Radio Waves: Michael Pack Resigns, FCC Enforcement Advisory, Upcoming ISS SSTV, and Prowling TV Detector Vans

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Eric McFadden, Ronald Kenyon,  for the following tips:


Defined By Scandal At Voice of America, CEO Resigns At Biden’s Request (NPR)

Michael Pack resigned Wednesday as the CEO of the federal agency over the Voice of America and other federally funded international broadcasters after a turbulent seven-month tenure. He leaves the U.S. Agency for Global Media with a Trumpian legacy of ideological strife, lawsuits and scandal, his departure effective just two hours after the swearing-in of President Biden, who requested him to leave.

Biden has named senior VOA news executive Kelu Chao as acting CEO.

Pack came to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media with the support of former President Donald Trump; his appointment was delayed more than two years in the U.S. Senate by lawmakers who feared he was too ideological and also who questioned his finances. The soft-spoken conservative documentary maker proved to be an ideological warrior in the mold of his patron, taking to one conservative news outlet after another to denounce his own staff, all in the name of fairness.

In his resignation letter, Pack said he was “solely focused upon reorienting the agency toward its missions.” And he attacked the request for his resignation as “a partisan act,” saying the leadership of the agency and its networks “is meant to be non-partisan, untethered to alternations in the political regime.”

He added, “I had no political agenda coming into USAGM, and I still do not have one.”

NPR conducted scores of interviews over the controversies Pack’s actions engendered. And few at the agency or its broadcasters agreed with Pack’s characterization of his mission or performance, instead characterizing him as seeking political control over their coverage. Just last week, a VOA reporter’s insistent questions to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and VOA Director Robert R. Reilly over the siege on Congress after a public event led to her demotion and an investigation.

Pack routinely accused journalists of anti-Trump bias, sought to fire top executives as part of a “deep state,” ominously accused the networks of being receptive to foreign spies and denied requests for visa extensions from his own staffers who are foreign nationals.[]

FCC Issues Enforcement Advisory: Radio Users Reminded Not to Use Radios in Crimes (ARRL News)

The FCC has released an Enforcement Advisory for licensees and operators across radio services.

[Complete text of FCC Enforcement Advisory follows.]

FCC ENFORCEMENT ADVISORY

DA 21-73

Released: January 17, 2021

WARNING: AMATEUR AND PERSONAL RADIO SERVICES LICENSEES AND OPERATORS MAY NOT USE RADIO EQUIPMENT TO COMMIT OR FACILITATE CRIMINAL ACTS

The Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) of the Federal Communications Commission issues this Enforcement Advisory to remind licensees in the Amateur Radio Service, as well as licensees and operators in the Personal Radio Services, that the Commission prohibits the use of radios in those services to commit or facilitate criminal acts.

The Bureau has become aware of discussions on social media platforms suggesting that certain radio services regulated by the Commission may be an alternative to social media platforms for groups to communicate and coordinate future activities. The Bureau recognizes that these services can be used for a wide range of permitted purposes, including speech that is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Amateur and Personal Radio Services, however, may not be used to commit or facilitate crimes.

Specifically, the Bureau reminds amateur licensees that they are prohibited from transmitting “communications intended to facilitate a criminal act” or “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.” 47 CFR § 97.113(a)(4).

Likewise, individuals operating radios in the Personal Radio Services, a category that includes Citizens Band radios, Family Radio Service walkie-talkies, and General Mobile Radio Service, are prohibited from using those radios “in connection with any activity which is against Federal, State or local law.” 47 CFR § 95.333(a).

Individuals using radios in the Amateur or Personal Radio Services in this manner may be subject to severe penalties, including significant fines, seizure of the offending equipment, and, in some cases, criminal prosecution. 47 U.S.C. §§ 401, 501, 503, 510.

Media inquiries should be directed to 202-418-0500 or MediaRelations@fcc.gov.

To file a complaint with the FCC, visit https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov or call 1-888-CALL-FCC. To report a crime, contact your local law enforcement office or the FBI.

To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).

Issued by: Chief, Enforcement Bureau[]

ISS SSTV 145.800 FM Jan 28-29 (Southgate ARC)

Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are planning to transmit Slow Scan TV images on 145.800 MHz FM using the SSTV mode PD-120

The transmissions are part of the Moscow Aviation Institute SSTV experiment (MAI-75).

Jan 28 – Starts after 12:10 GMT and ends at 17:15 GMT*

Jan 29 – Start about 13:10 GMT and ends at 18:05 GMT*

*Dates and times subject to change.

ARISS SSTV Blog
https://ariss-sstv.blogspot.com/

Useful SSTV info and links
https://amsat-uk.org/beginners/iss-sstv/

TV Detector Vans Once Prowled The Streets Of England (Hackaday)

The United Kingdom is somewhat unique in the world for requiring those households which view broadcast television to purchase a licence for the privilege.

Initially coming into being with the Wireless Telegraphy Act in 1923, the licence was required for anyone receiving broadcast radio, before being expanded to cover television in 1946. The funds generated from this endeavour are used as the primary funding for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

A typical TV licence invoice. Separate licences for black and white and color sets still exist, with 6000 B&W licences issued in 2019.

Of course, it’s all well and good to require a licence, but without some manner of enforcement, the measure doesn’t have any teeth. Among other measures, the BBC have gone as far as employing special vans to hunt down illegally operating televisions and protect its precious income.

THE VAN IS COMING FOR YOU

To ensure a regular income, the BBC runs enforcement operations under the TV Licencing trade name, the entity which is responsible for administering the system. Records are kept of licences and their expiry dates, and investigations are made into households suspected of owning a television who have not paid the requisite fees. To encourage compliance, TV Licencing regularly sends sternly worded letters to those who have let their licence lapse or have not purchased one. In the event this fails, they may arrange a visit from enforcement officers. These officers aren’t empowered to forcibly enter homes, so in the event a homeowner declines to cooperate with an investigation, TV Licencing will apply for a search warrant. This may be on the basis of evidence such as a satellite dish or antenna spotted on the roof of a dwelling, or a remote spied on a couch cushion through a window.[]


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8 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Michael Pack Resigns, FCC Enforcement Advisory, Upcoming ISS SSTV, and Prowling TV Detector Vans

  1. Mike C.

    I’m very glad to see Pack sent… packing. I have no idea how Chao will work out but even if he’s only competent, he HAS to be better than the destructive, hyperpartisan and overly ambitious wrecking ball Pack had been. I despise ANY business/organizational leader who so willingly, wilfully throws his own people under the bus as Pack has done so many times in so many ways. I just have no respect for people who have no respect for their co-workers, employees, associates, etc.. I hope VOA will be better for him being out now, and wish them the best going forward.

    Reply
  2. John

    Arghhh, Just delete the copy of my post Thomas, didn’t think it had made it through the first time I submitted it.

    Reply
  3. Mangosman

    John,
    There was definitely detector vans. Their antenna would pick up the signal from the local oscillator used to convert the incoming signal down to the 39.5 MHz intermediate frequency amplifier. The oscillator frequency is the frequency of the carrier + 39.5 MHz. So the van could detect which channel the receiver was tuned to.

    Most new digital receivers use an intermediate frequency which is close to zero Hertz, so the local oscillator operates just above the frequency of the transmitter which makes it hard to detect.

    What is the difference between a licence and a streaming account? You pay a sum of money to watch from the selection of programs available. You are not paying per program.

    The BBC and commercial programs are not encrypted so if you encrypted them then sell the key would make the viewer have a monthly account just like streaming.

    I should remind you that for large audiences particularly who already have TV antennas that it is much cheaper to broadcast signals than to feed them via the internet both for the viewer and the broadcaster. Remember that the viewer watching the BBC is not paying a telco to deliver the signal where as the streaming service has to be paid along with the telco. If the broadcasters had to stop transmission, the telcos would have to pay considerable money to increase capacity to be able to serve each viewer individually.

    Reply
    1. John

      Hi Mangosman,

      I don’t think consumers care how their entertainment arrives, just how good it is and how much it costs.

      The idea of dragging poor single moms into court and potentially fining/jailing them because they’ve declined to fork over the BBC’s cut of their limited $$$ is morally repugnant and an outrage. The BBC’s response to this, “well it hardly ever happens”, is equally repugnant, it should not even be legally possible.

      The BBC also contracts with private firms to pepper-bomb TV-license refuseniks with quasi-looking legal documents implying they’ll be in trouble if they don’t cough up the cash they think they’re entitled to. Well-informed Brits know to bin this trash unopened but older, less well-informed Brits, are often intimidated by this junk mail, think the authorities are closing in on them, and cough up the license fee.
      It just totally disgusts me.

      Amazon doesn’t send the cops around if I cancel my Amazon Prime membership, more likely it’ll offer me a discount if I’ll sign up again.

      The BBC lost around a million TV-license payers last year, a projected loss of 160 million GBP and there’s a movement in the UK encouraging Brits to cut all ties to Auntie Beeb. Their viewing figures are all trending downward. If they’re not prepared to drag themselves into the 21st century they should cease to exist.

      Reply
    2. John

      I don’t think consumers care how their entertainment arrives, just how good it is and how much it costs.

      The idea of dragging poor single moms into court and potentially fining/jailing them because they’ve declined to fork over the BBC’s cut of their limited $$$ is morally repugnant and an outrage. The BBC response to this, “well it hardly ever happens”, is equally repugnant, it should not even be legally possible.

      The BBC also contracts with private firms to pepper-bomb TV-license refuseniks with quasi-looking legal documents implying they’ll be in trouble if they don’t cough up the cash they think they’re entitled to. Well-informed Brits know to bin this trash but older, less well-informed Brits, are often intimidated by this junk mail, think the authorities are closing in on them and cough up the license fee.

      Amazon doesn’t send the cops around if I cancel my Amazon Prime membership, more likely it’ll offer me a discount if I sign up again.

      The BBC lost around a million TV-license payers last year, a projected loss of 160 million GBP and there’s a movement in the UK encouraging Brits to cut all ties to Auntie Beeb. Their viewing figures are all trending downward. If they’re not prepared to drag themselves into the 21st century they should cease to exist.

      Reply
    1. Mike C.

      The man said their equipment could pinpoint a purr at four hundred yards, and Eric being such a happy cat was a piece of cake.

      Reply
  4. John

    When I lived in the UK I often wondered if those TV detector vans actually existed, they sounded like something from the East German Stasi or, more recently, The Americans drama series, prowling the streets for license-free UK households. Technically, I thought such detectors were feasible but really, in densely populated areas, how could they really be practical. Interestingly, as far as I’m aware, the BBC has never used those TV detector vans in court as evidence when prosecuting TV license refuseniks.

    The BBC is rapidly becoming an anachronism, and its once great reputation as a national treasure is in tatters with large swathes of the UK public due to numerous scandals and an innate institutional political bias they refuse to acknowledge. I lost patience with the BBC a while ago, like all large, aged bureaucracies it’s been around so long it believes it has a right to exist without change. That is going to be its downfall. The BBC is currently hemorrhaging cash as Brits wise up to the fact you are only required to purchase a TV license if you watch live TV and there’s lots of competition out there now via the multiple streaming services. And, quite frankly, those streaming services now produce higher quality media content. I have Amazon Prime and can’t remember the last time I viewed any BBC product there. One of the BBC’s recent real treasures was the political commentator Andrew Neil, UK politicians know they take their lives in their hands when they’re grilled in front of a national audience by the best there is at that job. Neil left the BBC a lttle while ago when they cancelled the Andrew Neil Show and is currently setting up a new news network, GB News, as a rival to the BBC and the other UK news channels.

    The license-based “business” model has to go and the BBC must be required to compete in the marketplace with all the other streaming services out there. If it can’t compete and provide a service others are willing to pay for then it should cease to exist. Personally, I now wouldn’t mourn the BBC’s passing at all.

    Reply

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