Radio Waves: Termination Event, Russian Propaganda in DC, Renewed Relevance, Circumventing Censorship, and Old-School Radio Sense

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

The Termination Event has Arrived (Space Weather Archive)

Feb. 26, 2022: Something big just happened on the sun. Solar physicists Scott McIntosh (NCAR) and Bob Leamon (U. Maryland-Baltimore County) call it “The Termination Event.”

“Old Solar Cycle 24 has finally died–it was terminated!” says McIntosh. “Now the new solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25, can really take off.”

The “Termination Event” is a new idea in solar physics, outlined by McIntosh and Leamon in a December 2020 paper in the journal Solar Physics. Not everyone accepts it–yet. If Solar Cycle 25 unfolds as McIntosh and Leamon predict, the Termination Event will have to be taken seriously.

The basic idea is this: Solar Cycle 25 (SC25) started in Dec. 2019. However, old Solar Cycle 24 (SC24) refused to go away. It hung on for two more years, producing occasional old-cycle sunspots and clogging the sun’s upper layers with its decaying magnetic field.  During this time, the two cycles coexisted, SC25 struggling to break free while old SC24 held it back.

“Solar Cycle 24 was cramping Solar Cycle 25’s style,” says Leamon. [Continue reading…]

The tiny radio station broadcasting Russian propaganda in D.C. (Washington Post)

For a few seconds every hour, WZHF-AM interrupts its round-the-clock schedule of talk to air a curious disclaimer: “This radio programming is distributed by RM Broadcasting on behalf of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, Moscow, Russia. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.”

The cryptic notification masks a larger story. WZHF, a former Spanish-language station 11 miles east of the White House in Maryland’s Capitol Heights, is the flagship of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to harness America’s radio airwaves to sell the Kremlin’s point of view. Despite periodic legal and political challenges, and the imposition of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the station has stayed on the air, broadcasting its Kremlin-approved message.

The station at 1390 AM is one of only five outlets in the United States that air English-language broadcasts of “Radio Sputnik,” produced in Moscow and Washington under the Russian government’s supervision.

Sputnik is the radio and digital arm of Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), the same Kremlin-controlled media agency that directs RT and RT America, the better-known TV and digital media operations founded by Putin’s regime in 2005.

But while American distributors and European governments have banned RT since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, leading to the collapse of RT’s American operations on Thursday, WZHF is still offering Sputnik’s content to Beltway listeners. [Continue reading…]

Cold War Media Relics Gain Renewed Relevance in Ukraine (Bloomberg)

After Russia’s invasion, state-funded international broadcasters are filling gaps in coverage.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been widely called the “First TikTok War” because of the flood of videos from the front lines, or at least purporting to be. But the fire hose of war content—often of unclear provenance—on social media has made it harder than ever to know what’s credible.

[…]The vast quantities of misinformation have brought renewed relevance to a family of state-owned news organizations that date to the dawn of the Cold War. The BBC World Service had a Russian-language station from 1946 to 2011, but it continues to employ scores of journalists who report for its Russian- and Ukrainian-language websites and has relaunched its shortwave service to the region. The U.S.-backed Radio Svoboda (a sister station of Radio Free Europe), which introduced Russian and Ukrainian broadcasts in the 1950s, has built a sizable presence on local social media.

While other global players such as Radio France Internationale and the Voice of America also aim programming at the region in local languages, the BBC and Svoboda have been quicker to adapt to the times. The two broadcasters’ Ukrainian services post regular updates to Telegram, an encrypted messaging app where Semenov says he gets most of his news.

[…]The stations can take these steps because they don’t answer to shareholders in the same ways that most news organizations do. While they all receive government funding, leaving them open to criticism of being propaganda mouthpieces, even at the height of the Cold War the likes of Czech dissident-turned-president Vaclav Havel sang their praises as beacons of truth in a sea of lies. Lately, it’s become fashionable for lawmakers in Washington and London to question the purpose of international broadcasting, and their budgets have suffered accordingly. As Russia introduces laws that could give journalists 15-year jail terms for any story deemed “fake”—spurring the BBC, Radio Svoboda, and many other outlets ( including Bloomberg News) to pause their reporting from inside the country while continuing coverage from abroad—it’s becoming clear just how important the public broadcasters can be, even all these decades after their founding. [Read the full article at Bloomberg.]

News outlets scramble to set up technical workarounds in response to Russian censorship (Washington Post)

In the wake of Russia’s crackdown on news coverage and the imposition of a new law criminalizing reporting that accurately characterizes the Ukrainian invasion, some international news outlets have taken to technology to circumvent the news blackout, pointing readers to VPNs (virtual private networks), the encrypted Tor browser and even old-fashioned radio.

As war in Ukraine escalates, sending over a million people fleeing and bringing terror to numerous cities, media outlets including the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) have been blocked by the Kremlin, along with several Ukrainian sites, Twitter and Facebook. The Russian government has alleged that the sites were providing false news about the war.

But some outlets are refusing to be silenced. In response to the ban, the BBC posted a statement on its website that said, “Access to accurate, independent information is a fundamental human right which should not be denied to the people of Russia.” It attached instructions on how to circumvent the media blackout by accessing BBC content through two apps: Psiphon, a censorship circumvention tool, and Tor, an anonymous browser. Voice of America also vowed, in a statement, to “promote and support tools and resources that will allow our audiences to bypass any blocking efforts imposed on our sites in Russia.”[Continue reading…]

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