Cablegate: Ibb Signal Interferes with French Radio Operations

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Commander of French Forces in Djibouti
told the Ambassador that signals from the International
Board of Broadcasters (IBB) Radio Sawa tower at PK12 were
interfering with French radio operations in Djibouti. Tests
by IBB imply that the problem rests in structural
deficiencies in the French HF towers as IBB signals are well
within normal and legal range. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) During a regularly scheduled meeting at the end of
March, The Commander of French Forces in Djibouti, General
Gerard Pons, told Ambassador Ragsdale that signals from
IBB's Radio Sawa tower at PK12 were interfering with French
radio operations in Djibouti. He requested the Ambassador's
assistance in resolving the interference.

3. (U) PAO contacted technical experts at IBB and was
informed that the signals were well within acceptable
strength range and were being broadcast on a licensed
frequency. IBB hypothesized that the interference was likely
due to grounding problems with the French HF towers and
suggested the French buy filters and/or reground the towers.

4. (U) On April 8, IBB contacted the French Air Base
(`FAB') in Djibouti about the continued problem and offered
to test the signal strength. However, as it was necessary
for the French to grant access to the problem towers to
conduct the tests, FAB declined. (NOTE: IBB technical
experts speculate that the French towers may be sensitive,
which might explain FAB's reluctance to grant access to the
problem equipment for testing. END NOTE).

5. (U) On April 28, a representative from IBB, the PAO and
a French technical contractor working at PK12 (`USG Team')
met with several representatives of FAB. FAB informed IBB
that it was picking up Radio Sawa on HF towers used for
receiving signals. FAB also informed USG Team that the
interference problems had stopped after the extensive
flooding in Djibouti on April 13.

6. (U) The USG Team concluded that the sudden lack of
interference after ground saturation proved IBB's initial
grounding hypothesis and said that the problem appeared to
lie with structural deficiencies (grounding) with the French
towers. IBB stated that the problem would likely return
after the earth dried and offered to test the towers for
signal problems to confirm this hypothesis. FAB declined.
(see para 4). USG Team also offered FAB general advice for
resolving grounding problems.

7. (U) On May 16, FAB again contacted IBB about
interference and requested resolution, stating its belief
that the problem rested with the IBB signal strength. IBB
was granted access that same day to the problem towers and
used its own materials and experts to test signal strength
in conjunction with FAB. Testing proved that the IBB PK12
emissions were well within the International
Telecommunication Union standards for high-power broadcast
transmitters. Harmonic levels were measured at -80 (ITU
minimum is -70).

8. (U) Testing also determined that there should be no
interference, despite any HF grounding problems, as long as
the Radio Sawa signal remained in "directional"
transmission, the normal transmission mode. Although IBB has
licensed authority to transmit a non-directional signal, it
told Post it would only do so in cases of emergency or
extreme technical difficulty.

9. FAB witnessed the testing and acknowledged that the
procedures, process and measurement results were correct and
accurate. Post notes, however, that IBB observed FAB's HF
antenna system was below minimum accepted industry standards
for receiving antennas (the antenna grounding system was
absent in some places and eroded in others). IBB prepared
and delivered a technical report detailing necessary repairs
for the FAB HF receiving antenna system.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: IBB and AMEMBASSY Djibouti have made
every effort to be accommodating and helpful to the French
on this issue. General Pons seemed satisfied with the
outcome during a recent meeting with the Ambassador. Radio
interference problems currently being experienced by the
French are likely do to structural deficiencies with the
French HF towers. Post now considers this matter closed. END


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