Radio Waves: A Second Golden Age, RFE Popular in Russia, Station Helps Ukrainian Refugees, Symbol of Normalcy, Saving Wax Cylinders, and Antarctic Post Office Opportunity

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!

Is radio in a second golden age? Here’s what the first looked like. (MSN / Washington Post)

On. Oct. 30, 1938, America was rocked by shocking news: Aliens had been spotted crash-landing outside Grover’s Mill, N.J. Additional sightings were soon made across the Northeast, including reports of Martians unleashing poisonous gas on Manhattan and burning onlookers alive with ray guns. Periodically, the breathless news reports would be reduced to static.

Listeners reacted in real time; many of them flooded the streets wearing gas masks and wet towels over their faces. Stores were raided, bridges and expressways were inundated with traffic, and pregnant women reportedly went into early labor.

Of course, the alien invasion never actually happened. The news bulletins were part of a live Halloween program a young producer and a cast of talented actors were presenting over the radio. The producer was 23-year-old Orson Welles, and the name of the episode was “War of the Worlds.” The H.G. Wells-adapted story had been produced for radio as part of Welles’s regular Sunday night broadcast, “The Mercury Theater on the Air” — a program that had hitherto been largely ignored, as it was up against a wildly popular variety show starring comedians Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Only this Sunday was different, as millions of Americans who had tuned in to listen to Bergen and McCarthy changed their dials when the duo introduced a guest opera singer. “No one was in the mood for opera that night, and much of the country stumbled onto Welles’s broadcast by mistake, not knowing the news bulletins they heard were part of a radio drama,” explained Carl Amari, a syndicated radio host and the founder of Radio Spirits, a large distributor of classic radio programs. [Continue reading…]

The Kremlin tries to stifle Radio Free Europe — and its audience surges (Washington Post)

As the U.S.-funded broadcaster is forced to shut most of its Russian operations, its Web traffic indicates that Russian people are eagerly consuming its stories

Radio Free Europe, the U.S.-funded operation that got its start by piping American-flavored news through the Iron Curtain in 1950, could see big trouble brewing for its Russian operation in recent years.

The Kremlin kept putting the screws to its Russian-language broadcasts, throwing up ever more regulatory hurdles. But it was in late 2020 that the hammer really came down. The “media regulator” demanded that every broadcast, digital story and video carry an intrusive disclaimer at the top stating that what followed was the product of a foreign agent.

“Basically, it was like telling our audience to go away,” said Jamie Fly, the CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as the organization has been known since a 1976 merger.

That labeling would interfere with the private nonprofit’s mission at a core level. So, Fly told me, “we refused to comply.” [Continue reading…note that this content might be behind a paywall for some readers.]

New radio station helps Ukrainian refugees adapt in Prague (AP)

PRAGUE (AP) — This is Radio Ukraine calling.

A new Prague-based internet radio station has started to broadcast news, information and music tailored to the day-to-day concerns of some 300,000 Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in the Czech Republic since Russia launched its military assault against Ukraine.

In a studio at the heart of the Czech capital, radio veterans work together with absolute beginners to provide the refugees with what they need to know to settle as smoothly as possible in a new country.

The staff of 10 combines people who have fled Ukraine in recent weeks with those who have been living abroad for years. No matter who they are, their common goal is to help fellow Ukrainians and their homeland facing the brutal Russian invasion.

Natalia Churikova, an experienced journalist with Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said she couldn’t say no to an offer to become the broadcaster’s editor-in-chief. [Continue reading…]

‘Symbol of normality’: the Ukrainian TV host who stayed behind (The Guardian)

Working from secret studios, Marichka Padalko provides a familiar face and keeps the nation updated

Meet the face of the war for millions of Ukrainians hunkering down in their homes.

Marichka Padalko, 46, is among a small coterie of TV news anchors with a platform to guide the country through the daily and nightly war developments while teasing out psychological advice from studio experts and offering practical tips on everything from shelter etiquette to surviving a chemical weapons attack.

She became central to people’s lives when, two days after Vladimir Putin announced his “special military operation”, the four main channels on Ukrainian television decided to work together to create one 24/7 “marathon” news show.

With journalists and technicians – particularly those with young families – fleeing the shelling, leaving channels understaffed, and given the risk of a studio being hit by a Russian bomb, the peacetime professional rivals combined their efforts to guarantee the news would stay on air.

The result is that Padalko, a host on 1+1, which was one of Ukraine’s biggest channels in peacetime, and a further 11 anchors who appear during any given 24-hour period, have a captive audience.

“It is something like if BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 [came together]. Technically we’re not united. I mean, we are all in different locations, but all channels now have their own slot, six hours a day. Sometimes we are in the morning, sometimes at night,” she said. [Continue reading…]

Mystery recordings will now be heard for the first time in about 100 years (NPR)

Before audio playlists, before cassette tapes and even before records, there were wax cylinders — the earliest, mass-produced way people could both listen to commercial music and record themselves.

In the 1890s, they were a revolution. People slid blank cylinders onto their Edison phonographs (or shaved down the wax on commercial cylinders) and recorded their families, their environments, themselves.

“When I first started here, it was a format I didn’t know much about,” said Jessica Wood, assistant curator for music and recorded sound at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. “But it became my favorite format, because there’s so many unknowns and it’s possible to discover things that haven’t been heard since they were recorded.”

They haven’t been heard because the wax is so fragile. The earliest, putty-colored cylinders deteriorate after only a few dozen listens if played on the Edison machines; they crack if you hold them too long in your hand. And because the wax tubes themselves were unlabeled, many of them remain mysteries.

“They could be people’s birthday parties,” Wood said, recordings that could tell us more about the social history of the time. “Or they could be “The Star-Spangled Banner” or something incredibly common,” she laughed. “I really hope for people’s birthday parties.”

She’s particularly curious about a box of unlabeled cylinders she found on a storage shelf in 2016. All she knows about them is what was on the inside of the box: Gift of Mary Dana to the New York Public Library in 1935.

Enter the Endpoint Cylinder and Dictabelt Machine, invented by Californian Nicholas Bergh, which recently was acquired by the library. Thanks to the combination of its laser and needle, it can digitize even broken or cracked wax cylinders — and there are a lot of those. But Bergh said, the design of the cylinder, which makes it fragile, is also its strength. [Continue reading…]

British charity hunts for team to run Antarctica post office (BBC)

A British charity is searching for people to spend five months in Antarctica, to run the world’s most remote post office.

The team will maintain the Port Lockroy base and be responsible for counting penguins, though will be without running water.

The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust says it usually gets hundreds of applications for these jobs.

It will be the first time the site will open to the public since the pandemic.

The trust, which is based in Cambridge, usually advertises annually for seasonal postmasters at the site. They are responsible for preserving historic buildings and artefacts in Antarctica.

Successful applicants will be based on Goudier Island in the Antarctic Peninsula, with each other and a colony of Gentoo penguins for company. [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “Radio Waves: A Second Golden Age, RFE Popular in Russia, Station Helps Ukrainian Refugees, Symbol of Normalcy, Saving Wax Cylinders, and Antarctic Post Office Opportunity

  1. joseph patti

    Just getting to this a few days late. The “War of the Worlds” hullabaloo was not as panicked and chaotic as once thought. While there was some who were fooled, there were not enough fooled to make a difference. and virtually no one outside of the New Jersey counties surrounding the supposed location of the invasion.

    Understand that newspapers at that time looked at radio as major competition for advertising dollars. Thus it was to their advantage to whip the public into a frenzy the following morning. While acknowledging that it was indeed a fictional radio broadcast, they played up the supposed panic it caused to the hilt to make radio look as bad as possible. The FCC investigations the piece talked about were prodded on by the then powerful newspaper fat-cat owners (many who were cozy with the government) looking to create as much damage to radio as possible.

    Of course, as shown in this WaPo piece, even a bit more than 80 years later, print refuses to acknowledge their part in the ruse. Not surprising.


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