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Letters: Life Goes on After Radio Svoboda

Life Goes on After Radio Svoboda

Congratulations on one of the most balanced articles I’ve seen on this subject (“RFE/RL Ends Radio Svoboda on AM,” Dec. 19).

As a former Biblis shortwave site employee of RFE/RL (1992–95), I understand the importance of retaining the SW medium (it can’t ever be totally jammed), but the medium-wave in Moscow is another matter.

The 20 kW AM transmitter that we used until Nov. 9 to air Radio Svoboda programs in the Moscow area is located in the northwestern suburbs of the city.

Not only did it not provide nationwide coverage, but the interference that arose from all of the cables used to power Moscow’s network of electric streetcars, ensured that the signal could not be reliably heard in the center of Moscow itself.

However, it was the only game in town — until the change in Russian law that required us to give it up.

Radio Svoboda’s audio programs remain available throughout Russia via shortwave, and are broadcast from a variety of IBB and leased transmitters, and via the Internet.

The sizable expenditure for the medium-wave TX is being rolled back into our Russian service to expand and modernize our media efforts. Those efforts include TV and radio. As everybody knows, it is much more expensive to produce video than audio-only programming.

This is not just a technical equipment and software expense, but it requires much different technical and production skill sets. Cameras will be running on every program produced in the new Moscow bureau (and hopefully soon in the broadcast center in Prague), and the audio will be purposed for radio.

While our video production will be purposed initially for Internet video/audio streaming and on-demand, we are producing in a high enough quality to also distribute our video programming via satellite DVB-S transmission when/if that becomes available to RFE/RL.

A TV/radio program for our Radio Farda is already in production and broadcast via the VOA Persian Television’s satellite channels.

Mobile distribution is also becoming much more important. I was recently in Moscow in connection with the new bureau build-out, and I can tell you that it seems everybody has a smart phone: Young, old … everybody.

Many kids were watching videos on their phones. They may not all have fixed-line Internet access, but it was clear they were accessing the Internet via their mobiles.

To make a long story short, we are heading in the right direction, and we’re moving quickly.

Chris Carzoli
Deputy Director Technology Division
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Prague, Czech Republic

Kudos to Tech Tips

To Mark Persons (“Avoid Hall of Shame: Don’t Take Shortcuts,” Nov. 21), just wanted to say thanks for another fabulous article. They are always a pleasure to read, and always contain such great, hard-learned tips.

Christopher Johnson
Network Administrator
Midwest Communications
Duluth, Minn.

I must respond to the letter from Rod Ziegler of the Nebraska Rural Radio Association (“On Speaker Wire, Save Your Dough”).

Sadly, his reaction to my October 18 essay illustrates the on-going bitterness among too many of our citizens over passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.

His attempt to separate public from commercial radio issues is laughable and tragic, especially in today’s world of radio station consolidation and homogenization. Without CPB-funded rural radio, too many people in rural places in search of a radio signal are usually subject to the dominance of talk radio hysteria (great learning tool for kids, eh?).

On the other hand (yes, we have a left and a right hand), rural folk with public radio signals don’t want to return to the ’50s.

Beyond the bitterness over the existence of a public radio system, the point of my essay is about small market public stations being eaten alive by their larger public stations, some of whom have taken on the predatory mindset of Wall Street scavengers.

I am stating a case; that this predatory garbage has to stop if the soul of public radio is to survive. I am all for eliminating CPB funding to major market stations, except when a station is involved in providing or developing programming for the entire public radio system.

It is way past the time when most large market stations have need the federal support they receive through annual CPB Community Service Grants — they have enough potential business underwriting and listener support to keep going.

It is funding for rural and small market radio that I’m defending, as an integral part of training and programming development. Delmarva doesn’t have the market size to keep stations afloat without some CPB assistance, especially when major market stations in Norfolk, Va., Washington and Baltimore have barged in to this corner of the world.

The cavalier actions of WAMU(FM) and WHRO(FM) in Delmarva only illustrates that they have run out of ways to spend their money wisely and constructively for the entire system.

Pete Simon