Thanks to efforts by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Victor Ashe, support of his board colleagues Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, and intervention from North Carolina congressmen G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Walter B. Jones (R-NC), the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station in Greenville, NC appears to be safe for now from budget cuts previously sought by officials of BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).
In a letter to both congressmen, IBB Director Richard Lobo assured them that the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which utilizes more than 80 percent of the scheduled shortwave transmissions from the Murrow Station, will work with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to utilize $50 million of existing democracy and human rights un-obligated funds to pay some of the costs of the station’s operations.
IBB Director Lobo assured both congressmen that under this proposal there will be no personnel changes at the Murrow Station and the employees would remain on the payroll of the International Broadcasting Bureau.
But with Victor Ashe expected to leave his post on the board soon. With new BBG members expected to be confirmed, long-term future of the Murrow Station is still not certain. Ashe and Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and Walter B. Jones worked hard to keep it open despite pressure and resistance from IBB executives who wanted to close it down. The station is the only BBG shortwave transmitting facility on American territory fully controlled by the U.S. government.
Let’s hope the new BBG board members understand the importance of keeping at least one BBG shortwave transmitting on US soil. In my opinion, every country should do this; not only for diplomatic and free press reasons, but for reasons of national security. In an emergency, if other communications systems were to fail, shortwave radio could still cover a vast broadcasting footprint–even the whole of the US.
Though this press release rightfully focuses on the staff at VOA headquarters in DC, we should take our hats off to the good folks that kept the Edward R. Murrow Transmission site running in North Carolina as well.
Pounding rain and 80 mile an hour winds from Hurricane Sandy shut down U.S. government offices and the Washington, D.C. public transportation Monday and Tuesday, but it didn’t stop VOA journalists, technicians and support personnel from delivering news around the world in 43 languages.
“We had people sleep on couches around the building, and one used a cot, but the cots are not very comfortable,” English Branch Chief Terry Wing says. “Some folks came in early on Monday, some stayed late, a couple are still here, I think some are going on 30 hours or more.”
VOA Director David Ensor says every show aired on schedule. “It was extraordinary, hundreds of programs went out, we never missed a beat.” Ensor says many language services provided constant updates to network affiliate stations around the world.
Executive Editor Steve Redisch says, “The Spanish Branch did more than 50 live shots to affiliates in Latin America and had a reporter on the New Jersey beach. The Russian Service was on with their affiliate, and the Indonesian Service filed for 20 radio and TV affiliates.” Redisch says those are just some examples of what went on during the storm.
Newsroom Deputy Managing Editor David Jones, who spent the night at a nearby hotel, says it was all hands on deck. “People were great. We had TV and radio packages on the weather, and our political reporter did a story on how the hurricane affected the campaign, but most of our coverage was international — the fighting in Syria, Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton’s trip to the Balkans, the Ukrainian Election, and there was something on South African politics,” Jones says.
Executive Editor Redisch says there was a lot of resourcefulness. The French-to-Africa Service found a French speaking meteorologist at the National Weather Service, and the Mandarin Service TV show was anchored by an alternate who borrowed clothes so she could host the program.
While VOA journalists were hunkered down in Washington, videographer Daniela Schrier managed to capture something that nobody else had, footage of flood waters rushing through streets of Lower Manhattan Monday night. Schrier, who was trapped in her apartment in New York’s East Village, managed to upload the video to Washington just before she lost power.
VOA broadcasts more than 1,700 hours of radio and television programming around the world each week from its headquarters in Washington. The programs are delivered on satellite, cable, shortwave, AM, FM, the Internet and on a worldwide network of affiliate stations.
Videos of the event have now been posted on the BBG Watch website, including this one, which features the original dedication of the site in 1963:
Local CBS affiliate, Channel 9, provided raw video feeds from the event, which are also posted. Of particular note is the footage of Governor Victor Ashe’s speech and the tour of the station.
As I previously mentioned, in December 2012, I had the honor of receiving a five-hour tour of the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station. Following that marvelous tour, I wrote a piece for the March 2012 issue of the Monitoring Times in which I describe the day’s experiences; the article has already received many kind comments (thanks!) and continues to draw interest to the station. I think this may be one of the best articles I’ve ever written, and the clear reason for this was my sheer delight in the tour, a dream come true for me. Moreover, I had early information about the re-dedication of the site, and was immensely pleased that those who work there should receive such well-deserved accolades.
BTW: While I have a busy travel schedule this summer, I intend to publish some items of interest in my absence that I’ve been saving for the purpose. This will include the article I wrote for the MT–the full, un-cut version–along with dozens of hi-res photos from the site. It’s quite long, thus will be posted in manageable sections; each post will be tagged: VOA Greenville. Keep an eye open for those!
My feature article on touring the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station in the March 2012 issue of Monitoring Times
Last December, I had the honor of receiving a personal five hour tour of the VOA transmitter site near Greenville, NC, USA. It was literally a dream come true for me, and providing a more in-depth understanding of the history, the equipment, the antennas and, most importantly, the people who keep this remarkable site on the air 24/7. You can read all about my experience in a feature article I wrote for the March 2012 issue of Monitoring Times Magazine.
Just before my article was sent to print, I received word from my new friends at the transmitter site that it had been renamed the “Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station.” Fortunately, timing was on my side and my article carried the new name throughout.
This was much more than a re-naming of the site, however. I knew that to some degree, it was a reassurance by the BBG (Broadcasting Board of Governors) that the site, which had been slated for closure as recently as 2010, was to have a future that would reflect its honored past in international broadcasting. Clearly, the site is very important; it’s the last remaining international broadcating station that is not only wholly owned by the US government, but is nonetheless on US territory, where no restrictions can be imposed upon either what is broadcast, nor for whom the broadcast is targeted.
On a side note, perhaps what disappoints me most about the Radio Canada International cuts, and why I’ve been so vocal about it, is the fact that they plan to close their Sackville, New Brunswick transmitting site. In a sense, it’s the Canadian cousin to the VOA’s Murrow site, which is to say, the only international broadcasting site in Canada, that’s fully owned by Canada and grounded firmly on Candian soil.
Tuning controls on one of the 500 kW Continental Electronics transmitters I admired at the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Site. Click to enlarge.
I’m very pleased the US government and the Broadcasting Board of Governers made what I strongly believe to be the right decision, namely, keeping Edward R. Murrow Transmitting station open and active. Once that transmission infrastructure is gone, it’s gone. Fortunately, this re-dedicationconfirms that it will live on.
I was personally invited to the dedication, but sadly will be unable to attend, the distance (twelve hours by car) being fairly prohibitive.
Yet I wish you well, broadcast heroes: long live the Edward R. Murrow transmitting site!
The Greenville Reflector published an article about the May 2nd dedication of the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station:
A Voice of America site once scheduled for closure has not only been saved but will be rededicated Wednesday in a ceremony featuring the son of broadcasting pioneer Edward R. Murrow.
Voice of America Site B, located 15 miles east of Greenville outside of Grimesland, was named for the legendary broadcaster when it opened in 1963.
Murrow’s name was removed from the building as part of security measures taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Murrow’s name will be returned during a 10 a.m. ceremony being held at the site, 3919 VOA Site B Road.
[…]The Broadcasting Board of Governors announced in February 2010 it wanted to close VOA Site B so it could save about $3.1 million annually and focus on upgrading its satellite, digital and other broadcasting technologies.
The site B location broadcasts via short-wave radio to Cuba, the Caribbean and South America. In the past it also has broadcast to West Africa.
Jones and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., worked to stop the closure, aided by another member of the North Carolina delegation, Democrat David Price.
The closure never came because Congress had difficulties finalizing its 2010-11 budget and funding was included in continuation budgets.
The broadcasting board notified Jones in January 2011 that the administration wouldn’t pursue the site’s closure.
By that time Victor Ashe, former mayor of Knoxville, Tenn., and former ambassador to Poland, joined the broadcasting board and toured the VOA Site B facility.
Ashe said he was impressed by the facility’s staff members and their dedication to the organization’s mission.
“We believe free and honest information is a prelude and a foundation of a democratic society,” Ashe said.
Like other proponents of the site, Ashe said it’s important to keep VOA Site B operating because it’s the only short-wave Voice of America facility operating under U.S. jurisdiction. Other short-wave locations can be shut down at the insistence of its host nation.
Other methods of broadcasting — radio, television, the Internet and social media — can be cut off or blocked.
And the invitation from the BBG:
Speakers will include:
Congressman Walter Jones
Casey Murrow, son of Edward R. Murrow and Executive Director, Synergy Learning
Victor Ashe, BBG Governor, former Ambassador to Poland and former mayor of Knoxville
Richard M. Lobo, award-winning media executive and journalist and Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau
Edward R. Murrow’s legacy as a journalist and his rich understanding of the importance of press freedom as part of the bedrock of democracy along with the key role of U.S. international broadcasting as a model of a free press will be highlighted in the ceremony to be held in the lead-up to World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd.
The transmitting station, a 24/7 broadcast facility, supports the mission of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to “inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” through about 2,200 hours of transmissions each month.
André Mendes, Director, Office of Technology, Services and Innovation, International Broadcasting Bureau
Pastor William Thompson, Burney Chapel Free Will Baptist Church
Presentation of Colors:
D. H. Conley High School ROTC
Karen Meetze, Choral Director, J. H. Rose High School
Musical Accompaniment by:
A.G. Cox Middle School Band
Barney Barker, Band Director
Remarks about Edward R. Murrow:
Casey Murrow, Executive Director, Synergy Learning
Ambassador Victor Ashe, BBG Governor
Richard M. Lobo, Director, International Broadcasting Bureau
Congressman Walter Jones
Following the ceremony a tour of the facility will be offered.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting, whose mission is inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG broadcasts reach an audience of 187 million in 100 countries. BBG networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí).
This is an excellent video about the VOA Greenville transmitter site produced by North Carolina Public Television. What I love most is the time they took to explain the importance of shortwave radio across our globe, how it is an existing technology that governments and regimes cannot easily block or track. We certainly repeat this theme often, here on the SWLing Post.