transmitting stations clearly helped end the Cold War and shape the world that we live in today. In recent years, all Ismaning transmitters have been decommissioned and the station has served primarily as a satellite gateway and administrative center.

As a result of the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ changing global mission to meet current U.S. government broadcast requirements, along with reduced budgets and changes in technology, the International Broadcasting Bureau will cease all operations from its Ismaning Transmitting Station during the summer of 2007. As operating budgets decrease, we have had little choice but to make difficult decisions to downsize and close some overseas facilities. Shortwave broadcasts from Germany will continue to originate from the IBB Lampertheim and Biblis transmitting facilities located south of Frankfurt.

All of us in the IBB and Broadcasting Board of Governors regret the loss of valued and skilled employees at Ismaning as a result of this action. All affected BBG employees will be treated with respect and in accordance with existing U.S. Embassy compensation agreements.

This is a very difficult time for all of us, and we are taking this action with the greatest reluctance. The employees and staff of the IBB transmitting stations in Germany have provided outstanding service to international broadcasting, and their contributions have been critically important to the United States. We have every expectation that the remaining stations in Germany will continue to provide outstanding service to the International Broadcasting Bureau.

Air of Truth
I don’t often get an op ed published, but the New York Times printed this on June 4th:
WHEN the Voice of America radio service first went on the air in February 1942, it promised German listeners: “The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth.” Because Voice of America transmitted accurate news even when things were going badly for the Allies, the audience believed its reporting when the tide of the war turned. Telling the truth built credibility, the most vital commodity of international broadcasting.
But in our current war, the Arabic-language television channel financed by our government, Al Hurra, faces Congressional criticism because of its reporting of the news. Over the past year, the station has broadcast a speech by the leader of Hezbollah, excerpts of a speech by a Hamas leader and coverage of a conference in Tehran denying the Holocaust.
Al Hurra is reviewing the newsworthiness of these stories. Whatever the outcome of this investigation, it should not lead to a change in America’s basic approach to international broadcasting, as some members of Congress have proposed.
At a recent subcommittee hearing about Al Hurra, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, said: “I believe in a free and independent press. This is, however, a diplomatic mission of the United States of America. And are we communicating in a very practical way to employees down the line that this is not a ‘we report, you decide’ television station?”
The president of Al Hurra’s parent corporation, Brian Coniff, suggested a willingness to move in the direction advocated by Mr. Pence. “We need to find as many venues within the organization as possible that this isn’t just straight journalism, but it’s journalism with a mission,” Mr. Coniff said.
I have worked in international broadcasting audience research during the past 30 years. Surveys and focus groups tell me that people tune to foreign broadcasts for information that is more reliable than what they get from their state-controlled domestic news media. They want “just straight journalism.” They will sense if their news has “mission” mixed into it.
A station transmitting full-time advocacy of American policies would not attract many listeners or viewers. They’ll tune elsewhere, probably to the BBC, whose Arabic-language television channel starts later this year. If Congress wants to do propaganda, the government should purchase advertisements in newspapers and on television stations in the target country.
Ideally, America’s international broadcasting would be conducted by the private sector. This would help provide stations with the independence required to maintain credibility, and there would be no expense to the taxpayer. In reality, there are few prospects for commercially self-sustaining international broadcasting in Arabic, and almost none in Central Asian languages like Dari, Pashto, Persian or Urdu.
So the government must pay for the stations, while at the same time giving them the independence necessary to provide a credible news product. Audiences may disagree with American policies and actions, but they will be appreciative that the United States is providing an accurate, balanced news service. Propaganda to sell unpopular policies might give the audience another reason to dislike the United States.
Comprehensive news is a demonstration of democracy in action. It provides the independent journalism that is necessary for a democracy to function. It will cover the debate between the government and the opposition. And audiences will hear about politicians — American politicians — whose views are closer to their own.
Even if audiences are not compelled to agree with American policies in the present crisis, at least good will and credibility will have accumulated. Those could be useful in the next crisis. (End of my NYT op ed.)

So what became of the op-ed?
Not much became of the op-ed. On that same Monday, the Wall Street Journal published another op-ed by freelance writer Joel Mowbray – his fourth in that paper in less than six months – hammering away again at Larry Register. On June 8th, Register resigned as vice president of news at Alhurra. On June 11th, he finally – too late -- defended his position in public, by way of a letter published in the WSJ.
Curiously, the resignation came just as James K. Glassman became the new chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Glassman has a background in journalism – he still writes a financial advice column for Kiplinger’s. He is also a senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.
As a member of the Advisory Board on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, Glassman advocated “bringing broadcasting under the same coordinated strategic direction as the rest of public diplomacy. We also urge that Radio Sawa adopt the right objectives--as our title says, changing minds, rather than simply building an audience.”
Well, “coordinated strategic” content is not news, and the audience will immediately smell what it really is. And how do you change minds if you do not first build an audience? In any case, international broadcasting involves a more subtle process that the logical positivistic Message (A) to Receiver (B) to derive Effects (C). Communication scholars discarded this “bullet theory” in the 1940s, but the decision makers and experts in Washington continue to embrace it.
Glassman was a bit more respectful of the news function of U.S. international broadcasting in an interview published at the website on June 25: "I also understand and embrace the mission of U.S. international broadcasting, which is to broadcast accurate and objective news and information around the world. One of the essential pillars of freedom, here in the U.S. or anywhere, is a free press. Our broadcasters are themselves models of a free press. But in addition there is also an important foreign policy dimension to our mission."
Oh-oh. If that means that U.S. international broadcasting will report on U.S. foreign policy, and the debate on that policy, as part of its news function, the U.S. international broadcasting might succeed. Because news is why the audiences tune in. But if it means that the content must, in deference to U.S. foreign policy, emphasize this, and not report on that, and throw in some direct appeals, like those commentaries we heard on Radio Moscow, or those editorials we still hear on VOA, then prospects are bleak.

Budget update
For fiscal year 2008, the House Appropriations Committee restored funding to VOA’s worldwide English, as well as VOA Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Uzbek, Hindi, Cantonese, Thai and Tibetan, as well as some RFE/RL and RFA services. Unfortunately, full funding was not restored to VOA Portuguese to Africa, a service that really has a large audience and impact in the region. I guess Angola and Mozambique are not the U.S. foreign policy flavors of the month.
The Senate may not go along with these budget restorations, just as they did not last year. So stay tuned for more developments.

Views expressed are my own. More at

(Springfield, Va)—The Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) announced the resignation of Larry Register as MBN's Vice President of News. Effective immediately, Daniel Nassif will take over editorial leadership at Alhurra Television, as well as continuing his duties as News Director for Radio Sawa.

Joaquin Blaya, Chairman of the MBN Middle East Committee, issued the following statement.

It is with regret that I accept Larry Register's letter of resignation as MBN's Vice President of Network News. Larry brought to the position a wealth of experience as a broadcast journalist with extensive knowledge of the Middle East. During his time at Alhurra he made progress in increasing news content and the presentation of U.S. policy. The MBN Middle East Committee respects his decision, thanks him for his service and commitment, and wishes him and his family all the best. While Larry will be leaving MBN on June 8, he has agreed to assist in any way possible to ease the transition to new management.

Effective immediately, Daniel Nassif will assume Larry Register's duties as the editorial leader of Alhurra. Daniel, a native Arabic speaker, has served with distinction over the last five years as managing director/news director for Radio Sawa. His outstanding editorial judgment and journalistic skills are responsible for making Radio Sawa one of the most popular and credible radio stations in the Middle East and North Africa. He will continue overseeing the Radio Sawa news operations.

MBN is financed by the U.S. Government through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency. The BBG serves oversight and as a firewall to protect the professional independence and integrity of the broadcasters.

Kim Andrew Elliott

Alhurra, the U.S. government funded Arabic-language television channel, is facing a storm of criticism. During late 2006 and early 2007, the station broadcast an unedited speech by the leader of the Hezbollah, parts of a speech by a Hamas leader, and coverage of a conference in Tehran denying the Holocaust.

Obviously, Alhurra will have to assess these incidents and review its editorial controls. But some members of Congress are seeking more drastic remedies that would change the entire nature of U.S. international broadcasting.

When the Voice of America first went on the air in February 1942, its famous first words were, “the news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth.” The idea was that by transmitting accurate news even when things were going badly for the Allies, audiences would believe VOA when the tide of the war turned. It was an exercise in building credibility, the most vital commodity of international broadcasting.

At a recent subcommittee hearing about Alhurra’s troubles, Representative Mike Pence, R-Ind, had a different idea: "I believe in a free and independent press. This is, however, a diplomatic mission of the United States of America. And are we communicating in a very practical way to employees down the line that this is not a 'we report, you decide' television station?”

The response by Brian Coniff, president of Alhurra’s parent corporation, suggested a willingness to move in the direction advocated by Pence. "We need to find as many venues within the organization as possible that this isn't just straight journalism, but it's journalism with a mission," Coniff said.

I have worked in international broadcasting audience research during the past thirty years. Surveys and focus groups tell me that people tune to foreign broadcasts when they need news that is more reliable than they get from their state controlled domestic media. They want “just straight journalism.” They will soon sense if their news has “mission” mixed into it. They’ll tune elsewhere, probably to the BBC, whose Arabic language television channel starts later this year.

Ideally, U.S. international broadcasting would be conducted by the private sector. This would help provide the independence required to maintain credibility, and there would be no expense to the taxpayer. In reality, there are few prospects for commercially self-sustaining international broadcasting television in Arabic, and almost none in languages such as Persian, Dari, Pashto, or Urdu.

So the government must fund the stations, while at the same time giving them the independence necessary to provide a credible news product. Why would the U.S. government want to do this?

First, because it is necessary to attract an audience. A station transmitting full-time advocacy of U.S. policies will not attract many listeners or viewers. If you want to do propaganda, purchase issue ads in newspapers and on television stations in the target country.

Second, audiences may disagree with U.S. policies and actions, but they will appreciate that the United States is providing an accurate, balanced news service. Propaganda to sell those unpopular policies might give the audience another reason to dislike the United States.

Third, comprehensive news is a demonstration of democracy in action. It portrays the independent journalism that is necessary for a democracy to function. And it will cover the debate between government and opposition. Audiences will hear about politicians – U.S. politicians -- whose views are closer to their own.

Finally, a comprehensive news product helps bolster the audience against the misinformation and disinformation of dictators and terrorists. Listeners and viewers are then better equipped to make up their own minds about current events.

International broadcasting involves a subtle, long-term communication process. If audiences are not compelled to agree with U.S. policies in the present crisis, at least credibility and goodwill will have accumulated. Those could be useful in the next crisis.

Kim Andrew Elliott, expressing his own views, is an audience research analyst in the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau. His personal website is

On 16 May, Joaquin Blaya and Jeffery Hirschberg, members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, appeared before the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. The hearing dealt almost entirely with content transmitted by the BBG's Arabic-language Alhurra television channel in late 2006 and early 2007. This included an unedited speech by the leader of the Hezbollah, interviews with a Hamas leader, and coverage of a conference in Tehran denying the Holocaust.

Most of the members of the subcommittee signaled a desire to move away from the "accurate, objective, and comprehensive" news, mandated for all elements of U.S. international broadcasting by the International Broadcasting Act of 1994, to more of an advocacy role.

Representative Mike Pence (R-Indiana) questioned Brian Coniff, president of Middle East Broadcasting Network Inc., Alhurra's parent entity. The BBG members asked Mr. Coniff to come to the witness table to provide additional details about Alhurra's operations.

Pence: "I believe in a free and independent press. This is, however, a diplomatic mission of the United States of America. And are we communicating in a very practical ways to employees down the line that this is not a 'we report, you decide' television station? We're about promoting the truth about the free world and about the United States of America in this region. Can you speak to that?"

Mr. Coniff mentioned the Alhurra journalistic code and added: "We need to find as many venues within the organization as possible that this isn't just straight journalism, but it's journalism with a mission."

Pence: "I think you could write down the phrase you just used in this hearing: 'journalism with a mission.' I think that's powerful and particularly well put."

Coniff: "Thank you."

Subcommittee chairman Gary Ackerman (D-New York) closed the hearing with an observation about a review of Alhurra's content that will be conducted by a school of journalism at the end of the year: "Schools of journalism may not give you the highest of marks. And they may push you in the other direction to be fair to the other side. Really balanced and fair journalism really does that. You can be true to journalism and true to the mission, with the understanding that you are the counterbalance to all the other media that reached people. And I don't know that you get the kind of appraisal and approval and measurement by a journalism school. I'd rather get a political department of some school evaluate whether or not you're succeeding in the mission. You're part of the government. You have something to sell, and you have a good product to sell. That's America, that's the truth. You can do that without distortions and without exposing additional people to the wrong views."

Support for the independence of U.S. international broadcasting came not from the members of the panel, but from subcommittee member Howard Berman (D-California): "One important reason for this entity, and I still think it's quite important, and I don't want that to get sacrificed in the context of dealing with this particular problem, is we don't want our radios to be seen as instruments of the State Department. Not so much because of the credibility, although that's part of it, of the broadcasts, if they're seen as an arm of the State Department. But because the State Department will have for its own bilateral relationships reasons not to want to air certain kinds of programming. I'm not sure that the State Department would want to have some shows and news about what's happening in Saudi Arabia perhaps to impact on the U.S.-Saudi bilateral relationship. This gets too close to the State Department. This becomes a problem and it causes a deviation from what I think is the appropriate mission."

When asked about the fact that Alhurra news director Larry Register does not speak Arabic, Mr. Coniff said that knowledge of Arabic was a criterion when recruiting for the position. However, the executive search firm hired by MBN was unable to find qualified Arabic speakers. Coniff: "Quite frankly, we were told a lot of people they approached didn't want to work for Alhurra. They didn't want to work for a government organization. They didn't want to work for what they considered something that was not truly journalism."

May 9, 2007; Page A15

On a recent trip to the Middle East, I met with Israeli and Arab leaders, inside and outside of government. I was pleased to hear their praise for Al-Hurra, America's Arabic-language television network. I was told consistently that Al-Hurra is filling a void in the Middle East by providing accurate information about America, and by addressing issues absent on other Arab news stations including free speech, human rights, women empowerment, and government accountability -- all building blocks for freedom and democracy. I am struck that the views expressed to me could be so different from those presented by Joel Mowbray on your editorial page ("Mad TV," May 3).

Although we acknowledge that our coverage on the second day of the Tehran Holocaust conference in December 2006 should not have aired, it was an error and not indicative of an editorial position. When one examines the totality of Al-Hurra's coverage over the past five months, one would find that in the days following the Holocaust conference Al-Hurra presented the condemnation of the conference by countries such as Israel, Britain, Italy, Germany and the United States. Al-Hurra also carried a unique report on members of the Washington, D.C., Muslim community visiting the Holocaust Museum and expressing solidarity with the victims as well as an in-depth interview with Sara Bloomfield, the museum director. Also, Al-Hurra provided live coverage of President Bush's remarks on Holocaust Remembrance Day, as well as Prime Minster Olmert's comments from Israel.

One of the more poignant stories that Al-Hurra has recently covered is the ceremony on April 16 at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles honoring Tunisian Arab Khaled Abdel Wahab, credited with saving the lives of 24 Jews who lived in Tunisia during the Holocaust. His daughter Faiza accepted the award by saying, "I have the honor to celebrate my father . . . he saved several members from the violence of the Nazis by hiding them in his farm." She was joined by Nadia Bijaoui, whose family was saved from the Nazis by Faiza's father. The story of Khaled Abdel Wahab is documented in the book "Among the Righteous" by Al-Hurra host and Washington Institute Executive Director Robert Satloff.

Al-Hurra remains committed to covering corruption and human-rights abuses. Recently, we covered the sentencing of well-known Syrian human- rights activist Anwar al-Bunni and the torture of Egyptian prisoners as well as the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. In addition, Al-Hurra provided live coverage of the State Department's release of its annual report on Human Rights and Democracy as well as hearings before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the promotion of human rights in U.S. foreign policy.

We have learned from our errors and have instituted improved editorial controls. For example, an assignment desk was established in early March that monitors and flags material as it is received from the field. Al-Hurra continues to recruit, hire and train language-qualified journalists to improve and strengthen the overall quality of our editorial product.

Joaquin Blaya
Chairman, Middle East Committee
Broadcasting Board of Governors

Uncertain of the organizational chart

On the morning of April 19th, television sets throughout Washington were tuned to the appearance of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the offices of the Voice of America and International Broadcasting Bureau, however, television monitors were switched to a different channel. The Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations was holding its hearing on the public diplomacy and international broadcasting.

This was an important event in our building, because the budget for U.S. international broadcasting is in limbo, as Congress could not agree on a final budget for fiscal 2007. And the President’s proposed budget for international broadcasting still includes cuts and reductions, such as the elimination of VOA Thai, VOA and RFA Cantonese, fewer hours for VOA and RFA Tibetan, and, perhaps most notably, the elimination of VOA’s worldwide English service.

The sole witness was Karen Hughes, under secretary of state for public diplomacy. Even though Hughes is not really responsible for international broadcasting – she is just one of nine members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors – most of the questions she received from the subcommittee members were about international broadcasting.

Betty McCollum (D-MN) was especially outspoken in her criticism of the proposed budget. McCollum’s talking points seemed to be guided by the VOA broadcasters’ union (American Federation of Government Employees local 1812).

McCollum called on Hughes to help make open the minutes of the BBG, whose meetings have always been closed. She also criticized the reductions to VOA’s shortwave output and the planned elimination of worldwide English. “If you turn of a transmitter, and then do a survey into a country on how many people are listening to VOA, it's going to go down, because they can't listen to Voice of America. … Shortwave radio cannot be blocked, cannot be jammed, in the same the other technologies can be blocked and jammed”

Hughes responded that the cuts were necessary “to increase broadcasting to strategically important places like North Korea, Iran, Somalia, Cuba.” She cited the BBG's "extensive research and evaluation" and said that shortwave is "frankly becoming an outmoded technology. More and more radio listeners are getting their radio from FM and AM."

Two members of the committee, Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Steven Rothman (D-NJ), grilled Hughes about an incident involving Alhurra, the BBG’s 24-hour Arabic television channel. The controversy was first publicized in a March 2007 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal which accused Alhurra of rebroadcasting most of a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah.

This precipitated a discussion about the whole purpose of international broadcasting. Mr. Rothman said “the marketplace has plenty of news stations. And the American people are not in the business of offering people who want to spout propaganda against the United States an opportunity to do so on our dime, on our station. "We should be spending one hundred percent of our time talking about our perspective on the world events of the day."

Hughes response straddled both the public diplomacy and international functions: "I want out taxpayers funds to be used in a way that promotes America, and promotes America and our values. I also want to make sure that our broadcasting is credible."

And such is the impossible assignment given to U.S. international broadcasting.

Revisionist web journalism

Dan Robinson’s VOA report about the subcommittee hearing is throuoght and definitely worth reading (and listening to). However, the version you access now at is not the same as that which was broadcast on April 19th and originally posted on the website.

The original version, as cited by BBC Monitoring and available at Glenn Hauser’s DX Listening Digest 7048, includes this paragraph later excised: “She [McCollum] also urged that all radio and television stations under the board's responsibility be formally brought under the charter of VOA. The charter states that the long-term interests of the U.S. are served by communicating directly to the world by radio.”

This passage was removed because the "general principles" in the legislation (mostly from the 1990s) governing all U.S. international broadcasting include the same language as the VOA Charter. But how many decision makers, from Congress down through the executive suites of the broadcasting entities, are aware of this?

Sure could use Kavala right now

Karen Hughes mentioned Somalia as one of the new priority targets. And she said people are listening to FM and AM now, rather than shortwave. HornAfrica is a Mogadishu FM station that served as a rebroadcasting outlet for the VOA and BBC Somali services. But, on April 23, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that HornAfrik went off the air when mortar shells destroyed its studios.

Plan B would be shortwave: and one of the best sites to reach Somalia would have been the IBB relay at Kavala, Greece. Alas, the BBC closed the Kavala relay in 2006, as part of its shifting priorities.

A Career in U.S. international broadcasting?

If you’ve thought of pursuing a job in U.S. international broadcasting, prospects are rather dim right now. If you look good on television, and can speak Urdu, Dari, Pahsto, or Farsi, your chances are pretty good. Otherwise, the aforementioned budget cuts are limiting opportunities.

Another reason you might want to look elsewhere is a recent survey of federal bureaucrats about their job satisfaction. The Broadcasting Board of Governors ranked 30th out of 31 small federal agencies. (The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service ranked first.)

Reasons for dissatisfaction among U.S. international broadcasting have not yet been properly analyzed. It might have something to do with the fact that broadcasters, constantly under the pressure of deadlines, running to their studios to get on the air on time, face uncertainty about their mission, and the real possibility of a RIF (reduction in force) notice. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic support structures of the many, many entities of U.S. international broadcasting always seem to be growing.

An inconvenient truth about CFLs

With recent attention on reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are all the rage. In some places, incandescent bubls are being banned in favor of CFLs.

A recent Times of London article about CFL’s interference to the “telly” and to shortwave reminded me of Joe Buch’s warning a few years ago, in these pages, about these bulbs.

I went to the local hardware store and bought a GE 15 watt CFL, equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent. Came home, screwed it in, turned it on, and was pleased to notice no interference in the higher shortwave bands, except just as it was turned on. In the tropical bands, some noise could be heard every 40 kHz or so, though it subsided as the radio was moved away from the bulb.

Views expressed are my own. More at

March 29, 2007 - the Panafrican radio Africa N°1, property of the Gabonese State and the French company Sofirad could pass to the hands of Libya. It is what the "Letter of the Continent" in its last delivery affirms. Kadhafi, via Libyan Arab Africa Investment Company, would have spent 5 million euros to treat to a radio, certainly very listened, but largely overdrawn since her beginnings. With its creation, Africa N°1 earned money thanks to the hiring of its transmitters in short wave ultra-powerful of Moyabi with RFI, VOA or the BBC. But the advent of the satellite era to put an end to substantial re-entries. According to the confidential letter, Gabon favours this deal in the condition which Libya preserves the 250 employees (journalists and technicians). However the "guide", Mouamar Kadhafi, would not be very hot with the idea. Africa N°1, established out of FM in the majority of the countries of Africa, also emits in Paris. Libya announced its intention to counter China in Africa economically. For this purpose, the country comes to assemble funds of 5 billion dollars managed from Paris and intended to take participation in African companies (SME, SME) The possible repurchase of Africa N°1 gives in Tripoli a media scene to popularize its ambitions.

DRM at the SWL Fest worked, except when it didn’t work
It was good to see many of you at the Winter SWL Fest. I didn’t have as much time to talk to my friends as I wanted, because I was occupied with the digital radio exhibit.
It was a physical workout, really For the DRM shortwave part of the display, first we needed receivers: the Ten-Tec RX320D, a Fest raffle prize, plus Kenwood TS-2000 and Yaesu FT-847 transceivers, owned and modified for 12 kHz output by Tim Lemmon and Mark Phillips, respectively. We also had a PC for each receiver, powered speakers for each PC, and one external sound card. Also on our table were HD Radio (IBOC) and internet radio wi-fi receiver.
All of these devices needed power. But, the wall behind our display area had only one frigging receptacle. Furthermore, next to the digital radio display was Tracy Wood’s satellite television display, with all of its receivers and monitors and whatnot. “Tracy,” I said, “with apologies to Mark Twain: Whiskey is for drinking. Electricity is for fighting over.”
Ultimately, we were able to distribute the power amicably among the several apparatuses by way of power strip, connected to power strip, connected to power strip. That was a stupid SWL Fest trick; do not try this at home!
Then there is the antenna, a big doublet on the hotel roof installed by Ed Mauger. That had to be connected to a multicoupler (provided by Harold Sellers of ODXA) for distribution to the three receivers. The multicoupler was about the size of a radiator on a Mack Truck and, you guessed it, required power. The coax came down with a UHF mail, The multicoupler has BNC females, the receivers have UHF females, except for the Ten-Tec, which has an RCA female. So, adapters all around to connect the males to the females, to the other females, and back to the males.
Finally, turn all the stuff on, get the right Com ports, set the record level on the sound card just so, install software here an there, adjust here, tweak there, and still no reception.
Meanwhile, next table over, Tracy and his friends are sitting around watching a perfect signal from Al-Whatever Television via his satellite receiver.
We’ve been doing the DRM display every year since 2003. Every year, at about the time I conclude that I won’t be able to get the DRM equipment to work, it works.

Enough of the set-up details. What about the results?
In addition to regularly scheduled DRM transmissions to North America from Radio Canada International at Sackville and TDF at Montsinéry, special DRM transmissions for the Fest were contributed by Vatican Radio, VT Communications (UK), and HCJB.
We wanted to try trans-Atlantic DRM at this year’s Fest. When Vatican Radio signed on from Santa Maria di Galeria on March 9 at 1300 UTC, on 15460, we could see the text ID, but could not hear the audio. After a couple of telephone calls to the transmitter site, the Vatican Radio engineers switched from 64-QAM to 16-QAM, and the audio popped right up. It stayed up, save for a few “echo” episodes, until 1400 signoff, and for the entire hour, 1300-1400, on March 10.
At one point the Vatican Radio programming featured a couple of selections of opera. Now, I usually like music via analog shortwave, especially the tremolo of trans-polar flutter. But opera is usually mangled by the ionosphere. DRM cleared that up. This was our first sustained trans-Atlantic reception of DRM at the Fest.
The VT trans-Atlantic DRM experiment from Rampisham on 6155 kHz, 0000-0400 UTC, was less successful. On one occasion, we were able to hang on to the audio for about 20 minutes, but usually only the text ID was making it to the PC screen. VT did have a more northerly azimuth to deal with, and, as we know, the 49 meter band is pretty crowded during our evenings. VT told me that they might have had better luck with their higher powered transmitter at Woofferton, but there was no antenna available.
HCJB transmitted to the Fest from Pifo using only four kilowatts. (However, as I understand it, four kilowatts of digital takes more electricity than four kilowatts of analog.) At first, we were having trouble getting an audible DRM signal from HCJB. Bitrates were reduced, and frequencies were changed, finally settling on (if I recall correctly) 15200 by day, and 9800 in the evening. The final bitrate of 9.8 kbs or thereabouts was good for maintaining the signal, but the audio quality was telephone grade. It would have been interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of DRM, at that bitrate, with analog, using the same amount of electricity at the transmitter. At least we know the DRM audio was free of the fading that drives some people crazy.
We also listened to the regularly scheduled transmission of TDF from French Guiana, 1200-2000 UTC on 17875. When it worked, the audio quality was very good, but, perhaps because of the ambitious bitrate, it did drop out from time to time. The TDF DRM relay of Radio Netherlands at 2200-2300 on15425 was generally successful.
Radio Canada International has DRM transmissions on 9800 throughout the day. These were audible more than half of the time, but they would also drop out on occasions, just as we were getting down to comfortable, casual listening. As we know, Sackville often runs into propagational difficulties from its far-northerly venue.
I would like to see RCI set up a low power (one to five kilowatts) DRM transmitter in southern Ontario, using 5 or 6 MHz by day, 2 or 3 MHz by night, for reception by the DRM early adopters in North America. Of course, we would want to steer them away from our favorite tropical band DX catches.
The Sackville relay of China Radio Internmational at 0100-0200 UTC on 6080 was audible throughout. Fortunately for CRI, we don’t jam them the way they jam us.

The internet radio display
I’ve been writing about the new crop of wi-fi internet radios. At this year’s SWL Fest, I finally was able to use one. The Acoustic Energy Wi-Fi Internet Radio was sitting on the display table just to the left of the DRM apparatuses. Using the hotel’s free wireless connection, the AE was picking up many of the same stations we were listening to via DRM. But the AE did it within one compact box, as opposed to a bunch of devices wired together.
Furthermore, while we could hear five transmitting sites via DRM, the AE could receive 10,000 stations. We didn’t get around to hearing them all. But the Fest attendees were impressed.
One thing about the AE “tuning” system is less than convenient. The AE menu system allows you to select stations by location or by genre. If you select by location, first you pick the continent, then you pick the country. If you select USA, you will then have 2,200 internet radio stations. You have to scroll down all those stations by turning the volume knob clockwise. That’s a lot of turning by the time you get down to, say, Voice of America. However, you can put favorite stations in the memories for easier retrieval.
Join us at the 2008 Winter SWL Fest, March 7-8. We hope by then at least one standalone DRM receiver will be available in North America. And there will no doubt be more wi-fi internet radios.

The Winter SWL Fest is the world’s largest annual gathering of shortwave listeners and other radio listening enthusiasts. While the Fest is a celebration of 75 years of analog shortwave broadcasting, the event is also a showcase for the new media of international broadcasting.

A exhibit of Digital Radio Mondiale, the new technology for digital transmission below 30 MHz, has been held at the Fest since 2003. This exhibit features DRM-capable receivers picking up actual DRM transmissions.

At this year’s SWL Fest, March 8 to 10 near Philadelphia, the DRM exhibit expanded to include other forms of digital radio: 1) wi-fi internet radio appliances and 2) HD Radio (IBOC), the U.S. domestic digital radio system.

The DRM exhibit

No standalone receiver was available in the North American market in time for this year’s DRM display. We used instead 1) a Ten-Tec RX-320D “black box” HF receiver, 2) a Kenwood TS-2000 amateur transceiver, and 3) a Yaesu FT-847 amateur transceiver. All three units were connected to personal computers with DRM software installed. The Kenwood and Yaesu transceivers had been modified to provide the necessary 12 kHz IF output. A large doublet antenna was installed on the roof of the hotel where the SWL Fest was held.

The transceivers generally provided better DRM reception than the Ten-Tec. The RX-320D, however, costs only $400 and thus is one of the least expensive receivers with DRM capability. Its IF audio output appears to be set at a level too high to operate well with the DRM software. We improved this by using an attenuating adapter into the microphone input of the laptop PC. The RX-320D performance was improved even more by using a Soundblaster Extigy external sound card, with the microphone gain turned all the way down.

In addition to the DRM transmissions already in regular operation, we arranged for special transmissions during the time of the Fest. We were especially interested in attempting trans-Atlantic DRM reception –- realizing that transoceanic distances are probably beyond the expected capabilities of DRM shortwave.

Vatican Radio. Vatican Radio added special transmissions at 1300-1400 UTC on 15460 kHz. On 9 March at 1300 UTC, we were able to see the data ID for Vatican Radio on the computer screen, but we could not hear the audio. After a telephone conversation with Vatican Radio engineers, the modulation mode was reduced from 64-QAM to 16-QAM. With this adjustment, the Vatican Radio audio signal became audible. It remained audible for the rest of the transmission on 9 March and throughout the hour on 10 March. Audio degraded to the “echo” sound, but only on a few occasions. At one point during the program, selections of opera were played: opera never sounded so good on shortwave. This was the first sustained trans-Atlantic reception of DRM at the SWL Fest.

VT Communications. VT in the U.K. offered the Fest special DRM transmissions at 0000-0400 UTC on 6155 kHz. These were from Rampisham, at 33 kW. In general, we were not successful in maintaining an audio signal on this transmission, although the data ID was usually visible. At one point, we sustained audio for twenty minutes. It was not possible for VT to reduce the bitrate to improve the chances of sustaining the audio. In contrast to Vatican Radio, the VT signal had to follow a more northerly azimuth to reach our receivers, and the 49 meter band is particularly crowded at this time of the day.

HCJB (Ecuador). HCJB transmitted from Quito, Ecuador, to the fest using only four kilowatts. At first, audio reception was usually unsuccessful. After frequency changes (to 15200 kHz during the day, and 9800 kHz at night) and a lowering of the bitrate, DRM audio reception was consistent. However, the bitrate was 9.8 kbs (or thereabouts), producing a telephone grade audio. But given the modest power output, the DRM reception from HCJB was impressive.

TDF (France). We monitored the TDF DRM transmissions of Radio France International from Montsinéry, French Guiana, from 1200 to 2000 on 17875 kHz. Audio reception was usually successful. The TDF relay of Radio Netherlands on 15425 at 2200-2300 UTC was flawless.

Radio Canada International. RCI transmitted various programs from its Sackville, New Brunswick, site during the day on 9800 kHz. These were usually audible, although there were periods when the audio dropped out. Transmissions from Sackville’s northerly location sometimes suffer from poor propagation. The RCI relay of China Radio International at 0100-0200 UTC on 6080 kHz was completely audible.

DW Sines. We were not able to hear the audio from the Deutsche Welle DRM transmission via Sines, Portugal, on 3995 kHz (beamed to Europe), but we did see the data ID.

Assessment of DRM reception. Our DRM listening was mostly successful. However, audio dropped out on enough occasions that the non-enthusiast shortwave listener would likely be frustrated.

Very careful frequency management will be necessary to make DRM work on shortwave circuits over medium to long distances. This might be aided by remote monitoring stations that automatically receive the DRM transmission and send signal information back to the transmitter via the internet. If the audio signal drops out, the transmitter would adjust the QAM and/or bitrate levels until audio is achieved. A frequency change might even implemented. This could automatically trigger a frequency change in a “smart” receiver, or at least place a text message on the receiver display announcing that a frequency change is imminent.

While we were listening to HD (IBOC) radios that were part of the exhibit, we noticed that when the station dropped below a certain signal level, the radio would revert to the analog mode, thus retaining the station’s audio. This is an attractive feature. I am not advocating an IBOC system for shortwave, but if the DRM transmitter and receiver can automatically switch to analog under the worst reception conditions, this might maintain audio where it would otherwise be lost.

Will DRM be useful for long haul shortwave? The sole remaining advantage of shortwave in this modern multimedia age is that shortwave can deliver a signal under adverse conditions. Shortwave can overcome jamming better than satellites can overcome jamming, and better than websites can circumvent blockages. Shortwave can deliver a signal into a distant target country when a nearby relay is not available.

DRM is more sensitive to reductions in signal strength, and to the presence of interference. As such, DRM could eliminate the last remaining advantage of shortwave. Analog shortwave will always be needed as the failsafe for international communication.

Perhaps DRM makes better sense for local and regional applications, such as longwave, medium wave, and short-hop shortwave broadcasts. Radio New Zealand International is already an example, with its feeder transmissions to radio stations in the Pacific region. Radio Canada International might experiment with a transmitter in southern Ontario, using 2 or 3 MHz bands at night, and 5 or 6 MHz by day, for DRM early adopters in North America.

It would be good to see more use of text by DRM broadcasters, given that the text content often survives even when audio is lost. International broadcasters could fairly easily feed their news scripts into the DRM text transmission facility.

But the power and bandwidth required for DRM is probably overkill for text transmission. International broadcasters might also experiment with amateur radio’s PSK-31 mode. Using only a narrow sliver of spectrum, PSK-31 text messages are usually receivable even under appalling reception conditions. Small receivers could be developed that could, for example, be affixed to hotel windows. They could receive news to be read in real time or stored for later reading.

We would also like to try side-by-side tests of DRM and analog transmissions, similar to the promotional audio samples showing the benefits of DRM. For example, is DRM that is reduced below 10 kilobits per second an improvement over analog using the same amount of electricity?

In these side-by-side comparisons, the analog side should include reduced carrier single sideband transmissions. Using receivers with synchronous detection, this type of sideband transmission would eliminate selective fading and reduce interference. Analog receivers with synchronous detection might be easier to manufacture, and might have lower battery consumption, than those than can receive DRM.

Internet radio

In our digital radio display, we also displayed two wi-fi internet radios. One was the Slim Devices Squeezebox, which would not work with the hotel’s wireless system. The other, the Acoustic Energy Wi-Fi Internet Radio, worked very well. On the AE, we listened to Vatican Radio at the same time we were listening to the same station via DRM shortwave.

Listeners at the Fest were impressed with how easily the AE could receive audio streams from VOA New Now, BBC World Service and the domestic BBC channels, Radio Prague, and many of the other 10,000 radio stations available through its menu. Now that internet radio can be listened to on a device that looks, feels, and operates like a radio, and is portable at least within range of a wi-fi node, it may have potential as a replacement for shortwave radio for the reception of foreign broadcasts. These devices could be especially interesting, and usable in cars, where “city wide” wi-fi will be available.

To be sure, internet radio requires a broadband connection, in a country where your favorite station is not blocked by the authorities. But a person who can afford the first generation of DRM receivers is more likely than the general population to afford a broadband connection. And if a station is blocked via the internet, then chances are its DRM signal would also be jammed.

In a time of local crisis, the internet can fail locally, due to overuse or to sabotage. In a time global crisis, it can fail globally, for the same reasons. The world must return to shortwave for information.

We shortwave listeners who are experimenting DRM want to continue to help push DRM to its greatest capability. However, because DRM shortwave will probably be easier to jam than analog shortwave, we continue to need analog shortwave for the proverbial rainy day.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 5) --- Eleven former directors of the Voice of America have issued a joint statement calling on Congress to reverse a Bush administration plan to substantially reduce VOA’s English broadcasts and those in 15 other languages.

VOA, the nation’s largest publicly funded civilian overseas broadcasting network, may go silent in many areas of the world on radio later this year unless the Congress reverses the action in hearings on the U.S. federal budget for the next fiscal year starting October 1. Among the planned cuts is the shutdown on radio of VOA’s worldwide English service. The former Voice directors joining in the appeal to reverse the cuts have served at various times during the past half a century under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

If the cuts go through, the Voice also would eliminate all broadcasts in Uzbek, Croatian, Georgian, Cantonese and Thai, and cease radio transmissions while retaining some television in Russian, Ukrainian, Albanian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Hindi (to India.) Schedules would be cut, as well, in Tibetan and Portuguese to Africa.

The directors’ statement follows:

We former directors of the Voice of America urgently appeal for a reversal by Congress of planned reductions in VOA that could silence the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas broadcast network in much of the world. Taken together, the cuts would seriously jeopardize our national security and public diplomacy. Further, they would deprive millions of people of access to a fully free and open media, a core value of what our nation is all about.

The Bush administration has proposed to eliminate VOA English in every continent except Africa, abolish services in Cantonese, Croatian, Georgian, Greek, Thai and Uzbek, cease radio broadcasts in Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Hindi (to India), and significantly scale back programming in Tibetan and Portuguese to Africa.

In view of:

--- decisions by China, Russia, Iran, France and Al Jazeera TV to broadcast around the clock or increase airtime in our own language, English, spoken or understood by at least 1.6 billion people worldwide

---a 23 percent increase in Russia’s military budget as Vladimir Putin muzzles his own as well as foreign news and information outlets

---new media restrictions and arrests or jailing of journalists in China, Tibet and Uzbekistan along with just declared martial law and an upsurge of extremist Muslim activity in Thailand

---the volatile situation in the Balkans as Kosovo moves toward independence, and

--- VOA’s proven cost effectiveness (more than 115 million listeners and viewers a week)…

We urgently appeal for an increase of the proposed $178 million VOA budget to $204 million for fiscal year 2008 beginning October 1. This would be mandated to cover programming and transmission of services listed above, 3.9 percent of the entire U.S overseas broadcasting budget. This is a tiny but essential investment. Surveys show anti-American opinion abroad to be at an all-time high. At this critical moment in the post 9/11 era, the United States simply cannot, for its own long term strategic safety and security, unilaterally disarm in the global contest of ideas.

Mary G. F. Bitterman
Robert E. Button
Richard W. Carlson
Geoffrey Cowan
John Hughes
David Jackson
Henry Loomis
E. Eugene Pell
Robert Reilly
R. Peter Straus
Sanford J. Ungar

March 5, 2007

Ariel (BBC employee newspaper), 1 March 2007

The Chinese service is to lose 11 out of 37 current London production jobs in an overhaul of output that will scrap soft feature programmes in favour of hard news in peaktime.

A China editor will be appointed to help strengthen strengthen coverage of internal Chinese affairs, both for the service and across BBC news, creating a role similar to the one filled by Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

The proposals, resulting from a review of the Chinese radio schedule and online service, were announced to staff on Wednesday, ending a period of uncertainty about expected job losses.

The journalist posts to go by the autumn will be in the features areas and meetings will be held with the unions in the next few weeks to start formal negotiations on the proposed cuts, World Service director Nigel Chapman said.

In an email of all World Service staff, Chapman said that volunteers would be sought for redundancy in the first instance and staff would be supported to find alternative work inside and outside the BBC. None of the five Chinese service posts based in Hong Kong will be affected.

An NUJ spokesman said the cuts were coming at a time when there was a need for authoritative reporting and information about the world's fastest growing economy.

'Through no fault of their own, hard working members of staff are having to face the brunt of World Service management's decision to cut services that are seen as so important in areas of the world, where governments are trying to clamp down on any aspect of information not under their control,' he said.

The BBC says the changes are being made in the context of a declining China-wide audience for BBC broadcasts in Mandarin and English, which reach less than a million listeners a week - about 0.1 percent of the population.

In addition, the online news service in China is subject to persistent frequency interference and blocking, although it still gets 8m page impressions a month.

There has already been criticism from some commentators that, as the Chinese government seeks to tighten media control in the country, this is the wrong time for the BBC to be scaling down its own service.

Chapman stressed that the Chinese Service remains an important part of the BBC World Service: ‘It broadcasts to a growing world power of over a billion people and as such, in geopolitical terms, more than justifies its place in the World Service portfolio.’

'In particular, it remains crucial to maintain and strengthen our independent and impartial news and current affairs broadcasts in Mandarin as this is content which, arguably, is least available to listeners in China via other sources.

'So one of the principles of this review was that the news and current affairs content must be protected, and if possible, enhanced, particularly in relation to the coverage of internal Chinese affairs - both for the audience in China and the wider BBC.'

But the scale of the service's non-news music and lifestyle programmes was hard to justify, given the difficultly of reaching audiences on shortwave, and the inconsistent take up by FM partners, he said.

'We have decided to reduce our spend in this area, and cut back shortwave broadcasts which carry them. We have also found scope for genuine efficiencies in the way the service works by mirroring the more streamlined production methods employed by the other larger services in Bush House.'

The proposal is to continue daily NCA output on radio - broadcast only at breakfast and drivetime - as well as a 24-hour online presence at Two-hour daily repeats of soft feature programming via shortwave would end.

Importantly, the new English language teaching and education website ( which already has over 13m page impressions a month, would be maintained.

After the scaling down of the London team, the Chinese Service would remain one of the largest in the World Service, with a budget of more than £2m a year.

Ariel (BBC employee newspaper), 15 February 2007.

The World Service is reviewing the Chinese section’s output, following ‘persistent interference’ to its radio and online services in the country.

Shortwave broadcasts in China are frequently disrupted and there has been ‘effective blocking’ of the BBC’s online services by the country’s government.

A spokesman said any changes would be designed to strengthen the Chinese multimedia services and any implications from the review would discussed with the 37 section staff and the unions in the next few weeks.

‘The World Service is looking at re-allocating resources so we can improve our coverage of domestic Chinese issues, both for the Chinese audience and across the whole of World Service,’ he said.

‘At the same time we must maintain our international news current affairs output and ensure that programmes are broadcast at times when they have the most impact.'

Despite being heavily blocked, gets 8m page impressions a month, with listening online as popular as listening on shortwave.

Around 850,000 - 0.1 percent of the population - listen to BBC radio in Mandarin and English.

Kim comments:

This is no time for BBC World Service to go wobbly on Chinese.

China is one of the most difficult target countries for international broadcasting. Shortwave broadcasts are jammed vigorously. Certain foreign websites are blocked. E-mail is censored. Satellites receivers are prohibited or confiscated. In a few reported cases, satellite transmissions have been jammed.

Beyond that, most people in China have access to several channels of television entertainment. China's broadcast news is fairly good, deficient mostly in its coverage of sensitive domestic stories.

Consider also that Chinese are often not at home, as they are participating in China's expanding economy through work or shopping. And they may not have much energy for foreign broadcasts in their few hours of leisure.

So it is little wonder that listening rates for the major Western broadcasters are well under one percent. A hesitation to admit, in a research survey, listening to foreign broadcasts, might also be a factor here.

The article's claim that BBC has as many listeners via the internet as via shortwave is problematic. The internet listeners might have been measured by server-based "web metrics," where overcounting is common. In any case, the internet audio audience is likely to be concentrated in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Chinese diaspora. These are valuable audiences, but the real target is the Chinese in China.

Among all the media available to international broadcasting, shortwave remains the most difficult to interdict. This is because of the physics of shortwave: signals from afar are often stronger than those from closer jamming transmitters. By transmitting on as many frequencies as possible, from as many locations as possible, chances are at least one frequency will overcome the jamming. Perhaps all the Western broadcasters should pool their transmitters in this effort.

One hopeful sign is that good quality shortwave receivers are now for sale domestically in China. This is in a country where most people have no radio at all, so radio has upside potential.

The BBC's audience of 850,000 (or whatever it is) almost certainly makes up in quality and influence what it lacks in quantity. These are people making an extra effort to hear uncensored news. They should not be deprived of BBC's unique service.

(This article missed the deadline for the February 2007 NASWA Journal.)

Dithering DRM

Hope to see you at the Winter SWL Fest, 8-10 March. I’ll be there, as in previous years, with a working display of Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) shortwave reception. That is, if I can get some broadcasters to lay in some extra DRM transmissions at hours and on frequencies suitable for the Fest. And if I can get hold of some DRM capable receivers.

The DRM transmissions will probably materialize. But it looks like we won’t have a standalone receiver. The Sangean DRM-40, the prototype of which worked very well in May 2006 at the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters meeting, is not yet in production because there are "still problems with the DRM Module." The Morphy Richards DRM receiver, now being sold a few places in Europe, is not getting very good reviews. For one thing, it doesn’t have an external shortwave antenna jack.

So, for receivers, we’ll use our old standby: the Ten-Tec RX-320D. Hurray for U.S. manufacturing. The RX-320D is a good radio for analog or DRM reception. But I will have to schlep a laptop, and speakers, and maybe an external soundcard, and, oh yeah, a USB-to-serial adapter.

And when I get it all set up, I’ll have to relearn where the settings should be on the playback and recording mixers. At this point, someone at the Fest who actually understands DRM reception will come to the rescue.

So, if you have a DRM-capable receiver (with a 12 kHz IF output), or at least DRM know-how, please come to the Fest and help us out.

Maybe SSB was the answer

Back when I was host of VOA’s Communications World, I convinced IBB Engineering to put the program on one of the Greenville double side band communications transmitters (formerly used to feed relay stations). These usually provided very good reception in Europe. They were reduced carrier transmissions, but listeners with synchronous detection receivers could lock on to that reduced carrier. They were thus free of selective fading, and free of interference on the unused sideband.

(On one occasion, we transmitted VOA Europe on the DSB transmitter, left stereo channel on the lower sideband, right channel on the upper. Listeners with two ICF-2010’s could hear stereo on shortwave.)

While DRM receiver technology struggles, synchronous detection is well established and does not require battery-sapping processor power. Shortwave broadcasters could agree to transmit upper-sideband only, reduced carrier. That would reduce required transmitter power, reduce interference, and provide very nice audio with no selective fading.

Here come the internet radios

With fewer broadcasters transmitting on shortwave, more sources of noise vexing shortwave reception, and DRM struggling, we have to consider alternate methods to hear radio from abroad.

Streamed audio via the internet is one such method. In its early days, with our dial-up connections, internet audio was often what I call “near shortwave quality.” Another complaint was that listening to radio via the internet required us to be where the household’s PC was located. A portable shortwave radio, on the other hand, could be placed just about anyplace in the house.

Now many of us have made the plunge into broadband, so audio quality is improved. And if we have wireless networks, we can move elsewhere in the house for internet radio. Or to Starbucks or other wi-fi “hot spots.”

Like DRM, standalone internet radios were slow to develop. Remember the no-show Kerbango? Now, however, internet radio appliances have made a promising entry into the marketplace.

Most prominent of these is the Acoustic Energy Wi-Fi Internet Radio. C.Crane sells it for $300. Its specs claim compatibility with Real Media, MP3 and WMA formats. As its name indicates, you need a wireless network (and so I would have to buy a wireless access point for my fully wired broadband network).

The Roku SoundBridge M1001 sells for $200. It allows either wi-fi or wired Ethernet connections to your network. But Real (.ram) and AAC+ streams are “currently not supported.”

The Terratec Noxon internet radios are very handsome. Their specs do not include support for Real streams. And they seem to be sold only in Europe for now.

A very useful Wikipedia article describes other internet radios.

Internet radio can also be received on other portable wi-fi devices, including a category of products known as internet tablets. The Nokia 770 can receive internet radio, though it has received derisive reviews for its general functionality. The new Nokia N800 appears to be an improvement. I’m tempted to get one of these, although at $400, spousal approval for such a purchase is unlikely.

The Sandisk Sansa Connect wi-fi mp3 player received much attention at the Consumer Electronics Show. It has internet radio capabilities, though probably limited in the formats it can support. Price is $250.

PDAs with built-in wireless connections may be useful as internet radios, as long as their software, their little processors, and their little amounts of RAM, are adequate to the task.

Among the PDA’s in this category are the Palm TX ($300), the HP iPAQ pocket PCs and "mobile media companions" ($300 up), and the Dell Axim handhelds ($300 up).

Wireless network cards can be plugged in to other PDAs to make them wi-fi connectable and, perhaps, internet radio doable.

Ultraportable laptops and tablet PCs might also work well as internet radios, but they are more expensive that the devices listed above. The much heralded Apple iPhone will probably work as an internet radio, as will some of the other fancier mobile phones.

OK, internet radio is not DX

Internet radio devices will not satisfy the hobby of DXing: pulling signals through the ether (not the Ethernet) from afar, with no wired intermediaries. The challenge and uncertainty of DXing is, for the most part, not present with internet radio. And so this new medium will not satisfy NASWA’s primary purpose.

But for program listeners, internet radio devices are worth a look. Most of the international radio broadcasters have audio streams and, very conveniently, programs on demand. You can create a menu of links to your favorite stations and programs. Doing this is complicated by stations such as Radio Sweden that force you to open their websites, then click on a link to their proprietary player.

At the Winter SWL Fest, we hope to have at least the Acoustic Audio Wi-Fi Internet Radio on working display (if the hotel’s wireless access is up to the task) and, later, as a raffle prize. If you have any of the internet radio capable devices mentioned above, or others, please bring them to the Fest and show us what they can do.

Views expressed are my own. More at

Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (Introduced in House)


(a) Finding- Congress finds that the report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States stated that, `Recognizing that Arab and Muslim audiences rely on satellite television and radio, the government has begun some promising initiatives in television and radio broadcasting to the Arab world, Iran, and Afghanistan. These efforts are beginning to reach large audiences. The Broadcasting Board of Governors has asked for much larger resources. It should get them.'.

(b) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that--

(1) The United States needs to improve its communication of information and ideas to people in foreign countries, particularly in countries with significant Muslim populations.

(2) Public diplomacy should reaffirm the paramount commitment of the United States to democratic principles, including preserving the civil liberties of all the people of the United States, including Muslim-Americans.

(3) A significant expansion of United States international broadcasting would provide a cost-effective means of improving communication with countries with significant Muslim populations by providing news, information, and analysis, as well as cultural programming, through both radio and television broadcasts.

(c) Special Authority for Surge Capacity- The United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new section:


`(a) Emergency Authority-

`(1) IN GENERAL- Whenever the President determines it to be important to the national interests of the United States and so certifies to the appropriate congressional committees, the President, on such terms and conditions as the President may determine, is authorized to direct any department, agency, or other governmental entity of the United States to furnish the Broadcasting Board of Governors with the assistance of such department, agency, or entity based outside the United States as may be necessary to provide international broadcasting activities of the United States with a surge capacity to support United States foreign policy objectives during a crisis abroad.

`(2) SUPERSEDES EXISTING LAW- The authority of paragraph (1) shall supersede any other provision of law.

`(3) SURGE CAPACITY DEFINED- In this subsection, the term `surge capacity' means the financial and technical resources necessary to carry out broadcasting activities in a geographical area during a crisis abroad.

`(b) Authorization of Appropriations-

`(1) IN GENERAL- There are authorized to be appropriated to the President such sums as may be necessary for the President to carry out this section, except that no such amount may be appropriated which, when added to amounts previously appropriated for such purpose but not yet obligated, would cause such amounts to exceed $25,000,000.

`(2) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS- Amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations in this subsection are authorized to remain available until expended.

`(3) DESIGNATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- Amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations in this subsection may be referred to as the `United States International Broadcasting Surge Capacity Fund'.

`(c) Report- The annual report submitted to the President and Congress by the Broadcasting Board of Governors under section 305(a)(9) shall provide a detailed description of any activities carried out under this section.

`(d) Authorization of Appropriations for United States International Broadcasting Activities-

`(1) IN GENERAL- In addition to amounts otherwise available for such purposes, there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out United States Government broadcasting activities under this Act, including broadcasting capital improvements, the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), and the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (as enacted in division G of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999; Public Law 105-277), and to carry out other authorities in law consistent with such purposes.

`(2) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS- Amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations in this section are authorized to remain available until expended.'.


(a) Report; Certification- Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and every 180 days thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and the policy goals described in section 7112 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-458) for expanding United States scholarship, exchange, and library programs in Arab and predominantly Muslim countries. Such report shall include--

(1) a certification by the Secretary of State that such recommendations have been implemented and such policy goals have been achieved; or

(2) if the Secretary of State is unable to make the certification described in paragraph (1), a description of--

(A) the steps taken to implement such recommendations and achieve such policy goals;

(B) when the Secretary of State expects such recommendations to be implemented and such policy goals to be achieved; and

(C) any allocation of resources or other actions by Congress the Secretary of State considers necessary to implement such recommendations and achieve such policy goals.

(b) Termination of Duty to Report- The duty to submit a report under subsection (a) shall terminate when the Secretary of State submits a certification pursuant to paragraph (1) of such subsection.

(c) GAO Review of Certification- If the Secretary of State submits a certification pursuant to subsection (a)(1), not later than 30 days after the submission of such certification, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on whether the recommendations referred to in subsection (a) have been implemented and whether the policy goals described in section 7112 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 have been achieved.

(d) Definition- In this section, the term `appropriate congressional committees' means--

(1) the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House of Representatives; and

(2) the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate.

To the BBG via the side door

On December 20, President Bush recess appointed Mark McKinnon to be a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. I assume this is for one of the Republican seats in the board, although the White House previously tried to install the ex-Democrat McKinnon as a Democratic member of the BBG. The Board is supposed to be bipartisan, but perhaps the Bush Administration interprets this to mean four Republics and four former Democrats. Heads I win, tails you lose.
A recess appointment is a method of sidestepping the usual Senate conformation process for senior appointments. Democrats in the Senate Foreign Relations appear to be inclined to block any formal appointment of McKinnon to the Board.
Strangely enough, as some newspapers were reporting McKinnon’s recess appointment to the BBG, others were quoting him in his capacity as a senior adviser to the John McCain presidential exploratory team. Can he serve both on the BBG and in such a political position? And shouldn’t the president be looking for professional journalists who are outside the political fray to serve on this body whose most important role is firewall between the government and the news function of U.S. international broadcasting?
And on the subject of personnel appointments, we learned a few weeks ago about the appointment of Karen Hughes aide and mid-level civil servant Diane Zeleny to be head of the Public Diplomacy Rapid Response office in Brussels. Zeleny is "married to prominent neocon Reuel Marc Gerecht, an Iraq war promoter and occasional Bush adviser."
The American Foreign Service Association mounted a “rare” protest, claiming that this job was not advertised through the normal channels. Now, I have seen this dozens of times: presidentially appointed senior officials (of either party) arrange to have certain plum jobs advertised one day, but with a filing deadline a couple of days later, because they really have a friend lined up for the position. I always thought this sleazy practice was an inescapable stain on bureaucratic Washington, but in this case, the AFSA won. Zeleny will leave her new post this summer, and the job will be reposted according to (miracle of miracles) “established procedures.”

Not a very shortwave Christmas
I do have a few Christmas traditions, including listening to the BBC’s broadcast of the Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College at Cambridge, the Queen’s massage to the Commonwealth, and Christmas music Christmas evenm from the German |Service of Deutsche Welle. Of course, I prefer to listen to these things via shortwave. This is for tradition, and because the fading signals of shortwave denote distance and provide the ethereal experience appropriate to this holiday.
Anyway, it was not to be this Christmas 2006. The BBC’s and Deutsche Welle’s surviving shortwave frequencies were no match for the noise generated by who-know-what devices in my neighborhood. The digital tinniness of internet audio was not especially ethereal. Listening to certain programs on demand was helpful, however.
On December 17, John Warrington wrote in the Stabroek News (Guyana) that every Christmas Eve, "I shut myself in my study to get away from it all, but at 11 am I mentally transport myself 5000 miles (with the help of the BBC) to the Chapel of King's College Cambridge and listen to a carol service - the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is sung by one of the finest choirs on this planet. If you have a short-wave radio give yourself a treat and join me." I hope their shortwave reception down there was better than mine was up here.
Broadband access certainly makes internet audio streams a more viable alternative to shortwave. But I learned that Verizon and Cingular wireless broadband services list "listening to a Web radio station" among the activities their subscribers are prohibited from doing. The providers are worried about bandwidth hogs. If these two broadband services can ban internet radio, theoretically so could others.

Enter France 24
Last month, I reported on the startup of Aljazeera English. France 24, with a French and a mostly-English channel, followed soon thereafter, on December 6. France 24 channels has very few cable outlets in the United States, and so reception for most of us must be via the internet (if your provider does not prohibit video streams).
Unlike those of Aljazeera English and BBC World, the France 24 video stream is free. For now. The channel’s news coverage strikes me as quite competent, and attractively presented, despite its budget disadvantage vis-a-vis CNN, BBC, and Aljazeera. However, as I was watching (mostly listening), I noticed the same stories repeating themselves within a couple of hours. That’s how a 24-hour news channel is accomplished à bon marché.

Press scrutiny for Radio/TV Martí
Perhaps you’ve noticed that Radio and TV Martí have received a great deal of press attention lately. The Chicago Tribune started it on December 14 with a long special report. Covering, among other things, the stations apparently small audiences in target Cuba. “The problem is that the Cuban audience can smell spin a mile away,” said one observer.
Then the Miami Herald, which considers the Martís their home turf, followed on December 18: "Records show that in 2005 Radio Martí -- which is best heard on shortwave radio that bypasses Cuba's jamming -- spent about 250 times more money to reach a listener in Cuba than the U.S. spent to reach listeners through Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.”
The next day, the Herald broke the news that Radio Martí is now leasing time on WAQI, Radio Mambi, 710 kHz in Miami. And TV Martí is doing the same on south Florida’s WPMF-TV 38 in South Florida.
So what’s going on here? WAQI does have 50 kilowatts and a night pattern pointing south. But it also has four Radio Rebelde transmitters in Cuba, from 10 to 150 kilowatts, on the same frequency. WRMF does not have the power to make terrestrial reception in Cuba a likelihood. But it is carried by DirectTV Latin America, said to be picked up by “pirate” dishes in Cuba.
Detractors, however, think these transmissions are really meant to impress Cuban-American, or to provide patronage to politically allied broadcasters in south Florida. And the question of the domestic dissemination of U.S. international broadcasting was raised, not surprisingly. A spokesman for the BBG pointed out a provision in law that allows Radio Martí to lease time on U.S. domestic transmitters if necessary. All of this recalls the transmissions of VOA Spanish that many of us heard all across the medium wave band during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Views expressed are my own. More at

Enter Aljazeera English

By far the biggest recent story in international broadcasting is the launch of Aljazeera English. I’ve seen over a hundred news stories and commentaries about this new English-language counterpart to the controversial Arabic-language Aljazeera.

Distribution of AJE in North America is limited, as no cable systems nor the two main satellite companies (DISH and DirecTV) include it, yet, in their channel lineups. If you have Globecast dish (the satellite equivalent of shortwave), you can receive AJE that way. Via the internet, the channel can be received through the and services. From itself, 24/7 broadband access costs six dollars a year, same price as similar access to BBC World. Free dial-up quality access is available, but only for 15 minutes at a time.

Shortwave broadcasting actually exists for situations such as this, where access to a foreign broadcaster is denied in the target country. Aljazeera might consider one or more of the several shortwave transmitters for hire that can reach the United States and Canada. The audio portion of AJE would communicate at least 80 percent of the essential information provided by the channel.

Access is not a problem at VOA, where we can watch AJE 24/7 through our in-house television system. From my hours of viewing, I can conclude that AJE is a serious news operation, with formidable production values, despite a few glitches in its first days of operation. Most noticeable, to me and to many commentators I’ve read, is its attention to news of the developing countries. For decades, people in developing world have been lamenting the “brushfire” reporting about their countries by the Western media. AJE might provide the coverage they are looking for. Evidence of this is that TV National in Kenya has eliminated its relay of CNN International during the overnight hours, and replaced it with AJE.

I think AJE has the chops to become one of the “big three” English-language international news channels, along with CNN International and BBC World. Other global channels, including France 24, DW-TV, Russia Today, will be in lesser tiers. ABC’s Australian Network and emerging African channels will compete, but on regional levels.

The real test of AJE will be in the months to come. It took a year or so of operation for people to get into the habit of watching CNN International and, later, BBC World, on a regular basis. We will see if that habit develops for AJE. Some commentators are concerned that its long reports about countries off the beaten path might turn off some viewers. This is the perhaps the news we should be watching, but might not have the patience to do so. BBC World will maintain its dominant ability to cover the major powers. And CNN International will have the slick production, human interest fare, and quick movement from subject to subject that many viewers favor.

Also in the months to come, we’ll see if AJE tries to maintain journalistic values of objectivity and balance. Or will an agenda become apparent? Brendan Bernhard, writing in the New York Sun, already smells ulterior motives: "It would take a George Smiley to figure out what the Emir of Qatar's game is, but it's surely a double, triple, or even quadruple one. The presence on Al-Jazeera English of grandees such as (David) Frost will ensure it avoids the excesses of the Arabic-language original, but it will take chances, it will try to make its rivals look timid, and it will certainly be a force to be reckoned with."

VOA TV: what will it be?

In my previous column, I reported that VOA has not one but two new directors. Danforth Austin is now director of VOA, and Russell Hodge is director of VOA-TV. The latter is a new position. The establishment of a VOA-TV director may have something to do with a Booz Allen study, which recommended creating separate VOA units, one for radio and one for television.

Indeed, in the VOA/IBB executive suite on the third floor, walls that used to separate the normal sized offices of the various senior advisers and special assistants have bee knocked out to create a large office for Mr. Hodge, equal in size to that now occupied my Mr. Austin. Booz Allen will no doubt be pleased.

And who will report to whom? That’s the big question being asked around our corridors. Will Mr. Hodge report to Mr. Austin, or directly to the Broadcasting Board of Governors?

Furthermore, what plans does Mr. Hodge have for VOA TV? All of the recent news about Aljazeera English might bring the urge to create a 24/7 English news channel. That, however, would be frightfully expensive and difficult. From the private sector, CNN International is already well established, and the Fox News international distribution is growing rapidly. The International Broadcast Act of 1994 instructs U.S. government international broadcasting not to compete with private U.S. efforts.

But VOA might want to establish a multilingual 24/7 channel, with 60- or 30-minute blocks of programming in various languages. Cable systems in some large cosmopolitan cities around the world might take the channel in its entirety. Terrestrial stations would use that channel to downlink programs in specific languages, for live or delayed rebroadcasting.

A second way to do a 24/7 multilingual channel is for VOA to partner with a U.S. cable channel, such as C-Span, TV Land, TCM, the Travel Channel, etc. The content would be translated by dubbing or captions. The miracle of digital satellite receivers would allow the viewer (or cable system) to select the language of the dubs or captions, or to keep the original English. On this channel, VOA would insert maybe four daily news magazines, in English, with lots of video, and with the dubs or captions in various languages.

Another approach to VOA-TV would not require full-time channels. Instead, VOA would continue to place block programs, of the usual 30- or 60-minute lengths, daily or weekend-only, on television stations in the target country. Ideally, the stations would take these programs for free, but ultimately VOA might have to pay for the time.

With such block programs, VOA-TV would be in competition with whatever programs are on other channels in the target country at the same time. As domestic television in target countries gains competence, it becomes more difficult for any international broadcaster to compete in such a matter. The solution: if you can’t beat them join them. VOA is already doing this in some languages by placing reports on news programs of domestic television networks in the target country. These reports are used occasionally, as needed by the domestic station. But the burden of attracting an audience is on the domestic station, which can probably do a better job of this than any international broadcaster.

Finally, if domestic stations in the target country can’t be convinced to take block programs or reports, VOA TV will have to buy its own time. To get big audiences, that time will have to be purchased during evening prime time. Hour-long or half-hour blocks would be prohibitively expensive. The practical solution is to buy time by the minute, just as with commercials, except that content would be news reports, or softer features.

Sixty seconds is longer than you think, and much information can be imparted if the writing is skillful. For viewers wanting more details, and more content, the website would be displayed throughout the one-minute report. Television handing off to the web: that’s multimedia international broadcasting.

Views expressed are my own.

To Far East Asia, South Asia and Oceania
1400-1500 UTC 7125 9695 9760 11885 12150 kHz

To Africa
1400-1600 UTC 4930 6080 15580 17715 17895 kHz

To Europe, Middle East and North Africa
1400-1500 UTC 11655 15205 kHz

Many frequencies are audible outside the nominal target area.

"Peter Preston, former editor of the Guardian, said it had become increasingly evident new voices with different opinions were needed on English-language networks as one all-encompassing 24-hour news channel was not enough. 'CNN can attempt to do that by running hugely different programmes ... to the rest of the world than it does in America. The BBC can attempt to do it by a massive amount of fairness and balance in the traditional BBC way.'" Reuters, 15 November 2006. "It took hits from US bombs in Kabul and Baghdad and contested reports allege George Bush was once ready to bomb the HQ. Just as British reports have their biases, as a new study on the Iraq war underlines, so al-Jazeera has its own. But by reporting inconvenient facts and airing diverse views, it has helped the Arab region. By offering a new slant, it will do good for the wider world too." Leader, the Guardian, 15 November 2006. Dave Marash, Washington anchor for Alajzeera, says about Aljazeera (in the third person): "Do they broadcast hate speech? Yes, they do. Is it put in context and is it discussed as hate speech? Yes, it is. Hate speech is part of the dialogue of the Middle East. To censor or to exclude it would be to lose all credibility" among al-Jazeera's viewers. Washington Post, 15 November 2006. "'It's not about us,' said Jon Alterman, who watches public diplomacy and the international media from his think tank perch at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 'But in a lot of the world that speaks English, Al Jazeera International will be a decentered take on how the world works. There's a global media ecology out there which the United States has decreasing dominance over.'" Los Angeles Times, 15 November 2006. "The analogy is to Fox (News) , in that they present as clear and overt an Arabic perspective as Fox is American." Toronto Star, 14 November 2006. British staff warned about excessive drinking., 14 November 2006. "Foreign media are very eager to use Al Jazeera's material, but they've had to translate it into Arabic. Now they'll have it English." Jerusalem Post, 13 November 2006. "Any visitor to the Middle East can't help but be struck by the different perspective, one that Americans and others rarely see. If they were exposed to it, perhaps that could begin to bridge a cultural chasm. And perhaps more exposure to the professionalism of seasoned Western journalists could curb some of the sensationalism on Arabic Al-Jazeera. So far, the new version has few major U.S. cable takers (it will also be available But it should be welcomed. Audiences are discerning. During the Cold War, many in Eastern Europe listened to Voice of America or the BBC rather than government propaganda. In a globalized world, the broader the conversation and greater the competition for credibility, the better." Editorial, USA Today, 15 November 2006. "A platform for such hatred should not be welcomed, and certainly not from an office located a few blocks from the White House." STEVEN STALINSKY, Middle east Media Research Institute, New York Sun, 15 November 2006. "One indication that Al-Jazeera International intends to play it safe: There is no logo on the outside of its Washington headquarters, despite the fact that Al-Jazeera takes up much of the 12-story building in which it's located. The directory in the building's lobby doesn't list Al-Jazeera." San Francisco Chronicle, 15 November 2006. EchoStar's DISH Network not carrying Aljazeera English. "Negotiations reportedly fell apart because Dish wanted to carry the English-language version on its Arab-language tier, while Al-Jazeera wanted to reach a larger chunk of Dish's 12.8 million subscribers." Rocky Mountain News, 15 November 2006. "Al-Jazeera's list of U.S. carriers included none of the major U.S. cable TV providers: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications or Cablevision, nor the two major satellite TV providers, Dish Network and DirecTV. Al-Jazeera English will be available to American customers of GlobeCast, the subsidiary of a French company that offers satellite TV service. The channel also has deals in place with Fision, a digital service that will be available shortly in Houston; Jump TV, which describes itself as 'the world's leading broadcaster of ethnic TV over the Internet'; and VDC, a service that offers TV on the Internet to about 10,000 customers in the United States. CTV, 15 November 2006. But not mentioned at Globecast World TV website. " will be the first U.S.-based broadband cable television provider to distribute Al Jazeera English in the United States. Al Jazeera English will immediately be available to over 60 million broadband users in the U.S." VDC press release, 14 November 2006.

American journalists, writers, scholars, and other experts tend to be confused about the relationship of international broadcasting to public diplomacy continues. For example, in article about President Bush’s nomination of Karen Hughes to be under secretary of state for public diplomacy, Fred Kaplan wrote:

In the Soviet Union of the 1950s and '60s, there was Pravda on the one hand, Voice of America on the other. The former dished out the dreary boilerplate of the ruling Communist Party. The latter offered exciting rhythms from the forbidden outside world. … Today, an official American image, even a well-crafted one, would have to compete with a vast array of newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts and, most crucially, satellite TV networks—some state-sponsored, some independent—that have a much better idea of what appeals to their viewers than we do. (Slate, March 15, 2006.)

This is an uncommonly astute observation about international broadcasting, but it has little to do with Karen Hughes. True, Ms. Hughes attends meetings of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, sitting on behalf of the Secretary of State, who is an ex officio member of the Board. But the real authority is in the eight appointed members of the Board, a bipartisan panel whose members serve fixed and staggered terms. The State Department representatives can voice concerns, but I assume and hope -- though don’t know, as Board meetings are rarely open – that the Board members do not take these as directives.

International Broadcasting versus Public Diplomacy

The BBG itself has offered different explanations about the relationship between international broadcasting and public diplomacy. Its 2002 Annual Report begins with a statement that its chairman Kenneth Tomlinson made at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he places public diplomacy and international broadcasting in “two different spheres”:

We need to understand the importance of maintaining the strength of public diplomacy and the traditions of international broadcasting. I am convinced that we will not be successful in our overall mission of delivering our message to the world if we fail to grasp that these are two different spheres and that they operate according to two different sets of rules.

It is very important that government spokesmen take America’s message to the world -- passionately and relentlessly. We should not be ashamed of public advocacy on behalf of freedom and democracy and the United States of America.

International broadcasting on the other hand is called upon to reflect the highest standards of independent journalism as the best means of convincing international audiences that truth is on the side of democratic values.

But the statement concluded by describing international broadcasting as one of the “arms of public diplomacy”:

These arms of public diplomacy should be parallel pursuits because the effectiveness of either is adversely affected when one attempts to impose its approach on the other.

And the 2003 BBG annual report has international broadcasting in the “realm” of public diplomacy:

“Within the public diplomacy realm, the BBG performed its journalistic mission on behalf of the American taxpayers.”

(Italics added.)
Even the Voice of America described itself as subordinate to public diplomacy, in its March 14, 2005, news report about the Hughes nomination.

Ms. Hughes will undertake a broad review and restructuring of U.S. public diplomacy, which includes cultural outreach, educational exchanges, information programs and international broadcasting, including Voice of America.

For her part, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice does acknowledge the separation of the State Department and BBG. At her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on January 18, she responded to a question about public diplomacy and international broadcasting by Virginia Senator George Allen. She placed international broadcasting “as a part of a broad public diplomacy effort.” But she added:

Radio Free Europe and Voice of America and Radio Martí are about telling the truth, not about propagandizing. We have to make certain that people who otherwise don't have access to the truth receive it. …there is perhaps nothing more important in this war of ideas than getting out the truth. And so I look forward to working with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, respecting the line that is there, that has been observed between the State Department and the Board.

But in an interview with the Washington Post, reported on March 25, Secretary Rice added, perhaps significantly, the words “unified” and “coherent” to her vision of U.S. international broadcasting.

The way that we were most effective with Radio Free Europe and Voice of America was it was a reliable source of the truth in places where the truth was suppressed. And so obviously we'd like our message to be positively received. But you have to be able to communicate a message, and it has to be a unified message and a coherent message… .

Some of the recent commentaries about the Hughes nomination are more explicit in their desire to see less of a line between U.S. international broadcasting and public diplomacy. In a Heritage Foundation commentary on March 15, 2005, Stephen Johnson and Helle Dale wrote:

The BBG is supposed to broadcast balanced news and cultural programs through the Voice of America network and surrogate outlets such as Radio Free Asia. Since the Reagan Administration, these entities have gone on to operate in separate universes... Establish a public diplomacy coordinator position at the National Security Council to put other agencies with missions like information warfare, media development, and foreign broadcasting in sync.

They were perhaps inspired by a recommendation in the widely cited report of Ambassador Edward Djerejian’s Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World:

Broadcasting represents nearly half the spending on public diplomacy, and it must be part of the public diplomacy process, not marching to its own drummer with its own goals and strategy, sources of funding, and board. Congress needs to reexamine the legislation that created the BBG to ensure that broadcast operations support the strategic mission of U.S. public diplomacy. The BBG should also safeguard the professional integrity of the effort, but all broadcasting must fit into the overall public diplomacy strategy of the United States. It is critical, however, that news and opinion programs be accepted as credible and reliable. The truth is our ally.

But how does one maintain a newsroom that is objective, balanced, and reliable, and capable of earning the credibility that is key to success in international broadcasting, if the content is “unified,” “coherent,” “in sync,” and “supports the strategic mission of public diplomacy”? If U.S. international broadcasting is “coordinated,” the audience, even illiterate nomads in the most isolated corner of the world, will spot its agenda within half a week. They have heard it all on their shortwave radios and will not be taken in by the strategizing of Washington decision makers and think tank fellows.

The Djerejian Commission was not satisfied that U.S. international broadcasting merely keeps foreign audiences well informed with the news. The broadcasts must make people’s attitudes more favorable to the United States. They must “move the needle.”
The view of the Advisory Group is that [Radio] Sawa needs a clearer objective than building a large audience. To earn continued financial support, it must show, through continuous research, that it can change attitudes of Arab listeners toward the United States, that is, “ move the needle” toward what the State Department, in its mission statement on public diplomacy and public affairs, calls “influence,” which comprises “understanding,” “constructive disagreement,” and “active support.”

Confusion about whether the Voice of America is broadcasting news, or a news-like product with a particular spin, is exacerbated by some recent news coverage about VOA. The New York Times, no less, in its March 13 story about the U.S. government distribution of videos to news organizations, included this passage:

The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act … allows Voice of America to broadcast
pro-government news to foreign audiences, but not at home. (Italics added.)

The VOA Charter requirement that its reporting be “accurate, objective, and comprehensive” would not allow its news to be pro-, or anti-, anything. Indeed, a few days later, the Times published a letter of clarification from VOA spokesman Joe O’Connell.

But since the Times story, the “pro-government” label has spread. On March 19, the Miami Herald used it in an editorial about the government videos that was printed in other papers via the Knight-Ridder news service.

The Voice of America is prohibited by law from broadcasting pro-government news to American audiences, out of concern that citizens shouldn't pay to aim propaganda at themselves.

With these mixed signals about what VOA and U.S. international broadcasting should do, it is not surprising that notions of propaganda persist even among influential journalists, scholars, analysts, and decision makers. The Washington Post reported that Representative José Serrano said of Alhurra during an Appropriation Committee hearing in April 2004, "Do not tell us it's not propaganda, because if it's not propaganda, then I think . . . we will have to look at what it is we are doing."

The Communication Process of International Broadcasting

Many American journalists and decision makers seem to think of international broadcasting in terms of the radio propaganda pioneered by Germany and Italy in the 1930s, and continued by Radio Moscow from the 1950s. To them, the concept is send message (A), to audience (B) – with the assumption that the audience is huddled around their radios to hear message A – to bring about outcome (C), e.g. a more favorable attitude towards the United States, rejection of terrorism, etc.

But the German, Italian, and Soviet international radio efforts were not successful. This is because the actual process of international broadcasting is more complex than that described in the previous paragraph. It starts not with what message a national government wants to send, but with what content the audience wants to hear. Audience (A) desires certain content (B) that is lacking from their domestic media (C), and so they seek it from foreign broadcasting outlets (D), with a preference towards the broadcaster that provides the best content, with the clearest signal, through the optimum mix of media, with the most convenient schedule.

But what about (E) -- the all-important impact, or effect, of these international broadcasts? Why would the United States government want to fund an international broadcasting effort if it has no control over its content?

1) Because people will listen. The international broadcasting audience makes the effort to tune in to get news that is more reliable than the news they get from their state controlled domestic media.

2) Well informed audiences are bolstered against the misinformation, disinformation, and intentional omissions of media controlled by dictators, terrorists, and other international miscreants. The audience is now equipped to form their own opinion about current affairs.

3) The VOA Charter states, "The long-range interests of the United States are served by communicating directly with the peoples of the world by radio." In VOA's first broadcast on February 24, 1942, announcer William Harlan Hale said, "The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth." If the policies of the United States are wise and virtuous, then through reporting about U.S. policies and actions and about the policies and actions of its adversaries, the good and the bad, we can reasonably expect that in the long range well-informed audiences will tend to agree with U.S. policies.

4) Even if the United States government decides to pursue policies that are not popular elsewhere in the world, uses of propagandistic techniques would only exacerbate the unpopularity of those policies and of the United States itself. The best the United States can do is to describe those policies as objectively as possible, and to report on the debate on these policies. If the audience does not agree, at least they will have a better understanding why the administration has adopted these policies. And they will know that the United States has a pluralistic system in which policy-making remains under constant debate, including by people whose views may not be far from their own.

5) The audience will witness democracy in action, with all the inherent disorder therein. They may want some of that disorder in their own countries.

6) Even if the audience does not come to agree with American policies, the fact that the United States provides an honest and objective news service speaks well for the United States.

7) Personality and entertainment programs transmit goodwill and convey the humanness of the American people.

All told, the process is long term and subtle and probably cannot be measured by any convenient “needle.”

The Complementary Role of Public Diplomacy

While international broadcasting exists as an independent entity, there is, as a separate and parallel effort, public diplomacy. Every country has a right to engage in public diplomacy, and the United States has a special need to.

Public diplomacy would continue to use its usual methods, including the exchanges of writers, artists, and experts.

Websites are increasingly being used for public diplomacy and are ideal for this purpose. Journalists, government officials, researchers, interested individuals use the websites to get a country’s policy statements, transcripts of speeches, contact information, etc.

The U.S. website for this purpose has the rather ungainly URL of It is now available in seven languages. This number of languages should expand. Instead of U.S. international broadcasting competing with itself in 22 languages (VOA versus Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Russian, Ukrainian, Albanian, etc. and VOA versus Radio Free Asia in Mandarin, Burmese, Tibetan, etc), it would be better and certainly more efficient for international broadcasting and public diplomacy to complement each other in at least those 22 languages.

And to make this complementation work, and to maintain credibility all around, the content of the public diplomacy website and other public diplomacy products should not be disguised as news. Users should know that they can go to the U.S. international broadcasting website for an independent journalistic treatment of U.S. affairs, and to the public diplomacy website for official views presented by representatives of the U.S. government.

As a general rule, public diplomacy cannot on its own attract a mass audience because its output does not cater to any popular demand for information or entertainment. To reach large numbers of people, public diplomacy will have to find ways to attach itself to successful media outlets in the target countries. This is increasingly important as domestic media in the target countries improve.

One way to do this is to line up interviews with foreign television stations –- including the controversial Al Jazeera -- and other media with large audiences. As an unnamed U.S. official told the London Telegraph (reported March 25), "What would have a real impact is a cast of American diplomats who were capable of putting their case over on Middle Eastern news and talk shows."

Another method is to purchase advertisements on media in the target countries. The use of television advertisements by former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Charlotte Beers to inform audiences about the life of Muslims in the United States probably served no useful purpose. But she was on the right track by using ads to tap into large audiences already gathered by these domestic media, rather than try to reinvent the wheel with external U.S. radio or television services built from scratch. These advertisements, if straightforward, economical, plainly identified, and employed only when needed, can help correct the record if U.S. policies and actions are not accurately reported by media in the target country.

Whatever the target country, public diplomacy has a perpetual role, whereas international broadcasting has a finite shelf life. When the domestic media of the country become sufficiently free and diverse, or at least entertaining, people will no longer tune to foreign radio and television channels. Eventually, the domestic radio and television stations will not use programs and reports from foreign broadcasters, preferring to do the reporting on their own. When this point is reached, international broadcasting no longer has significant potential in the target country. However, even in countries with rich and diverse domestic media, journalists must turn to the public diplomacy operation of the transmitting country to obtain policy statements, press releases, and to arrange interviews and media events.

The British Model: Spend Less, Get More

Since September 2001, the multitude of commentaries that have called for improvements, expansions and, above all, budget increases for U.S. public international broadcasting have ignored the elephant in the living room: From the Cold war years through to the present, BBC World Service has had the largest audience, most impact, and greatest prestige of any international broadcaster, even though Britain spends less money on international broadcasting.

I discussed this fifteen years ago in “Too Many Voices of America,” Foreign Policy, Winter 1989/90. One of the reasons is that, in Britain, there is less confusion about the distinct roles of international broadcasting and public diplomacy. Members of Parliament by and large understand the need for the independence of BBC World Service. World Service officials bristle when their station is categorized as public diplomacy. They point out that their role is to provide news, and providing that “speaks well for Britain.”

John Tusa, managing director of BBC World from 1986 to 1992, articulated this stance in his book Conversations With the World (1990):

Short-wave broadcasting is, in essence, anarchic – it leaps boundaries, defies regulations, scatters forbidden thoughts, and challenges otherwise unchallengeable authorities. It is essentially humanistic, allowing the individual to make his or her own decisions about their view of the world; it opens minds; defies collective regimentation and, out of the darkling confusion of the ether, offers a dialogue of ideas between broadcaster and listener. (pp. 12-13)

So, while many international radio stations have transmitted propaganda, successful international broadcasting provides an antidote to propaganda.

Success in the international communications efforts of the United States requires that international broadcasting and public diplomacy should be conducted by separate agencies, from separate buildings, located, ideally, in separate cities.

Improving U.S. international communications to meet the challenges of the twenty first century requires thinking outside of the proverbial box. Specifically, the thinking should move into two boxes, one box for international broadcasting, another box for public diplomacy, with sufficient distance between the two.

Analysis by Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring on 10 November

Japan's internal affairs and communications minister, Yoshihide Suga, on 10 November ordered public broadcaster NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) to broadcast programmes in its international shortwave radio service focusing on North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. The move has been criticized by the opposition and media rights groups.

The Japanese news agency Kyodo, describing the move as "unprecedented and controversial," added: "It is the first time a minister has issued a detailed and specific order to Japan's public broadcaster, stirring criticism in the media and among experts that it will lead to further government interference with freedom of the press."

The idea was mooted earlier this year, after reports that North Korea was jamming shortwave radio broadcasts about the abductees produced by a private group.

Japan's Broadcast Law allows the communications minister to "order NHK to conduct international broadcasting by designating areas of broadcasting, matters for broadcasting and other necessary matters". The minister regularly issues orders to NHK, presenting broad ideas about desired reporting. But so far the government had avoided specifying any particular subject matter.

The government said it wanted to use the NHK broadcasts to raise international awareness of the plight of the abductees and put pressure on the North to reveal more information about their fate. It also hoped the programmes would let any abductees still alive in North Korea know that they had not been forgotten.

Minister Suga said Japan needed to be clear in demonstrating its resolve to North Korea. He denied that the government was trying to influence programme content. "Our purpose is only to repatriate abductees as soon as possible. We hope the public understand," he said, adding that an organization supporting the families of abduction victims had called for the order.

But Kazuhiro Araki, who heads the private group called the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, had earlier denied this at a news conference in Tokyo. "To be honest with you, we're disturbed" by the government's move, he told reporters on 6 November.

NHK Chairman Genichi Hashimoto pledged that that the public broadcaster would "stick to its basics of independent and autonomous programme editing in its international broadcasting," as in its other broadcasting services. Although NHK derives the bulk of its funding from fees paid by viewers, the government provides about 19m US dollars for its international shortwave radio service.

"Highly emotive" issue

North Korean agents abducted more than a dozen Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2002, Pyongyang admitted to abducting 13 Japanese. It sent five of them back and said the other eight were dead. Japan has called for information about the eight reported dead, and has said another three of its citizens were also abducted.

Reuters news agency said the issue was "highly emotive" for many Japanese, and recalled that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had initially won voter popularity by supporting the families of those abducted. The unresolved dispute has prevented Japan and North Korea from establishing relations, said Agence France-Presse.

"We are making the move because we believe giving the abductees hope is very important," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki told a news conference on 9 November, after a government panel approved the broadcasting order.

Fears for media freedom

Opposition politicians have criticized the move, saying ministers should not be able to influence what broadcasters report. "I wonder if it's good to unilaterally force NHK to carry the government's propaganda," said main opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa.

Yukio Hatoyama, secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Japan, told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on 3 November: "The government should respect the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. If excessive intervention is allowed, it means the government can interfere with the contents of programmes. It's a terrible story."

Representatives of commercial broadcasters also opposed the order, and accused the government of interfering with the media.

Some Japanese newspapers have carried editorials critical of the order to NHK. The Mainichi Shimbun daily wrote on 10 December: "The move has raised fears and criticism among the ruling and opposition parties in view in connection with the issue of press freedom."

Media analysts say the issue stems from the government's initiative earlier in 2006 to disseminate more information about Japan abroad. An agreement between the government and ruling parties in June on telecommunications and broadcasting reform contained measures to beef up Japan's international broadcasts.

Hiroshi Matsuda, a Japanese professor who has written a book on NHK, told Yomiuri Shimbun: "This issue may turn NHK's international broadcasting into a state-controlled medium. It may affect the future of the nation's international broadcasting."

The affair will be watched with interest by international public broadcasters such as the BBC, whose governments provide funding but do not intervene in dictating the detailed content of programmes.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 10 Nov 06

The devils we don’t know

It’s almost as if it happens in the middle of the night. Every few years at the Voice of America, there is a sudden flurry of private meetings, senior executives with concerned looks, the announcement of a VOA director departing, and the naming of a new VOA director.

This most recently culminated on October 25, when the Broadcasting Board of Governors announced that Danforth W. Austin would become the new VOA director. Austin previously held senior positions at the Wall Street Journal and at Dow Jones subsidiary Ottaway Newspapers. Like his predecessor David Jackson, he comes from a journalistic background, but otherwise we don’t know much about him, or about what’s in store for VOA.

Significantly, the BBG also announced the appointment of the director of VOA Television, Russell Hodge. This is a new position, and seems to be in line with a Booz Allen recommendation that VOA separate its radio and television operations. Hodge is founder and president of 3 Roads Communications, and he has done projects for HBO, PBS, NBC, CNBC, CBS, Fox and Comedy Central.

David Jackson’s four-year tenure as VOA director (not many directors stay that long) was fraught with tensions between him and VOA newsroom personnel. These were discussed in a Foreign Affairs article (May/June 2005) by former VOA director Sanford Ungar. Jackson responded in the July/August issue.

Austin is the second VOA director to be appointed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors rather than by the President. This implies some autonomy for VOA, but keep in mind that the BBG consists (now) of four Republicans and three Democrats. The vote for Austin might have been four to three. We just don’t know, given the very closed BBG meetings.

Another notable transition in U.S. international broadcasting was the resignation of Mouaffac Harb as news director of Alhurra television and Radio Sawa. Harb cited "personal reasons" and told The Daily Star (Beirut): "When Al-Hurra achieves its objectives, which are promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East, I would be the first one to say there is no need for Al-Hurra anymore." Since before Radio Sawa went on the air, Harb would say things like that, indicating that he was never sure if his job was to promote or to report. Harb’s successor is Larry Register, who has experience at CNN.

Studies of U.S. international broadcasting

If you can be in Washington the morning on November 16, the Public Diplomacy Council at the George Washington University will host a forum: International Broadcasting: the Public Diplomacy Challenge. Speakers will include Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Jeffery Trimble, acting president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Sanford Ungar, former VOA director, and Graham Mytton, former director of audience research at BBC World Service.

Actually, I think the "challenge" is to separate U.S. international broadcasting from U.S. public diplomacy, to ensure the credibility of the former. BBC World Service officials cringe when their organization is referred to as British "public diplomacy." I wonder what Graham will have to say about that?

Other scholars have been looking at the history of U.S. international broadcasting. The fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 brought a spate of articles. Most of them mentioned the role of Radio Free Europe in encouraging the Hungarians to fight against the Soviets, even though the United States had no intention of sending aid. One of the recent books about this subject that specifically examines the role of RFE is Charles Gati, Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt (Stanford University Press).

If you’re within reach of Stanford University (I never was, academically speaking), the Hoover Institution exhibit, "A Tear in the Iron Curtain: The Hungarian Uprising of 1956," includes recordings of RFE broadcasts from that era. The exhibit ends December 15.

And before we leave the subject of RFE: Given the demographics of shortwave listeners and NASWA members, many of you probably remember, as do I, the television program "Father Knows Best," even before it was in reruns. Jane Wyatt, the mother on that show, died October 20. Wyatt had been blacklisted for various activities during the 1940s and early 1950s. According to Washington Post television columnist Tom Shales, "to placate right-wing nuts, she agreed to appear on Radio Free Europe 'and read some kind of narration to the Russians. That got me cleared.'" An interesting way to get a gig in international radio.

A lot of jazz about VOA

From RFE history, we turn to VOA history, and that inevitably brings up the subject of jazz. VOA jazz "alumnae," i.e. listeners to Willis Conover’s programs, mentioned in recent articles include Indian opera singer Asha Puthli, Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, and Hungarian double-bassist Aladar Pege.

There still is jazz, on VOA Music Mix, but try to find the VOA Music Mix website. And a U.S. television program "Jazz Alley" is now included in the VOA TV schedule. But receiving VOA TV can be more difficult than receiving VOA via shortwave was in the 1960s. In many places, viewers need a C-band dish, and receiver settings are more appropriate to television rebroadcasters than to average consumers.

The old VOA Bethany transmitting site also pops up in the news every few weeks. Preservationists in West Chester Township, Ohio, are trying to save and restore the art-deco transmitter building and turn it into a museum. A board will likely be formed to oversee this project. They would like to call the museum the "National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting." The next "Patriotic Pancake Breakfast" organized by the Veterans Voice of America to raise funds for the museum will probably be October 6, 2007. Might be a good venue for a regional NASWA gathering.

Another part of VOA history is, alas, obituaries. Former VOA newsman Mark Hopkins died on September 25. He established the first VOA news bureau in Beijing in 1982. Hopkins also wrote "A Babel of Broadcasts," in the July/August 1999 Columbia Journalism Review, calling for a consolidation of U.S. international broadcasting.

Whither Shortwave? (Again.)

A definite setback for shortwave was the elimination of Deutsche Welle German transmissions to North America on October 28. But on the upside, Radio Slovakia International returned to shortwave on October 29. And Radio Romania International has begun a DRM digital shortwave transmission in English for Europe. (Not much chance we’ll hear it in North America.)

TV Martí continues to try to fool Mother Nature with transmissions, apparently now on channel 20, from their "new" (which is to say, used), Gulfstream G1 turboprop. The height afforded by the plane does make Cuban jamming more difficult, but on VHF and UHF, usually the closer transmitter wins. On shortwave, the farther transmitter often prevails, but the number of shortwave sites available to Radio Martí is decreasing.

Iran has confounded the reception of foreign television and radio via the internet not by blocking the internet, but by slowing down connection speeds. So far no one has found a way to make shortwave slower than 299,792,458 meters per second.

Views expressed are my own. More at


Three Big Ones

U.S. international broadcasting has had in recent years more than its share of scandals, flaps, irregularities, and activities of a dubious nature. For all of the disruption caused by these embarrassing incidents, they at least have some entertainment value. Entertainment fans have certainly not been disappointed by the news about international broadcasting starting on August 30.

On that day, newspapers revealed that a report of the State Department Inspector General stated that Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, "improperly used his office, putting a friend on the payroll and running a 'horse-racing operation' with government resources."

This precipitated a motion by the three Democrats in the bipartisan BBG for Tomlinson to step aside as chairman. The three Republicans on the Board (including public diplomacy under secretary Karen Hughes) voted against the motion, so it failed. In any case, only the president can fire a presidential appointee.

The accusations against Tomlinson do not seem much outside the norm in the sleazy corridors of Washington federal agencies. Most of the CEOs of U.S. international broadcasting I have known have hired their buds either as consultants or senior advisers. The 400 calls from government phones and 1200 e-mails on his official account relating to horseracing may seem most improper. But Tomlinson's supporters point out that this amounts to no more than one or two personal calls or e-mails per day. If that's the standard for misconduct, lots of bureaucrats would find themselves under investigation.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will not consider President Bush's re-nomination of Tomlinson as BBG chairman. But Tomlinson will stay on until the president names, and the Senate confirms, a replacement. I'm placing my two dollar bet that he'll still be in the saddle at the BBG in January 2009.


Then, on September 5, we learned about a Government Accountability Office report about Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc., the new grantee corporation under the BBG that contains Radio Sawa and Alhurra television. The GAO called for better strategic planning and improvements in the methods used to determine the size of two stations' audiences.

The GAO report is worth a read, especially its discussion about audience research methodology. The GAO called for more use of random sample surveys, and less reliance on less representative quota samples. The BBG response stated that random samples are often difficult to achieve in the Middle East, and that many surveys advertised as random really aren't. The GAO's response to BBG's response said, well, at least state the limitations of your methodology when reporting those big numbers for Sawa and Alhurra.

The GAO report mentioned, but offered no recommendations, about two vexing problems: 1) Radio Sawa does not have FM access in many important Arab countries. 2) Alhurra will soon face competition from the new BBC Arabic television channel.

The government-hires-journalists flap

We had barely caught our breath from the two revelations mentioned above when, on September 8, the Miami Herald reported that ten South Florida journalists had "received regular payments from the U.S. government for programs on Radio Martí and TV Martí, two broadcasters aimed at undermining the communist government of Fidel Castro."

Whew! Quite a sentence. First of all, the Herald makes no concession to the fact that the payments came from Radio/TV Martí, a broadcasting organization that, if it is doing its job properly, conducts itself as a news organization and not an agent of the U.S. government. And the Herald automatically labels Radio/TV Martí's mission as undermining Castro. Radio and TV Martí describe themselves as providing objective news and information for Cuba, so the Herald reporters should have at least looked into this point before assigning adjectives to the stations. And it's easy to do so, as the stations' content is readily accessible via the internet.

In responding to the AP about this, the BBG spokesman rather inconveniently volunteered that "for decades, some of the most prominent journalists in America have been paid to be on Voice of America." This dragged VOA into the muck. On September 12, the New York Sun focused on VOA's payments ("government dollars") to Martin Schram, Hugh Sidey, etc., for programs such as "Issues in the News." The story ultimately resulted in David Lightman of the Hartford Courant ending his appearances on "Issues."

Too bad. Articulate and well-informed journalists add to the appeal of VOA's programs, and they can't be expected to come in every week for free. Furthermore, they were not paid to say what the "government" wanted them to say.

Another foul weather front moving in?

If you have not been sufficiently entertained by the three episodes mentioned so far, it looks like more fun is on its way. On September 26, VOA staff was informed by management that the VOA Charter clause about explaining U.S. policy is not limited to VOA Editorials. Policy will also be covered in VOA news and current affairs. Specifically, news or interviews that contain statements against U.S. current policy should be accompanied by something that represents the administration's side.

NASWA members, you've heard it all on your shortwave radios, from the flintily objective to the blatantly propagandistic. With your studied ears, listen to VOA via the audio medium of your choice. Has balance been achieved by including the administration viewpoint? Or does the injection of administration policy sound contrived?

The new VOA content directive probably has to do with a Defense Department paper about U.S. international broadcasting to Iran, reported, also on September 26, by McClatchy Newspapers. A Pentagon unit accused VOA Persian and Radio Farda of "taking a soft line toward Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime and not giving adequate time to government critics."

This development will either correct that alleged bias in U.S. international broadcasting, or introduce bias to what was balanced and objective coverage. Listeners and viewers in Iran will detect the result almost immediately, then vote with their tuning dials.

Whither shortwave?

An article in the September 24 International Herald Tribune was bearish about shortwave as a medium for international broadcasting. It may embolden more managers of international broadcasting to shut down their shortwave operations in favor of more modern technologies.

But the IHT piece failed to mention the timely lesson of the coup in Thailand. The VOA Thai Service lost its affiliates during that coup, and had to reactivate shortwave. BBC and CNN were taken off the cable television systems, then selectively bleeped. Expats no doubt went looking for their old shortwave radios. Certain websites were also shut down in Thailand.

The Kurdish-language Roj TV claims that its satellite transmissions are being jammed by Turkey. We know for sure that Iran is jamming satellite broadcasts with terrestrial transmissions possibly endangering Iranians' health.

Audiences may prefer local relays, satellite reception, and the internet to shortwave. But sometimes shortwave is the only medium that can get through.

Views expressed are my own.

Sorry that my column for September 2006 missed the deadline. It's available here.


VOA News Now
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All frequencies are kilohertz (kHz). All frequencies are shortwave except 1575 kHz medium wave. For radio dials marked in megahertz (MHz), 1 MHz equals 1,000 kHz. So, for example, 9885 kHz equals 9.885 MHz.


2d Session

S. 3870

To hold the current regime in Iran accountable for its human rights record and to support a transition to democracy in Iran.


September 7 (legislative day, September 6), 2006

Mr. BROWNBACK introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations


To hold the current regime in Iran accountable for its human rights record and to support a transition to democracy in Iran.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Iran Human Rights Act of 2006'.


    In this Act, the term `appropriate congressional committees' means the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate and the Committee on International Relations and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.


    Congress makes the following findings:

      (1) There is currently not a democratic government in Iran. Instead, Iran is an ideological dictatorship presided over by an unelected Supreme Leader with limitless veto power, an unelected Expediency Council, and a Council of Guardians capable of eviscerating any reforms.

      (2) The Supreme Leader appoints the heads of the judiciary, the clergy members on the powerful Council of Guardians, the commanders of all the armed forces, Friday prayer leaders, and the head of radio and television and confirms the president's election, rendering him the most powerful person in Iranian politics with little accountability within the political system.

      (3) Members of the Council of Guardians in Iran, who are chosen by the Supreme Leader, must vet all candidates for election based on their political predispositions and all legislation before it can be entered into law.

      (4) There has been a re-entrenchment of revolutionary forces in the political system in Iran. Elections held in February 2004 resulted in significant gains by conservative hard-liners affiliated with the regime's clerical army, the Pasdaran, culminating in the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

      (5) Over the past decade, human rights have been in steady decline in Iran. Torture, executions after unfair trials, and censorship of all media remain rampant throughout the country. Stoning, amputation, flogging, and beheading are used as methods of punishment.

      (6) Since his rise to power, President Ahmadinejad has embarked upon a concerted campaign of domestic repression, including new restrictions on radio, television, and film content, a ban on the publication of virtually all books, and an expansion in the activities of the regime's `morals police'.

      (7) The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/171 on December 16, 2005, to express its grave concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. The resolution urges the Government of Iran `to ensure full respect for the rights to freedom of assembly, opinion and expression ... to eliminate the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment ... [and] to eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, or linguistic grounds.

      (8) The 2005 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices states that `the Government's poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit numerous, serious abuses'.

      (9) According to Human Rights Watch's World Report 2006, many of the human rights violations committed in Iran were performed by quasi-official `parallel institutions', which include `paramilitary groups and plainclothes intelligence agents [that] violently attack peaceful protesters, and intelligence services [that] run illegal secret prisons and interrogation centers'. Uniformed police officers are fearful of challenging plainclothes agents, who belong to groups such as Ansar-e Hizbollah and Basij.

      (10) According to the 2005 State Department International Religious Freedom Report, the population of Iran is 89 percent Shi'a Muslim and 8 percent Sunni Muslim; less than one percent of the remaining population is comprised of Baha'is, Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians.

      (11) Religious minorities in Iran face significant discrimination, including imprisonment, harassment, and intimidation. Accordingly, the Secretary of State has, since 1999, designated Iran as a country of particular concern pursuant to section 402(b)(1)(A) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6442(b)(1)(A)).

      (12) Ambeyi Ligabo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, submitted a report to the Commission on Human Rights in 2004 on `Civil and Political Rights, Including the Question of Freedom of Expression'. Mr. Ligabo asserted that `the climate of fear induced by the systematic repression of people expressing critical views against the authorized political and religious doctrine and the functioning of the institutions coupled with the severe and disproportionate sentences imposed lead to self-censorship on the part of many journalists, intellectuals, politicians, students and the population at large, thus in effect impeding freedom of expression'.

      (13) Amnesty International's 2003 Report on Iran detailed the arrest of Iranian-born Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi for taking photographs outside Evin prison in Tehran on June 23, 2003. Over the course of her detention, judicial officials interrogated Ms. Kazemi for three days. While in custody, Ms. Kazemi was beaten, and she died of a brain hemorrhage on July 23, 2003.

      (14) Men and women are not equal under the laws of Iran, and women are legally deprived of their basic rights. The 2005 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices stated that the weight of a woman's court testimony in Iran is half that of a man's testimony and the family of a female crime victim in that country receives only half the amount of `blood money' provided to the family of a male crime victim. The Government of Iran mandates gender segregation in most public spaces, including on public buses and at entrances to public buildings, universities, and airports.

      (15) The April 28, 2006, Department of State Patterns of Global Terrorism Report states that Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2005.

      (16) There exists a broad-based movement and desire for political change in the Islamic Republic of Iran that is pro-democratic and seeks freedom and economic opportunity, and which represents all sectors of Iranian society, including youth, women, students, military personnel, and religious figures.

      (17) The people of Iran have increasingly expressed frustration at the slow pace of reform in Iran, and any efforts for nonviolent change in their society have been suppressed.

      (18) On September 7, 2006, Mohammad Khatami, President of Iran from 1997 to 2005, became the highest ranking Iranian to visit Washington, DC, since the hostage crisis of 1979, despite his government's state sponsorship of terrorism, repression of political opponents, and dismal human rights record and the advancement of Iran's uranium enrichment program.

      (19) President Ahmadinejad is moving to limit freedom of expression in higher education. On September 5, 2006, he expressed concern that universities were too secular and called for a purge of liberal and secular faculty members from universities in Iran.


    There is authorized to be appropriated to the President $100,000,000 for fiscal year 2007 to carry out sections 201, 303, and 304.



    It is the policy of the United States--

      (1) to make the deplorable human rights record of the Government of Iran a top concern and priority of United States foreign policy;

      (2) to keep the deplorable human rights record of Iran a top priority, irrespective of ongoing nuclear issues;

      (3) to support independent human rights groups inside and outside Iran who maintain internationally recognized human rights standards, including those provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Commitments;

      (4) to support a transparent and full transition to democracy in Iran;

      (5) to support an internationally-monitored referendum by which the people of Iran can peacefully change the system of government in that country;

      (6) to support the aspirations of the people of Iran to live in freedom; and

      (7) to support independent pro-democracy forces in Iran and abroad in order to encourage them to change the system of government in Iran without direct United States military involvement.


    It is the sense of Congress that--

      (1) there is a direct relationship between the state of freedom and democracy within Iran and the efforts of the current regime of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and the long-term success of the global war on terror; and

      (2) it is essential that the issue of human rights violations in Iran should remain a top United States foreign policy priority, independent of efforts to address the nuclear threat in Iran.


    (a) Appointment of Special Envoy- The President shall appoint a special envoy for human rights in Iran within the Department of State (in this Act referred to as the `Special Envoy'). The Special Envoy should--

      (1) be a person of recognized distinction in the field of human rights;

      (2) not be an incumbent official of the Department of State; and

      (3) report directly to the Secretary of State.

    (b) Duties-

      (1) IN GENERAL- The Special Envoy shall coordinate and promote efforts to improve respect for the fundamental human rights of the people of Iran and work with organizations committed to promoting democracy in Iran.

      (2) SPECIFIC DUTIES- The Special Envoy shall have the following duties:

        (A) Supporting international efforts to promote human rights and political freedoms in Iran, including coordination between the United States and the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and countries in the region to promote these efforts and to establish the regional framework under section 104.

        (B) Coordinating with appropriate offices of the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and such other agencies as may be necessary to coordinate the establishment and operation of the regional framework.

        (C) Serving as point of contact for opposition groups, diaspora groups, and nongovernmental organizations interested in advocating democracy and human rights in Iran.

        (D) Coordinating efforts with appropriate departments and agencies of the United States Government, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals and organizations from the Iranian diaspora to acquire greater information and reporting on conditions in Iran.

        (E) Overseeing funding for, and providing consultative authority with respect to, public and private broadcasting into Iran.

        (F) Reviewing strategies for improving the protection of human rights in Iran, including technical training and exchange programs.

        (G) Coordinating with the United States representative on the Board of Directors of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to properly evaluate and screen all allocations of United States contributions to the Global Fund that could be available to the Government of Iran.

    (c) Report on Activities- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter for each of the following 5 years, the Special Envoy shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the activities undertaken in the preceding 12 months under subsection (b).


    (a) Finding- Congress finds that human rights initiatives can be undertaken on a multilateral basis, as demonstrated by the OSCE, which established a regional framework for discussing human rights, scientific and educational cooperation, and economic and trade issues.

    (b) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that the United States Government should explore the possibility of a regional human rights dialogue with Iran that is modeled on the Helsinki process established by the OSCE, engaging all countries in the region in a common commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.


    It is the sense of Congress that the United Nations has a significant role to play in promoting and improving human rights in Iran, and that--

      (1) the United Nations General Assembly has taken positive steps by adopting Resolution 60/171, which expresses its grave concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran;

      (2) the severe human rights violations in Iran warrant country-specific attention and reporting by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women;

      (3) United Nations member states should not support Iran as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council until the Government of Iran has made significant progress in its human rights record, including the adherence to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; and

      (4) the Special Envoy should work with the United Nations to compile accurate statistical data on social and political conditions inside Iran.


    It is the sense of Congress that the commitment to human rights and democracy of a national of Iran who has applied for a visa to enter the United States should be considered when determining the eligibility of such national for the visa.



    (a) Authority- The President is authorized to provide financial and political assistance, including grants, to foreign and domestic individuals, organizations, and entities that support human rights, democracy, and the promotion of democracy in Iran and that are opposed to the non-democratic Government of Iran and its deplorable human rights record.

    (b) Eligibility for Assistance- Financial and political assistance under this section may be provided to an individual, organization, or entity that--

      (1) officially opposes the use of terrorism;

      (2) advocates the adherence by the Government of Iran to nonproliferation regimes for nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and materiel;

      (3) is dedicated to democratic values and supports the adoption of a democratic form of government in Iran;

      (4) is dedicated to respect for human rights, including the fundamental equality of women;

      (5) works to establish equality of opportunity for all people of Iran; and

      (6) supports freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion and other internationally recognized human rights.

    (c) Funding- The President may provide assistance under this section acting through the Special Envoy.

    (d) Notification- Not later than 15 days before each obligation of assistance under this section, and in accordance with the procedures under section 634A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2394-l), the President shall notify the appropriate congressional committees of such obligation of assistance.


    (a) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that--

      (1) notwithstanding any other provision of law, United States nonhumanitarian assistance to Iran should be contingent on--

        (A) substantial progress being made in that country toward respecting the basic human rights of the people of Iran; and

        (B) the transition to a full, transparent democracy; and

      (2) United States humanitarian assistance to any department, agency, or entity of the Government of Iran should--

        (A) be delivered, distributed, and monitored according to internationally recognized humanitarian standards;

        (B) be provided on a needs basis, and not used as a political reward or tool of coercion; and

        (C) reach the intended beneficiaries, who should be informed of the source of the assistance.

    (b) Report- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of Foreign Assistance shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report describing compliance with this section and describing assistance provided to Iran by international organizations to which the United States provides assistance.



    (a) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States to help the people of Iran achieve a free press and build an open, democratic, and free society.

    (b) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of the Congress that--

      (1) effectively communicating democratic ideals to the people of Iran is essential to fostering change in that country; and

      (2) United States public broadcasting into Iran has in the past been intentionally undermined by the actions of foreign governments.


    (a) In General- The Broadcasting Board of Governors shall--

      (1) require the head of Radio Farda and the head of Voice of America Persian Service to develop programming in consultation with--

        (A) the Special Envoy;

        (B) individuals, organizations, and entities eligible for political and financial assistance in accordance with section 201(b); and

        (C) representatives from the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the Department of State;

      (2) ensure that a significant percentage of the broadcast time on Radio Farda and the Voice of America Persian Service is devoted to discussing peaceful democratic change in Iran, including a full, transparent transition to democracy in that country, the consequences of a lack of democratic reform for the people of Iran, and democratic reforms in other countries, and to promoting human rights in Iran and other countries around the world;

      (3) ensure that Radio Farda devotes not more than 1/2 of its broadcast time to music and entertainment; and

      (4) ensure that fluent Farsi speakers employed by Radio Farda and the Voice of America Persian Service produce English summaries of their respective organizations' broadcasts on a weekly basis and make such summaries available to the Special Envoy.

    (b) Report- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that--

      (1) describes compliance with subsection (a);

      (2) reviews programming options for Radio Farda as presented in the consultation process described in paragraph (1) of such subsection;

      (3) lists Radio Farda programs selected from the options presented in the consultation process described in such paragraph; and

      (4) describes how Voice of America Persian Service programming fulfills the principles of the Voice of America charter.

    (c) Prohibition on Use of Funds To Employ Certain Individuals- None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by an Act making appropriations for foreign operations, export financing, and related programs or any other Act may be used to pay the salary of any employee of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Voice of America, or Radio Farda who has, within the previous 10 years, been employed by the Iranian Information Ministry, or any official news agency of the Government of Iran, including the Islamic Republic News Agency.

    (d) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress that the Broadcasting Board of Governors should make every effort to prevent the broadcast of explicitly anti-American sentiments from any of its correspondents or guests.


    The Special Envoy may provide grants to appropriate entities that are eligible for political and financial assistance in accordance with section 201(b) or section 304(b)(4) to create and maintain websites and translate and distribute books, videos, documents, and other materials on human rights, democracy, the rule of law, free market economics, and related topics.


    (a) Grant Program- The Special Envoy is authorized to award grants to eligible entities for the purpose of funding broadcasting programs and activities to promote a full, transparent transition to democracy in Iran.

    (b) Eligibility- The following persons and entities are eligible for grants under subsection (a):

      (1) Individuals, organizations, and entities that are eligible for political and financial assistance in accordance with section 201(b).

      (2) Individuals, organizations, and entities that provide radio or television broadcasting into Iran that includes programming intended to promote a full, transparent transition to democracy in Iran.

      (3) Individuals, organizations, and entities that are working to promote the holding of an internationally-monitored referendum in Iran.

      (4) Individuals, organizations, and entities that facilitate communication with the people of Iran via the Internet, including websites, Internet broadcasts, webblogs, and other forms of online communication, that promote a full, transparent transition to democracy in Iran.


    The President may impose diplomatic and, if necessary, economic sanctions on foreign governments or entities that assist the Government of Iran in jamming, blocking, or otherwise preventing the free transmission of United States Government radio and television broadcasts into Iran.


Once again, the U.S. news media have assumed that U.S. international broadcasting exists for the purpose of propaganda. Even in the case of Radio/TV Martí, this is not a forgone conclusion. The Herald reports that Radio/TV Martí "programming cannot be broadcast within the United States because of anti-propaganda laws," but anyone in the United States with a shortwave radio or an internet connection can listen to the station for hours on end. Reporters covering this story should do so.

The Voice of America, and the journalists it has paid to appear on its programs, must be delighted to have been dragged into this controversy by the spokesman quoted in the AP report. But this does point out that international broadcasters can enhance their coverage by tapping well-informed journalists. And these journalists (especially freelancers) should be able to earn some extra income for the facts and insights they have gathered. Of course, they should inform their employers about this; according to the reports, many of them did.

BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Netherlands are all funded through their respective governments. No eyebrows are raised when journalists are paid to contribute to these stations. Nor are they generally seen as propaganda outlets. This shows that it is possible for a broadcasting entity to receive public funding while retaining, in perception and in reality, its autonomy.

People tune to foreign broadcasts to get the news that provides that antidote to the state-sponsored propaganda of their domestic media. Radio and TV Martí would not have much of an audience if they are merely in the business of "undermining the communist government of Fidel Castro" (Miami Herald) or transmitting "broadcasts critical of Fidel Castro" (New York Times).

Furthermore, if Radio/TV Martí did report a one-sided version of events, it would be in violation of its originating legislation, the Broadcasting to Cuba Act of 1983 (Public Law 98-111), which states that "Radio Martí follows Voice of America journalistic standards and guidelines for presenting a variety of news and information in an accurate and objective manner."

The Broadcasting Board of Governors supervises Radio/TV Martí and other elements of U.S. government funded international broadcasting. The BBG must concentrate on its Job One: to provide a firewall between the U.S. government and U.S. international broadcasting, and to ensure that U.S. international broadcasts are as independent, credible, balanced, and objective as humanly possible.

The BBG must be consistently clear about this. Unfortunately, it has sent ambiguous signals concerning this key matter. This is evident in one sentence from the BBG's press release of 23 August 2004 about Radio and TV Martí's aircraft based transmitters: "The airborne broadcasts, which will increase the availability of reliable and uncensored information on events in Cuba and around the world, are part of an integrated approach to assist the Cuban people in bringing about rapid and peaceful change to their nation." The BBG also has a penchant for drawing attention to the involvement of the Bush Administration and Congress in U.S. international broadcasting, as in its press releases of 24 July and 6 February.

It is therefore not surprising that people are confused about whether U.S. international broadcasting transmits news or propaganda.

There's been much speculation about the reasons for the long delay to the launch of Al-Jazeera International (AJI), the English-language global service of the Qatar-based pan-Arab broadcaster. Reasons offered range from problems finding cable and satellite distributors in the US, to rumours of political rifts between AJI bosses and its parent channel. As Al-Jazeera approaches its 10th anniversary in November 2006, Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring Media Services reviews "Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al-Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion", by Steve Tatham:

Before and during the 2003 coalition action against Iraq, Lieutenant-Commander Steve Tatham of the Royal Navy worked on the media information campaign that accompanied the eventual invasion.

In his book "Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al-Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion" (Hurst and Co, London, 2006), Tatham draws on his experiences as the Royal Navy's public spokesman during the war to examine the relationship between Arab media and the US-led coalition, and to assess how the Coalition's efforts to win hearts and minds have fared.

Tatham sets out why a positive relationship never developed between the Coalition and the Arab media. A major factor, he says - echoing the views of several British academics and journalists - is that at the end of the 1990s, Arab TV channels and other media were reflecting the opinions of their audiences that Europeans and the US were fundamentally anti-Arab.

His book is highly critical of how the United States handled the information war, leading to Arab media becoming "demonised by the United States, cited as being anti-US and anti-Coalition". Meanwhile, in the US itself, although there were voices of dissent against the invasion, the major US media made sure the public did not hear those opinions.

Breaking taboos

Tatham looks not just at how Al-Jazeera covered the invasion and the Coalition's subsequent role in Iraq, but at its pioneering role in breaking taboos of deference to authority in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera, he argues, "actively encouraged its journalists to shed the shackles of censorship and to say what they thought and report what they saw".

Media analysts have described Al-Jazeera as the most popular political party in the Arab world. At a conference held by Al-Jazeera in Qatar in July 2004, the station's staff debated what role, if any, the broadcaster should play in spreading political reform throughout the Arab world.

Staff admitted they had been at loggerheads over the channel's objectives.

Some argued that all media had an obligation to be involved in politics. Others believed that Al-Jazeera should not play the role of a political party, although it could contribute to the reform process. And several noted the need to distinguish between news and opinion in the channel's output.

Tatham notes that a continuing advertising boycott of Al-Jazeera in many Gulf states has prevented the channel from becoming self-financing. It still relies heavily on the Emir of Qatar for funding. Commenting on disagreement between the channel and the Emir's government, he says "the intricacies of the relationship with the government of Qatar can only be guessed at".

It would have made intriguing reading if Tatham had explored further what control is exerted behind the scenes, or looked at another issue that has intrigued analysts - the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood allegedly enjoys support and influence among the station's staff.

On the latter point, the answer this reviewer has been given by Al-Jazeera director-general Wadah Khanfar is that his channel's employees come from diverse cultural, political and religious backgrounds. Whatever their personal beliefs, however, they are professional journalists and any attempt to introduce political bias into the channel's output would be detected and eliminated by its rigorous editorial standards and the code of ethics it introduced in 2004, Khanfar insists.

Tatham's book also sets out in fascinating detail how Coalition forces went about their propaganda war. The tactics used included leaflet drops, broadcasting radio messages to Iraqi military personnel and civilians, and other "psychological operations".

These included the targeting of e-mails and text messages, "still a hugely sensitive area for the Coalition and one which official sources are absolutely unwilling to discuss".

Very similar tactics were employed by Israel in the war in Lebanon this summer. Special units of the Israel Defence Forces sent mass SMS and mobile phone messages warning residents of southern Lebanon to flee their homes before Israeli attacks. The IDF also hacked into terrestrial broadcasts of the Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar to transmit its own brief propaganda messages.

"The massive efforts of the Coalition's covert information operation... were only partly effective in the absence of honest and transparent engagement with the region's organic media," Tatham writes.

There was little engagement of any kind during the 2003 conflict, and even less in the post-war reconstruction phase. And the continuing inability of the current US administration to address the problem of public diplomacy in the Middle East is "deeply worrying", he concludes.

According to reports last week, US commanders in Baghdad are offering a two-year public relations contract valued at 20m dollars that calls for monitoring the tone of stories filed by US and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq.

This latest US military venture to win over hearts and minds in the Middle East would seem to confirm Tatham's analysis.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 4 Sep 06

Internet radios in our future?

The FCC has pretty much signed on to Broadband Over Power Line (BPL). And there are all sorts of noises from new devices creeping into the shortwave frequencies. My Verizon FIOS fiber optic broadband access seems to be one of the culprits. It’s not the fiber lines, but the Cat-5 cables between the Verizon box outside my house and the various RJ-45 jacks in rooms throughout my house.

Anyway, I’m on the verge of conceding defeat – joining them because I can’t beat them – by buying one of those new internet radios.

The Acoustic Energy wi-fi radio (available at CCrane) received this favorable review in the Houston Chronicle. The reviewer was really speaking to me when he wrote: "I love listening to oddball radio stations when I'm falling asleep at night, but I don't sleep on a desk next to my computer." That’s what radio is really good for: something to listen to while falling asleep, or after waking up in the middle of the night for no good reason.

Meanwhile, another internet radio has come on the market: Looking very much like a real radio, it’s the Curry’s Logik IR100.

Of course, these internet radios do nothing for the DXing instincts of NASWA members. But for the program-listening parts of our souls, they could be very useful implements. NASWA could be a useful source of URLs pointing to the international stations receivable on internet radios

Speaking on BPL, the Federal Register (pdf) of August 23 has the entire text of FCC’s Final Rule “affirming the technical rules for BPL.” So now the United States has its own version of jamming: all shortwave stations, on all frequencies, at all times.

International broadcasting mysteries in Washington

In July, Robert Wone was hired as general counsel of Radio Free Asia. He had been on the job only one month when he was murdered. Mr. Wone was stabbed in a townhouse near Washington’s Dupont Circle. We colleagues mourn his death, too young at age 32. But we’re also amazed that no one has been arrested as of this writing. And this despite three people being in the townhouse at the time of the murder. Police sources say the crime scene had been tampered with. I have links to eleven articles (and counting) about this case Less tragic is another mystery. A VOA studio technician told me that at least eight VOA employees have recently seen a ghost, in and around studio 16. He’s a tall and (as one would expect) pale male wearing a short sleeve white shirt. The ghost strolls into the studio, then disappears. “We think it’s Willis,” added the tech.

That would be Willis Conover, the legendary jazz broadcaster, who roamed VOA’s corridors from the 1950s until his death in 1996. I’m not prepared, yet, to believe in ghosts. But, gosh, what a story.

And it sort of makes sense. An affectionate display about Willis used to adorn the second floor of the VOA building. A few months ago, it was taken down. Willis was always attentive to publicity, and I reckon even his specter has a publicist. Obviously irked that he is less remembered at VOA, his ghost has decided to come into the studio, rattle some boom mikes, and make some VOA broadcasters jump an inch off their seats in the middle of a live newscast.

VOA anniversaries: five years since 9-11 coverage, one year since getting rid of a pesky unwanted broadcaster

We are nearing the five year anniversary of 9-11, and have just passed the first year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

After aircraft struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, VOA quickly shifted into full-time coverage. At first, we were scraping for news, and it would have helped for VOA to be affiliated with a major radio network such as CBS.

For the following weekend’s Communications World, I had three days to gather pertinent audio of radio stations reporting on or reacting to the tragedy. Ralph Brandi helped me with recordings of New York radio stations. VOA and Communications World were able to cover 9-11 well enough.

From the approach to the early aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I was making recordings from WWL in New Orleans. It was dramatic stuff. Listeners were calling to report water coming out of manholes. New Orleans was flooding, and I probably know it before the Office of Home Security knew it.

I edited the best bits of these recordings for my monthly appearance on VOA’s Talk to America, on Friday, September 2. It was a lot of work on a tight deadline. Then about two hours before airtime, the producer of Talk to America called to tell me that the VOA front office ordered that I not appear on that day’s show. In fact, I’ve been banned from broadcasting on VOA (including reading the frequency announcements) since then.

I still don’t know what precipitated that decision. I had the best actuality of Katrina events that VOA would have broadcast, had I not been banned.

Reasons to keep your shortwave radio

Iran is conducting one of its periodic crackdowns on the ownership of satellite dishes. This time, Iranian police are performing this task with unprecedented vigor, even in Tehran, where the ban has been largely ignored in the past. One satellite user also comments on increased jamming of foreign satellite television. That would require powerful nearby groundwave (actually, direct wave) transmitters than cannot be good for the health of Iranians.

Meanwhile, eBay China is investigating reports that illegal satellite receivers have been sold through its site. That would run afoul of China’s “latest hunt for illegal satellite dishes that can receive foreign programs.”

And if you have some spare time, you might want to read Human Rights Watch 149-page report on the “complicity of Western Internet companies in political censorship in China."

Vietnam has been learning the art of blocking internet content from China, according to OpenNet Initiative. My office’s most recent research in Vietnam indicates that the VOA website is clear, but that of Radio Free Asia is blocked.

Countries also try to block medium wave and shortwave transmissions, though with less success on shortwave, because of propagational factors known to us NASWA members. Zimbabwe is now trying to jam VOA’s “Studio 7” programs to that country. This includes an interesting “car horn” type jammer going after the 909 kHz relay via Botswana. For more examples of medium wave and shortwave jamming, check out Bill Whitacre’s Remote Monitoring System.

Zimbabwe has been applying diplomatic pressure on Botswana about VOA’s relay in the latter. In ceremonies marking the 25th(!) anniversary of the VOA Botswana relay, a Botswana official, perhaps mollifying Zimbabwe, noted that the United States is “solely responsible for the contents of VOA programmes relayed from” the relay station, and that the terms of the relay agreement are negotiable before it expires in 2010.

And then illness of Fidel Castro hastened Radio/TV Martí to launch its antenna aircraft, described by AP as a “new Lockheed Martin G1,” actually a used Gulfstream G1 two-engine turboprop. One anticastroista commentator called television transmissions from the aircraft “un-jammable.” Again, because of propagational factors known to us NASWA members, un-likely.

Views expressed are my own.

Copyright 2006–2020 Kim Andrew Elliott.  For all the latest media news, click Home.