U.S. to crank up Radio Free Kosovo
April 8, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is building a ring of transmitters around Serbia to provide what it calls "factual" information about the conflict with Yugoslav President .
The first transmission is set to air Thursday night.
The chain of as many as six transmitters to be placed on the higher mountain ridges surrounding the region will use FM channels, designed to take advantage of a type of portable radio receiver known to be popular with people throughout the Serbia and its Kosovo province.
Marc Nathanson, chairman of the government's Broadcasting Board of Governors, told reporters Thursday that information coming from the Milosevic government is "purely biased and not factual about what is going on."
He cited one broadcast monitored in the region which suggested refugees are fleeing Kosovo to escape NATO bombings.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is becoming an independent agency under a reorganization involving the U.S. Information Agency and the State Department. Nathanson, a presidential appointee, oversees all non-military broadcasts originated by the federal government.
George Woodard, the director of engineering at the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, acknowledged that FM signals are easier to jam than traditional short-wave and medium wave (AM band) broadcasts.
But he told CNN in an interview that having a chain of FM transmitters distributed around the target area will help minimize vulnerability to any effort by Serb troops to block the signals.
Before the crisis in Kosovo began, Nathanson said audience surveys suggested 52 percent of the people in Serbia were getting their news from FM radio.
Nathanson said that with Thursday's inaugural broadcast, the United States also is starting around-the-clock Serbian programming. The material will be written and performed by staff and freelancers serving Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.
Those two services have primarily been using short-wave, medium-wave and Internet outlets for a few hours of Serbian-oriented programming daily. Officials said a counter on the Internet "page" has recorded tens of thousands of "hits" since the crisis began.
The software suggests people are downloading both text and audio files, possibly for wider, clandestine distribution beyond people with working phone lines and access to the Internet.
NATO strikes target Serb ground forces, complicate GI release efforts
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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