Castro wants an end to US broadcasts directed at Cuba

Havana, Cuba (Photo: Wikimedia)

Havana, Cuba (Photo: Wikimedia)

(Source: VOA News)

Cuban President Raul Castro is urging the U.S. government to stop radio and television broadcasts that Cuba considers harmful, while also saying that his government is willing to keep improving relations with the United States.

In a speech broadcast on state television Friday, Castro said that his government will “continue insisting that to reach normalized relations, it is imperative that the United States government eliminate all of these policies from the past.”

He noted that the U.S. government continues to broadcast to Cuba, including transmissions of Radio Marti and TV Marti, despite Cuba’s objections. Radio Marti and TV Marti are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is also the parent organization of the Voice of America.

Castro also criticized U.S. immigration policy that allows Cuban migrants to live in the United States if they reach U.S. territory.

“A preferential migration policy continues to be applied to Cuban citizens, which is evidenced by the enforcement of the wet foot/dry foot policy, the Medical Professional Parole Program and the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourage an illegal, unsafe, disorderly and irregular migration, foment human smuggling and other related crimes, and create problems to other countries,” Castro said.

Continue reading on VOA News online…

An SWL perspective on US/Cuba relations

WFL_015Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who has posted an article on his blog regarding US/Cuba relations after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced, last Tuesday, the re-establishment of relations. London Shortwave has included recordings from the VOA, Radio Marti and Radio Havana Cuba.

Click here to read the full article on London Shortwave’s blog.

BBG publishes report on the efficacy and future of shortwave radio

VOA-Greenville-Curtain-AntennasMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Bennett Kobb, who shares this downloadable Report of the Special Committee on the Future of Shortwave Broadcasting. If you recall, this report was produced by a Broadcasting Board of Governors committee and chaired by Matt Armstrong.

Both Bennett and I believe it’s unfortunate that the committee failed to recognize one of VOA’s most innovative shortwave products: the VOA Radiogram.

Below you can read the full press release which accompanied the report:

(Source: BBG)

WASHINGTON (August 1, 2014) — The Broadcasting Board of Governors today released “To Be Where the Audience Is,” a report that found shortwave radio to be essential to listeners in target countries, but of marginal impact in most markets. The report’s recommendations came after a comprehensive review, grounded in audience-based research, of the efficacy of shortwave as a distribution platform for U.S. international media.

“Shortwave radio continues to be an important means for large numbers of people in some countries to receive news and information,” said Matt Armstrong, who chaired the BBG’s Special Committee on the Future of Shortwave Broadcasting, which issued the report. “However, many of our networks’ target audiences have moved to newer platforms including TV, FM and digital media. This report maps a way forward for U.S. international media to remain accessible for all our audiences.”

Research-based evidence of media trends suggests that the increased availability and affordability of television, mobile devices and Internet access has led to the declining use of shortwave around the world. Still, the report finds that substantial audiences embrace shortwave in Nigeria, Burma, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Cuba and other target markets for the BBG.

At the same time, the committee’s recommendations make clear that the BBG will need to continue to reduce or eliminate shortwave broadcasts where there is either minimal audience or that audience is not a U.S. foreign policy priority. It also ratifies reductions that were made in redundant signals in 2013 and further cuts in transmissions that were made in 2014.

Even with these recent reductions, the BBG makes programs in 35 of its 61 broadcast languages available on shortwave where there is a strategic reason to do so.

The report notes there is no evidence that shortwave usage increases during crises. At such times, audiences continue to use their preferred platforms or seek out anti-censorship tools to help them navigate to the news online, including firewall circumvention tools or offline media including thumb drives and DVDs.

The Shortwave Committee report will be discussed at the August 13 public meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The report can be found here.

BBG’s 2015 budget: VOA to increase services to Asia/Africa, but cut others

The new budget would expand Leaning English (a.k.a. Special English) programming.

The new budget would expand Leaning English content, but reduce, “low-impact, long-form English language radio created for shortwave.”

The Broadcasting Board Of Governors is requesting a reduced budget from congress for FY 2015 and re-focusing efforts on services to Asia and Africa.

Of course, this will be at the expense of Azerbaijani, Georgian, Persian, and Uzbek language programming and a complete cut of programs to Serbia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia. Programming to Cuba will be reduced as well.

The FY 2015 Budget Request also outlines the closure of VOA’s bureaus in Jerusalem and Houston.

For a quick summary, read the VOA News article below.

After the article, I’ve clipped quotes where the BBG specifically mentions shortwave radio in the 2015 budget, so continue reading.

(Source: VOA News)

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. government entity that oversees the Voice of America, has released details of a 2015 budget request that will cut Balkan language services but add spending aimed at Asia and Africa.

The BBG is asking Congress for $721 million, a reduction from a $731 million budget in the current fiscal year. Agency officials say their goal is to reach a new generation of audiences through media that global listeners and viewers increasingly use.

The 2015 budget request includes youth-oriented video and digital initiatives for Cambodia, Vietnam, and Burma – also known as Myanmar.

In China, the BBG plans to increase the use of social media and programs to fight Internet censorship.

The BBG is also planning to set up a new satellite television channel and expand FM radio in the Sahel region of north-central Africa. A new Lingala language service is planned for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

VOA’s English Learning programs would also be expanded.

But the 2015 budget would eliminate the VOA language services for Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia. The Azerbaijani, Georgian, Persian, and Uzbek services would see reductions and broadcasting to Cuba would also see a very significant cut.

The proposal also calls for the closure of VOA news bureaus in Jerusalem and Houston.

Dave Allison, acting president of the union representing many VOA employees, said with the cuts in services VOA is “retreating” from its historic mission that began in 1942. He said Balkan broadcasters had tears in their eyes when they were told their shows face elimination.

[View this article on the VOA News.]

Shortwave radio in the 2015 budget?

If you take a look inside the FY 2015 Budget Request (click here to download it as a PDF) you will see how they perceive shortwave radio in the media mix moving forward.  I particularly find the mention in their summary insightful.

Here are a few highlights:

From page 9 of the FY 2015 Budget Request:

“The FY 2015 Budget Request reflects a host of distribution changes. In the mix of technology and distribution platforms, the BBG sees clearly the global adoption of digital media. Actively underway is the migration from legacy distribution platforms such as shortwave and medium wave (AM) to the media platforms audiences are using today, including satellite TV and audio, FM radio, mobile phone technologies, and social and other digital media. In many of our markets, use of the Internet overall and as a source of news already exceeds radio, and in some cases by a wide margin. The BBG is adapting to this fundamental shift by taking, where appropriate, a digital-first approach and combining digital and traditional media into one integrated strategy.

That said, the BBG remains platform-agnostic, meaning we will use the media on which our audiences prefer to receive information, engage with media and connect with one another.

Shortwave radio will still play a role in selected countries such as Nigeria, Burma, and Afghanistan, among others.”

No money has been budgeted for shortwave radio capital improvements in 2015:

CapitalImprovementsBBG

On page 45, the BBG mentions regions where they believe shortwave radio is still an important information medium:

“Audiences accessing VOA using mobile devices and social media grew exponentially in the past year; and VOA has a global network of FM affiliate partners as well as wholly owned FMs. Meanwhile, VOA’s long-standing role as a shortwave broadcaster remains at the forefront in markets where
shortwave is still viable, including the Sahel, where Islamist extremists have carried out terrorist attacks in the past year, and in information-deprived societies such as North Korea and Tibet.”

Then on page 64:

“Capitalizing on current research on audience media habits, TSI will continue taking steps in FY 2014 to move away from less effective legacy distribution systems, such as shortwave and medium wave transmission, toward use of more modern technologies, where appropriate, to reach larger and younger audiences. Where shortwave remains important, TSI is building a more cost-effective transmission infrastructure to support continuing broadcast requirements. In addition, where available, transmitting stations will receive their broadcast content through lower cost digital services, instead of the more expensive satellite distribution. TSI also is using satellite radio in China, including in Tibet, – for just a fraction of the cost of shortwave or medium wave transmissions to that country – as a means of leveraging the widespread use of satellite receive dishes in remote locations or where local cable and Internet access is restricted.”

Burmese broadcasts mentioned on page 74:

“RFA’s Burmese Service is preparing for comprehensive radio and TV coverage of the 2015 national elections, Burma’s first opportunity for truly free and fair elections. At the same time, RFA is reporting on the numerous domestic problems which could derail the move to democratization, especially the need for constitutional reform prior to the elections. RFA
provides a platform for civil, civic dialogue where the people of Burma can express opinions on their problems and possible solutions. RFA will also address religious and ethnic divides,
and more programming will be targeted toward Burma’s rural population, providing basic education in areas such as health, agriculture and basic human rights. Shortwave radio, which still dominates in rural areas where most of the population lives, is the best medium to present such programs.”

Afia Darfur‘s programming on page 78:

“Afia Darfur is broadcast into Darfur via shortwave each evening at 9:00 p.m. local time and targets all people in Darfur and eastern Chad, and it is heard in Khartoum. The 30-minute program is rebroadcast two additional times, once in the evening (10:00 p.m. local time) and again the following morning (6:00 a.m. local time).”

Cost savings through shortwave broadcasts from Kuwait (page 82):

“BCI funds will be used to reconfigure the shortwave broadcast infrastructure at the Kuwait transmitting station to enhance coverage of Iran and achieve cost savings for shortwave
broadcasts. Because of the very low cost of electrical power in Kuwait, the IBB Kuwait Transmitting Station is the least expensive station to operation in the IBB global network. This project will allow the Agency to shift scheduled transmissions from other stations in the IBB network to Kuwait, especially those transmissions from high cost leased facilities wherever possible.”

But, perhaps this clip from the 2015 budget summary provides the best insight:

“In order to serve audiences in less developed areas of the world, the BBG must continue to broadcast via traditional technologies such as shortwave and maintain capability on these platforms by replacing antiquated equipment. But to stay relevant in competitive news markets and serve both current and future audiences, the BBG must also invest in new cutting-edge technology. In areas where the BBG has ceased to broadcast, or where ownership and usage of shortwave radio has declined significantly, the BBG has closed transmission stations, repurposed equipment, and invested these savings in digital media technology and new high-priority programming.”

Deadline approaching: BBG seeks public comment on relevancy of shortwave radio

Students in South Sudan listen to their favorite shortwave radio program, VOA Special English.

Students in South Sudan listen to their favorite shortwave radio program, VOA Special English.

Reminder: The US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is asking for your comments on the relevancy of shortwave radio broadcasting.

In short, simply send the BBG an email (limited to 1,200 words or less) with your comments by Friday (March 14th, 2014). The BBG has set up the following email address: ShortwaveCommittee@bbg.gov

Click here for full details.

Thank you for defending the relevancy of shortwave radio on behalf of those living in impoverished areas, and in states with repressive regimes: listeners without a voice.

BBG seeks comments on relevancy of shortwave radio

The United States’ Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)–the governing body responsible for all US international broadcasting–is asking for your comments on the relevancy of shortwave radio broadcasting today.

Teacher in rural South Sudan with an ETOW radio. (Project Education Sudan Journey of Hope 2010)

Teacher in rural South Sudan who relies on shortwave radio to learn about international and domestic news. (Photo: Ears To Our World and Project Education Sudan Journey of Hope 2010)

In short, simply send the BBG an email (limited to 1,200 words or less) with your comments by March 14th, 2014.

The BBG has set up the following email address: ShortwaveCommittee@bbg.gov

As a favor, I ask that every SWLing Post reader consider sending their comments in support of shortwave radio broadcasting, even if you argue in favor of reduced capacity.

There are still so many parts of the world–impoverished areas, and states with repressive regimes–that rely on shortwave radio for information access. Additionally, shortwave radio can serve as an information source, domestically, in times of large-scale disasters.

I’ve tagged dozens of posts here on the SWLing Post which reference the necessity of shortwave radio broadcasting. Click here to read these posts.

Read below for the full press BBG release:

(Source BBG)

Shortwave radio has been a mainstay of U.S. international media since the 1940s.  Over time, however, the number of countries in which shortwave is the medium of choice for audiences overseas has been shrinking.  In many places, people are increasingly turning to other means to get news and information – including but not limited to FM radio, satellite television, web sites, social media, and their mobile phones.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the independent federal government agency that oversees U.S. civilian international media, has been adjusting to these changes over the years and now delivers news and information programs on a wider variety of platforms in more languages than any other media organization.  To support its commitment of reaching audiences on their preferred media, the Board recently established a Special Committee on the Future of Shortwave Radio Broadcasting, which has been conducting a thorough review of the agency’s use of shortwave radio as a distribution platform, the associated costs, and the likely reliance on it by next-generation audiences.

This Committee is now seeking feedback from external experts and stakeholders on their perspectives on the role of shortwave radio broadcasting as a BBG distribution platform. We are particularly interested to hear views that consider the evolving media consumption of target audiences, changing access to shortwave and other platforms, and the need to prioritize in an austere federal budget environment.

The BBG is committed to sustaining shortwave broadcasting to regions where a critical need for the platform remains.

The Shortwave Committee has held two meetings focused on the shortwave audience’s listening experience, the BBG networks’ success in reaching target audiences, the role of shortwave in the networks’ engagement strategies in various markets, the cost of operating shortwave transmitting facilities, and the BBG’s research into how shortwave is being used and its impact on audiences.

Your input will better inform the Committee’s recommendations and could help shape its comprehensive report to the plenary Board.

Please contribute questions, comments or suggestions via e-mail toShortwaveCommittee@bbg.gov by March 14, 2014.  To facilitate the review process, please limit your submission to 1200 words or fewer.  All comments may be reprinted as part of the Committee’s proceedings and may be made public.

The news and information provided by our networks helps bring the light of truth to some of the darkest corners of the world.  By supporting the free flow of news and information, including combatting Internet censorship and providing news and information tailored for specific audiences, developing local media, and creating access to global media, we purposefully support the freedom to speak, the freedom to listen, and the freedom of expression.

If you are aware of anyone with special interest in this topic, I encourage you to share this request with them.

Thank you for your interest in taking part in this process to help the BBG become more efficient and effective in supporting U.S. national security and foreign policy.

Sincerely,

Matthew C. Armstrong

Chairman
BBG Special Committee on the Future of Shortwave Broadcasting

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!