TV Martí via an airplane unjammable? Unlikely. (updated)

Posted: 09 Aug 2006   Print   Send a link
"As the current platform for these broadcasts is being jammed by the Castro Regime, it seems that the un-jammable Commando Solo platform would be the way to ensure the Cuban people are communicated to most effectively during their time of need." Joe Cella, Redstate blog, 4 August 2006. "TV Martí broadcasts to Cuba have increased to a six-times-a-week schedule by using a private aircraft, officials say, setting in motion a key component of the Bush administration's plan to accelerate a transition to democracy on the communist-ruled island." Miami Herald, 7 August 2006. Presumably the aircraft operates over the Florida Keys, a good 150 kilometers or more from its Cuban viewers. Even with an airborne transmitter and an all-water path, that is a long stretch for the VHF and UHF frequencies used for television. After traveling that distance, the TV Martí signal will be sufficiently attenuated so that jamming transmitters on Cuban soil will probably have the upper hand. The high altitude of the TV Martí transmitter does mean that the Cubans will have to use higher power for their jamming to succeed, and they will need more than one terrestrial transmitter to jam throughout western Cuba. The best medium to overcome jamming is shortwave, because on shortwave frequencies, the more distant broadcasting transmitter is often received with a stronger signal than closer jamming transmitters. It's uncertain, however, how many Cubans own shortwave radios these days. And the number of shortwave transmitters available to Radio Martí is receding. One of the two International Broadcasting Bureau sites near Greenville, North Carolina, has been mothballed. A recent post to mentions that another key IBB shortwave site used by Radio Martí, near Delano, California, might also close. Update: "Cuba's Communist government has signaled a crackdown on the use of black-market satellite dishes, just over a week after ailing leader Fidel Castro temporarily relinquished power to his brother." The article also states that TV Martí "transmissions are sent from a plane but the Bush administration would like to start beaming its TV Marti broadcasts by satellite." Reuters, 9 August 2006. Actually, TV and Radio Martí are already transmitted via Hispasat. As for the satellite dishes, they are easy to spot and thus confiscate, whereas shortwave radios are more subtle.
See previous post on Cuba.