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VOA Battles Shortwave Jamming - 2002-05-20


A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage

During the Cold War following World War II the former Soviet Union set up an elaborate network of transmitters to jam VOA Russian language programming. When Russian listeners scanned the short wave band for VOA they heard noise on the airwaves.

Soviet radio technicians broadcast this continuous noise on the same frequencies as the VOA programs. VOA used several strategies to combat the practice, including broadcasting on several frequencies at the same time, and changing frequencies often.

George Jacobs, a VOA frequency manager at the time, said during one heavily jammed period that strategy was taken to the extreme. "At times," he said, "I think we had maybe close to 100 transmitters on at the same time carrying Russian to the Soviet Union. We did that twice a day and that was quite effective."

George Jacobs said VOA also took advantage of the fact that VOA English language programs were never jammed. He said, "It was shown by audience analysis that aside from Russia more people collectively over the Eastern Soviet bloc spoke English than any other single language. And so it was decided that [VOA] English would carry a lot of news that had been jammed in Russian."

The Soviet practice ended in 1988 under Glasnost.

Today, jamming continues to plague listeners in countries where governments still deny people free access to news and information. Among them, China jams VOA and Radio Free Asia broadcasts and Cuba jams VOA's sister station Radio Marti.

To write to us about our anniversary, send an email to anniversary@voanews.com. Or, send regular mail to Anniversary, VOA News Now, Washington, D.C. 20237, USA.

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