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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Voice of America successfully negotiated an agreement with Bahrain permitting the VOA to install a 50-KW mediumwave transmitter on the island nation located about 20 miles off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. The facility allowed the satellite-fed retransmission of Arabic from Washington, D.C., that would reach Kuwait and southern Iraq. Rebroadcasts of VOA English started in late January 1991, but because of stalling by Bahrain’s government (apparently because the government did not want to be accused by other Arab states of being a U.S. broadcasting outpost), Arabic was delayed until March--after the Gulf War was over (United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, 1991). This situation highlights some of the frustrations faced by international broadcasters. It is difficult to get a signal--particularly a mediumwave signal--to an intended audience. Negotiations with other governments and the relocation of transmission facilities are time-consuming and expensive. Often a crisis is over by the time host-country negotiations are concluded. The Gulf War did bring a tangible benefit to VOA in the form of Kuwait-based shortwave transmitters and a 600-KW mediumwave transmitter, which is primarily intended to reach Iraq but will also be helpful in providing VOA’s Arabic programming to the eastern part of the Gulf. Until late April 2002, when Radio Sawa started broadcasting around the clock from the VOA’s Kuwait mediumwave transmitter, some of that transmission time was used by the Farsi Service to reach Iran. Since 1983 there have been programming changes and the service has been reorganized and moved to new offices in the VOA building. It is a lack of funds that has caused a dramatic reduction in VOA's Arabic hours. Down from 91 hours per week in 1992, the service transmitted only 52.5 hours per week in 1996, the same number of hours as in 1983. Like many other international broadcasters, the VOA has had trouble adjusting to a new post-Cold War electronic media environment. Because of decreased funding, the Voice of America has curtailed or eliminated some language services. In 1999, VOA Arabic had decreased to 42 hours per week. Surveys show that among the major Western broadcasters to the area, the VOA's Arabic Service almost always ranked third in terms of audience size in the Middle East, behind French government owned Radio Monte Carlo Middle East

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Voice of America successfully negotiated an
agreement with Bahrain permitting the VOA to install a 50-KW mediumwave transmitter on
the island nation located about 20 miles off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. The facility
allowed the satellite-fed retransmission of Arabic from Washington, D.C., that would reach
Kuwait and southern Iraq. Rebroadcasts of VOA English started in late January 1991, but
because of stalling by Bahrain’s government (apparently because the government did not
want to be accused by other Arab states of being a U.S. broadcasting outpost), Arabic was
delayed until March--after the Gulf War was over (United States Advisory Commission on
Public Diplomacy, 1991). This situation highlights some of the frustrations faced by
international broadcasters. It is difficult to get a signal--particularly a mediumwave signal--to
an intended audience. Negotiations with other governments and the relocation of
transmission facilities are time-consuming and expensive. Often a crisis is over by the time
host-country negotiations are concluded. The Gulf War did bring a tangible benefit to VOA in
the form of Kuwait-based shortwave transmitters and a 600-KW mediumwave transmitter,
which is primarily intended to reach Iraq but will also be helpful in providing VOA’s Arabic
programming to the eastern part of the Gulf. Until late April 2002, when Radio Sawa started
broadcasting around the clock from the VOA’s Kuwait mediumwave transmitter, some of that
transmission time was used by the Farsi Service to reach Iran.
Since 1983 there have been programming changes and the service has been reorganized
and moved to new offices in the VOA building. It is a lack of funds that has caused a
dramatic reduction in VOA's Arabic hours. Down from 91 hours per week in 1992, the
service transmitted only 52.5 hours per week in 1996, the same number of hours as in 1983.
Like many other international broadcasters, the VOA has had trouble adjusting to a new
post-Cold War electronic media environment. Because of decreased funding, the Voice of
America has curtailed or eliminated some language services. In 1999, VOA Arabic had
decreased to 42 hours per week. Surveys show that among the major Western broadcasters
to the area, the VOA's Arabic Service almost always ranked third in terms of audience size in
the Middle East, behind French government owned Radio Monte Carlo Middle East


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