Saturday, May 2, 2015

The VOA Radiogram

Map of "Media Freedom" received
via Fldigi during the VOA Radiogram
When I was the GM of the local FM radio station, I would give presentations about the station. I told people about chasing the news and taking picture with my phone which always produced at least a couple strange looks. "You take pictures?" someone would say.  I would always joke, "Sure, doesn't your radio display pictures? You might need to get a new radio!"

Nowadays, the truth is, you don't need a new radio, just a computer (or Android tablet or phone) and you CAN receive pictures with your radio. And while fellow hams may protest that this is nothing new (and they're right) what is new is seriousness with which the U.S. government is taking it.

Photo for a story on "eRadiators" received 
via Fldigi during the VOA Radiogram
The Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts hundreds of programs in dozens of languages around the world on shortwave frequencies. And up until fairly recently, it's all been audio, such as music and voice. But now, each week, the VOA is sending what they call a "Radiogram." Sent in a digital format (MFSK32, to be exact) the text-based radiogram includes 30 minutes of news and information. It also usually includes one or two pictures.

Anyone with a $10 SDR dongle (made in China by the millions), a computer, tablet or smartphone, and a free piece of software called Fldigi, can receive the VOA's Radiogram as well as the accompanying pictures.

The government is excited about this "new" project because it allows the VOA to send news, information and even graphics or photos to anywhere on the planet, especially places where the internet is severely censored or even blocked by oppressive regimes. What's more, the text or photos can be printed and distributed to others who might not have access to the broadcast, but less a "free press."

VOA Radiogram Logo
I recently received one of the VOA's Radiograms, including the photos. The lead story discussed a recent report detailing the state of the media in countries around the globe and graded each nation on the amount of "freedom" it allows its media. Here's the weekly VOA Radiogram schedule. I've included a couple of the pictures I received.