Mike reviews The Pol Pot Conspiracy

PolPotConspiracyMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Barraclough, who writes:

Neil Ffrench Blake is a former BBC producer and journalist who launched and was Managing Director of Radio 210, first station Mike Read and Steve Wright worked at. He was also involved in psychological warfare radio stations broadcasting to Aden, Afghanistan and managed ones to the Falkland Islands and Cambodia.

The Kindle book The Pol Pot Conspiracy, a work of fiction, but solidly based on autobiographical fact, covers in one of its chapters his work on Radio Atlantico del Sur.

[Radio Atlantico del Sur was] run during the Falklands War using requisitioned BBC transmitters on Ascension and aimed at Argentinian conscripts. [T]he majority of the book [focuses on the] Voice of the Khmer (on the air from 1985 to 1992) and operated by members of the two non-communist factions who were in alliance with the Khmer Rouge and opposing the government set up following the Russian backed Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978.

Radio Atlantico del Sur met opposition in Whitehall particularly from the Foreign Office and from Douglas Muggeridge at the BBC World Service though behind the scenes he says the BBC could not have been more co-operative. This resulted in stories fed to the press about amateur broadcasters speaking the wrong kind of Spanish which Neil asserts are not true.

Voice of the Khmer received covert funding from the CIA, some of which was siphoned off by the corrupt Thai military. It was received worldwide on 6325 [kHz]. Transmitters were in Thailand or just over the Thai-Cambodian border in areas not controlled by the Vietnamese.
Details of the background to the book and link to it on Amazon below.

It’s long and perhaps overly detailed in parts but written in a very readable style.

Two links to a summary of the 20 May 1982 programme of Radio Atlantico del Sur and an interim assessment of its programming in the comments:

Thank you for sharing, Mike!

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2 thoughts on “Mike reviews The Pol Pot Conspiracy

  1. Mike Barraclough

    Neil was contacted by the Ministry of Defence to come over and take charge of a psywar operation a couple of days after the Argentinian invasion, he recommended the radio station be the main focus of it. He does say that the decision to proceed with it was strongly influenced by the Argentinian station Radio National Malvinas but his description of the output of the station is of Liberty, Argentine Annie. I’d say it was grey rather than black propaganda, it’s aim was to conceal its identity but it did not, like Delmer’s stations, make any claim to be broadcasting from a specific place or be the voice of any military unit or similar. It just came on the air on frequencies which were deliberately chosen to be near to Argentinian commercial broadcasters in the 31 metre band.
    Interesting story about the studio recording. There are 48 recordings of Radio Atlantico del Sur at the Imperial War Museum, one of which is online. This is not a studio recording, it’s a one hour recording on two reels.
    http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search?query=atlantico%20del%20Sur&items_per_page=10

    There’s an assessment of Radio Atlantico del Sur here with comments from the BBC, probably sources in the World Service, which miss the point. It was aimed at conscripts who would be listening to chatty commercial radio stations. Click on view all.
    http://bit.ly/2a8yBIG

    Reply
  2. Jonathan Marks

    Interesting, will have a read.

    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

    Reply

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