Tag Archives: USAGM

Dan Robinson takes critical look at USAGM as Pack enters scene

Dan Robinson is a former White House correspondent for the VOA.

SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, has recently written a series of opinion articles for the BBG-USAGM Watch website. Dan worked 34 years with the Voice of America, most recently serving as the senior White House correspondent from 2010 to 2014 before his retirement.

Dan’s Op-Ed pieces (in five parts at time of posting) take a critical look at the USAGM as Michael Pack CEO takes charge.

Click here to view all of Dan’s articles at USAGM-BBG Watch.

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Radio Waves: DXE Virtual Hamfest, USAGM Shake-Up, Ham Radio Breaking the C-19 Doldrums, and FCC Fines FM Pirates

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 Bill, Paul, Mike Terry and the Southgate ARC  for the following tips:


DXE Virtual Hamfest and DX Academy on July 25 (DX Engineering)

Join the Elmers at DX Engineering and a host of Ham Radio luminaries on Saturday, July 25, 2020, for the first DXE Virtual Hamfest and DX Academy—two online events combined into a full day of fun, learning, and drawings for DX Engineering gift cards (must be registered and present on Zoom during the drawings to qualify).

Both events are free and open to all—click here to register. Once signed up, you will receive a link to access the events in real-time on the Zoom webinar platform, or you can watch live on the DX Engineering YouTube channel.[]

US global media agency seeks to kick out international journalists (Southgate ARC)

CNN Business reports: Efforts to clean house at the US Agency for Global Media continued this week as leadership indicated that international journalists who work for Voice of America (VOA) will not have their visas extended and a widely respected top editor at Radio Free Asia was fired, explained three sources familiar with the decisions.

Under the new leadership of Michael Pack, who took the job as USAGM’s CEO last month, the organization which oversees US-funded broadcasters VOA and RFA among others has been thrust into a wide-ranging shakeup which appears to be politically motivated.

With indications that Pack is not going to allow visas to be extended for international VOA journalists in the US, there are dozens of journalists who could face retaliation if they are forced to return to their home countries.

Read the full CNN news story
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/10/media/usagm-voice-of-america-visas/index.html

In Colorado Springs and beyond, ‘magic’ of ham radio breaks doldrums of COVID-19 (The Gazette)

On the windswept prairie east of Colorado Springs, in a ramshackle trailer plastered with maps and codes associated with every sector of the world, strange sounds are coming from a radio.

Static mixes with R2-D2-like beeps and bops. Don DuBon has a microphone in one hand while the other twirls a dial, searching.

“Alpha, foxtrot, zero, sierra,” he says, speaking into the void. “Alpha, foxtrot, zero, sierra…”

That’s the call sign for the Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association, the group of enthusiasts who make this trailer their base.

Hams, as they’re also called, take special pride in their contact with each other across the globe. They keep log sheets. One here by DuBon shows contact made with a Chuck (call sign KI6HK) in California; a Jake (K4BOM) in England; a Brooks (K2CNN) in Alabama; and others in Uruguay, Brazil and New York.

DuBon, N6JRL, is looking for others.

“Spain,” he says, recognizing the call sign heard through the clutter. “That’s a station in Spain. … He’s got a bunch of people calling him.”

“It’s called a pile-up,” says Jim Bishop, KD0KQL, fellow club member and retiree. The two are now gray but engaged in something that makes them feel young, still boys with their radios.

The Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association (PPRAA), counting a little more than 100 members mostly from generations past, is among an underground but bustling faction of American culture. Active call signs given by the Federal Communications Commission represent 0.25% of the U.S. population. In El Paso County, the ranks number about 3,500.[]

FCC Continues to Prosecute Pirate Radio Operators – Two Settlements with Identified Violators (Lexology.com)

Pirate radio operators continue to be a problem – particularly in major metropolitan areas. The week before last, the FCC resolved two long-pending cases against pirate operators through negotiated settlements. In one case, the FCC last year initially proposed a fine of $151,005 for the illegal operation. After examining the operator’s finances, the Bureau agreed to a $4,000 fine now, with a penalty of $75,000 should the operator violate the law again (see this decision against an operator called Radio Concorde). In the second case, the FCC had proposed a $453,015 fine last year, but agreed to take $5,000 now, with penalty of $225,000 if the operator violates the terms of the consent decree (see the decision dealing with operator Radio TeleBoston). Last year, we wrote here about the much larger fines initially proposed for these two operators.

In both cases, the FCC seemingly recognized reality in taking the small upfront payments now rather than trying to collect huge fines that likely were beyond the ability of the operators to pay. The FCC also required the surrender of the operator’s equipment and a commitment to stay away from pirate radio for 20 years or face much larger fines. The big fines initially imposed in these cases were set even before Congress enacted the PIRATE Act early this year. The new law allows for fines on illegal operators of $100,000 per day, up to a maximum total fine of $2,000,000. Even without the full effect of the PIRATE Act, these cases show the deterrent effect of these large fines.[]


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Radio Waves: Pack Thanks Interim Leaders, KE4ZXW Moves to Virginia Tech, WWV and WWVH Still Matter, and A New WebSDR in Iceland

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 Tony, Dan Robinson, Michael Bird for the following tips:


USAGM CEO Michael Pack thanks interim heads of agency’s five broadcasting networks (USAGM)

Today, U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Chief Executive Officer Michael Pack thanked officials who will serve in an interim capacity as the heads of the agency’s two federal organizations and its three public service grantee broadcasting networks.

  • Elez Biberaj, who has led Voice of America (VOA)’s Eurasia Division since 2006, will serve as VOA’s Acting Director.
  • Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, previously Senior Advisor at Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), will serve as OCB’s Acting Director and Principal Deputy Director.
  • Parameswaran Ponnudurai, who has been Vice President of Programming at Radio Free Asia (RFA) since 2014, will serve as RFA’s Acting President.
  • Kelley Sullivan, who has been a Vice President at Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) since 2006, will serve as MBN’s Acting President.
  • Daisy Sindelar, who has been with RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (RFE/RL) for nearly two decades, will serve as RFE/RL’s Acting President.

CEO Pack sent, in part, the following message to staff:

“The experience of these talented men and women, their knowledge of the networks, and their commitment to the standards of journalism will allow us to launch into the next exciting chapter of our agency. Dr. Biberaj, Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Ponnudurai, Ms. Sullivan, and Ms. Sindelar will serve critical roles in allowing our networks to become higher performing and to more effectively serve our audiences. For their willingness to step up and help lead this effort, I am deeply appreciative. I am excited to serve alongside them as well as with all of you.”

Virginia Air & Space Center Ends Relationship with Ham Radio (ARRL News)

Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) Executive Director and CEO Robert Griesmer has advised that the Center’s amateur radio station exhibit will be discontinued, effective July 1, when the Center, in Hampton, Virginia, reopens. VASC is the official visitor center for NASA’s Langley, Virginia, facility. The KE4ZXW display station was shut down on March 13. It was to be out of the VASC by June 30. A main feature of the exhibit was the ability to communicate with amateur radio satellites and with the International Space Station.

Randy Grigg, WB4KZI, of the VASC Amateur Radio Group said the station’s equipment would be relocated. “Thanks to all who have supported KE4ZXW during the last 25 years, especially the volunteer operators who manned the station during that time,” Grigg said. “To the many visitors we have met and school groups that have stopped by and talked with us about ham radio, communications, satellites, and STEM Program related subjects, thank you!”

On June 30, it was announced that the Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Association (K4KDJ) in Blacksburg will be the new host for the KE4ZXW Amateur Radio Demonstration. — Thanks to Randy Grigg, WB4KZI, and Ed Gibbs, KW4GF[]

Why WWV and WWVH Still Matter (Radio World)

Last year was one of both celebration and uncertainty for WWV, the station adjacent to Fort Collins, Colo., that transmits automated time broadcasts on the shortwave bands.

On the plus side, it marked the 100th year of WWV’s call letters, making the site, operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the world’s oldest continually operating radio stations.

On the negative side, WWV and its sister time station WWVH in Hawaii nearly missed this centennial. That’s because NIST’s original 2019 budget called for shutting down the pair, along with WWVB, the longwave code station co-located next to WWV, as a cost-saving move.

Fortunately, these cuts never happened, and WWV, WWVH and WWVB seem likely to keep broadcasting the most accurate time from NIST’s atomic clocks, at least for the immediate future. (No further cuts have been threatened.)[]

Another Shortwave WebSDR operational in Iceland (Southgate ARC)

On June 27, a new KiwiSDR web software defined radio became operational in Iceland

A translation of the IRA post reads:

The new receiver is located in Bláfjöll at an altitude of 690 meters. It has for the first time used, a horizontal dipole for 80 and 40 meters.

The KiwiSDR receiver operates from 10 kHz up to 30 MHz. You can listen to AM, FM, SSB and CW transmissions and select a bandwidth suitable for each formulation. Up to eight users can be logged into the recipient at the same time.

Ari Þórólfur Jóhannesson TF1A was responsible for the installation of the device today, which is owned by Georg Kulp, TF3GZ.
Bláfjöll: http://blafjoll.utvarp.com/

The other two receivers that are active are located at Bjargtångar in Vesturbyggð, Iceland’s westernmost plains and the outermost point of Látrabjarg and at Raufarhöfn. Listen at:
Bjargtångar: http://bjarg.utvarp.com/
Raufarhöfn: http://raufarhofn.utvarp.com/

The IRA Board thanks Ara and Georg for their valuable contributions. This is an important addition for radio amateurs who are experimenting in these frequency bands, as well as listeners and anyone interested in the spread of radio waves.

Source IRA https://tinyurl.com/IcelandIRA

KiwiSDR Network
http://kiwisdr.com/public/


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Radio Waves: RIP Dame Vera Lynn, 1928 London Noises, Repoliticizing VOA, and Shortwave Trading At the Speed of Light

Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020)

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 Tracy Wood, Dennis Dura, David Goren, and Kim Elliott for the following tips:


Obituary: Dame Vera Lynn, a symbol of resilience and hope (BBC News)

Dame Vera Lynn, who has died at the age of 103, was Britain’s wartime Forces’ Sweetheart, and remained one of the country’s most potent symbols of resilience and hope.

With songs such as We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover, she inspired both troops abroad and civilians at home during World War Two.

As Britain’s cities came under attack, her wistful songs, with their messages of yearning and optimism, were heard in millions of British homes.

And 75 years later, the country turned to her once again as it faced another stern test.[]

Click here to read our SWLing Post tribute to Dame Vera Lynn from 2015 which includes a recording made from my Scott Marine Model SLRM.

London street noises 1928 (Sound and History)

THERE ARE NO BBC radio recordings surviving from before 1931, so the job of representing the 1920s falls to this curiosity from the Columbia Graphophone Company. It’s a 12” 78rpm disc made in 1928 in association with the Daily Mail newspaper.

It seems likely that the disc was somehow tied in with a Daily Mail campaign over urban traffic noise. The commentator on both sides of the disc is a man named Commander Daniel and he doesn’t approve of everything he hears in the city streets.

The recordings were made from single, static locations in Leicester Square and Beauchamp Place on Tuesday 11th and Thursday 20th September respectively. Columbia probably used a recording van equipped with a disc-cutter.[]

Repoliticizing Voice of America (The Hill)

When Michael Pack takes over as the first politically-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, his first task will be to comprehend the bewildering array of international broadcasting entities under the USAGM. This includes two government agencies: Voice of America and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), and four government funded corporations: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks (the Arabic-language Alhurra and Radio Sawa) and the anti-censorship Open Technology Fund. Within this structure are broadcasting outlets that straddle two entities, such as the Russian-language Current TV. All told, the entities distribute content in 61 languages.

When past that hurdle, Pack must then decide if he wants to maintain the journalistic independence of USAGM’s entities, or if he wants to move them towards advocacy of the administration’s policies.[]

Companies Pitch Shortwave Radio to Shave Milliseconds Off Trades (Bloomberg)

High-frequency traders will famously do almost anything to get the latest market data and send their buy and sell orders a few milliseconds ahead of the competition. They blasted through mountains to build the most direct fiber-optic routes possible between exchanges in a competition that transformed global markets and was made famous by Michael Lewis’s book Flash Boys. Soon, pinging light through glass fiber at more than 124,000 miles per second wasn’t fast enough—the glass slows things down—so traders moved on to microwave transmitters that send signals through the air.

But that has problems, too. Microwaves travel only roughly as far as the eye can see before they peter out and need a signal boost. Now two rival market telecommunications companies have signed a pact that they say will give traders more access to experimental wireless signals which can travel across oceans.

To do that, signals need a longer wavelength—known as a shortwave rather than microwave—that bounces between the water and atmosphere. It’s an imperfect solution. The waves can handle only a fraction of the data that fiber can, carrying about a kilobit per second vs. gigabits. And some signals can be lost.

Raft Technologies Inc., a startup based in Tel Aviv, says the trade-offs are worth it. Raft says it can send data over shortwave from Chicago to Frankfurt in 31.4 milliseconds, which it says is about 4.5 milliseconds faster than the best available fiber route. That’s an eternity in an industry that tends to measure improvements by the thousandth of a millisecond. The company says the signal is about 85% reliable, compared with 100% for fiber. Clients can use a fiber line in parallel as a fail-safe measure.[]


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USAGM’s Chief Executive John Lansing resigns

John Lansing (Source: BBG)

(Source: VOA News via Richard Cuff)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Agency for Global Media’s Chief Executive John Lansing said he will be leaving his post at the end of the month.

Lansing, a veteran government broadcast and cable television executive, was named four years ago by U.S. President Barack Obama to be the first chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees the Voice of America, Radio and Television Martí, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

Lansing made his mark at the agency early on by championing a free press.

“Despite some very dark moments, we have not been silenced. We will continue to report the truth. We will continue to find new ways to get independent reporting and programming to global audiences who rely on it,” he said this year on World Press Freedom Day.

USAGM board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein said in a statement, “John has put USAGM on solid footing to advance our mission to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. … The Board is very grateful for, and deeply impressed by, the results achieved during his tenure.”

Lansing has boosted the networks’ global weekly audience by more than 100 million and expanded the agency’s use of platforms from encrypted live broadcasting to shortwave radio to push content into countries that jam or ban American programming.

Under his watch, the agency also created Current Time, a network broadcasting news, features and documentaries for Russian speakers in 2017. Polygraph and Faktograph are websites aimed at combating a stream of disinformation by Russia state-controlled media. A new Persian-language service, VOA365, also started broadcasting earlier this year.

In a statement released late Thursday, Lansing said he would be starting a new position at chief executive at National Public Radio, a publicly funded nonprofit membership media organization based in Washington.

Lansing acknowledged challenges ahead for the agency with countries such as Russia, China, North Korea and Iran trying to control information and spread their influence throughout the world.

“Please keep abiding by the highest standards of professional journalism. Please keep fighting for press freedom. Please keep telling the truth. The world needs you now more than ever,” he concluded in his statement to employees.

Weinstein said in his statement, “It is the Board’s top priority to find the best individual to run USAGM upon John’s departure.”

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USAGM: questions about journalistic and financial management

(Source: New York Times)

WASHINGTON — The United States Agency for Global Media, the government’s foreign broadcast service, already struggling to clean house after a series of scandals last year at flagship operations like Voice of America and TV Martí, is now being rocked by two new cases that have raised further questions about its journalistic and financial management.

In one, Tomás Regalado Jr., a reporter for TV Martí, which broadcasts into Cuba, and a cameraman for the network, Rodolfo Hernandez, were suspended amid allegations that they faked a mortar attack on Mr. Regalado during a broadcast from Managua, Nicaragua, last year.

That incident surfaced only days after Haroon Ullah, the former chief strategy officer at the global media agency, which operates Martí and foreign-language networks around the world, pleaded guilty on June 27 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to stealing government property.

A former deputy to the agency’s chief executive, John Lansing, Mr. Ullah admitted to fleecing the government of $37,000 between February and October last year by claiming reimbursements for expensive hotels he did not book, double-billing the government for official travel and forging a doctor’s note to allow him to fly business class. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

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The new problems are unrelated to each other; in the case of Mr. Ullah, the agency said its internal controls flagged the expense fraud. But along with many others over the past two years, the scandals have brought intensified scrutiny and criticism to the agency, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Created during World War II to be an objective, trusted source of information in nations where freedom of the press is under attack, the agency has 3,500 journalists who reach more than 345 million people in 100 countries each week.

The United States Agency for Global Media initiated an investigation into the allegedly faked segment at TV Martí “immediately after these concerns about the footage in question were raised,” the agency said in a statement. “As the agency has made clear, we have zero tolerance for failing to honor clear and universally accepted standards of professional journalism. We also owe it to all involved to conduct a thorough and clear investigation to get all of the facts.”

“I take seriously any breach of professional journalistic standards at any U.S.A.G.M. network. I have asked for a thorough and swift investigation,” Mr. Lansing said in an emailed statement. “I expect all U.S.A.G.M. networks to adhere to truthfulness, fairness and accountability in their reporting.”

Click here to read the full article at the New York Times.

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BBG Watch: Former Analyst Challenges USAGM Audience Measurement Methods, Claims of Sharp Increases

As a follow-up to our previous post featuring Kim Elliott’s commentary, check out the following article by Dan Robinson in BBG Watch:

Former Analyst Challenges USAGM Audience Measurement Methods, Claims of Sharp Increases

By Dan Robinson

A former analyst for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees taxpayer-funded broadcast and online media directed at overseas audiences, has publicly challenged the methods used by the agency in making audience size claims.

An audience research analyst for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors) for many years, Kim Elliott, Ph.D., is the first former official to raise questions about USAGM figures.

His views, published online by the University of Southern California Center for Public Diplomacy blog, also appeared first in a small circulation subscription journal published by NASWA (North American Shortwave Association). This article is based on both pieces.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

Dan also points out the following BBG Watch article which focuses on Twitter polls:

http://bbgwatch.com/bbgwatch/twitter-poll-voa-and-radio-farda-usagm-iran-audience-claims-are-false/

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