Shortwave Center, April 2000
DX Target: Mongolia
A Look At Broadcasting In A Remote Asian Country
By Richard A. D’Angelo
One of the most isolated countries in the world is the Republic of Mongolia. Like Switzerland in Europe, this Asian country is land locked. After years of Communist dominated governments, Mongolia has now adopted a free market system. While not the most modern of countries, Mongolia is making great strides. Its broadcasting structure allows it to reach a significant portion of the world with its high-powered transmitters. In this DX Target, we take a look at the country and its broadcasting activities.
Mongolia is located in Central Asia and is bounded on the north by Russia and on the east, south, and west by China. The country, sometimes called by its former name, Outer Mongolia, has a total area of 1,565,000 sq km (604,250 sq mi). The capital and largest city of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator). The population of the Republic of Mongolia (1993 estimate) was 2.2 million, yielding a meager overall population density of about 1.4 persons per sq km (about 4 per sq mi).
Mongolia consists mainly of a plateau between about 914 and 1524 m (about 3000 and 5000 ft) in elevation broken by mountain ranges in the north and west. The Altai Mountains in the southwest rise to heights above 4267 m (14,000 ft). The Gobi Desert covers a wide arid tract in the central and southeastern areas. Mongolia’s climate is harsh, with temperatures ranging between -15° and -30° C (-5° and -22° F) in winter and 10° and 26.7° C (50° and 80° F) in summer. Winters are dry, and summer rainfall seldom exceeds 380 mm (15 in) in the mountains and 125 mm (5 in) in the desert.
The ethnic composition of Mongolia is fairly homogeneous. Khalkha Mongols constitute more than 75 percent of the population. Other groups are Buryat Mongols and Kazakhs. The country is about 58 percent urban. The traditional faith in Mongolia was Lamaist Buddhism, which was suppressed beginning in 1929. Only one small monastery remains, at Ulaanbaatar. Most of the people are now thought to be nonreligious or atheists. The Mongolian language is one of the Altaic languages.
The basis of the economy of the Republic of Mongolia is crop farming and livestock breeding. Manufacturing is devoted largely to the processing of agricultural and livestock products. In an attempt to increase industrial and agricultural production, a series of five-year plans were initiated in 1948 when the state controlled all industry and trade. In the mid-1980s the estimated gross national product was $1.67 billion, or about $880 per capita. Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Mongolia adopted a free market economy. The Mongolians are primarily herders, and a majority of the population is engaged in agriculture. The country has rich iron-ore deposits near Darhan and coal from mines near Ulaanbaatar and Darhan. Other minerals produced include copper, molybdenum, tungsten and fluorspar. Manufacturing is small and local in character but forms an important sector of the country’s economy. The major products include building materials, processed food and alcoholic beverages, leather goods, woolen textiles, furs, and wood items. Most of Mongolia’s trade is with the countries that made up the former USSR and other former Soviet-bloc countries. Since the early 1990s, Mongolia has made efforts to expand trade with other countries.
Ghengis Khan, was the founder of an empire, which reached well into Europe. Already before then, the Huns caused fear and trouble in China, Russia and Europe with a less organized army. The era of Ghengis Khan (1162-1227) was followed by many others, with the communist regime having left the latest important imprint in Mongolia’s history. The communists liberated the country from Chinese oppression. Since 1921 they held power and maintained dependency from the former Soviet Union. Mongolia is a country undergoing substantial political and economic change in the aftermath of the resignation of the former communist government in 1990. Tourist and business facilities are being developed, but are not yet available in all areas of the country. Medical facilities in Mongolia are limited, and some medicines are unavailable. Infectious diseases, such as plague and meningococcal meningitis, are present at various times of the year.
In the elections of 1996, democratic forces managed to gain power in parliament. After many decades of communist power Mongolia finally made its way into democracy. The people elected both Parliament as well as the President of Mongolia democratically. However, the government faces many problems leading its country, whose mineral resources are difficult to access and whose export has to go through China and Russia, into an economically stable and independent country. Like Switzerland, Mongolia is surrounded by other countries, and has to rely on cooperation with its neighbors.
Radio and Television Broadcasting
Mongolian Radio and Television (“MRTV”) is the state broadcaster of Mongolia and has three main units, namely Mongolian Radio, Mongolian Television and MRTV Technical Company. It also has Administrative, International Relations, Financial and Business and Maintenance Departments. MRTV started its broadcasting with radio in September 1934 and added Television broadcasting in September 1967. The main aim of MRTV is to disseminate information projecting all spheres of Mongolian life. Let’s take a look at each of these services with an emphasis on the external shortwave service from the Voice of Mongolia.
The 27th of September 1967 is the official birthday of Mongolian Television (“MTV”, this is not the MTV my children watch). On that day, Mongolian families switched on their television sets for the first time and a new popular form of culture entered the lives of the Mongolians. Initially MTV broadcast a total of 10-12 hours in black and white, four days a week. In 1981 it switched to color and now transmits in SECAM. Today MTV broadcasts 132 hours, six days a week. Transmitting via INTELSAT-704 and by radio relay lines, the programs can be received across Mongolia although a lack of electricity restricts access in the more remote areas of the country. At present Mongolian TV produces about 2,000 program-hours annually. In 1997 it increased its program output to 10 hours a day.
Initially all programs were broadcast live but in December 1971 the Mongolian TV studios opened which enabled the pre-recording of documentaries and short films. This in turn enabled the broadcast schedule to become that much more varied and entertaining for the viewers. Since the 1980s Mongolian Television has been working with a new generation of equipment made in Japan, France and Russia and, along with a new TV center, made the transition to color possible.
Until the mid 1980’s television programs were only watched by a small percentage of the population. In 1991 Mongolian Television began broadcasting via the Asiasat satellite and this enabled its programs to be received in even the remotest parts of Mongolia’s vast territory. Today some 70% of the country’s population is capable of watching the national television channel. Not much variety by our standards but a long way from what they are accustomed to in Mongolia. MTV broadcasts news, information and political reviews; it covers outside events with live transmissions; it produces dramas and light entertainment shows.
Since its foundation MTV has been working to develop its international relations and co-operate with other international broadcasters. It has been a full member of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union since January 1973. MTV broadcasts a total of 37 hours a week, six days a week. There is some 370-production staff, technicians and journalists working at Mongolian TV, many of whom have graduated from institutes and universities both at home and abroad. As well as broadcasting domestically produced material Mongolian TV also has program exchanges with Russian Public TV, NHK, CNN, ZDF and Deutsche Welle.
Radio Mongolia is responsible for radio services throughout the country. Given Mongolia’s scarce population and huge territory, radio broadcasting is the main means of mass information. Mongolian Radio started broadcasting on 1st September, 1934. Today it broadcasts 30 hours a day on two channels. National radio broadcasts from 6am to 11pm and Radio Mongolia also has an independent radio station called “Blue Sky” which broadcasts from 8am to 11pm.
Radio Mongolia is made up of five services: information, legal & political, business & socio-economic affairs, music & entertainment and the external service. About 20% of total broadcasting time is devoted to the news. Music, drama and light entertainment comprise 42.5% and current affairs and educational programs make up some 19.8% of airtime.
The external service of Radio Mongolia began broadcasting in 1964. Today it broadcasts eight hours a day in Mongolian, English, Japanese, Chinese and Russian to audiences in Asia, Europe, the CIS, the Far East and the Pacific. On shortwave, the Voice of Mongolia presents daily half-hour transmissions offering domestic news and various programs designed to provide information about Mongolia and the Mongolians, their history, traditions, customs and way of life as well as modern and folk music. Radio Ulaanbaatar receives more than 3,000 letters a year from listeners in 80 countries.
Radio Mongolia maintains links with radio networks in over a dozen countries. It exchanges personnel as well as music and feature programs with the British Broadcasting Service, Radio France International, Voice of Russia, China Radio International, Radio Canada International and the Korean Broadcasting Service.
Voice of Mongolia
The Voice Of Mongolia is the overseas broadcasting service operated by Mongolian Radio and Television, a public service broadcaster of the Mongolian Government. Shortwave international broadcasting in Mongolia dates back over 30 years. The first broadcast in September 1964 was a half hour transmission in the Mongolian and Chinese languages, beamed to China. In the next few years, Mongolian international broadcasting expanded in terms of languages used, broadcast hours and target areas. The English service of Radio Ulaanbaatar, which was renamed The Voice of Mongolia on 1 January 1997, was launched on 29 January 1965. Today the output of the Voice of Mongolia consists of various programs designed to provide information about Mongolia and the Mongolians, their history, traditions and culture. Keeping to the new policy of the Mongolian Government, the Voice of Mongolia does not engage in propaganda, but in unbiased reporting. It broadcasts a total of 8 hours a day in 5 languages–Mongolian, English, Chinese, Russian and Japanese.
All of the Voice Of Mongolia’s broadcasts come directly from its Khonkhor Transmitting Station, about 25 km east of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital. It broadcasts through Soviet-made 100, 250, and 500 kW transmitters and curtain antennas built in the mid-sixties. The station has received reports indicating that their transmissions beamed to East Asia provide fair reception in South America, and the South Asian transmissions can be heard in Southern Africa and in Europe as well. The English language service can be heard from 1200-1230 UTC (to Australia) on 12085 kHz, from 1500-1530 UTC (to South Asia) on 9720 kHz and 12085 kHz, from 2000-2030 UTC (to Europe) on 9720 kHz and 12085 kHz. In North America, the 1200-1230 UTC English broadcast follows a Chinese language program and has been reliably received from time-to-time on 12085 kHz.
The Voice of Mongolia welcomes reception reports and comments about its programs. Recently, the station has begun acknowledging reception reports with their QSL card to confirm correct reports. As with most international broadcasters, your report should contain the UTC date and time of reception, the frequency on which the program was heard, a sufficient amount of program information so that the station can be sure that you heard its broadcast, a short description of the receiver and aerial used, and your full postal address as well as any suggestions, comments and criticisms you may have. The Voice of Mongolia prefers reports in SINPO code. Although the station readily accepts reception reports on cassette tapes, it cannot return the cassettes. The station asks that personal requests and comments should be written down on a separate sheet of paper so that the recorded report is only a technical one. All reception reports and personal letters should be sent to the station’s address marked for a particular language section (e.g. English Section). Send reception report to:
Voice of Mongolia
Huvisgalyn Zam – 3
Ulaanbaatar – 13
The Voice of Mongolia is one of many international broadcasters with a presence on the Internet. Although the page is only in the early stages of development, the site offers promise to shortwave listeners with Internet capabilities. The station’s website can be found at: www.mol.mn/mrtv/
Mongolia offers shortwave listeners an opportunity to hear an exotic country from a remote Asian location broadcasting in English. The Voice of Mongolia should be on the target list of any shortwave enthusiast that had not hear this country. As always, remember to send in those exotic Mongolian logs to either Sheryl Paszkiewicz or Wallace Tribel for the Log Report and those interesting and rare QSL verifications to Sam Barto for inclusion in the QSL Report column. Good luck with this DX Target.
A Brief History of the Voice of America
This is an edited version of an external publication of the Voice of America, available outside of the US. It appeared in the February, 1999, issue of Contact Magazine. Credits to Michael Murray, Mike Barraclough, Val Jones, and, of course, VOA.
Introduction: America’s Voice on the International Airwaves
The Voice of America has carried United States, regional, and world news to listeners around the glove for more than 55 years. Founded less than three months after the United States entered World War II, the Voice has been a beacon of hope for those deprived of news.
William Harlan Hale opened the first VOA broadcast on February 24, 1942, with the words, “The Voice of America speaks. Today, America has been at war for 79 days. Daily, at this time, we shall speak to you about America and the war, the news may be good or bad, we shall tell you the truth.”
That willingness to report the news accurately and objectively, no matter what the subject, has been a basic philosophy for every VOA broadcaster. That is why VOA reporters told the world about such stories as Vietnam, Watergate, and Iran-Contra. Its reporters have never shied away from the controversial. Instead, they have reported the news with the balance and objectivity that VOA listeners rely on. Present the facts of a news story and let the listeners decide.
Voice of America broadcasts originate from its headquarters building in Washington, DC, where staff prepare and broadcast newscasts, features, English-teaching programs, and music shows in 52 languages to audiences around the globe. VOA’s Washington newsroom follows stories 24 hours a day, and a network of 40 VOA correspondents and 100 freelance reporters in major cities worldwide cover news events. Behind the scenes, engineers maintain broadcast equipment and provide the technical expertise to broadcast more than 700 hours of programming a week. A vast satellite network and a series of relay stations around the globe carry VOA programming to millions of listeners each day.
An estimated 83 million listeners tune in VOA’s shortwave and medium wave broadcasts each week. A highly successful “affiliates” program has placed VOA-produced programming on more than 1,100 radio stations around the world. In 1994, VOA entered the world of television when it inaugurated “China Forum TV,” a Chinese-language TV program beamed by satellite to viewers in the Peoples Republic of China. In 1996, a new television studio was completed, and VOA now simulcasts portions of some programs on radio and TV in such languages as Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese, English, Farsi, Serbian, and Spanish. VOA also puts audio and text on its Internet web site and has begun an aggressive targeted e-mail program in countries where the web site is blocked.
As the Voice of America evolves into a 21st century international broadcaster utilizing all of the latest technologies, we must not forget that the “Voice” started from very meager beginnings to become a voice of hope and freedom for many people whose governments told then only what they wanted them to hear.
Chapter 1: An American Voice Greets the World
In 1939, the American playwright Robert Sherwood, who would become a speech-writer for President Franklin Roosevelt and later, the “father of the Voice of America,” predicted the impact of international broadcasting when he said: “We are living in an age when communication has achieved fabulous importance. There is a new decisive force in the human race, more powerful than all the tyrants. It is the force of massed thought-thought which has been provoked by words strongly spoken.”
In that year, the United States was the only world power without a government sponsored international radio service. The Netherlands had been the first country to direct regularly scheduled broadcasts beyond its own borders, inaugurating shortwave programming to the Far East in 1927. Seeing radio as an instrument of foreign policy, the Soviet Union built a radio center in Moscow and was broadcasting in 50 languages and dialects by the end of 1930. Italy and Great Britain started their respective “empire services” in 1932, followed by France the next year. Nazi Germany built a massive network of transmitters in 1933 and began to beam hostile propaganda into Austria. the same year, Berlin started shortwave broadcasts to Latin America. Meanwhile, Japan was using radio to promote its national ambitions in the Far East.
Despite the efforts of many prominent figures, including New York Congressman Emmanuel Celler (who introduced bills in 1937, 1938, and 1939 to create a government station that could respond to German propaganda), the United States entered the 1940’s with no plans to establish an official U.S. presence on the international airwaves. The United States’ shortwave resources consisted of just over a dozen low-powered, commercially owned and operated transmitters.
In 1941, several of these private transmitters were leased by the U.S. Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs (CIAA) to broadcast to Latin America. In mid-1941, President Roosevelt established the U.S. Foreign Information Service (FIS) and named speech-writer Sherwood as its first director. Driven by his belief in the power of ideas and the need to communicate America’s views abroad, Sherwood rented space for his headquarters in New York City, recruited a staff of journalists, and began producing material for broadcast to Europe by the privately-owned American shortwave stations. Sherwood also talked with officials in London about the prospect for relaying FIS material over facilities of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
With Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany’s declaration of war against the United States, Sherwood moved into high gear. He asked john Houseman, the theatrical producer, author, and director, to take charge of FIS radio operations in New York City.
In December, 1941, FIS made its first direct Broadcasts to Asia from a studio in San Francisco. On February 24, 1942, just 79 days after the United States entered World War II, FIS beamed its first broadcast to Europe via BBC medium and longwave transmitters. Announcer William Harlan Hale opened the German-language program with these words, “The Voice of America Speaks.” The name took hold, and within a few months, it became the signature introduction on all Foreign Information Service broadcasts. From that moment, America had found its “voice” abroad.
Chapter 2: Let the Truth be Told
From the beginning, VOA promised to tell its listeners the truth, regardless of whether the news was good or bad. As John Houseman said later, “In reality, we had little choice. Inevitably the news that the Voice of America would carry to the world in the first half of 1942 was almost all bad. As Japanese invasions followed one another with sickening regularity and the Nazi armies moved ever deeper into Russia and the Near East, we would have to report our reverses without weaseling. Only thus could we establish a reputation for honesty which we hoped would pay off on that distant but inevitable day when we would start reporting our own invasion and victories.”
By June, 1942, VOA was growing rapidly and had a new organizational home – the Office of War Information (OWI). Twenty-three transmitters had been constructed and 27 language services were on the air when the Allied Summit took place in Casablanca.
Chapter 4: The Post-War Blues
As the war drew to a close, however, many of VOA’s broadcast services were reduced or eliminated. Then in late 1945, a State Department appointed committee of private citizens chaired by Columbia University professor Arthur McMahon advised that the U.S. Government could not be indifferent to the ways in which our society is portrayed to other countries. Consequently, on December 31, 1954, VOA’s and CIAA’s broadcast services to Latin America were transferred to the Department of State, and Congress reluctantly appropriated funds for their continued operation in 1946 and 1947.
The reluctant support for international broadcasting disappeared in 1948. That year, members of Congress were heavily influenced by the escalation of the Cold War and hostile international broadcasts by the Soviet Union and Soviet-controlled countries. The Berlin Blockade in 1948 confirmed the need for an American radio voice to the world. The enactment of the Smith-Mundt Act that year permanently established America’s international informational and cultural exchange programs, a function VOA has already been carrying out for the past six years on its own.
(To be continued next month)