Broadcasting Board of Governors Battles Signal Interference by Multiplying Broadcasts of Persian Programs to Iran

The Broadcasting Board of Governors increased television, radio and Internet transmissions of the Persian-language programs of the Voice of America (VOA)’s Persian News Network and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda to fight jamming and signal interference in Iran.

“Despite accusations about foreign media, our broadcasters are simply reporting the news, increasingly by drawing upon the eye-witness accounts of Iranians themselves,” said D. Jeffrey Hirschberg of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees both VOA and RFE/RL. “This Iranian interference with our television and radio signals is against international agreements and, most importantly, an injustice to the Iranian people.”

Jamming of satellite television broadcasts has increased in recent weeks beginning in May and twice in June including interference with BBG and other broadcasters’ satellite uplink and downlink signals. To combat this censorship, VOA’s Persian News Network (PNN) television programs are now beamed through five satellites with six different distribution channels.

Shortwave transmissions of Radio Farda were increased beginning June 15 as part of an effort to counteract jamming by the Iranian government. With the recent shortwave additions, the most popular morning and early-to-mid evening hours have at least five simultaneous transmissions and ten at peak times. The shortwave jamming of international broadcasters began on June 14.

As well reported, use of the Internet new media has been an information lifeline for many Iranians during the aftermath of the elections. Visits to VOA’s PNN website and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda website the weekend of June 20 were both over 400% more than at the start of the month.

Iranian government censorship of external news sites has increased. VOA’s PNN and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda have seen a 200% growth in use of proxy servers and web censorship circumvention software from the day before the Friday election to three days later. Over the weekend, the response to the VOA and RFE/RL Persian-language Web sites has been so great that our proxy service reached full capacity, resulting in some visitors not reaching the site. We are adding additional infrastructure to handle this increased traffic.

To better serve their audiences in Iran with breaking news of events as they unfold, VOA and RFE/RL implemented a number of program expansions in the last week including:

- VOA added a one-hour morning satellite TV news program and replaced two hours of its normal evening program line up with a two-hour Special Report on the latest developments inside Iran following the disputed Presidential election.
- RFE/RL extended its evening and midnight news magazine shows from 30 to 90 minutes, and is interrupting non-news programming as necessary with breaking updates.
- VOA established a new Twitter account in Persian, which attracted over 3,500 followers in less than a week. PNN’s main Web site, plus its YouTube, related blogs and Facebook pages all increased their postings of news, video and viewer comments. PNN has received, verified and broadcast hundreds of user-generated videos from inside Iran.
- RFE/RL posted a special blog to follow the election and aftermath, which is updated with photos, videos and comments from inside Iran. Radio Farda is also providing instant updates and analysis on its website, and Twitter.

VOA Persian News Network: Reaching nearly 30% of adults each week, VOA broadcasts seven hours of original TV programming daily, including a new one-hour breakfast show added to cover the aftermath of the election, repeated for a full 24 hours on satellite and streamed online. VOA simulcasts five hours of TV programs on medium wave and shortwave radio and produces a one-hour daily radio program.

RFE/RL Radio Farda: Broadcasts 24 hours a day on shortwave, medium wave and satellite, and streams online. Seventeen hours is live news, including evening and midnight magazine shows, and seven hours (off-peak) is music.

More than 30% of Iranians tune in to BBG broadcasts at least once a week.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, non-military international broadcasting, whose mission is to promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective, and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas. BBG broadcasting organizations 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 Marti). BBG broadcasts reach over 175 million people worldwide on a weekly basis.

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