Tag Archives: Jonathan Marks

Radio South Atlantic: recording of a short-lived clandestine radio station

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In reply to our recent post about Radio Atlantico del Sur, SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, adds:

Radio South Atlantic was a short-lived clandestine radio station started by the UK Ministry of Defence with programmes aimed at Argentine troops on the Falkland islands. This programme was broadcast from a transmitter on Ascension Island which was temporarily taken away from BBC World Service.

The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for “South Atlantic War”), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday 2 April 1982 when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands (and, the following day, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it had long claimed over them.

On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

This is a studio copy of Radio South Atlantic. In May 1982, the British government decided to set up a Spanish language radio station targeting Argentine troops. This was probably in response to an Argentine radio station (nicknamed Argentine Annie by the UK press) which appeared on shortwave some weeks earlier using the Beatles theme “Yesterday” as a signature tune.

I was editing the Media Network programme at the time. We could hear Radio South Atlantic in Hilversum – but the signal was very weak. So I rang the British embassy in the Hague and asked if it would be possible to get a studio copy of the programme to use in a documentary feature we were making. A few days later, a courier riding a large motorbike arrived at RN’s reception and asked for me. I went down to the front-desk to sign for the tape. “But you can’t keep this tape. You can only listen to it” was the message from guy in the helmet. “I have to take it back to the Hague in about half an hour”. I said I’d look for an empty studio, gave the guy a large coffee and wandered casually round the corner. Then I made a mad dash to the fast copy-room used to make tape copies of RNW transcription programmes for other radio stations. It had a machine that could copy tapes at around 8 times faster than normal. Luckily, Jos, the guy in charge, saw my challenge, set up the machine immediately and 15 minutes later I was back in reception to return the tape to the messanger. And I had a copy.

It seems the British dropped leaflets over the Falklands to try and spread the word that this shortwave radio station existed. And we later analysed the programme. It was classic Sefton Delmer (Black Propaganda), although rather poorly presented. Bit like calling up Vera Lynne if the British had a dispute with France.

But this is one of the few surviving recordings of Radio South Atlantic. You be the judge of how effective it all was. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/radio-south-atlantic-may-1992

Click here to read Jonathan’s full post about Radio South Atlantic and listen to the recording on his website.

This is an amazing recording, Jonathan.  I’ll admit that I had never heard of Radio South Atlantic before and never knew a UK-supported clandestine station was on the air during The Falklands War/Guerra de las Malvinas.

Thanks for the excellent history lesson and your own (clandestine) recording!

Let’s send Lou Josephs our messages

Lou Josephs (Photo: Jonathan Marks)

Lou Josephs (Photo: Jonathan Marks)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who writes:

May be you can help spread the word? Lou is very seriously ill, but would appreciate hearing from SWL’s who remember him.

http://criticaldistance.blogspot.nl/2016/07/lou-josephs-media-visionary-and-great.html

Very sorry to hear that Lou is in such bad health. Thanks for letting us know, Jonathan.

SWLing Post readers, if you would like to send Lou a message, please comment on Jonathan’s blog and he will make sure your message gets to Lou. Thanks!

RIP: Frans Vossen

Frans-Vossen

Photo from Frans’ Facebook page.

Many thanks to Jonathan Marks who notes the passing this week of Frans Vossen, former journalist at Radio Vlaandern Internationaal:

Belgium has lost a great communicator who had a deep understanding of international affairs, especially those connected with Belgium and the African continent. I’ll always remember his great stories and infectious laugh. I posted a programme I made with him in 1995 where he explains the fascinating history of Belgian international broadcasting. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/radio-vlaanderen-internationaal-profile RIP Frans. It was an honour to know you.

Many SWLing Post readers probably recognize Frans’ name as he was the head of the English Language Service at Radio Vlaandern Internationaal for about four decades and was a prominent (and well-loved) personality on the air. Frans’ memorial service will happen today. RIP, OM.

Jonathan shares archived Media Network Christmas and New Year shows

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Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who shares the following from his Media Network Vintage Vault.

Jonathan writes:

“Picking up on the idea of revisiting archive Christmas and New Year shows, here are some from Radio Netherlands for the SWL Blog.

Seasons Greetings, Jonathan”

Media Network 26.12.1996 Boxing Day Show

A radio Christmas spent in the Media Network studio way back in 1996. Sounds like we were having fun! I look back on this period as perhaps one of the golden years for Dutch external broadcasting, producing a range of documentary productions in English and Spanish and recording great concerts, both classical and jazz.

This programme focussed on answering listeners’ letters on subjects like satellite television in Australia (DW was organising a bouquet of signals) and the major changes to the commercial radio scene in New Zealand. The auction of FM frequencies in the Netherlands and shortwave stations that sold radios were also topics for discussions. RBI archives have, for the most part, been destroyed. Swiss shortwave listeners were quizzed on their listening habits. The 410 ft tower formerly used by AFN has been dynamited out of existence. Capital Radio in South Africa is in trouble.

MN.28.12.1995 Rhodesia – Answering Back From Francistown

I met the late Harold Robin a couple of times at his home in Tunbridge Wells, UK. He was a brilliant Foreign Office engineer who built the wartime Aspidistra transmitter famous for its clandestine work out of Crowborough. Have a listen to the programmes Wartime Deception and you’ll see what I mean.

Although his work during the war is well documented in books like “The Black Game”by Ellic Howe, I think we managed to capture the other stories from later in his life. For instance, how he invented the “Picolo” modulation system as used by the diplomatic service to communicate text over shortwave between embassies. He also built the BBC Overseas relay station in Oman, and the external service of UAE Radio from Dubai. This edition, recorded after Christmas in 1995, looked at the story of the British response to the declaration of independence by Ian Smith in, what was then, Rhodesia. Harold talks about setting up a mediumwave transmitter in a matter of weeks in the town of Francistown, in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now called Botswana. Thanks also to Colin Miller for some of the recordings of the RBC. It seems that one of the two transmitters was sent to Cyprus after the World and Rhodesia operation ended, the other ended up in Ordfordness for some experiments on 648 kHz. You might also want to check out the video of Margaret Howard, who refers to a special programme transmitted over this MW sender. It was called the World and Rhodesia and was more of a UK government editorial than any programme the BBC would make. The programme concept didn’t work although it seemed to have taken the British government a couple of years to find out. Harold refers to staying in the Tati Hotel River Lodge, about 8 kms outside of Francistown. Sure enough, it’s still there.

MN.23.12.1982: Christmas Review 33 years ago

I picked this recording out of the archives because it has a nice capsule summary of the major media stories from 1982. The highlight was, of course, the Falklands-Malvinas “conflict”. This programme contains clips from the FIBS, RAE Argentina and the BBC’s Calling the Falklands Programme. We also looked in some detail at the short-lived Radio South Atlantic which broadcast in May and June 1982 from a requisitioned BBC transmitter on Ascension Island. We asked the British Ministry of Defence to explain how the station was operated. We also analyzed a transmission broadcast on May 20th 1982 (the second night of transmission).

But it was also the last programme in which Wim van Amstel appeared as RNW Frequency Manager. It was certainly not the last time he was heard on the programme, though. Again it is striking to hear some of the predictions – and how they were spot on. The call with Arthur Cushen in New Zealand is rather like making contact with the moon. Cannot believe how fast time has flown.

At the time of publishing this podcast, I was also sad to hear of the passing of BBC correspondent and broadcaster Brian Hanrahan, who famous line when broadcasting under censorship from the Falklands Fleet was brilliant. Unable to reveal how many British aircraft had been involved in the conflict, he reported that after one sortie he “counted them all out and I counted them all back.

MN.26.12.1991.Year End Review

This was a news show 1.6 million tune in to Radio Netherlands in Dutch during their summer holiday. WWV and WWVH have had problems with their automated time announcements. Drum recorders are back on line. Victor Goonetilleke has news about Cambodia. VOA is having challenges building its transmitters at a new site 50km North of Colombo.

Why did we broadcast all these numbers? People forget none of the listeners had access on-line and only a fraction of the audience had access to printed DX bulletins. Andy Sennitt reports on what is in the 1992 World Radio TV Handbook. James Robinson reports that several UK local radio stations are leaving mediumwave. WLS 890kHz is scrapping its FM format. A new Catholic SW station WEWN was being built in Birmingham, Alabama. (The late) Dave Rosenthal reports on an experiment in McMurdo. Remember this show is 24 years old!

Vasily Strelnikov signs off at Radio Moscow World Service and recommends people to tune into Radio Netherlands. Radio Moscow staff watch the red flags of the USSR being lowered.

Thanks so much for sharing these, Jonathan–and Season’s Greetings to you!

I’m looking forward to several hours of listening over the coming days.

BBC World Service receives funding increase

BBC-AT-WAR(Source: BBC Media Centre via Jonathan Marks)

Statement on newly announced Government funding of the World Service

Tony Hall, the Director-General of the BBC, said:
“I warmly welcome today’s announcement. It’s fantastic news.

“This new funding is the single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed by any government.

“The millions announced today will help the BBC deliver on our commitment to uphold global democracy through accurate, impartial and independent news reporting.

“The World Service is one of the UK’s most important cultural exports and one of our best sources of global influence. We can now further build on that. The funding will also help speed us on to our target of reaching half a billion people globally.”

  • Enhanced TV services for Africa
  • New radio services for audiences in North Korea; radio and digital services for Ethiopia and Eritrea
  • Additional language offers via digital and TV in India and Nigeria
  • More regionalised content to better serve audiences to the BBC Arabic Service
  • Dedicated TV output for Somalia and a fully digital service for Thailand
  • Enhanced digital and TV services for Russian speakers, both in Russia and surrounding communities
  • A video-led digital transformation of Languages services
  • To expand the impact and future-proof World Service English