Introduction & Philosophy

Why bother?

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 the weather...

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 dollars.

Not much of a comparison. And yet most other international broadcasters have far less!

We believe...

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 world!

Read on to see how we go about it ...