Tag Archives: LA Times

VOA exhbition: “a fascinating look at early shortwave radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, George Herr, who shares the following item from the LA Times:

Long before cell towers started sprouting up everywhere, the federal government commissioned telecommunication companies to build five massive fields of shortwave radio antennae. The structures, which reached up to 450 feet, were located in out-of-the-way places in California, Ohio and North Carolina. Each was designed to bounce radio waves off the ionosphere, allowing federally produced programming to be transmitted all over the globe.

The U.S.’ international radio broadcaster Voice of America was born during World War II. It expanded during the Cold War. As technology advanced, its programs were carried via television and digital platforms. Today it is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, providing news and information in 50 languages to a weekly audience of 275 million.

Its early years are traced in a fascinating exhibition at the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City. “Voice of America: The Long Reach of Shortwave” takes visitors back to the predigital world, before our political leaders began tweeting their innermost sentiments and policy decisions. Back then, international audiences were addressed more formally, via carefully scripted programming.

[…]The antennae are the stars of the show. They appear in photographs, in videos and on touch-screen monitors. Arranged in grids, arcs and asymmetrical arrays, they resemble high-tech fishing nets, impossibly spindly bridges, supersized spirit catchers and otherworldly telephone poles. Sculpturally impressive, they make Land Art look fussy, precious and small.

All but one of the five transmission stations have been abandoned. The most haunting component of the exhibition is a three-minute video documenting the destruction of the antennae. In sequence after sequence, little puffs of smoke appear before the towering antennae yield to the tug of gravity and topple to the earth in seemingly slow motion. Some crash into others, causing them to fall like skyscraper dominoes. It’s a sad ballet that marks the end of an era.

A pair of touch-screen slideshows is also bittersweet. It takes visitors on a virtual tour of Transmission Station B (the only one still functioning) and Transmission Station A (its twin). Both are near Greenville, N.C. To see the up-and-running station alongside its vandalized, disused doppelganger is to glimpse a living world next to a dying one.

Both are ours.

Click here to read the full story at the LA Times.

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“The dream of Biafra lives on in underground Nigerian radio broadcasts”

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who shares the following story about Radio Biafra from the LA Times:

Every evening as 5 o’clock approaches, the clogged, perpetually dusty streets of this industrial city in southeastern Nigeria begin to empty.

Groups of men just off work go inside, shut their doors and tune their radios to 102.1 FM.

Then an anthem begins to play, and a voice says “Kedu” ­ “how are you” in the Igbo language ­ to welcome listeners to the daily broadcast of Radio Biafra.

For the next 90 minutes, hosts and various guests proselytize for the revival of an old dream: the creation of an independent state called Biafra.

The broadcasts, conducted live from an undisclosed location in Nigeria, are illegal, and the group behind them ­ the Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB ­ has been classified by the government as a terrorist organization since 2017. Its leaders say they eschew violence and want a peaceful settlement of the issue through a national referendum.

Activists say people caught listening to the station have been arrested or beaten. But many residents here say they are willing to take the risk.

Radio Biafra is a daily reminder of the bloody civil war that ravaged Nigeria between 1967 and 1970. The conflict started when a Nigerian military general, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, declared an independent state of Biafra. It ended after more than a million deaths, mostly from starvation after the government imposed a food blockade on the region.

Ultimately, the rebels surrendered and the area was reintegrated into Nigeria under the government motto “No victor, no vanquished.”

But the memory of the brutal war looms large in Aba, feeding enthusiasm for the broadcasts despite extremely long odds that Biafra will ever come to be.[…]

Click here to read the full story at the LA Times.

Radio Biafra has also been elusive and rare DX for radio listeners. Click here to read more Radio Biafra posts in our archive.

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