Tag Archives: Kim Elliott

Farewell, Firewall: Kim Elliott’s take on what the NDAA means for US international broadcasting

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (Photo BBG)

(Source: USC Center on Public Diplomacy)

Farewell, Firewall

Deep in the massive FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act is a provision to eliminate, in its present form, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. The NDAA has been passed by the House and the Senate and is expected to be signed by President Obama. The BBG is the topmost authority of the elements of U.S. government-funded international broadcasting: Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Martí, and the Arabic-language Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa. Together they broadcast in 61 languages.

This BBG’s demise eliminates the “firewall” of a nine-person bipartisan board with fixed and staggered terms, and replaces it with one politically-appointed CEO. This change will have consequences.

Traditionally, people around the world huddled around a shortwave radio to get news from abroad. Increasingly, they watch an international news channel via cable or satellite television, or access a foreign website or social media outlet. Whatever the medium used, the need for a credible alternative to domestic state-controlled media is the main reason international broadcasting has had an audience since the 1930s.

Credibility is the essence of successful international broadcasting. The shortwave frequencies, satellite channels, and online media are full of propaganda, but serious news consumers seek out the news organizations that they trust.

International broadcasting in languages such as Burmese or Hausa has little commercial potential. National governments must step in to provide the funding. The foremost challenge is to ensure that the journalism is independent from the governments that hold the purse strings.

To achieve this, there is no substitute for a multipartisan governing board. Its main function is to appoint the senior managers of the broadcasting organization, so that politicians don’t. This is how “public service” broadcasting corporations throughout the world, e.g. BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, maintain their independence.

When a government is directly involved in the production of news, the results are generally deleterious. The outcome can be as extreme as the lies and distortions of German broadcasts before and during World War II. Or the output can be something like the stultifying commentaries that filled much of Radio Moscow’s schedule during the Cold War. And, as can be observed by watching Russia’s RT or China’s CCTV News on cable TV, propaganda can also be manifest by emphasizing some topics, while downplaying or ignoring others.[…]

Read Elliott’s full article on the USC Center on Public Diplomacy website…

Radio World: The evolution of shortwave radio

Panasonic-RF-2200-1

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares the following article by James Careless in Radio World Magazine.

The article includes interviews with Andy Sennitt, Kim Andrew Elliott, Nigel Fry,  and even yours truly. The following is a short excerpt taken from the introduction of the article:

(Source: Radio World)

OTTAWA, Ontario — With the advent of radio in the 20th century, the shortwave band (1710–30,000 kHz) soon became a hotbed of long-distance radio broadcasting. Used primarily by state-run international broadcasters, plus ham radio operators and ship-to-shore radio communications, the shortwave band was prized due to its astoundingly broad reach.

That reach was — and is still — made possible by the tendency of ground-based shortwave radio transmissions to bounce off the ionosphere and back to earth; allowing shortwave broadcasts to “hop” repeatedly, increasing a broadcast’s range while minimizing its decay.

[…]At the height of the Cold War, the shortwave bands were packed with content as the Voice of America and West Germany’s Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) traded ideological punches with Radio Moscow and East Germany’s Radio Berlin International. This is because analog shortwave radio broadcasting was the only way for both sides to make their political cases cross international borders: There was no satellite TV, let alone any internet.

Read the full, in-depth article on the Radio World website…

This article is well worth reading and one of the more in-depth pieces I’ve seen in a trade publication or news site recently.

I should add that I completely agree with James Careless’ conclusion:

“[T]he research that went into this article suggests that the shortwave band is sufficiently alive to be still evolving.”

The fact is, the shortwave landscape is not what used to be in the Cold War. Many of those big voices have left the scene and, in the process, left the door open to others.

The shortwaves are a dynamic communications space that continues to evolve.

That’s why I keep listening.

Want to read more about the future of shortwave radio? Click here to read Does Shortwave Radio Have a Future?

Update: Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece

HalliDial

Saturday, I published a post referencing Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece with links to Richard Cummings’ excellent website Cold War Radio Vignettes.

My post was written some time earlier and scheduled to publish Saturday while I was traveling. Unfortunately, the Cold War Radio Vignettes articles I had linked to were removed prior to Saturday.

I contacted Richard Cummings who has kindly assembled a small PDF booklet with the text from all of the posts I had referenced and is allowing me to share it here on the SWLing Post.

Richard asks that if any Post readers have information about these clandestine broadcasts and is willing to share it with him, he would me most thankful. His contact information is on the front page of the PDF.

Click here to download the PDF booklet.

Again, many thanks to Richard Cummings for making this free PDF booklet available to us!

Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece

HalliDial

UPDATE: The links to Cold War Radio Radio Vignettes below became inactive just prior to publication. Richard Cummings has kindly assembled the texts I referenced and made a PDF booklet available for SWLing Post readers. Click here to download.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor Kim Elliott who (some time ago) shared a link to a series of posts by Richard Cummings from his website, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

Cold-War-RadioCummings is the author of Cold War Radio: The Dangerous History of American Broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 and Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom” Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950-1960.

Cumming’s blog is updated frequently and features many fascinating historical “vignettes” regarding Cold War radio broadcasting.

Kim specifically mentioned a series of posts with a focus on Cold War American broadcasting from Greece, suggesting SWLing Post readers might enjoy this bit of Cold War history. I completely agree!

Below, I’ve linked to a total of six posts Cummings published on the topic. Enjoy:

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece, to Ukraine

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece: “Future of Romania — Voice of National Resistance”

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece: Nasha Rossiya (Our Russia)

Want more?

If you enjoy Cold War radio history, I strongly recommend that you bookmark Cold War Radio Vignettes. I’m placing a permanent link in our sidebar.

Thanks again for the tip, Kim!

UPDATE: It appears the posts have been removed from the Cold War Radio Vignettes site.  I will contact the owner and see if they can be re-posted.

USAID sends the Kchibo KK-9803 to Nigeria

The Kchibo KK-9803 portable shortwave radio

The Kchibo KK-9803 portable shortwave radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shared a link to this tweet by USAID and notes:

“I don’t know if USAID is doing them any favors by giving them a Kchibo KK-9803 …”

I agree with Kim. Even though, of course, I’m committed to the idea that radios bring access to information in parts of the world that need it the most, USAID obviously did no research prior to purchasing the Kchibo KK-9803 for humanitarian use.

No doubt, the Kchibo KK-9803 is one of the poorest performing radios I’ve ever reviewed (click here to read the full review). Though I fully support the concept of what USAID is doing, almost any other receiver would have been a better choice.

At ETOW, we work on a very modest budget–indeed a micro budget by USAID standards–but we would rather invest in better equipment, even if it means sending a smaller quantity to the field. Since so many resources are used just to deliver equipment to remote areas, one hates to waste those resources on equipment that may not perform the intended task or suffer from poor longevity.

My hope is that someone at USAID will read this and, at least, consult us prior to future distributions. An efficient analog portable (even the TECSUN R-911, for example) would be a much better choice.