Tag Archives: RFA

National Defense Authorization Act passes House, now moves to Senate


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who writes:

This just came to my attention. It seems that William McClellan (Mac) Thornberry, the Republican representative of Texas’s 13th congressional district and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, proposed an amendment to H.R.4909 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 that would revamp how the Voice of America, RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, etc. are managed:

Text of amendment is here:

It appears the amendment was accepted by the House and the House passed the amended H.R.4909 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and it has moved on to the Senate:

BBG’s Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Budget Request


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares a link to the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Budget Request.

Click here to download as a PDF.

I’ve read key portions of the request.

Regarding shortwave, the BBG are asking for budget reductions in almost all of the BBG shortwave broadcasting arms, with a few exceptions.   They acknowledge, in each case, that shortwave broadcasting is not as cost-effective as other means of distribution (including FM, Internet and satellite). The do acknowledge that shortwave broadcasting is still needed in some strategic markets. Here is, perhaps, the most telling quote I found:

“To serve audiences in less developed areas of the world, 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 current and future audiences, BBG must invest in new cutting-edge technology. In areas where ownership and usage of shortwave radio has declined significantly, the Agency has evolved away from broadcasting in shortwave.”

A few specific highlights from the request:

Page 19

BBG will continue the shortwave realignment project that began in FY 2014, which increases shortwave transmission capability at its Kuwait Transmitting Station. This enhancement provides improved coverage to underserved areas of the world and
reduces operating costs by decreasing reliance on external leases. All aspects of
this proposal focus on improving transmission capability, while continuing
to reach audiences in Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Tibet and
Western China. The added capacity will support broadcasts for RFE/RL, RFA and

At $2.00 per broadcast hour, Kuwait provides the highest return on investment in the BBG transmitting station portfolio. Thus, BBG began expansion of the facility in FY 2014 with
the construction of a new high frequency antenna and design of the transmitter building expansion. The proposed investment, extending through FY 2018, will bring the Kuwait
Transmitting Station up to the maximum capability allowed by the country agreement and will enable the Agency to decrease overall operating costs for the foreseeable future. When the realignment project is completed, the Kuwait station will have ten shortwave transmitters with associated antennas.[…]

Page 22:

Reduce Shortwave Costs [-$2.90M] The Office of Technology, Services, and Innovation (TSI) will eliminate less effective transmission frequencies and realign transmissions to end high cost leases. TSI will realize additional reductions to antiquated technologies by reducing transmissions to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and Kurdish-speaking regions and eliminating shortwave to Russia, the Caucasus, Belarus, Laos, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Burundi. Audiences in these countries access news and information on more efficient,[…]

Page 69

Using research on audience media habits, TSI will continue to move away from less effective legacy shortwave and medium wave transmissions toward other technologies, where appropriate, to reach larger and younger audiences. Where shortwave remains important, TSI is building a more cost-effective transmission infrastructure to support broadcast requirements. Of particular note are efforts at the Kuwait Transmitting Station. Because of the station’s strategic importance and low operating costs, TSI is installing a new shortwave antenna that is expected to be operational in FY 2015 and will expand the station’s transmitter building in FY 2016 to accommodate future transmitter build-outs.[…]

Page 109

To serve audiences in less developed areas of the world, 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 current and future audiences, BBG must invest in new cutting-edge technology. In areas where ownership and usage of shortwave radio has declined significantly, the Agency has evolved away from broadcasting in shortwave.
BBG has closed transmission stations, repurposed equipment and invested these savings in platforms that the audience has shifted to, primarily in digital media technology and other high-priority programming.

Click here to download the full request as a PDF.

2015 Annual Meeting of the NASB in Washington DC


If you can make the trek to Washington DC on May 21st and 22nd, you might consider attending the 2015 NASB (National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters) Annual Meeting. Attendance is free of charge, but you must register in advance (click here for the registration form).

The meeting is being held at the Radio Free Asia headquarters at 2025 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036.

I attended and even presented at an NASB meeting some years ago and really enjoyed the experience. Indeed, if this meeting wasn’t on the heels of the Dayton Hamvention, I would most likely attend this year as well. Perhaps if the stars align, I might just make it anyway.

I’ve pasted the full itinerary below, but if you’re interested in attending, you should read all of the meeting details at the NASB website.

Thursday, May 21
12:00-12:30 pm – Tour of Radio Free Asia (group one)
12:30-1:00 pm – Tour of Radio Free Asia (group two)
1:00 pm – Official Opening of 25th annual meeting of the NASB by Libby Liu, President, Radio Free Asia
1:05 pm – Opening remarks by Brady Murray, President, NASB; and A.J. Janitschek, RFA
1:15 pm – “The Peoples’ Radio: Media Expansion in Hitler’s Germany” – presentation by Dr. Jerry Plummer, WWCR
1:45 pm – FCC Update – Tom Lucey, FCC International Bureau
2:00 pm – 25 Years of the NASB – Doug Garlinger, former NASB President
2:30 pm – Coffee Break
3:00 pm – TWR Presentation, including KTWR DRM Trials – Lauren Libby, President, TWR
3:30 pm – HFCC Oman Conference – slide show by Jeff & Thais White, WRMI
4:00 pm – HFCC Brisbane Conference – slide show from Ken Lingwood, Reach Beyond Australia
4:15 pm – Finally, Some Good News from Madagascar! – Charles Caudill, President, World Christian Broadcasting
4:30 pm – Coffee Break
5:00 pm – End of Thursday afternoon presentations – break before dinner
7:00 pm – Meet at St. Gregory Hotel lobby – walk together to Irish restaurant for dinner
7:30 pm – Dinner at Irish Whiskey Public House, 1207 19th Street, NW
Friday, May 22
9:00 am – DRM Update from Calvin Carter, Continental Electronics (DRM Consortium Steering Board member)
9:30 am – IBB Engineering Update – Gerhard Straub, US International Broadcasting Bureau
10:00 am – “Ubuntu – Radio Ready” by A.J. Janitschek, Radio Free Asia
10:30 am – Coffee Break
11:00 am – Shortwave Audience Research and VOA Radiogram – Update from Dr. Kim Andrew EIllott, IBB
11:30 am – Update on KVOH, Voice of Hope – Africa and Voice of Hope – Israel – presentation by John Tayloe and Ray Robinson
12:00 pm – Lunch at Meiwah Chinese restaurant, 1200 New Hampshire Ave. NW (a short walk from Radio Free Asia)
2:00 pm – NASB Business Meeting – topics to be discussed include plans for the 2016 annual meeting, updating the NASB website, a 25th anniversary NASB QSL/contest for shortwave listeners, a possible NASB shortwave listeners meeting in Brisbane, Australia in conjunction with the HFCC Conference in August, financial reports, election of officers
4:00 pm – Brief board meeting for NASB Board members
4:30 pm – Adjournment. Dinner on your own.

Can the VOA justify its funding?

voa logoJonathan Marks followed up his last post with two more pieces from the Media Network Vintage Vault, again, on the topic of US international broadcasting.

Jonathan writes:

Interesting to see there was opposition to RFE/RL expansion in 1992. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn06081992radio-free-asia

And Bill Whitacre is good in this edition: http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn07051992voakorea

My question remains: can VOA still justify the funding it has? It has spent billions over the last few decades, but has little to show for it.

No doubt, with the recent loss of CEO Andy Lack and the announcement that VOA Director, David Ensor, is stepping down, the VOA is struggling to remain viable.  I don’t believe this is due to a lack of good reporters or internal innovators, rather, a lack of proper management.

Jonathan also found this recently published report titled, “Reassessing US International Broadcasting” by S. Enders Wimbush and Elizabeth M. Portale. Click here to download the full report as a PDF.

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.