A strategic technology plan prepared by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency responsible for Voice of America, Alhurra, Radio Free Asia and other international stations, concludes that it should end many shortwave broadcasts in favor of “more effective” media such as internet radio.
I found the quote above, and most of the beginning of this article, very disturbing. The same themes keep coming up in this type of announcement: that shortwave broadcasts are expensive while internet services are cheap, that no one listens to shortwave because most people are connected to the internet.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, these statements simply aren’t true. Rather, they’re short-sighted and “western” centric.
I did find one telling paragraph in the above article:
The “sun-setting strategy” proposed will reduce the number of stations owned by the BBG in favor of lease or sharing arrangements with—or outsourcing to—independent broadcasters. A “long-term analysis” of each country and language, and in-house research on shortwave’s effectiveness in each, would determine which areas retain service.
Though I’d love to see the engineers and workers of the VOA broadcasts sites keep their jobs, I do believe outsourcing the actual shortwave transmissions to independent broadcasters makes a lot of financial sense, and could be the way forward to retain vital shortwave in areas which rely almost solely upon it. If you talk to WRMI or WBCQ, you’ll find that they can operate a SW broadcast operation at a fraction of the cost of the VOA; in fact, broadcasts with these independent stations can cost as little as $120 per hour of air time–a small price to pay to retain listeners and keep information flowing.
I don’t necessarily have faith in the ability of the BBG to effectively do “in-house” research to determine which countries/regions get chopped. After all, have any of these decision makers ever lived in a third world country ruled by a dictator? Have any of them ever lived without reliable access to the internet, or even without electric power, as many of these listeners do? Highly doubtful.
I urge readers of the SWLing Post to speak up! Contact the Broadcast Board of Governers and let them know how important shortwave broadcasts are to those living in poverty and in countries with unstable regimes–people who, informationally-speaking, live in the dark.
Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237
Tel: (202) 203-4400
Fax: (202) 203-4585