“Shortwaves for Freedom” campaign is funding VOA and RFE/RL programming

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who brought the “Shortwaves for Freedom” fundraising (crowdsource) campaign to my attention.

I’ve confirmed with WRMI that this campaign is legitimate and that they are purchasing time from WRMI to broadcast VOA and RFE/RL into Russia and Ukraine.

Here’s the description of the mission behind their campaign:

The people in Russia, as well as those in Ukraine and other countries where Russian, Ukrainian and English are spoken in the imperiled region, need to hear the truth about the carnage President Putin has unleashed.

With Moscow silencing foreign media in Russia, threatening to send reporters to jail and censoring all war information, objective outside information is critically needed not only for Russia, but also for Ukraine and surrounding countries.

Such content, produced by the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is being disseminated on the internet and TV. But these Russian, Ukrainian and English language programs are not being distributed through the simplest technology that skirts censorship and internet shutdowns — shortwave (and medium wave) radio.

The parent agency of VOA and RFE/RL, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, apparently has decided not to air such transmissions (unlike the BBC). As these programs are in the public domain, we plan to air them live and on tape delay by purchasing air time on commercial shortwave stations in the United States and Europe. These powerful transmitters (with hundreds of thousands of watts and large antenna systems) can easily reach Russia, Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe where hundreds of millions of people still listen to radio. These potential listeners will be alerted through social media as to what frequencies and times to listen for these critical programs.

We need your help to pay for the transmission costs until there comes a time when USAGM (like BBC) can be persuaded to utilize its own facilities (which are paid for by U.S. taxpayers).

Even a small donation will make a difference as airtime can be obtained for as little as $50 for a 30-minute slice of airtime that can be potentially heard around the world. Of course, the more money we raise gives us access to more powerful transmitters and more airtime.

This group has been started by members of the general public, policy professionals, academics, radio enthusiasts and others who feel this is a critical mission at a critical time. Help us be a part of world history. After all, jazz music aired by the VOA and the allure of blue jeans is credited with bringing down the Iron Curtain as much as anything else!

You can play a crucial role in this exercise of soft power to counter the guns, rockets and missiles of the Russian army intent on exterminating the Ukrainian nation and possibly other freedom-loving sovereign states.

Click here to check out this campaign.

After confirming this campaign with Jeff, I contributed.

Although I’m fully aware that Russia’s younger citizens may have never even heard of shortwave, my guess is that some in the older generation have.  According to a report I read recently, Russia’s older generation are the ones who tend to trust Russian state media and propaganda.

But as this CCN report points out, Russian state media is showing a consistent false narrative to all of its citizens and are also making it nearly impossible for any other independent news sources to broadcast within or into Russia. Many international broadcasters have been pulling out of Russia for fear of being arrested. The penalties if you’re labeled as “fake news” or if you protest what the Kremlin is doing in Ukraine are stiff–many carry 15 year jail sentences.

If you’d like to support this effort, check out the Shortwaves for Freedom campaign on FundRazr.

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16 thoughts on ““Shortwaves for Freedom” campaign is funding VOA and RFE/RL programming

    1. Richard Langley

      I didn’t check yesterday (15 March) but the 15770 kHz signal from WRMI is typically strong in New Brunswick, Canada. There have been reports of successful reception in Europe. There are now more programs being transmitted thanks to the Shortwaves for Freedom campaign:

      UTC Time Broadcast Frequency (kHz)
      0200-0300 Radio Svoboda (Russian) 7780
      0400-0500 Radio Svoboda (Russian) 7780
      1800-1900 Radio Svoboda (Russian) 1395 MW
      1900-2000 Radio Svoboda (Russian) 9370
      1930-2000 VOA Flashpoint Ukraine (English) 15770 (Monday through Friday)

      Reply
  1. P.D.

    Well, the bean-counters finally hit the wall they erected 30 odd years ago when they killed off SWBC! “Oh, this server is so much cheaper to run than that messy ol Radio junk!” Fools. This is what happens when money doesn’t talk, it swears.

    …and I disagree with Mr. Robinson, a contrarian from as long as I can remember. Yes, there ARE SWBC rx’s in Russia, or the BBC wouldn’t have turned the juice back on.

    Been in Radio for 56 years, folks. Govt., Commercial, hobby. Put in a few bucks!

    Reply
  2. Harald

    WRTH 2022 on page 477 still lists the “USAGM Germany Transmitting Station”: 11 transmitters in Biblis, 9 transmitters in Lampertheim. Each unit 100 kW.

    Reply
  3. Uli

    Just donated, too. I hope they acquire some better suited frequencies and relay stations. A medium wave or long wave transmission from Europe would be really helpful and reach more audiences imho.

    Reply
  4. Dan Robinson

    Sorry, I am a die-hard shortwaver and this may seem to many in the hobby as an admirable effort, but it’s a bit absurd.

    First, we know already that USAGM wasn’t going to engage in any rebuilding of shortwave delivery, though the BBC added a few frequencies. Anyone who thinks there’s going to be some large-scale shift back to shortwave doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    Shortwave has spent the last 25+ years being killed, ironically by USAGM and other major broadcasters themselves, as they rushed toward social media and mobile delivery. There are no radios hanging around in attics to be “dusted off” in places like Russia. So, a grassroots effort like this will beam USAGM programming to….WHO?

    One answer to the Russia Internet shutdown may be mediumwave reaching into Russia from NATO and other surrounding areas. But shortwave — as much as one wants an early 20th century transmission method to have new life — is not going to be the answer.

    Reply
    1. Richard Langley

      Dan posted these comments on Glenn Hauser’s io group, too, and there is a discussion going on there on the pros and cons of using SW to inform residents in Russia and eastern Europe about what’s really going on in Ukraine. I don’t have permission to quote the conversation there but I would encourage those interested to join the io group and look at the recent posts. There is lot of other information there related to the war in Ukraine.
      ????? ???????!

      Reply
      1. Richard Langley

        I see this platform doesn’t support Cyrillic characters. The question marks = Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine!)

        Reply
    2. Radioguy

      Dan hits on a ‘great truth’ (I think he may over-state it — but that’s a different argument) that the USAGM and other broadcasters have done this to THEMSELVES.

      The reason people put (or threw) away their radios is because they stopped being able to hear the broadcasts because — ta da — the broadcasters turned off the transmitters. Just pause for a minute and wonder at the beautiful circularity of that. “We turn it off because there is ‘no demand’ but there is no demand because you turned it off and only s fool looks for something that doesn’t exist.”

      Whoops. Methinks that may have been a classic ‘foolish economy’.

      The question now, of course is whether or not it is ‘too late to revive the patient’. THAT is unclear to me but what I DO know is that if you don’t provide food to the patient, he WILL die.

      I see this as a last ditch effort to provide some food.

      Reply
  5. Richard Langley

    Broadcasts started yesterday (7 March) via WRMI on 15770 kHz at 21:00 UTC with live airing of the VOA Global English stream for half an hour. After the news summary, there was VOA’s Flashpoint Ukraine program. A problem, however, is the frequency is too high to reliably reach Russia at this time of day. Either a lower frequency or another time of day should be used for the broadcast. When I checked, there was fair reception into western Europe but reports indicated that an audible signal did not make it much further east.

    Reply
    1. Mark

      I heard the start of the broadcast using the Twente SDR but reception wasn’t great.

      7780kHz towards Europe works better for me in the evenings, particularly for Shortwave Radiogram.

      Reply
      1. Richard Langley

        If I heard correctly, near the beginning of Flashpoint Ukraine as broadcast via WRMI yesterday (8 March), the announcer said that as of Monday, 14 March, the program will be aired 90 minutes earlier at 19:35 UTC. Presuming that WRMI carries it live on 15770 kHz, it might be audible a bit further east than at the moment.

        Reply

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