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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  United Kingdom. All realized not only the increasing popularity of radio, virtually all of it Arab- government operated, 2 but also its potential influence. A viable VOA Arabic Service became a part of the American presence in the Arab world. Unlike Britain, the United States did not have locations for mediumwave transmitters to reach the Middle East. For several years, the U.S. operated in the Mediterranean a former Coast Guard cutter, USS Courier, that served as a floating mediumwave relay station for Washington-originated Arabic broadcasts. The ship received shortwave signals from U.S.- based transmitters and then rebroadcast them to the Arab world via its onboard mediumwave facilities. In the meantime, the United States successfully negotiated an agreement with Greece allowing the VOA to construct a multi-transmitter and studio complex on the Mediterranean island of Rhodes, including a powerful mediumwave transmitter to replace the one on Courier. In February 1963, the Rhodes site was activated and the relay ship decommissioned. Part of the Arabic service was moved from Washington to Rhodes so that entertainment and some news and public affairs programming could originate in the Mediterranean. The motivation for this was to obtain good signal quality; it was not until the mid-1970s that satellite circuits became available, thereby enabling the Rhodes mediumwave transmitter to rebroadcast a high-quality signal from Washington (VOA Arabic broadcasts-- yesterday and today, n.d.), rather than one picked up on shortwave and then relayed. With the introduction of satellite relays, Arabic programming from the United States increased, and in the summer of 1977 the Rhodes-based Arabic service studios closed and moved to Washington, D. C. In 1976, VOA broadcast 49 hours per week in Arabic, increasing to 52.5 hours by 1980; the service was further expanded in the mid-1980s to 66.5 hours per week. This growth was made possible by increased VOA funding under the Reagan administration. Like the BBC’s Arabic Service, the VOA also increased daily Arabic programming hours, in this case to 9.75 following the August 1990 Gulf crisis. In fact, in September 1990, the VOA went to a 24-hour-per-day English and Arabic broadcasting schedule to the Middle East by using, among others, transmitters operated by the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting’s Radio Free Europe in Portugal (Marks, 1990).

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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United Kingdom. All realized not only the increasing popularity of radio, virtually all of it Arab-
government operated,
2
but also its potential influence.
A viable VOA Arabic Service became a part of the American presence in the Arab world.
Unlike Britain, the United States did not have locations for mediumwave transmitters to reach
the Middle East. For several years, the U.S. operated in the Mediterranean a former Coast
Guard cutter, USS Courier, that served as a floating mediumwave relay station for
Washington-originated Arabic broadcasts. The ship received shortwave signals from U.S.-
based transmitters and then rebroadcast them to the Arab world via its onboard mediumwave
facilities. In the meantime, the United States successfully negotiated an agreement with
Greece allowing the VOA to construct a multi-transmitter and studio complex on the
Mediterranean island of Rhodes, including a powerful mediumwave transmitter to replace the
one on Courier. In February 1963, the Rhodes site was activated and the relay ship
decommissioned. Part of the Arabic service was moved from Washington to Rhodes so that
entertainment and some news and public affairs programming could originate in the
Mediterranean. The motivation for this was to obtain good signal quality; it was not until the
mid-1970s that satellite circuits became available, thereby enabling the Rhodes mediumwave
transmitter to rebroadcast a high-quality signal from Washington (VOA Arabic broadcasts--
yesterday and today, n.d.), rather than one picked up on shortwave and then relayed.
With the introduction of satellite relays, Arabic programming from the United States
increased, and in the summer of 1977 the Rhodes-based Arabic service studios closed and
moved to Washington, D. C. In 1976, VOA broadcast 49 hours per week in Arabic,
increasing to 52.5 hours by 1980; the service was further expanded in the mid-1980s to 66.5
hours per week. This growth was made possible by increased VOA funding under the
Reagan administration. Like the BBC’s Arabic Service, the VOA also increased daily Arabic
programming hours, in this case to 9.75 following the August 1990 Gulf crisis. In fact, in
September 1990, the VOA went to a 24-hour-per-day English and Arabic broadcasting
schedule to the Middle East by using, among others, transmitters operated by the U.S. Board
for International Broadcasting’s Radio Free Europe in Portugal (Marks, 1990).


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