Shortwave Radio Recordings: VOA on the 10th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing

Apollo_11_lunar_module-001

Many thanks to SWLing Post and SRAA contributor, Tom Laskowski, who shares this recording of the Voice of America; recorded on July 20, 1979 at 0500 UTC on the 31 meter band. Tom notes:

“The first 4:30 is from a VOA newscast that aired before the main part of the program. The main recording was presented on the 10th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I enjoy listening to this every year on the landing anniversary.”

Click here to download the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Note that Tom has been sharing a number of shortwave recordings from the late 1970s. All of his recordings are being published on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. Tom: thanks so much for being a part of the shortwave archive community.

If you have recordings you would like to share with the world as well, please contact me.

The UNT Willis Conover Archive is now online

Willis Conover, The Voice of America (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a huge fan of the late Willis Conover. I just learned, via the Arts Journal blog, about an amazing collection of Conover audio archives that are now being shared online:

“The music program at the University of North Texas has graduated hundreds of jazz artists who went on to successful careers as professionals.[…]

Under Maristella Feustle of the university’s library, there is an archive devoted to the late Willis Conover of the Voice of America[…]. Conover’s VOA programs sent jazz around the world. For a quarter of a century he was one of the nation’s most valuable cultural diplomats. As of today, parts of the Conover archive are online and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Grammy Foundation.[…]”

Click here to read the full Arts Journal article.

Many thanks, Maristella, for championing and finding funds for the Willis Conover archive!

Click here to browse the list of recordings and listen to the tapes via the UNT Digital Library.

The WSJ features Willis Conover

Willis Conover, The Voice of America (Source: Wikimedia Commons)(Source: Wall Street Journal via Any Sennitt)

The Radio Broadcaster Who Fought the Cold War Abroad but Remained Unheard at Home

By DOUG RAMSEY

During the Cold War, listeners in captive nations behind the Iron Curtain huddled around radios in basements and attics listening to the imposing bass-baritone voice of the man who sent them American music. His greeting—“Good evening, Willis Conover in Washington, D.C., with Music U.S.A.”—was familiar to millions around the world. At home, relatively few people knew him or his work. A proposal for a postage stamp honoring Conover may give hope to those who want the late Voice of America broadcaster to be awarded a larger mark of distinction.

For 40 years, until shortly before his death in 1996, Conover’s shortwave broadcasts on the Voice of America constituted one of his country’s most effective instruments of cultural diplomacy. Never a government employee, to maintain his independence he worked as a freelance contractor. With knowledge, taste, dignity and no tinge of politics, he introduced his listeners to jazz and American popular music. He interviewed virtually every prominent jazz figure of the second half of the 20th century. His use of the VOA’s “special English”—simple vocabulary and structures spoken at a slow tempo—made him, in effect, a teacher of the language to his listeners.

Countless musicians from former Iron Curtain countries have credited Conover with attracting them to jazz, among them the Czech bassists George Mraz and Miroslav Vitous, the Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera and the Russian trumpeter Valery Ponomarev. On the Conover Facebook page established in 2010, Ponomarev wrote that Conover had done as much for jazz “as Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.” Conover’s New York Times obituary said, “In the long struggle between the forces of Communism and democracy, Mr. Conover, who went on the air in 1955 . . . proved more effective than a fleet of B-29’s.” In his publication Gene Lees Jazzletter, the influential critic wrote, “Willis Conover did more to crumble the Berlin Wall and bring about the collapse of the Soviet Empire than all the Cold War presidents put together.”[…]

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal…

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a huge fan of Willis Conover. Much like VOA’s Leo Sarkisian, Conover represented some of the best diplomacy this country has had to offer. [I’ve actually had the honor of meeting and interviewing Leo Sarkisian at his home in Maryland, a few years ago–one of the highlights of my career.]

Are there any SWLing Post readers out there who listened to Willis Conover from behind the “Iron Curtain?” Please comment!

Rep. Salmon introduces bill to defund Voice of America

Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05)

Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05)

(Source:  sonorannews.com via Dan Robinson)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05) announced the eighth Shrink our Spending Initiative bill focused on highlighting and cutting wasteful, taxpayer-funded programs. Upon introduction of his latest bill to eliminate federal funding for Voice of America, Salmon released the following statement:

“My eighth SOS bill is aimed at cutting yet another duplicative, federal program and saving you 212 million dollars by doing so. While originally commissioned to provide a ‘clear and effective presentation’ of U.S. policy, Voice of America (VOA) has veered from its original mission and become a government-funded news outlet. The United States already funds organizations that disseminate unfiltered news to regions of the world that lack a free press.

“Technology has also rendered Cold War relics, such as VOA, obsolete. The rise of the Internet and social media, especially in closed countries have connected the world in ways we could have never imagined, and with their success, and other U.S. taxpayer-funded broadcasting programs, it makes fiscal sense to eliminate this superfluous, federally-funded entity.”[…]

Click here to read the full article.

Click here if you would like to contact Rep. Matt Salmon.

VOA to increase broadcasts to Burundi

voa logoMauno Ritola shared the following message on the WRTH Facebook page this morning:

VOA Boosts Broadcasts to Burundi as Civilians Flee Political Violence

Monday through Friday:

  • 0400-0530: 7350 kHz, 9815 kHz, 11905 kHz

  • 1600-1630: 13630 kHz, 15460 kHz, 17530 kHz

  • 1930-2000: 9470kHz, 11615 kHz, 12140 kHz

Mauno also notes that the late evening frequencies are incorrect in the following VOA news release:

(Source: VOA News)

Voice of America today began boosting broadcasts to Burundi where at least 14 people have been and killed and more than 200 injured in protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza running for a third term.

VOA has additional shortwave and FM broadcasts in Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, French, and English with an expanded call-in show, more reporting from the ground, and new drive-time newscasts.

“At this critical moment for democracy in Burundi, we are stepping up to keep our audiences informed, “ says VOA Director David Ensor. “Voters deserve to know what is going on with presidential elections just one month away.”

The African Union and the United States say the Nkurunziza candidacy violates a regional peace deal that ended civil war in 2005. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the president’s move “flies directly in the face of the constitution of his country.”

President Nkurunziza says he is exempt from the two-term limit because his first term was chosen by parliament.

VOA is one of the last remaining sources of news in Burundi after authorities blocked access to social media, closed Radio Publique Africane, and suspended relay transmissions for two other independently owned stations — Bonesha FM and Isanganiro.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns this harassment and says the Nkurunziza government is “blatantly trying to gag” coverage of its opponents.

VOA is adding reporters in Burundi and Rwanda along with additional staff in Washington D.C., where its U.S. government-funded transmissions originate.

Daily broadcasts air on 95.2 FM and 94.9 FM in Bujumbura and on 104.3 FM in Kigali.

There are new VOA shortwave broadcasts from 04:00 to 05:30 UTC and from 19:30 to 20:00 UTC on 7350 kHz, 9815 kHz, and 11905 kHz; and from 16:00 to 16:30 UTC on 13630 kHz, 15460 kHz, and 17530 kHz.

“With thousands of Burundians fleeing to neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, VOA is committed to providing accurate and reliable news to this critical region,” says Ensor.

Support a Willis Conover US postage stamp

Willis Conover, The Voice of America (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re a fan of the iconic Willis Conover, you might consider signing this petition supporting a postage stamp in his honor.

Marie Lamb writes:

Those of us at the Willis Conover Facebook page are trying to get support for a postage stamp in honor of the great Voice of America jazz broadcaster, one of the great voices of shortwave. The recognition for this fine broadcaster and supporter of America’s music is long overdue. Please sign! Thank you–Marie Lamb.

Click here to sign.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration, listen to this superb interview with Willis Conover circa 1987 on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon:

As you’ll hear in this interview, Willis Conover actually supported a stamp in honor of the late and great Duke Ellington. Perhaps it’s time we support a stamp honoring Willis Conover. Click here to sign the petition.

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.