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

BBC Radio 4 doc about the life and trial of William Joyce

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William Joyce (a.k.a. “Lord Haw Haw”)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jonathan Marks, who shares this brilliant radio documentary from BBC Radio 4 about the trial of the infamous Lord Haw Haw.

(Source: Radio 4)

Clive Anderson looks at a variety of famous or infamous cases and retells the story that the case brought into the public eye.

In this programme he explores the 1945 trial of William Joyce – Lord Haw-Haw – for High Treason.

Featuring Professor Colin Holmes, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Professor Jean Seaton.

Click here to listen to the full episode via Radio 4.

As a side note, if you’re interested in WWII propaganda, I would highly recommend the book, Hitler’s Radio War by Roger Tidy.

Click here to read my review of Hitler’s Radio War.

Can the VOA justify its funding?

voa logoJonathan Marks followed up his last post with two more pieces from the Media Network Vintage Vault, again, on the topic of US international broadcasting.

Jonathan writes:

Interesting to see there was opposition to RFE/RL expansion in 1992. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn06081992radio-free-asia

And Bill Whitacre is good in this edition: http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn07051992voakorea

My question remains: can VOA still justify the funding it has? It has spent billions over the last few decades, but has little to show for it.

No doubt, with the recent loss of CEO Andy Lack and the announcement that VOA Director, David Ensor, is stepping down, the VOA is struggling to remain viable.  I don’t believe this is due to a lack of good reporters or internal innovators, rather, a lack of proper management.

Jonathan also found this recently published report titled, “Reassessing US International Broadcasting” by S. Enders Wimbush and Elizabeth M. Portale. Click here to download the full report as a PDF.

Media Network Vingate Vault: 1988 VOA Relay Stations Feature

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Jonathan Marks writes:

I published a few more old programmes which I think are relevant to the ongoing discussions in Washington about US International Broadcasting. One programme in particular from 1988 no less, shows me that not a lot has changed in over 25 years.

http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn04111998voafeature

Indeed, not much has changed in so many respects. Many thanks for sharing this recording, Jonathan!

Readers: I encourage you to bookmark Jonathan Mark’s Media Network Vintage Vault–a true treasure trove of international broadcasting history.

Victor Goonetilleke: The joy of DXing

SX-99-DialVictor Goonetilleke has kindly shared a passage he recently posted to Facebook. Victor pretty much sums up why I still listen to the shortwaves:

“For almost four score and 5 I enjoyed shortwave radio. Yes I was a DXer, and a dedicated listener. The thousands of hours of broadcasts I listened from the BBC, VOA, RNW, DW, RFI, Swiss Radio, NHK and many more of the international broadcasters influenced me over the years. The knowledge I gathered was transferred to hundreds of homes as I taught my students in class rooms and as a lecturer too in higher Colleges, in many social gatherings, day to day conversations with important people and everyday folks, what I gathered from my radio made them realize that there was a story out there.

And as the years went by one by one those stations started to go away and I became more and more a DXer and finally I have only those signals to bring me joy.

Tonight would you blame me for being a DXer, abandoned by the international broadcasters, if I sit back and enjoy this music through the crackle of shortwave and happy that I have a radio which few seems to understand these days.”

You can listen to the recording Victor made by clicking here: https://app.box.com/s/tcryw2ymt38gz8y6zaw4

I would also encourage you to read Victor’s guest commentary on BBG Watch which was prompted by the BBG pulling the (shortwave) plug on much of Asia.

Finally, in 2003, Jonathan Marks interviewed Victor Goonetilleke; you can watch the full interview below:

Visit with Victor Goonetilleke 2003 from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.