Monday, December 29, 2008

Radio jamming on the Korean Peninsula makes the border region one of the world's busiest places for radio signals. MW jamming is dominant in the Korean Metropolitan area including Seoul and the DMZ (the border area between South and North Korea). South Korea jams broadcasts from North Korea, but does not jam broadcasts from other countries. However North Korea jams both South Korean broadcasts and foreign shortwave broadcast services which it believes to be against the North Korean regime. These include the Korean-language service of the Voice of America (VOA), Free North Korea Radio (which originates from US transmitters in Guam), and several other services and broadcasts.

Radio jamming in South Korea

The South Korean government constantly jams most radio broadcasts from North Korea on medium-wave. According to the National Security Law in South Korea, it is illegal to tune into or publish frequencies of North Korean broadcasts. Despite the fact, one cannot be easily punished for just listening to those broadcasts individually. However, public listening and distribution of the recordings are criminal offences. A listener in the South Korean Metropolitan area (Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province) or near the DMZ who tunes across the MW band may hear strange signals on several MW frequencies, mixing with North Korean radio broadcasts. These include 657 kHz (PBS Pyongyang), 720 kHz (KCBS Wiwon), 819 kHz (KCBS Pyongyang), 882 kHz and 1080 kHz (KCBS Haeju).

The South Korean government broadcasts several bizarre-sounding jamming sounds (usually warbling or chugging) in an attempt to prevent their citizens from hearing radio broadcasts from the North. The medium-wave jamming by the South is sometimes too weak to completely block the North Korean broadcasts (the jamming transmission power seems to be between 20 and 50 kilowatts, while the targeted North Korean transmissions are of much higher transmission power -- typically over 500 kilowatts).

Radio jamming in North Korea

Since it is illegal for North Koreans to listen to anything other than state-run radio, all legal radio receivers are sold fixed so they can play only channels approved by the government. Because the receiver channels are fixed, North Korea does not need to jam any South Korean private television and radio broadcasts (such as MBC, SBS, etc). North Korea does jam some of South Korea's state-owned radio and television broadcasts. Before the (early 2007) closure of South Korean shortwave domestic radio broadcasts (which were often targeted at the North) 3930 kHz KBS Radio 1 and 6015 and 6135 kHz KBS Radio Korean Ethnicity (formerly KBS Radio Social Education) had been severely jammed by the North.

The type of the jamming on shortwave is 'Jet Plane Noise', which makes it very hard to hear the radio broadcasts. North Korea also jams South Korea's clandestine shortwave broadcast, Echo of Hope, and the South Korean international shortwave broadcasts of KBS World Radio on 5975 kHz (discontinued as of early 2007) and 7275 kHz. The South Korean national radio channel, KBS Radio 1 on 711 kHz medium-wave is also jammed by the North. Before the bilateral declaration in 2000, KBS Radio 1 used to deliver certain programmes (merged with then KBS Radio Social Education) which condemned the North Korean regime during at midnight. A visitor to coastal areas of the Yellow Sea (covering coastal parts of Gyeonggi Province, Incheon, Chungcheong, and sometimes Jeolla regions) who tunes into 711 kHz (KBS Radio 1 Seoul) may hear strange beeping sounds, which seem to be jamming signals from the North.

Strangely, the North does not usually jam the medium-wave transmissions of South Korea's broadcast towards-the-North, KBS Radio Korean Ethnicity (formerly KBS Radio Liberty Social Education) on 972 and 1134 kHz. It should be noted that KBS Radio Korean Ethnicity actually no longer targets North Koreans since the North-South Korea Joint Declaration on 15 June 2000. As of 15 August 2007, the radio channel has changed to a special radio broadcast for ethinic Koreans in Northeast China and Far Eastern Russia.

North Korean jamming of television broadcasting is relatively unusual, although the North Korean regime once severely jammed a South Korean state-owned television broadcast (KBS TV1 on VHF ch. 9 in Seoul) in the 1970s. Currently there seem to be some strange signals on VHF ch. 9 in Seoul which seem to be North Korean's jamming, especially in the evening. This jamming is not very effective.

Because of electricity shortages in North Korea these days, the radio jamming activities are not always consistent and are sometimes interrupted by power failures.

Protest to Libya after satellites jammed

British and US diplomats have protested to the Libyan government after two international satellites were illegally jammed, knocking off air dozens of TV and radio stations serving Britain and Europe and disrupting American diplomatic, military and FBI communications.

Among stations hit were digital broadcasts by Five, BBC World, CNN International, US sports channels, cable TV networks and 23 radio stations. According to an email sent by one of the satellite owners, Loral Skynet, the US state department said it "would take it into their own hands" unless the interference stopped.

Last night the Foreign Office confirmed it had raised the issue in talks between the British embassy in Tripoli and the Libyan government.

Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, said it was considering taking a complaint to the International Telecoms Union.

The jamming started on September 19 after the launch in London of a small British and Arab-owned commercial radio station broadcasting on human rights and freedom of speech issues to Libya.

Ten minutes after the station - initially known as Sout Libya - went on air a transponder carrying the station was jammed for 50 minutes along with other stations. The jamming stopped when Sout Libya stopped broadcasting.

The station relaunched as Sowt Alamel, this time through a new satellite called Telstar 12. As a precaution, the broadcasts were sent to the US first, and then beamed up to Telstar, making it impossible for anybody to jam it, except from America.

Yet the moment it went on air, the jamming started again, knocking out the other stations without affecting Sowt Alamel.

An anonymous email sent to a company which helped the station said: "We can tell you we know the reason for these problems, it is the presence of the so called 'ALAMAL' radio Audio channel on your satellite. This channel broadcasts terrorist propaganda, intended to spread terrorist ideas amongst the listeners mindes [sic]."

The station has now voluntarily agreed to suspend its service. Its director, Jalal Elgiathi, said: "Our radio station had commercial advertising and altogether we have lost £250,000."

Last night 10 parliamentary questions were tabled by Andrew Mackinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock and a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee. "We need a full explanation of what has happened and whether Britain has insisted as part of its trade talks with the Libyans that it respected international law."

Industry sources confirmed that Five had lost its signal from the satellite, but said that the situation had been "quite quickly resolved". Other broadcasters were unaware their channels were affected. A BBC World spokeswoman said: "We're consulting with our cable and satellite partners in the region to clarify the situation."


Joint Statement on the 60th Anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration

Joint Statement on the 60th Anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration

PRESS RELEASE - Washington, D.C., December 10, 2008 - Sixty years ago, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The representatives of international broadcasters - BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle, Radio France Internationale, Radio Netherlands Worldwide and the Voice of America – meeting in Paris today, recognized the important contribution the Declaration has made to promoting a better-informed world.

The meeting, at Radio France Internationale, noted the importance of Article 19 of the Declaration, which states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

They said that their organizations must continue to maintain the highest journalistic standards of accuracy, objectivity and truth in upholding the Declaration.

They noted that some governments have been implicated in harassing, detaining, expelling, threatening or - in extreme cases - killing journalists, committed as they are to freedom and information. They also expressed, with regret, the efforts by some governments to contravene the Declaration by interfering with international broadcasts through deliberate blocking of transmitters ("jamming") and blocking of websites.

The broadcasters underlined the continued determination of their broadcast organizations to overcome these obstacles in order to reach the largest possible audiences worldwide, through traditional means - radio and television - as well as the Internet and other emerging digital media.

These new media, they noted, offer unprecedented opportunities for interaction across national borders and between diverse groups of people, in keeping with the spirit of the Declaration, which enshrines the right to "receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Alain de Pouzilhac, CEO of Radio France Internationale said "Our meeting in Paris was very constructive and I am delighted that the five major international broadcasters share the same desire to broadcast objective and impartial news broadcasts to all publics."

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail askvoa@voanews.com.