Playa de Pals transmitter site history and documentary

Photo courtesy: http://www.radioliberty.org

Photo courtesy: http://www.radioliberty.org

In response to Listening to WWV at the source, SWLing Post reader, David (EA4998URE SWL) comments:

What a “coincidence”. Hopefully, before the summer holidays officially end, I will be off to another shortwave transmitter site. Well, to the remains of it. I will be visiting the former RFE/RL (and VOA in the last years of operation) site in Playa de Pals, near the Catalan city of Girona and also very close to my main QTH in Barcelona. The Pals RFE/RL site was from where a 1MW signal was transmitted by feeding the same audio signal to 4 Continental transmitters.

Their output signals where put in phase, then the big Group D dipole curtain was divided into two “halves” by switching the feed lines in the appropriate way. Each half of the curtain received 500KW from two transmitters. So the total was 1000KW, or 1MW. If we add the antenna gain, the ERP was in the order of several megawatts. This was a signal directed to Eastern Europe, and more specifically to Moscow, via single-hop propagation. I suppose receivers in Moscow released plenty of smoke and had to be replaced every time they were tuned to a RFE/RL signal from Pals. Hahaha!

The curtains were demolished in 2006 and because the place is abandoned now and has been repeatedly sacked, the station buildings are in a very poor situation, specially in the inside. Almost no radio hardware survives, but what is still there is quite interesting. […]

There is an excellent website (www.radioliberty.org) which is a virtual museum of all things related to the Pals station. It was created and is maintained by a former worker of the station. The language in the English version of the website is a bit “macaronic” in some parts of the site, but I think this is a minor issue given the excellent amount of information kept there.

There is also a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/PalsRadioStation) which keeps videos for the above website. Some of them are really long and very complete.

Finally, although not part of the Pals station virtual museum website, there was even a documentary made, after the demolition of the antennas, as a tribute to the station. It can be watched in the following link although parts of it have not been translated to English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJnxsSL3bbY

Many thanks, David!

After you visit the Playa de Pals site, later this year, please share your experience with us!

Details of shortwave reductions to VOA, RFE, RFA

Voice_of_America_HeadquartersEarlier today, I contacted Letitia King, Spokesperson for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). I asked her for details regarding the cuts to shortwave services that were recently announced.

Ms. King has just sent me the following list, with notes, which includes all shortwave reductions under the BBG:



Facts and Figures on Shortwave Broadcast Reductions

June 30, 2014

 U.S. international media must optimize program delivery by market. We are ending some shortwave transmissions. We continue shortwave to those countries where these transmissions are still reaching significant audiences or where there are no reasonable alternative platforms at a lower cost to the BBG.

The shortwave reductions will save U.S. taxpayers almost $1.6 million annually.

There are no reductions in staff or programming – these are transmission platform reductions only. Programming continues to be available through other media.

Shortwave transmissions continue in many languages including to key shortwave markets like North Korea, Nigeria, Somalia, Horn of Africa, and elsewhere. (List enclosed below). Transmissions also continue on other platforms including AM, FM, TV and online.

VOA Azerbaijani

  • Cuts: 30 minutes SW
  • Continuing Distribution: Satellite TV (HotBird)and satellite audio (TurkSat); Multimedia web and mobile sites & social media
  • SW is used by just 2% of adults weekly in Azerbaijan, and does not yield significant audiences for the service (0.4% weekly reach on radio in BBG’s most recent survey). By contrast, satellite dish ownership is widespread, at 56%, and 18% use the Internet weekly. The service has both satellite and online products, which are far more likely to reach audiences in Azerbaijan.

VOA Bangla

  • Cuts: 1 hour SW
  • Continuing Distribution: 1 hour MW(AM); FM and TV affiliates; Multimedia web and mobile sites; Social media
  • SW is not widely used in Bangladesh (just 2% weekly), and the majority of the service’s audience comes to its programming via FM and TV affiliate networks in the country.

VOA English (in Asia)

  • Cuts: 6.5 hours SW (2 hours of programming that was repeated)
  • Continuing Distribution: Some MW; Multimedia web and mobile sites & social media
  • Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, English speakers are rarely users of shortwave radio. They are more likely to be educated and affluent, and to have access to a broad range of media. Years of BBG research questions on consumption of VOA English on shortwave have failed to find any significant audiences outside Africa, in large part because usage of shortwave radio in other regions is mostly very low.

VOA Lao

  • Cuts: 30 minutes SW
  • Continuing Distribution: 30 minutes MW; 7 affiliates in Thailand on Lao border, with reach into Laos; Multimedia web and mobile sites; Social media
  • SW is very little-used in Laos – less than 1% of adults report listening to SW radio weekly. In BBG’s most recent research in Laos, no surveyed listeners reported using the SW band to access VOA content. A strong majority (66%) hear VOA on FM, through affiliate stations on the Thai border that carry VOA content (Laos is so small that border FM stations have decent penetration into the country).

VOA Special/Learning English

  • Cuts: 5.5 hours SW
  • Continuing Distribution: Learning English programs continue on SW on English to Africa. 30 minutes MW; Multimedia web and mobile sites, including special interactive teaching products; Social media, including social English lessons
  • BBG audience research indicates strong interest in learning English, but very limited shortwave listenership to VOA Learning English, outside a few select markets. The service is working more closely with other VOA language services to create English learning products for distribution on more popular channels. And Learning English offers a variety of digital products that are increasingly popular, including a Skype call-in show, videos on YouTube, and a website featuring both audio and transcripts for online audiences to follow as they listen.

VOA Uzbek

  • Cuts: 30 minutes SW
  • Continuing Distribution: Satellite audio and TV (HotBird); FM and TV affiliates in neighboring countries; Multimedia web and mobile sites (with circumvention tools deployed); Social media
  • SW is not widely used in Uzbekistan (just 2% weekly), and does not yield significant audiences for the service (0.3% weekly). Adults in Uzbekistan are much more likely to own a satellite dish (13%) or use the internet (12% weekly) than to use SW, so the service provides content on those platforms. Uzbekistan is an especially difficult market to penetrate with USIM content, but SW is not an effective platform for the country.

RFE/RL Persian (Farda)

  • Cuts: 1 simultaneous SW frequency for 6 broadcast hours
  • Continuing Distribution: SW on multiple frequencies for all 24 broadcast hours remains on, in addition to 24 hours daily MW; “Radio on TV” on VOA Persian stream; 24 hours daily satellite audio with slate plus 24 hour Audio on 4 other satellites including Hotbird, the most popular satellite in Iran; Multimedia website (with circumvention tools deployed); Social media; mobile app with anti-censorship proxy server capability built-in.
  • This is only a reduction to the number of simultaneous frequencies during some of the broadcast day. SW radio, with 5% weekly use in 2012, is considerably less popular than other platforms on which audiences can access Farda content, such as MW (10% weekly use), satellite television (26% own a dish, and 33% watch satellite television weekly) or the internet (39% weekly use).

RFA Lao

  • Cuts: 2 hours SW
  • Continuing Distribution: 5 FM radio affiliates in Thailand provide cross-border coverage; Multimedia web & mobile sites; Social media
  • SW is very little-used in Laos – less than 1% of adults report listening to SW radio weekly. RFA Lao’s listeners come overwhelmingly via FM stations on the Thai border – 94% of past-week listeners report hearing RFA on FM. (Laos is so small that border FM stations have decent penetration into the country).

RFA Vietnamese

  • Cuts: 2 hours SW
  • Continuing Distribution: MW coverage of all broadcast hours remains on; Multimedia web and mobile sites (with circumvention tools deployed) include webcasts and other videos; Social media
  • · SW radio is very little-used in Vietnam – less than 1% of adults report any weekly use of the waveband, and RFA reaches just 0.2% of adults weekly on radio. MW is slightly more popular, but the future for USIM in Vietnam is likely online: 26% of Vietnamese use the Internet weekly now (with much higher rates among certain populations, like the young and the well-educated), and three in four personally own a mobile phone. While Vietnam attempts to block access to sensitive sites, Vietnam is actually the most active country in our most popular Internet Anti-Censorship tools with almost 600 million hits per day.

Languages that continue on Shortwave

VOA

  • Afan Oromo/Amharic/Tigrigna to Ethiopia and Eritrea
  • Bambara
  • Burmese
  • Cantonese
  • Dari
  • English to Africa
  • English to South Sudan
  • French to Africa
  • Hausa
  • Khmer
  • Kinyarwanda/Kirundi
  • Korean
  • Kurdish
  • Mandarin
  • Pashto (to FATA and Afghanistan)
  • Portuguese to Africa
  • Somali
  • Swahili
  • Tibetan
  • · Shona/Ndebele/English to Zimbabwe

OCB

  • Spanish to Cuba

RFE/RL

  • Avar/Chechen/Circassian
  • Belarusian
  • Dari
  • Pashto (to FATA and Afghanistan)
  • Persian
  • Russian
  • Tajik
  • Turkmen
  • Uzbek

RFA

  • Burmese
  • Cantonese
  • Khmer
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Tibetan
  • Uyghur

MBN

  • Arabic (Afia Darfur to Sudan/Chad)

Amendment to H.R. 4490 protects “critical” shortwave services

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

In response to yesterday’s post regarding sweeping cuts to VOA’s shortwave service, an SWLing Post reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) writes:

“HR4490 contains the following amendment attached to the bill by Cong Lowenthal of CA. Cong Lowenthal has the largest Cambodian community in the US in his constituency as well as Vietnamese.

This is the amendmentto HR4490 which was approved unanimously by the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The Amendment to HR 4490 reads:

“Shortwave broadcasting has been an important method of communication that should be utilized in regions as a component of United States international broadcasting where a critical need for the platform exists.”

 

AMENDMENT-TO-HR4490

Click here to read the full text of H.R. 4490.

Sweeping cuts to VOA, RFE and RFA shortwave services

Voice_of_America_Headquarters

Unfortunate news from the Voice of America: Congress has approved major cuts to US international broadcasting over shortwave. Thanks to Dan Robinson for sharing this significant news.

Dan writes:

This news emerging from VOA late Friday:

VOA to end shortwave broadcasts in English and several language services Monday.

Received this late Friday afternoon:

voa logoFAREWELL TO SHORTWAVE

We were informed late Friday that BBG’s proposed shortwave cuts for FY2014 have been approved by Congress.

As of the end of the day on Monday, June 30th, all shortwave frequencies for English News programs to Asia will be eliminated. We will no longer be heard via shortwave in the morning (12-16 utc), and the evening (22-02utc)…mostly in Asia.

Shortwave frequencies for the following services will also be eliminated: Azerbaijani, Bangla, English (Learning), Khmer, Kurdish, Lao and Uzbek. Shortwave being used by services at RFE/RL and RFA are also being cut.

Because shortwave has been a cheap and effective way to receive communications in countries with poor infrastructure or repressive regimes, it was a good way to deliver information. But broadcasting via shortwave is expensive, and its use by listeners has been on the decline for years. At the BBG, the cost vs. impact equation no longer favors broadcasts via this medium to most of the world.

Important for us is that we will continue to be heard on shortwave frequencies during those hours we broadcast to Africa. Also, we know through our listener surveys that about half of our audience in Asia and the rest of the world listens to us via the web and podcast – so all is not lost.

Let’s break the news about this change to our audiences starting Sunday night. I doubt specific frequencies are critical to announce. The important point to make for our listeners is that we encourage their continued listening through local affiliates, and on the web at voanews.com.”

BBG tries to improve employee morale

BBG-LogoIn December 2012, we posted a survey from the 2012 edition of The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government by The Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte. The survey indicated that the Broadcasting Board of Governers (BBG) had been ranked in the bottom five places to work in the federal government.

According to the Washington Post, the agency is now working on a plan to boost employee morale. Some of their initiatives include:

“Agency directors and senior staff hold[ing] face-time sessions in the cafeteria for informal talks with employees, a “Civility Campaign” addresses labor-management issues, and a Workplace Engagement Initiative takes a deeper dive into the agency’s low morale ratings.

Some of the morale-boosting events are meant to be fun, such as the raffle during the fitness-center open house, a chocolate bake-off in time for Valentine’s Day, and ?after-work gatherings — a bingo night, happy hour, checkers and chess.

It’s going to take all that and some sustained work to improve the agency’s failing report cards.”

Read the full article on The Washington Post…

Many thanks to Richard Cuff for the tip!

Radio Liberty President Steve Korn has resigned in wake of closure

RFE-RadioLiberty(Source: The Washington Post)

American-financed Radio Liberty, which penetrated the Iron Curtain with news of the outside world during the Cold War, has been trying to join today’s information revolution — and the static crackling around its efforts has been loud enough to reach Washington.

The radio station, funded by Congress but independent of it, has embraced a digital future, dismissing 37 journalists as it downsized just before it lost its only local broadcasting license here in November, when a 2011 law preventing foreign ownership came into effect.

[H]ere in the Russia of Vladimir Putin, where news is highly political and controlled, a small but loyal radio audience that treasures unbiased reporting has declared itself betrayed. Even Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, has complained. The name Radio Liberty — Svoboda in Russian — carries memories of overcoming Soviet oppression, freighted with disappointment over failed democracy, and its transformation is mourned.

On New Year’s Eve, after weeks of growing controversy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Korn resigned, effective Jan. 25. […]

The forced closure of Radio Liberty is hypocritical–especially since the Voice of Russia’s own strategy is to pull out of shortwave radio broadcasting into North America and invest in local radio/television stations within major US markets (like Washington DC) where they, of course, receive no resistance.

Korn has been heavily criticized for how he handled the “re-organization” of Radio Liberty in Moscow. He certainly disposed of a lot of talented journalists, many of whom could have been instrumental in gathering and reporting news into Russia via Internet.

Kim Elliott has done an excellent job following the Radio Liberty story as it appears in the media.

BBG (Voice of America) ranks in bottom five places to work

This just out: the Broadcasting Board of Governers has been ranked in the bottom five places to work in the 2012 edition of The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government by The Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte. Specifically, the BBG consists of the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, the Middle East Broadcasting Network and the International Broadcasting Bureau (see org chart here). [Kim Elliott points out, however, that the survey only covers the VOA and the IBB.]

BBG’s leadership lacking

Upon closer examination of the rankings and score composite, you can see BBG employees scored their agency worst in categories of Effective Leadership. Indeed, the BBG ranked in the bottom five of the 290 mid-sized federal agencies in the survey in all of the effective leadership sub-categories of the survery. Here a breakdown:

No plan for the future

Another area where the agency received a low score was in the category of Strategic Management: BBG employees rankings came in at 289 of 290, with only the Office of Chief Information Officer (HUD) ranking lower.

This, no doubt, shows that BBG employees feel there is no direction nor goals for the organization’s future.

I know quite a few employees in the Voice of America and the IBB. When I talk with these friends, I hear true passion for their jobs. They love what they do, whether it’s reporting or electronics engineering. When you read the results of this survey, it’s clear that these competent employees simply lack faith in their governing board and their management. The results suggest that they feel there is no plan for their future, and have concerns about their job security–especially with rumors of agency functions being merged and with jobs (like those at Radio Liberty) being cut without warning.  They also feel there is no chance for performance-based rewards and/or advancement.

A sad state of affairs, indeed, for the worthy and still highly relevant role of radio in international diplomacy.

Read the full report of the BBG (Voice of America) in The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.