Saturday, June 28, 2014

USIB Suddenly cancels most of its shortwave radio frequencies to Asia.

Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have decided to suddenly pull the plug on shortwave radio to Asia.

The US Congress has just approved major cutbacks to US international broadcasting using shortwave radio. Several former VOA staff shared an an internal announcement to this effect, which I have edited for clarity.

VOA to end shortwave broadcasts in English and several language services Monday.

Late Friday June 27th it emerged that Broadcasting Board of Governors proposed shortwave cuts for for the financial year 2014 have been approved by Congress.

As of the end of the day on Monday, June 30th 2014, all shortwave frequencies for English News programs to Asia will dropped permanently. VOA will no longer be heard via shortwave in the morning (12-16 UTC), and the evening hours (22-02 UTC)…mostly in Asia.

Shortwave frequencies for the following VOA language services will also be eliminated: Azerbaijani, Bangla, English (Learning), Khmer, Kurdish, Lao and Uzbek. Shortwave transmissions being used by services at RFE/RL and RFA are also being cut.

VOA programming via FM/AM affiliates in Asia is not affected by these changes, it's purely that direct shortwave is being curtailed, reflecting a change in the lay audiences get their news. VOA will continue to supply services via the web and via podcasts.

VOA is still using shortwave to the African continent. Several countries (e.g. Somalia, Northern Nigeria, and Sudan) still use shortwave as a way of reaching listeners outside the main cities.

Jonathan comments: Personally I would have started broadcasting continuous announcements on shortwave-only ASAP, advising people that they should retune to local broadcasters or go to a special landing page on with more details. It is what satellite broadcasters do when they switch channels. Make sure there is a path for people to follow. Now they are assuming that the listeners have already gone away.

As they do this, I believe it also spells the end of DRM30, the digital radio transmission system designed for AM broadcasters below 30 MHz. DRM may have a future as a standard for use on higher frequencies, as part of a suite of technologies in the World DAB camp. But not as a stand-alone technology. I believe India will fail in its roll out of DRM because it is definitely a technology still looking for a solution.

Signal monitoring on board the EC130's in the says before Facebook and social media. 
So what could replace shortwave as a means to distribute news to remote locations. Probably airborne Internet. Remember the US Psyops planes? They used to distribute programmes from VOA during conflict situations. In more recent years they have switched to becoming flying "internet routers" instead, providing a wifi signal where it's never been before. How else could video from opposition groups get out of places like Benghazi in 2012?   Many don't know that their name was changed in 2010 to Military Information Support Operations. 

Dropping propaganda leaflets over Iraq in 2008. 
And Facebook is also playing around with airborne connectivity.

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