SWLing Post readers will surely enjoy this brilliant BBC World Service documentary about Radio Berlin International Service to Africa. “Comrade Africa” offers a 53-minute fascinating blast from the cold-war past with many nostalgic RBI airchecks and programming analyses.
How Communist East Germany tried to influence Africa via radio, during the Cold War. The West often saw the GDR as a grim and grey place, so it’s something of a surprise to find a radio station based in East Berlin playing swinging African tunes. Yet Radio Berlin International (RBI), the ‘voice of the German Democratic Republic’, made it all happen over the many years it broadcast to Africa. It built on the little known strong bonds between East Germany and several large states in Africa such as Tanzania and Angola during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Dr Emily Oliver, a historian of postwar Germany from Warwick University, finds out why multicultural Radio Berlin International was a special place within East Germany and what happened behind the scenes. The government set tight reporting restrictions on output. Staff faced the dilemma of following the rules while competing with the likes of the BBC World Service. They were also conscious of the output of the station’s main direct rival, West Germany’s Deutsche Welle, which portrayed the world quite differently. And how did RBI employees coming from nations like Tanzania cope with working for the oppressive East German regime?
Emily hears how RBI appealed to listeners in Africa, reveals how East Germans and Angolans made friends over coffee and tractors, and discovers how the Cold War played out in Africa at a time when many African states were fighting for independence.
Presenter: Emily Oliver
Producer: Sabine Schereck
Researcher: Balthazar Kitundu
Editor: Hugh Levinson
Readers: Neil McCaul, Leone Ouedraogo (podcast only), Ian Conningham and Adam Courting
The Two Comrades: Will Kirk and Greg Jones
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David (G4EDR), who writes:
Looking forward to this documentary TV programme tonight. Looks like it will be about the BBC WS during the cold war.
Thanks for the tip, David!
Readers, my post is a bit late–David sent this two days ago. Still, the program is on the BBC website for a few more weeks, however it is very much geo-blocked so you’ll need a work-around if viewing from outside the UK.
Tom Gavaras, a new contributor at the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive, recently shared a series of seven Radio Moscow studio recordings and noted:
These recordings were originally provided to me on reel-to-reel tape directly from Radio Moscow (which I dubbed to a cassette). At that time, I was program director at St. Cloud State University’s radio station KVSC-FM (St. Cloud, MN) and aired Moscow Mailbag once a week during the afternoon news block programming. Transcription shows from other shortwave stations were played on other weekday slots at the same time.
We’re publishing a new recording each week over at the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive. Click here to follow this series.
Many thanks, Tom, for sharing these excellent recordings!
Many thanks to Richard Cummings of the website, Cold War Radio Vignettes, who writes:
I am putting together a series of blog posts about Radio Free Europe and Czechoslovakia, 1968.
In doing so so, I came across a clandestine radio station called Radio Vltava that broadcast
from East Germany into Czechoslovakia in support of the Soviet invasion and occupation.
There is little coverage in English about Radio Vltava but some information in German and Czech.
I also was able to come up with an audio of one of the first broadcasts as the station signed on.
I thought, and perhaps others, might find the blog interesting.
Of course, if you (or others) see a need for corrections in the blog post, or have comments, please let me know.
Fascinating, Richard! Thank you for sharing–I really enjoyed the off-air recording of the Radio Vltava sign-on and interval signal.
(Source: WUNC’s The State of Things via Kim Elliott)
During the Cold War, the U.S. Department of State sent jazz musicians around the world to sell the American way of life. This initiative took place in the 1950s, during segregation and the beginning of the civil rights movement. Jazz was gaining popularity on the international stage partly because of a Voice of America program hosted by Willis Conover, and partly because jazz musicians, like Louis Armstrong, played international tours.
The U.S. government took note of this popularity and decided to send musicians as representatives of the country, even as those representatives didn’t have the full benefits of the freedom they were touting. Many of these multi-racial, multi-gender groups were not allowed to perform within the boundaries of the United States due to Jim Crow.
Host Frank Stasio talks to Hugo Berkeley, director of the new documentary “The Jazz Ambassadors: The Untold Story of America’s Coolest Weapon in the Cold War.” Historian Adriane Lentz-Smith joins the conversation to put the story of the jazz ambassadors into context. Lentz-Smith is a professor of history at Duke University who served as an advisor to the documentary. She’s also the author of “Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I” (Harvard University Press/2011). “The Jazz Ambassadors” screens at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham on Sunday, April 8.[…]
SWLing Post readers might recall that, last year, I had the distinctly great honor of presenting at the 2017 Radio Preservation Task Force meeting at the Library of Congress.
Several readers have asked me to share my experiences at the conference, so I’ll note the conference highlights here.
I attended all three days of the conference. The first day (Thursday, November 2) was held at the Woodrow Wilson Center and focused on Cold War broadcasting. It goes almost without saying that this was absolutely fascinating. I learned a great deal. One of the day’s recurrent discussion themes, for example, focused on the keen awareness of those inside the Iron Curtain that they had been regularly subjected to propaganda. In other words, the Cold War somehow created very discerning news listeners savvy enough to separate fact from fiction quite skillfully––an ability that many fear may (unfortunately) be eroding among today’s media audiences.
That afternoon, SWLing Post reader, Phil Ewing, took me on an amazing tour of NPR’s new headquarters [thanks SO much, Phil!].
Later that afternoon at NPR, I attended an event celebrating NPR’s founding father and mission creator, Bill Siemering. Bill and I co-presented at the Winter SWL Fest in 2011, and I admire him greatly both as a journalist and as an individual; I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to be at this event held in his honor.
Friday and Saturday sessions were held at the Library of Congress and were equally riveting as they covered nearly every aspect of radio preservation.
I was on the Digital Curation panel along with Charles Hardy (West Chester University and National Council on Public History), Jonathan Hiam (New York Public Library), Matt Karush (George Mason University and Hearing the Americas), Elena Razlogova (Concordia University) and Mark Williams (Dartmouth College and Media Ecology Project).
The discussion was dynamic, and to my pleasure, our Radio Spectrum Archive was quite the hit. The sincere interest in this project was beyond encouraging. Indeed, after my presentation, I wasn’t able to address all of the questions from those in the audience because there were so many in line to speak to me about it; eventually the LOC had to re-arrange the room for a televised event, the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.
But there’s more. And it’s a great ending to our story, which is really only a beginning: via Alex Stinson with the Wikimedia Foundation, I was introduced to the Internet Archive team last month, whom, to our profound delight, has wholeheartedly agreed to support the Radio Spectrum Archive by giving us nearly unlimited space to store our massive collection of spectrum files.
In a word? This conference was brilliant. There simply couldn’t have been a better outcome for the Radio Spectrum Archive and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Many thanks to the entire RPTF team, especially Director, Josh Shepperd, for putting this spectacular event together.
I’ve been invited to a couple other archive conferences as a result of the RPTF meeting, and I’ll give these some consideration. Regardless, I know this: I’ll make room in my schedule for the next RPTF conference. No way am I missing it!
And at the next conference I look forward to speaking to each one of those people with whom tight scheduling prevented my speaking at this one. After all, it’s this kind of enthusiasm that assures the Radio Spectrum Archive’s future.
If you’d like a more in-depth report of the RPTF conference, check out this article in Radio World (via Richard Langley). If you’d like to learn more about the Radio Preservation Task Force, check out their website by clicking here.
Many thanks to my buddy, Bennett Kobb, who also gave me a tour of the brilliant LPFM station, WERA (96.7) in Arlington, VA–what an incredibly dynamic station and staff!
I’d also like to thank my friend Kim Elliott for generously hosting me during the multi-day event. Even modest accommodation in the DC area is very expensive–no doubt, Kim’s hospitality made the conference a reality for me. Thanks again, Kim!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Kalinichenko, who shares the following review:
The Shoroh R-326 military radio
by Dennis Kalinichenko
I believe the piece of Soviet military equipment I recently bought to my collection would be interesting to all readers and contributors.
This is the R-326 “Shoroh” (“Rustle”) general coverage military tube shortwave radio receiver. These were produced decades ago, back in 1963. These portable receivers were in active military use in the Soviet Army until the early 2000s, when the R-326 was finally discontinued . Today, this set is no more a spy secret, but a great collector’s item and also a good receiver for home use.
My set cost me about $150 US, which is rather expensive for this radio. The R-326 was plentiful in the local market in 90-s, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, very cheap and popular between radio amateurs, but nowadays this radio has become more and more rare, so the price rises up.
My R-326 arrived from Khabarovsk city, the Russian Far East, where, I believe, for many years it was on duty in some of the Soviet radio intelligence and defense forces division.
The set includes the radio itself, original military 100 ohm headphones, original rectifier box for 2,5 V output, 12 meter long wire antenna on a reel, the 1,5 meter famous “Kulikov” mini-whip antenna, the isolator for placing it on top of the radio and some minor accessories.
Originally, the R-326 radio came with two batteries–1,25 V each–for field use, but mine are totally drained and need to be serviced, so I haven’t used them so far.
The radio is a light-weight, only 33 lbs, which is a real minimum for Soviet military equipment–the famous R-250 radio’s weight is up to 220 lbs–so, in comparison, this unit is really portable. You can easily put it in your car using the attached leather handle and take it with you on a weekend trip. No other military radio can be so “travel-friendly”; this is one of the reasons it was so popular in the ham radio and SWL communities.
The case is made out of steel and looks so solid you may want to use it as a nutcracker. And you can! In no way could you harm the box constructed to resist nuclear attacks. It is waterproof and sealed–so I can be confident that no previous owner has ever tried to solder something in the guts.
The radio is a super heterodyne containing 19 (!) special mini tubes and covering 6 SW bands, from 1 to 20 MHz. It works in both AM and SSB (CW) modes, having an on-board adjustable bandwidth control from 300 Hz to 6 kHz.
On the front panel, there are two scales: one is rough/coarse, and above is the precise one, a so-called photoscale, which may be adjusted to match real radio-frequency using the four screws near the sun protection visor. With this scale, you don’t actually need a digital readout. It also has a BFO control with a zero setting, adjustable AGC levels for AM and CW, and adjusting screw for matching the antenna input, as marked for 12 m long wire, 1,5 m and 4 m whip.
The radio has no built-in speaker. Instead, there are two output sockets on the front panel, for 100 ohm headphones and 600 ohm line-out.
The power consumption is very low for s tube radio, the rig needs only 1,4 A at 2.5 volts DC (including the lightscale). I use the original power transformer (transistor rectifier) and therefore switch the unit into the 220 AC outlet.
The sensitivity of the radio is extremely high and equals some modern transceivers. The selectivity is also impressive. No doubt it was really great for 1960s. But there’s negative side as well: the radio easily overloads even from the outdoor long wire antennas. The best fit is the “Kulikov” mini-whip that you can see in the photos.
When you switch on the radio, you hear noise, the level of which seems high, so you lower the volume down. Yes, the radio is sensitive and a bit noisy. But thanks to the tubes it sounds really amazing in the headphones. The SSB ham operator’s voice is warm and very clear.
The tuning is very smooth, being actually 2-speed: outer wheel is for fast tuning, inner wheel for precise tune.
It’s absolutely obvious that nowadays a simple Degen or Tecsun may be more useful than this old and heavy unit with big and tough knobs and switches. But what a pleasure sitting in front of this perfect tube radio at night, with the headphones on, turning the huge tuning wheels, looking into the moving dim scale, listening into distant voices and rustles, feeling yourself a Cold War times operator near the rig.
Isn’t this experience priceless?
Indeed the experience is priceless, Dennis! Better yet, your R-326 now has an owner that will keep it in working order and enjoy it on a regular basis. I personally believe keeping these vintage rigs on the air is one way to preserve, and experience first hand, a little of our collective radio history.
Thank you so much for sharing your review and excellent photos of the R-326!
Post readers: If, like Dennis, you have a vintage radio you would like to showcase/review here on the SWLing Post, please consider submitting your story and photos. Being a huge fan of vintage radio, I truly enjoy reading through and publishing your reviews. I know many other readers feel the same!