June 23rd, 2009 – 9:11 UTC by Andy Sennitt
The US Broadcasting Board of Governors has increased television, radio and Internet transmissions of the Persian-language programmes 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.
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 21 June 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 14 June.
Use of the Internet 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 was so great that its proxy service reached full capacity, resulting in some visitors not reaching the site. The BBG is 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 four hours of TV programs on mediumwave and shortwave radio and produces a one-hour daily radio programme.
RFE/RL Radio Farda: Broadcasts 24 hours a day on shortwave, mediumwave 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.
(Source: Broadcasting Board of Governors)
Additional shortwave frequencies for Radio Farda are as follows (all times UTC):
- 0130-0300 on 5885 kHz
- 0130-0830 on 15475 kHz
- 0230-0400 on 9480 kHz
- 0300-0500 on 9805 kHz
- 0300-1200 on 5885 kHz
- 0500-0930 on 7220 kHz
- 0800-1200 on 17880 kHz
- 0830-1130 on 15610 kHz
- 1330-1400 on 15330 kHz
- 1400-1500 on 5870 kHz
- 1400-1800 on 15330 kHz
- 1500-1630 on 11560 kHz
- 1530-1730 on 15475 kHz
- 1600-1700 on 7580 kHz