If you think about it, there are only two things that make a
broadcast a success or failure. It must be easily heard/seen by
the audience AND the programming must be interesting enough to
get and hold the audiences' attention. If you can't do these
two things, you're not going to have much success.
As long as we're doing this...
So...if you're going to spend 10's of millions of dollars
annually on broadcasting, you should make every effort to do it
well, right?. Monitoring is THE quality control mechanism we
use to determine the technical effectiveness of our efforts.
Fortunately, someone else is responsible for program content!
Technically speaking, the bottom line is; can IBB programs be heard
where they're supposed to be? Without monitoring it would be pretty
difficult to find out. As long as; high frequency propagation
prediction models are imperfect, chaos reigns in shortwave spectrum
management and we depend - in some areas - on 'gatewayed' delivery
mechanisms, monitoring will be an essential activity.
Predicting shortwave signal reception is like predicting
Determining the audibility of a shortwave signal in
a distant target area is a lot like determining the weather. Both
are statistical in nature and have computer models that assist in
prediction but rely heavily on sampling in the area to determine with
any certainty what is actually going on.
There are two major factors that you or I have very little
control over that determine weather you will hear a shortwave
broadcast or not: propagation and interference.
Today's propagation prediction models are pretty good (about 90%
accurate) but imagine if the predicted maximum useable frequency
(MUF) for a broadcast that you were responsible for was just 2
MHz off (not uncommon). You might be operating in the 11 MHz
band when you should be in the 9 MHz band! And what if you
picked the right band but the wrong frequency! Someone else
might be using the frequency you've picked and they didn't show
up on any of the lists you have.
The only way to be aware of these and many other problems
is by monitoring.
Need more data...
To forecast weather just for the United States, there exist
thousands of sampling points, thousands of direct and contract
employees to maintain and analyze data, and tens of millions of
dollars spent annually in hardware and software support. To
determine the worldwide audibility of IBB broadcasts we have
about 80 sampling points - only some of which are full-time -
less than 20 employees worldwide and a budget of under 1 million
Not much of a comparison. And yet most other international
broadcasters have far less!
Monitoring is all about data collection and management. Our
philosophy is to get as much high-quality data as possible into the hands of
our schedulers as quickly as possible in a format that allows
them to make meaningful improvements in reception quality.
The fun comes in trying to accomplish this lofty goal in the real
Read on to see how we go about it ...