AFN Bahrain reaches out to growing audience with overhaul
By HENDRICK SIMOES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 9, 2014
MANAMA, Bahrain — The radio studio that proclaims itself the “hottest radio station on this side of the planet” was an empty dingy room Tuesday.
The American Forces Network station in Bahrain is getting a much needed upgrade that involves replacing everything from the radio board to the floor mats, as AFN officials strive to improve the station’s signal.
There will be no live shows during the $80,000 upgrade, but listeners will still get AFN radio from satellite services. Officials expect the station to be back on the air by the end of July.
The upgrade is part of a broader effort to reach the growing number of U.S. personnel living farther away from the U.S. Navy base, which is home to the U.S. 5th fleet. In April, in response to persisting signal issues, AFN installed a new transmitter and increased the signal from 50 to 400 watts on this tiny island Persian Gulf nation — the maximum allowed by the Bahraini government. However, some signal woes remained.
“Part of that is improving the signal quality from the station to the transmitter,” said Rusty Barfield, the acting AFN Pacific commander, who oversees AFN Bahrain. He said replacing the cabling and studio equipment would further improve the signal quality while providing DJs with the latest technology for their shows.
The station’s signal at 106.3 megahertz, which reaches a primary audience of 8,200 U.S. personnel, originates from a Conex-box-like structure on the base.
AFN has submitted an official request to base officials to relocate the station to a permanent structure. But in the meantime, AFN officials said, the radio studio equipment was in “serious” need of a life-cycle change.
Chief Petty Officer Frank Neely, the station’s manager, said the upgrade coincides with the arrival of more personnel to operate the station. “One of the biggest things we’re looking forward to, is to be doing more live shows,” he said.
Officials stressed the importance of being able to push out command information to every member of the American audience in Bahrain. “Local radio deals with the safety of people and property, probably the most important thing we do in terms of our mission, especially during contingencies and emergencies.”
There are also plans underway to relocate the FM antenna and replace cabling to further increase signal quality across the island.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Schott, left, and Rolando Rivera work on giving the American Forces Network radio studio in Bahrain a much-needed facelift, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. The AFN station is replacing everything from the radio board to the floor-mats as part of a broader effort to improve station's reach.
JESSICA SAAB/STARS AND STRIPES