Two times each year, representatives of the world’s international shortwave broadcasters get together at the High Frequency Coordinating Committee (HFCC) Conference, a gathering of about 100 individuals which takes place in a different part of the world each time it meets.
The August 2001 meeting of the HFCC was the first time in its 10-year history that the group has met in the Western Hemisphere. The venue was Montreal, Quebec, Canada and the meeting was hosted by Radio Canada International, in the capable hands of Gérald Theoret.
The HFCC Conference was unusual in that at most conferences, you expect a series of lectures, panel discussions and banquets -- and there are a few of these at the HFCC. But most of the conference is one big working session. The conference opened on Monday, Aug. 27 with some brief remarks by Denis Doucet, the new General Manager of Radio Canada International, who welcomed everyone to Montreal:
“Along the years, many HFCC meetings have been held in Europe, then in Africa and Asia. I think that the timing is perfect to hold a meeting in the Americas. It confirms your organisation in its global role and perspective. RCI is proud to host this first meeting on this continent, especially this year, which marks the 10th anniversary of the HFCC. Bienvenue au Canada, bienvenue a Montréal.
“RCI believes that the usage of short waves is an important platform for international broadcasting. The work that will be performed during this week is of prime importance to us and to the whole international broadcasting community as well. The sharing of our expertise and of our needs, the fruitful negotiations and the positive spirit of collaboration will not only result in better audibility for all of our services, but also shows the importance of multilateral talks and discussions as a necessary step to resolve potential difficulties and incompatibilities.”
Next to speak were Oldrich Cip, HFCC Chairman, who made a special mention of NASB’s participation in this conference; Horst Scholz of Deutsche Welle, who is HFCC Vice-Chairman; and Jan Willem Drexhage of Radio Netherlands. At that point, Oldrich Cip invited everyone to a 15-minute coffee break. About an hour later, the meeting did not appear to have re-convened yet; the participants were mostly sitting at their delegation’s tables punching numbers into their laptops. I commented to fellow NASB board member Doug Garlinger that the meeting seemed to be a bit behind schedule. Doug replied: “I think this is the meeting.” Indeed, he was right. This is what they do at an HFCC Conference. Everyone is in a big ballroom seated at long tables with placecards indicating the name of the delegation (i.e. the country or the organization or name of the station), and they constantly scan lists of frequency requirements looking for “collisions.”
The “requirements” are the lists of frequencies that each administration
submits to the HFCC in advance, indicating the start and end times, target
areas (CIRAF zones), transmitter site, power, antenna azimuth and any other
pertinent notes. These are all compiled into one big software file,
which is able to detect possible “collisions.” A collision is considered
to be a case where two or more stations are using the same frequency at
the same time to the same target area. A collision can also occur
when stations are on adjacent frequencies (i.e. 7385 and 7390 kHz) or when
they are targeting adjacent target zones (i.e CIRAF 27 and 28). The
HFCC has developed software which includes a very sophisticated calculation
procedure that determines exactly what is a collision.
When a collision is found, a station may decide unilaterally to move to another frequency. Or someone from the delegation may walk over to the delegation of the interfering station and try to negotiate a solution. There is an unwritten rule that is generally respected at the HFCC: the station which has been using a frequency for the longest period of time usually has preference over the station which has just begun to use that frequency. However, there are certain stations that usually refuse to negotiate, such as the Chinese, the Iranians and the Bulgarians. In that case, it might be necessary to move out of their way, or to just accept the fact that a collision is going to occur, and hope that it isn’t too bad. One person commented to me that even though certain countries refuse to negotiate, it’s a good thing that they at least participate in the HFCC conferences, because they might eventually come to accept the general practices of the group. Another type of negotiated solution may be where two stations are planning to use, say, 7490 kHz, and in the end one agrees to move up to 7495 and the other agrees to move down to 7485, leaving 10 kHz of space between them.
One of the concerns expressed at the HFCC is about so-called “wooden” transmitters. Certain countries (such as Bulgaria and, in the past, Russia) request far more frequency space than their number of transmitters could possibly fill. This may be in order to avoid collisions or to provide themselves with a frequency “reserve.” This can be a serious problem where, for example, Radio Bulgaria suddenly decides to use a frequency that Radio Prague has been using for a long time. Bulgaria generally refuses to move, and Prague doesn’t know if Bulgaria really plans to use this frequency or not.
There is another point of view on the “wooden” transmitters. George Jacobs prefers to call this an “inventory” in the case of certain stations (including many U.S. shortwave stations) which sell airtime. These stations often prefer to have an “inventory” of available frequencies and airtimes, since they cannot predict exactly what the demand for airtime will be so far in advance. The difference appears to be that stations reserving some “inventory” airtime do actually have the capacity to transmit the number of hours they are reserving (based on the number of transmitters they have), whereas in the abusive situations, those stations do not have enough transmitters to possibly fill all the airtime they are reserving.
One other important point is that the HFCC allows for the coordination of out-of-band frequencies, which the ITU’s lists do not include. Given the huge amount of out-of-band broadcasting going on today, this is a very important distinction. Also, the HFCC allows for the coordination of shortwave broadcasts on the tropical bands, although this is generally limited to the international broadcasters and the higher-powered domestic tropical band stations. The ITU does not coordinate shortwave frequencies below 5950 kHz. For these reasons, the ITU has become virtually “irrelevant” to the HFCC coordination process, as one conference delegate put it. The point is that the HFCC coordinated list is far more comprehensive than that of the ITU.
The HFCC conferences are now really joint HFCC-ASBU conferences. The ASBU is the Arab States Broadcasting Union, and since 1998 it has participated in the HFCC Conferences. Altogether, the HFCC-ASBU coordinates about 85% of the world’s shortwave frequency usage. And the HFCC’s database is added to that of the ABU-HFC (Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union) to produce a combined database that is extremely comprehensive. The HFCC and the ABU have agreed to hold joint frequency coordination meetings occasionally; the first one was held in 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
At the August 2001 HFCC Conference, the NASB representatives were placed together with the FCC delegation, which was renamed the FCC/NASB delegation. Tom Polzin of the FCC’s International branch was the government’s representative. I attended as NASB Vice President, Doug Garlinger as NASB Board Member, and George Jacobs as NASB special technical representative and on behalf of his own organization and clients. Stanley Leinwoll represented WYFR and WEWN. There were three or four additional representatives of WEWN, including Glen Tapley, Engineering Manager. In addition, George Ross, KTWR Frequency Coordination Manager, was part of the FCC/NASB delegation.
The software used by most conference delegates for frequency planning was produced by the HFCC. The ITU has a similar program available on its website (www.itu.org). Many participants were also using a commercial software program produced by Bernd Friedewald of the International Listening Guide. Tom Polzin said the advantage of the ILG software is that the database includes frequency information from other sources besides the HFCC and ABU, and also includes actual monitoring data. The disadvantage, said Tom, is that the ILG software is quite complicated to set up and use compared to the HFCC software.
Bernd Friedewald is now doing the frequency management for NASB member station WMLK. And let me just cite one example of how a potential frequency collision was resolved by Bernd, myself and Tom Polzin all being within about 10 feet of one another at the conference. Bernd was looking for a clear frequency for WMLK to use from 0400-0900 UTC for the A02 season. The frequency of 9955 kHz looked good to him, but he saw that WRMI is planning to use it from 1000-1300 UTC for the B01 season. Bernd asked me if we planned to use it for the same time period for the A02 season, and I explained that we would be using it from 0900-1200 due to the North American time change in April. So it was still available for WMLK from 0400-0900; WRMI would just have to do a “crash start” at 0900 (i.e. no interval signal before the top of the hour). Bernd then submitted the request to Tom Polzin, who came to me to ask if we had any plans to expand usage of 9955 for the A02 season. I told him that we had no such plans, and that in fact I had already discussed this with Bernd. So Tom approved it on the spot.
As a special item for this HFCC Conference, Hai Pham of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Radiocomunication Bureau in Geneva produced a very nice CD-ROM with the tentative B01 HFCC database. His program shows such things as spectrum occupancy and propagation predictions regarding each station listing’s basic circuit reliability, field strength and power received.
The FCC/NASB had one of the largest delegations at the HFCC Conference. The Iranians had 7 persons. The Russians had about four. There was almost a disaster because of visa problems with the Russian delegation. The head of the delegation had not received a visa just a few days before the conference was due to begin, and it was unclear if anyone from the Russian delegation would be able to attend unless their boss’ visa was granted. The HFCC and RCI went to great lengths and various diplomatic channels to get the visa issued, but in the end their efforts were in vain. Nevertheless, the Russians allowed three or four of their representatives who were already in Montreal to carry out the coordination work at the conference. This was extremely important, since the Russians comprise such a large percentage of the HF frequency requirements. Incidentally, one of the Russian women -- Antonina Ostakhova -- asked me to explain to her the difference between the FCC and the NASB. After I explained this to her, she shook my hand and said matter-of-factly in English: “I think you will be attending our conference in Russia,” referring to the fact that the Russians are hoping to host the August 2002 HFCC Conference in Moscow or St. Petersburg. I’m not sure if she was inviting me or ordering me to attend.
Communications was no problem at the HFCC Conference. As I mentioned, many people had their own laptop computers. Then there were about 10 computers in the back of the meeting room with very fast Internet connections for e-mail, web browsing, word processing, etc. The only slight complication was that the meeting room was in the basement of the Hotel Renaissance du Parc, and cellular telephone signals did not enter there. But if you took an escalator up to the ground floor, your cell phone would work just fine.
A few people at the conference commented to me that this frequency coordination can really be done by e-mail, without the necessity of having a conference twice a year. George Jacobs told me this was the first HFCC conference he has ever attended personally, but he always submits the requirements for his client stations and has always been able to resolve conflicts without attending in person. In fact, Doug Weber from HCJB said that the conference only resolves about 30% of the “collisions,” and the rest have to be handled afterwards by e-mail and phone anyway. But everyone, including Doug Weber, agreed that it is important to attend the meetings to establish personal contacts, so that when you contact people later by e-mail or telephone, you know each other personally and can resolve the collisions amicably. Oldrich Cip made the point that some of the Latin American (and other smaller) shortwave stations may never have the funds to attend the HFCC Conference in person, but he said an effort is being made to enable these stations to submit their frequency requirements to the conferences electronically. In fact, four stations in Latin America did this for the first time with this conference, and their requirements were added to the HFCC database.
Latin American Participation and NASB’s Role
The conference organizers had hoped to get some more of the Latin American shortwave stations to attend, since this was the first HFCC conference ever held in the Americas. HCJB regularly attends, as does Christian Vision, which has a station in Chile. A few weeks before the conference, HFCC Chairman Oldrich Cip asked me to utilize some of my contacts with Latin American stations and try to get Radio Mexico International, Radio Educación (the station of the Mexican Ministry of Education), Radio For Peace International in Costa Rica and Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior to at least participate by sending their frequency requirements for the B01 season to be included in the database. When I contacted them by telephone (or e-mail in one case) and explained the benefits to them of submitting their frequency requirements to the HFCC to try to reduce interference, they all cooperated by sending their B01 schedule information, which I passed along to Vladislav Cip, who is the HFCC secretary and the one who prepares the frequency database.
The HFCC board members were very happy to have the new participation by Latin American stations, and they made mention of this several times at the conference, giving credit to the NASB for getting these Latin American stations to join the HFCC coordination process. I had a lengthy discussion on Wednesday with Jan Willem Drexhage and Oldrich Cip about this. They said they would appreciate it if we could continue to help them get Latin American stations to participate in the future, as a form of cooperation between the NASB, the HFCC and our shortwave colleagues in Latin America.
The conference language was English. Those who did not speak English (like some of the Russians and Ukrainians) had translators with them.
Each delegation had a file tray (referred to as a “pigeon hole”) for distributing documents. People would put general notices and brochures in the delegation pigeon holes, as well as notices of collisions and suggested solutions. Unfortunately, there was only one tray for the large FCC/NASB delegation, so a lot of sharing was necessary. We placed the NASB position papers for the WRC-2003 issues in each of these “pigeon holes” for the delegations.
On Monday afternoon there was a panel discussion on the history of HF frequency coordination. At this session, George Jacobs delivered his paper which is reprinted in this issue of the NASB Newsletter. Shortwave frequency consultant Stanley Leinwoll also participated in the discussion. He said “there certainly is” a future for shortwave as it’s the cheapest method of reaching a large number of people around the world. George Jacobs agreed, noting that shortwave radio receivers are also very cheap. Oldrich Cip, HFCC Chairman, said “the shortwave bands from 5 to 30 Megahertz will always be here.” With the coming change to DRM, he said, shortwave has quite a future ahead of it. Geoff Spells from Merlin Communications said he thinks there will be an increase in demand for shortwave airtime, especially when it goes digital, but the demand will be from a different type of client. He said that entertainment programs and programs for domestic audiences on shortwave will increase greatly during the next 10-20 years. George Jacobs pointed out that despite all the talk in some circles about shortwave being a “dying medium,” the work of the HFCC shows quite the opposite. The number of transmitter hours worldwide has not been reduced; it’s pretty stable. Also, many organizations are now selling shortwave airtime, and in many cases there is more demand than transmitter availability. George said the prime airtime on Merlin’s new shortwave facility in the United Arab Emirates was all sold out in just two or three days.
Monday’s session ended at 6 p.m., as did Tuesday’s and Thursday‘s.
(On Wednesday there was a dinner at 7 p.m., and Friday’s session ended
at about noon.) Except for the Wednesday night dinner and a farewell
drink on Friday after the closing, there were no social activities at the
HFCC Conference. However, many people went out informally for lunch
and dinner, and throughout the week for shopping and sightseeing in Montreal.
The NASB position papers on WRC-2003 issues were quite widely read at the HFCC. George Jacobs, Doug Garlinger and Oldrich Cip all commented that it was good for the NASB to circulate its views on those issues. Tom Polzin of the FCC agreed, since they were clearly labeled as the NASB’s viewpoints and not the official viewpoints of the U.S. government. Several conference delegates expressed to me their interest in these positions.
Shortwave Antenna Survey
Tuesday’s session was very similar to Monday’s from an observer’s point of view. There were two seminars on Tuesday afternoon. The first was a talk by Hai Pham of the ITU’s Radiocommunications Bureau about a shortwave antenna survey he is presently conducting. The basic idea is that the ITU wants more accurate data about shortwave antennas in use by stations around the world in order to make better, more accurate propagation predictions and interference analyses. Many antennas are already on the list on the ITU’s web site (www.itu.org), but many are not. They want specific parameters for all antennas that are not on the current list. They would like to have the information by February of 2002 before the A02 Conference. This is an electronic survey, and the software is available on the ITU web site. Or you can request a copy of the software on CD-ROM from: email@example.com.
The second talk was an update on DRM by a member of the French delegation. DRM has 67 members now -- 44 full members and 23 associate members. Seven manufacturers have representatives on the steering board. The latest tests have shown that DRM can work within the present bandwidth and with mobile receivers.
A Wealth of Personalities
I met a lot of interesting people at the HFCC Conference -- some of
them old friends like Arto Mujunen of the International Broadcasting Bureau
(IBB) monitoring office in Helsinki, and many new friends like Ehard Goddijn,
Frequency Manager of Radio Netherlands. At Wednesday night’s Hospitality
Dinner, many of the participants brought their spouses and children to
enjoy the leg of lamb, fillet of marlin, Canadian cheeses and a variety
of tempting desserts. My wife Thais and I sat at a table with Oldrich
Cip, HFCC Chairman; a delegation from France; Alexander Serdyuk, director
of the Ukrainian transmitter control center; and his translator.
I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman from TDF in France,
who also represented DRM. He believes that the advent of digital
shortwave will present many good opportunities for commercial shortwave
broadcasting which have not existed in the past. I also met Rodgers
Gamuti and Kathy Otto from the South African shortwave company Sentech,
which transmits Channel Africa and various other services.
After dinner, any remnants of the Cold War were dispelled when two participants
from the Russian and British delegations staged an impromptu comedy routine
which had the whole room rolling with laughter.
Bienvenue a Montréal
Montreal was a very good location for an international conference of this type. It is fully bilingual (English and French, although certainly with a preference for French), a very European flair, wonderful restaurants (French and otherwise) and has endless possibilities for tourism. Even with a five-day conference, I did not manage to find much free time for sightseeing. I did escape long enough to do a bit of shopping right in the area of the hotel and on the famous St. Catherine Street, and to visit the very touristy Old Port area and the Basilica of Notre Dame. The Basilica was built around 1820 and has a stunning blue-lighted background behind its very ornate altar. It has a very nice organ and daily concerts are offered. A quick glance at the guest book showed that people from literally all over the world visit this well-known church every day. Unfortunately, the conference agenda did not include any group tours of Montreal’s primary tourist sites, but many people toured the city on their own at some point during the week.
FCC and NASB Participation
By Wednesday afternoon, several members of the NASB delegation had left, so I had a fair amount of time to talk with Tom Polzin of the FCC during the rest of the conference. Tom welcomed the participation of the NASB and some of its member stations in the HFCC conference. He said he doesn’t know the minor details of each station, its equipment, programming, languages, etc. So it’s to the station’s benefit to be at the HFCC. Of course, the smaller stations -- and many of the larger ones too -- cannot afford to send a representative to each meeting, but the idea of sending one or more NASB representatives to look out for the interests of its member stations could certainly be appealing.
Tom Polzin pointed out that each member organization pays an annual fee to the HFCC, and the fee is based on the number of stations or transmitters or some such formula. The FCC pays about $1,500 per year, which is one of the highest membership fees. The funds are used to pay for HFCC expenses. The HFCC has one full-time employee, Vladislav Cip (son of Oldrich Cip), who receives a modest salary for maintaining and constantly updating all of the software and database information. Tom said that if the FCC were to stop attending the HFCC meetings and the stations (or the NASB) were to take on this work by themselves, they would have to pay this $1,500 fee which the FCC currently pays. I told him that the consensus of opinion within NASB at this point is that we don’t want the FCC to stop attending the HFCC conferences, but that we can perhaps attend as well to help out, especially if the FCC is able to reduce our frequency coordination fees. Tom reiterated that this help would be most welcome, since it is difficult for one person to handle the frequency requirements and collisions for 20-some different licensees.
It is worth noting that some organizations like Adventist World Radio and Trans World Radio are already members of the HFCC on their own, since they also have stations outside of the U.S. Likewise, HCJB has long been a member of HFCC and is also an associate member of NASB. So these organizations attend the conferences anyway. But, for example, KTWR -- which belongs to Trans World Radio -- sends its own representative (George Ross) who is part of the FCC or FCC/NASB delegation rather than the TWR delegation. He has enough work to just coordinate KTWR’s frequencies, and that takes part of the workload off of the other TWR people. George said that this was the third HFCC conference he has attended, and this was the first one where he was not the only one in the FCC delegation besides Tom Polzin. KTWR has budgeted his attendance as a regular item now. They feel that it is actually a very worthwhile financial investment for them to have someone at the conferences who can resolve frequency problems before they occur.
Another important point about frequency coordination efforts that some people may be unaware of is that the FCC attends the G6 coordination meetings, which are held four times each year. G6 consists of Merlin, the IBB, the FCC, Radio Canada International, Deutsche Welle and Radio Netherlands. Together, these six organizations represent a large chunk of the worldwide HF frequency requirements. They coordinate their own schedules and resolve collisions in advance of each HFCC conference, making the work at the HFCC much more manageable. So as Tom explained, the frequency coordination process is continuous all year long, being carried on at meetings, by phone, fax and e-mail. But the process is a lot easier, noted Tom, when you know each other personally from the conferences. He spends a good percentage of his time on frequency coordination problems, as well as handling all of the applications for new shortwave stations, construction permits, etc. He would not mind if the NASB were to take over frequency coordination altogether, making his job a lot easier. But he also understands that we like having him at the HFCC conferences in order to obtain instant approval for frequency changes, etc.
Tom Polzin showed me a list of collisions that still existed for FCC stations at the end of Thursday. It was about 8 or 9 pages long. But he said that many of these have existed for a long time and the stations involved have decided to just live with the situations. (Perhaps the interference did not turn out to be as bad as expected in some cases.) The IBB also had a long list of collisions that still existed at the end of the conference.
More Spectrum for Shortwave Broadcasters?
I also had a discussion with Tom about the idea of expanding the shortwave broadcast bands at the upcoming WRC-2003 conference. We discussed the pros and cons of expanding the bands. Tom thinks that overall it might be good to leave them the way they are presently, and continue to use out-of-band frequencies on a non-interference basis, because at present only a limited number of countries (including the U.S.) permit this out-of-band usage. If you officialize the expanded bands, Tom pointed out, “everybody will be rushing to use these previously out-of-band frequencies,” and the same kind of congestion will occur as presently exists within the bands. The disadvantage of leaving the bands at their present limits is the possibility of conflicts with fixed services users such as Australia on out-of-band frequencies. But Tom said that over 50% of frequency usage by private U.S. broadcasters is now out-of-band, and the number of interference complaints received from fixed services is extremely small.
On the issue of the use of digital transmissions in the expanded shortwave bands, Tom Polzin said these expanded frequencies were supposed to be restricted to more efficient uses of the spectrum like SSB. Given this parameter, he thinks it will be hard to justify using the expanded bands for double sideband (DSB) broadcasts, and even harder to justify for digital broadcasts, which have so far not proved to be any more efficient than DSB, and perhaps even less efficient. So this is another reason, he said, why it may be better to leave the band limits alone and just continue to use the out-of-band frequencies on a non-interference basis.
An interesting note is the use of the tropical bands by U.S. private broadcasters. Tom Polzin said that so far this usage has been only on out-of-band frequencies (i.e. frequencies that are just outside the official tropical bands), so these transmissions should not be causing interference to legitimate in-band low-power users in tropical countries. The U.S. justification of this usage is the same as for any other out-of-band usage (on a non-interference basis). As noted earlier, the ITU does not coordinate frequencies below 5950 kHz, but the HFCC does.
Future HFCC Conference Locations
On Thursday afternoon the plenary session took place. A deadline of October 19th was announced for the collection of data for the final B01 operational schedule. It was announced that the A02 HFCC Conference will take place in Bonn, Germany on February 4-8, 2002, with a deadline of January 4th for the submission of A02 frequency requirements. The B02 conference will take place in August or September in either Russia or Bangkok, and the A03 conference will be in either Bangkok or South Africa. Some people would like to see a future HFCC Conference in the United States, but it is feared that there might be visa problems for some of the delegations, such as those from Libya, Iran and Cuba if they want to attend. Stanley Leinwoll suggested that a meeting at the United Nations in New York might be a possibility, since the HFCC has such close cooperation with the ITU (a UN organization), and since there would likely be fewer visa problems. There was some discussion of changing the time of the second semi-annual meeting from late August to the second week of September, but no decision was made yet.
Also at the plenary session were brief reports from various HFCC working groups dealing with such issues as software, the ITU antenna survey, the HFCC website, the 2003 World Administrative Radio Conference and power line interference to HF frequencies in Europe. Financial matters were discussed briefly, and the NASB was once again warmly welcomed as an observer and thanked for our assistance in obtaining the participation of Latin American stations in the conference.
After one last session of coordination activities on Friday morning, the HFCC Conference came to an end just after noon on Friday. Denis Doucet, general manager of RCI, appeared once again to thank everyone for attending, and he made a very interesting -- if perhaps unrealistic -- suggestion that after doing all of this frequency coordination work, stations should end all of their transmissions with an announcement that “programs from Radio X will follow shortly on this same frequency.” Oldrich Cip remarked that perhaps those involved in international radio programming should follow the example of the engineering and technical people in undertaking the type of worldwide cooperation that is seen at the HFCC conferences.
Some General Conclusions
One thing that stood out clearly at the conference was the large amount of transmitter relays, exchanges and airtime purchase agreements that are currently occurring in international HF broadcasting. Various agencies such as Swisscom, Deutsche Telekom and Merlin distributed brochures offering airtime to interested parties. With the end of the Cold War, many of the shortwave facilities formerly used for intensive political propaganda purposes are now available for rent by almost anyone with sufficient funds and a message for the world.
The other thing, of course, is that NASB will have to consider whether we want to continue our participation in future HFCC conferences (beginning with the conference in Germany next February), and what the level of this participation should be. Of course there are various factors that need to be considered, including finances, the status of our FCC fee reduction efforts, etc. But after seeing firsthand the tremendous amount of work that goes on at these conferences and the great impact it ultimately has on all of our stations, it seems that some form of participation by NASB is extremely desirable and in our best interests from both a technical and public relations point of view. This could be anything from peripheral participation by e-mail and electronic frequency requirement submissions, to sending one or more NASB representatives to the HFCC Conference -- if not to every one, then perhaps to every other one. This will undoubtedly be a matter of discussion for the NASB during the coming weeks and months. It is my hope that this report and those of my colleagues who also attended the Montreal conference will enable us to make a more informed decision in this regard.
HFCC Remarks by George Jacobs
August 27, 2001
Today is a very special occasion in the history of High Frequency or Shortwave broadcasting. It marks the 10th anniversary of the High Frequency Coordination Conference, affectionately known as the HFCC. This is its first meeting to be held in North America. It is also the 40th anniversary of the two major independent regional coordinating groups from which the HFCC was formed in 1991. Today also marks the 42nd birthday of the HF frequency coordination procedure that has made all of this possible. It was "born" at the World Administrative Radio Conference of 1959.
Since you are the generation of men and women who will carry forward the torch that was lit at WARC-1959, as one who was there let me take a few moments to recount for you the birth of the HF frequency coordinating procedure.
A press release made during the closing days of the Conference sums it up as follows:
"November 26, 1959 marked one of the most important days in the World Administrative Radio Conference of 1959. On this day a frequency management coordination procedure for HF broadcasting was approved with a vote of 36 in favor, 10 against, with 6 abstentions. The procedure will require the seasonal coordination of projected operational broadcast schedules through the ITU six months prior to implementation. This will permit ample time for ITU technical examination and for the resolution of identified frequency conflicts directly between the parties concerned. The procedure is based upon an original proposal submitted by the USA earlier in the Conference. Its adoption represents the first overwhelming endorsement of international coordination in the field of HF broadcasting. The new procedure is a drastic change from the Draft Assignment Plan concept that was rejected by the Conference after a twelve-year study by the ITU. It hopefully lays the foundation for a reduction in interference, and an improvement in the technical quality of HF broadcast reception.
"A USA proposal to include the frequency management coordination procedure in the ITU Radio Regulations, where it will have international treaty status, rather than be annexed to the Regulations as a less binding Resolution was supported by an overwhelming majority. The provisions of this procedure will become Article 10 of the ITU Radio Regulations and will go into effect March 1, 1960."
Despite the division of Europe into west and east by a political "Iron Curtain;" despite the "war of words" through ever expanding and more powerful HF broadcasting facilities on both sides, and despite the intentional interference or jamming of western broadcasts, the coordination procedure was introduced and developed independently on both sides. In the west a regional coordinating committee was formed consisting of U.S. Government broadcasters (VOA, RFE and Radio Liberty) and the FCC representing the U.S. private broadcasters, the CBC (now RCI), BBC, Radio Nederland and the Deutsche Welle. This group, called the "Group of Six," has met at least four times a year since their first meeting in 1961, and they continue to meet to this day.
Quite independently, at about the same time in the east a similar regional coordinating group was formed consisting of Soviet and eastern European broadcasting organizations. When the Cold War ended in 1990, Oldrich Cip of Czech Radio immediately started the process of bringing both regional groups together. His success in doing this marked the first meeting of the HFCC in 1991. Oldrich is to be congratulated for his ingenuity in getting the HFCC started, and for his leadership in its development during the past 10 years. You ladies and gentlemen are now responsible for coordinating close to 80% of the global usage of HF broadcasting frequencies. The success of the HFCC is more than any one of us could have envisaged at WARC-59. Aside from reducing interference, it has established a reliable database of actual frequency usage. Those of us now planning for WRC-03 are using that database to justify additional allocations below 10 MHz. HFCC usage records confirm that more than 55% of the world's HF broadcasts take place on frequencies below 10 MHz, where congestion remains high due to the lack of sufficient spectrum.
Now back to 1959 for a moment. I had the privilege of being the USA spokesperson for introducing the coordination procedure at WARC-1959. Credit for the idea of frequency coordination must go, however, to Roger Legge, a member of my staff at VOA. We were angered and frustrated over the increasingly harsh noises of interference and the jumbled babble of congestion in the HF broadcasting bands, and the inability of the ITU to find a solution. Roger felt strongly that a radically new approach had to be taken for managing HF broadcast frequencies. He assumed that being able to coordinate operational frequency schedules each season before implementation, would produce a strong incentive to resolve many frequency conflicts before they actually happened. Events of the past 40 years have proven him to have been right.
I worked very closely for several months with Roger in drafting the entire frequency coordination procedure that we had in mind for presentation at WARC-59. It was adopted much as it was written, and although it has been enlarged and revised at several subsequent Conferences, in principle, it remains much the same to this very day.
The list of representatives from so many countries who helped the passage of the coordination procedure at WARC-59 is much too long to mention in the short time I have here. But since Canada is our host I would like to take a moment to honor two Canadians, without whose devoted assistance we might not be meeting here today. They were J. Murillo Laport, Chief Engineer of the shortwave arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Harold Frederick Jackson of the Canadian Department of Transport. Harold, a young man in his mid-thirties, became quite ill while in Geneva, but he continued to devote full time to the passage of the coordination procedure. Regretfully, he died just a few months after returning to Canada at the end of the Conference.
Let this meeting here today in this beautiful city of Montreal be a
tribute to them.
by Doug Garlinger,
I think the meeting was a huge success for NASB. We were received extremely well. In the first few minutes of the opening session on Monday, both Jeff and I (and the NASB) were specifically welcomed and acknowledged in front of the whole group by the Chairman, Oldrich Cip of Radio Prague. Jeff White was gratefully acknowledged a second time as the individual responsible forgetting some cooperation (and schedules) from stations in Argentina, Mexico and Latin America in general.
Throughout the meeting everyone was extremely courteous to us and the NASB seemed to be accepted as part of the FCC delegation with no reservations. Tom Polzin never had so much help before. Tom was very pleased with NASB's attendance and assistance. He said it was nice to have help in working out the various collisions and it took the workload off of him for much of the NASB station collisions.
On Wednesday before I left, Oldrich Cip made a special point of looking me up and emphasizing that he appreciated NASB's attendance and that he looked forward to future involvement by NASB.
I cannot imagine that the meeting could have gone better for NASB and I think the door is open for as much participation as we wish.
Pacific Perspectives on the HFCC
by George Ross,
KTWR Frequency Manager
KTWR took an initiative to participate at the HFCC conference as a result of the combined HFCC/ASBU/ABU conference that was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August of 2000. The FCC welcomed our willingness to become involved and encouraged us to coordinate through our own frequency collisions at the conference.
The coordination process is a large task. It is a full time venue that includes keeping consistent data of used and available frequencies, propagation analysis, and concise collision information. This all comes together at the HFCC conference as broadcasters work out their broadcast schedules in an efficient way with this information.
Since the initial conference in Malaysia, KTWR has made the decision to be involved in the HFCC conferences. It has been productive in a number of ways:
1) Direct resolution of conflicts with other broadcasters - having a
personal part in dealing with our collisions. (There are quite a few collisions
not only from other broadcasters in our target zone, but
also due to other broadcasts from outside the Asia-Pacific region.) Developing working relationships with other broadcasters is a key to a solution of collision issues.
2) These conferences also bring to the forefront technological breakthroughs
and give the best indication as to the direction other broadcasters are
moving. Software has been developed and upgraded to provide the necessary
information for logistically correct analysis of target zone coverage,
the extent of interference of transmission paths of other broadcasters,
and an up to date database of submissions of the HF broadcasters.
New data is available concerning technology, new directions, innovations,
software. For instance the progress of DRM digital shortwave broadcasting is presented at these conferences. How will this affect broadcasting and coordinating? Geoff Spells of Merlin mentioned that he feels digital quality will equalize the field; there will be growth but it will take time. There will be more congestion to deal with in the coordination process.
As time goes on, new technology brings new efficiency to shortwave broadcasting. Shortwave is still the most effective way to reach the masses of people around the world. George Jacobs mentioned at the conference in Montreal there is more programming than there is available airtime. The congestion of the meterbands is quite evident. There is also the added factor that broadcasters are all moving to lower frequencies due to the sunspot cycle now in the decline.
It is quite an encouragement to participate with other broadcasters
in an ongoing effort to provide better broadcasts and clearer reception
while looking to decrease the interference problems on a global basis.
Welcome to NASB’s Newest Member
The NASB would like to welcome WTJC, operated by Grace Missionary Baptist
Church in Newport, North Carolina, as its newest member station.
Over half of the FCC shortwave radio licensees in the United States are
now members of NASB. We cordially invite the remaining stations to
join us as well.
Adventist World Radio
Assemblies of Yahweh
Family Stations, Inc.
Far East Broadcasting Company
Fundamental Broadcasting Network
Herald Broadcasting Syndicate
High Adventure Ministries
LeSea Broadcasting Corporation
Radio Miami International
Trans World Radio
World Christian Broadcasting
WEWN Shortwave Radio
NASB Associate Members
Continental Electronics Corporation
George Jacobs and Associates
HCJB World Radio