Introduction of a new satellite service by one or more major international broadcaster(s) will require not only that satellites be put into orbit and receivers designed, manufactured, and marketed, but also that parallel strategies be developed to overcome economic and political obstacles to effective deployment of the system.
On the economic side, the development of DBS-A must contend with problems of international debt, trade restrictions, and manufacturer attitudes, which could delay introduction of receivers or keep their prices artificially high for an extended length of time. Deployment of DBS-A as a system directed primarily at developing countries, for instance, must contend with the attitude among Asian manufacturers that their profitability is best assured by concentrating on markets with high income elasticity of demand, which is not the case outside a few countries of the industrial West, Japan, the Pacific rim, and Australia and New Zealand.
On the political front, achieving a dedicated DBS-A band allocation for regional and international broadcasting must be made a priority of U.S. delegations to the upcoming Orbit World Administrative Radio Conference (Orbit-WARC). This is essential to gain the cooperation of other countries to accept DBS-A signals into their territories, as they could broadcast their DBS-A programs in turn to yet other countries. This could best be done by pursuing the “common carrier” approach to using satellites, or by some variation of this approach, such as providing broadcast time on transponder capacity leased to the VOA for domestic or regional services. The attitude of the Soviet Union is perhaps most crucial, since the VOA has major audiences there and should continue to develop such audiences. But the opposition of the Soviet government to such a broadcasting system would slow the ability of its people significantly to acquire the necessary technology to receive such signals. Pursuing the opportunities provided by glasnost would seem to be in order. In any event, the VOA could use a space-based broadcasting service to reach most of the audiences of the world while continuing to use HF, as it does today, to reach those remaining, non-cooperative ones.
Finally, the VOA should recognize, and adopt policies to address, the fact that both economic and political difficulties for this new system could be ameliorated by its own programming changes. People will seek ways to overcome obstacles to access to technology if they have an incentive to do so. As countries’ domestic services move toward higher-fidelity, very-high frequency (VHF) terrestrial systems and people invest in such technologies as audio-cassette players, portable personal radios, compact-disk players, and video-cassette recorders, their expectations of broadcast signal quality and reliability will increase. This seems to require that the VOA consider supplementing HF with other transmission systems, and DBS-A is an obvious choice. But merely providing news programming already available through other channels may not provide the incentive required for people to invest in the necessary reception technology. The programming must exploit the fidelity potential of the technology and compete well against the other options available. Otherwise, investment in such a system would be a waste of resources.
For DBS-A to succeed, then, the context for its development must be